Criteria for Excommunication?

What criteria are required before an excommunication can be used to discipline heretics?

A good question. From the last time I had a discussion about excommunication it seemed that you have to at least cause some kind of “scandal” with your heresy.

Martin Luther was excommunicated. No excommunication is meant to be permanent. A person can always repent and change their direction.I used the term “musing” because someone earlier in the thread used that term. Here is an example of priests who were excommunicated for preaching that slavery (as it was practiced in their area) was unjust:

One was a Spaniard, Francisco de Jaca, the other a Frenchman, Epiphane de Moirans. Both had been excommunicated in Havana in 1681 and subsequently arrested for behaviour which had resulted, so reported the local authorities, “in the gravest scandals”. They had preached that “the owners of Negro slaves should liberate them and their children and pay them for their labours”, and they had refused to give absolution to those who did not promise to do this. Both Capuchins had written defences of their position. Fray Francisco’s statement is a vibrant denunciation of the abuses and injustices that he had witnessed; Pere Epiphane was a competent canon lawyer and his statement marshals at length the case against the Atlantic slave trade.

Should they have repented and condoned slavery?

What is the definition of a heresy?

Is it a Catholic promoting a doctrine contrary to the teachings of the Church?

In that case, could it not be a layman as well as an ordained religious?

And here are (in)famous examples of heresies:

So here is a relevant passage from the Definition article you cited.

St. Thomas (II-II, Q. xi, a. 1) defines heresy: “a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas”. "The right Christian faith consists in giving one’s voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His teaching. There are, therefore, two ways of deviating from Christianity: the one by refusing to believe in Christ Himself, which is the way of infidelity common to Pagans and Jews; the other by restricting belief to certain points of Christ’s doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure, which is the way of heretics.

Does this mean that the two Catholic Supreme Court justices who voted for same-sex marriage were practicing heresy and imposing their heresy on the nation?

I guess it depends on if you think the SC Justices’ jobs are to issue moral decrees like secular Popes, or simply to interpret the laws of the USA.

An important criterion for excommunication is that there has to be a reasonable expectation of success. By “success” I mean that the aims of the excommunication are met. Two important such aims are 1) the conversion and repentance of the excommunicated, and 2) that the “scandalized” may also be reformed in thought.

In the cultural climates of today, it is unlikely that either of these aims would be met. That’s why you don’t often see excommunications occur these days.

Well, this raises an interesting question, doesn’t it?

Can a Supreme Court Justice rule against the laws of his Church without becoming a heretic?

If he does become a heretic, and on a matter so momentous as the redefinition of marriage for all Americans, not just Catholics, why shouldn’t he be excommunicated, since other Catholics who defy the laws of the Church are excommunicated?

Are Supreme Court Justices exempt from the laws of God and his holy Church?

Is it O.K. for a priest to teach for gay marriage and be excommunicated, but not O.K. to excommunicate Supreme Court Justices who have gone far beyond what any priest has ever done to deserve excommunication?

As George Will put it:

…it is well to remember that whether war is the answer depends on the question.

Suppose you lived by the moral code: “War is never the answer.” What would you do if someone asked you “How did Britain respond to German aggression on Sept 3 1939?” Clearly, the answer to that question is “war.” Would you violate your moral code if you gave this answer?

I don’t see how that relates to the theme of this thread.

Can you clarify? Thanks.

The point is that the judges’ job is not to pass *moral *judgement. In the war example, the moral obligation to not condone war does not cover answering that sort of neutral question. Someone may not like the fact that WW2 happened, but their opposition to war does not compel them to deny the reality that it did happen.

In the same way, questions asked to the judges can fall into this same sort of factual category. They are not being asked how they feel about abortions, or what their religion says about abortions, they are being asked what the law has to say. It is true that they are judges, and so there is some room for their own personal discretion. Contrary to what pro-life orgs would have you believe, though, the personal discretion is rarely, if ever, as simple as “hur dur is abortion good or bad.” They use their judgement when interpreting legislation, and sum up those judgements to produce their final opinion. If they were instead to form their final opinion first, then make whatever judgements they needed to justify that opinion, they would be bad judges and not have made it to the Supreme Court in the first place.

I think that analysis only stands for someone who believes that judges do not have to honor the religion to which they belong. If a judge can promote a social legislation through his decision that is contrary to what he is supposed to believe in, he can do so, but he should also be subject to the discipline of the Church to which he belongs if that Church has a way to discipline its members.

for example, the only Catholic on the Supreme court at the time of Roe v Wade voted for Roe v Wade, thus unleashing a legal tidal wave of abortions over the next two generations.
Interestingly, that Justice was not excommunicated for promoting a heretical doctrine that life in the womb does not require protection because it is not really life.

Also, the two Catholic Justices that voted for same-sex marriage were not excommunicated from the Church.

What, then, is the point of excommunication if it not going to be used to discipline Catholics who fight the teachings of the Church?

It seems like you’re deliberately avoiding the obvious explanation, which is that the ecclesiastical courts agree with my analysis and don’t think the judges are violating their religion.

It’s not likely the ecclesiastical courts would decide the Catholic Justices have a right to violate their religion. Why would they take that position? Does it make sense to you?

I guess it has somenthing to do with separation between church and state.

State is the territory power of the judges. The fact that one of the judges is a catholic doesn’t mean that he should omit the fact that his territory is secular power. Secular power do not omit morality that can be recognized by our sense of humanity. Our humanity source comes (ultimately) from God. however for those who are not catholic/ christian they aren’t being illuminated by God’s light yet (so to speak), therefore God allow secular “kingdoms” to rule according to what humanity can recognize as “good/ moral” according to as much as humanity can understand (being revealed to it by God by the measure humanity can receive).

Thus the catholic judge does his secular job even as according to what is ordained by God eventhough it is through the measure of what humanity (and it’s leaders) can understand = secular power.

An example of secular power is King Saul’s kingdom (and the kingdoms afterwards). The children of Israel at the time asked God for a king, because they saw other people each had a king and they didn’t. So Prophet Samuel warned them that asking for a king was/ is a sin, because for Israel, God was/ is the king. God agreed to give Israel what they wanted. So He told Israel that a king will demand for shares of their harvests and riches and will demand for their children to become his workers/ slaves. The children of Israel agreed. By that agreement, the children of Israel gave power to a kingdom where God is not the king (eventhough God still had/ have power over them, they given their power to the king). So then they appointed Saul as their first king. Saul’s Kingdom is actually the sprout of secular power agreed by God, because his power was given by God through the people’s voice. God’s values still rule behind this power, but it’s no longer His direct hand, rather through the people’s voice. However the understanding of democracy (the power of the people was understood/ defined much later).

Secular power comes from God too, because all power comes from Him. Hence the catholic judge who does his job through secular power is not a heretic so long he follow the principle of goodness that can be understood by the secular principle of what it means to be just.


1Samuel 8
4.* Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah;
5.* … Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations."

Please read the whole story 1Samuel 8. It’s a very interesting story :slight_smile:

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