Do Doubters & Non-believers Excommunicate Themselves?


#1

On EWTN, I heard Fr. John Corapi say that anyone who obstinately doubts or disbelieves Church teachings excommunicates himself or herself from the Church automatically. If this is the case, would those who publicly or even privately call for woman priests, gay marriage, contraception, etc. technically be Catholics at all? In what sense can someone be a ‘liberal’ or non-orthodox Catholic? I have only ever heard this from Fr. Corapi; perhaps I have misunderstood him or perhaps he was mistaken. A former Catholic friend of mine denies this completely. (He thinks they would have mentioned such an important matter when he was being catechized, and he doesn’t recall ever hearing it before.) Could anyone clarify this point for me?

Thanks,

Michael


#2

Have you seen this article?:

catholic.com/thisrock/1991/9111chap.asp


#3

[quote=MichaelLewis]On EWTN, I heard Fr. John Corapi say that anyone who obstinately doubts or disbelieves Church teachings excommunicates himself or herself from the Church automatically. If this is the case, would those who publicly or even privately call for woman priests, gay marriage, contraception, etc. technically be Catholics at all? In what sense can someone be a ‘liberal’ or non-orthodox Catholic? I have only ever heard this from Fr. Corapi; perhaps I have misunderstood him or perhaps he was mistaken. A former Catholic friend of mine denies this completely. (He thinks they would have mentioned such an important matter when he was being catechized, and he doesn’t recall ever hearing it before.) Could anyone clarify this point for me?

Thanks,

Michael
[/quote]

Michael,

I have many Fr.Corapi talks and I have learned a lot from the man. You can trust what he says. That being said, I believe that person has to know that what they are doing is wrong and against Church teaching (I don’t know if this is true).

I have heard that teaching from him and as far as I have be able to tell, it is a true teaching.

But I also seem to remember that a person who is doing this stuff very often gets a warning to stop, then if they persist…they excommunicate themselves.

I know someone here knows more than me…please help out!

Great question.:thumbsup:


#4

DeFide:
I’m not so much asking about the salvation of such people. I understand that the church would say that so long as they really believe what they proclaim, they may not be damned. I’m just wondering about their status as Catholics.


#5

The impression I got was that this doesn’t require any formal act on the part of the Church or its ministers. So long as the person in question knows that he or she is denying or willfully doubting church doctrine, he or she is excommunicated.
Thanks,
Michael


#6

[quote=MichaelLewis]DeFide:
I’m not so much asking about the salvation of such people. I understand that the church would say that so long as they really believe what they proclaim, they may not be damned. I’m just wondering about their status as Catholics.
[/quote]

Ah! I see. Here’s what you may be interested in:

…Thus, when Trent and other ecumenical councils employed anathema sit in regard to doctrinal matters, not only was a judicial penalty prescribed but a doctrinal definition was also made. Today, the judicial penalty may be gone, but the doctrinal definition remains. Everything that was infallibly decided by these councils is still infallibly settled.

This has consequences under current canon law. Those things that are both divinely revealed by God and proposed as such by the Church cannot be obdurately denied or doubted without the offense of heresy (CIC [1983] 751). Heresy does carry a penalty of automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication though this does not apply to those who have never been members of the Catholic Church (can. 11), and even then there is a significant list of exceptions (can. 1323).

See full context here:
catholic.com/thisrock/2000/0004chap.asp

Can. 1323 No one is liable to a penalty who, when violating a law or precept:
has not completed the sixteenth year of age;
was, without fault, ignorant of violating the law or precept; inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance;
acted under physical force, or under the impetus of a chance occurrence which the person could not foresee or if foreseen could not avoid;
4° acted under the compulsion of grave fear, even if only relative, or by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience, unless, however, the act is intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls;
acted, within the limits of due moderation, in lawful self-defense or defense of another against an unjust aggressor*;
lacked the use of reason, without prejudice to the provisions of cann. 1324, §1, n. 2 and 1325;
7° thought, through no personal fault, that some one of the circumstances existed which are mentioned in nn. 4 or 5.


#7

[left]If Fr. Corapi said it, you can take it to the bank. He was discussing Canon 1364, which provides for latae sententiae (ie, automatic) excommunication for someone who is an “apostate, heretic, or schismatic.”

Here are Canons relevant to this topic (from the Vatican Website):
[/left]

PART II.

PENALTIES FOR INDIVIDUAL DELICTS

TITLE I.

DELICTS AGAINST RELIGION AND THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH (Cann. 1364 - 1369)

Can. 1364 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of [**⇒**]("http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_PP.HTM#1.0.0.9.2.3.194") can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in [**⇒**]("http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_P4Y.HTM#6.1.0.4.2.0.1336") can. 1336, §1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.

§2. If contumacy of long duration or the gravity of scandal demands it, other penalties can be added, including dismissal from the clerical state.

Can. 1365 A person guilty of prohibited participation in sacred rites (communicatio in sacris) is to be punished with a just penalty.

Can. 1366 Parents or those who take the place of parents who hand offer their children to be baptized or educated in a non Catholic religion are to be punished with a censure or other just penalty.

Can. 1367 A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; moreover, a cleric can be punished with another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.

Can. 1368 A person who commits perjury while asserting or promising something before ecclesiastical authority is to be punished with a just penalty.

Can. 1369 A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty.


#8

[quote=DavidFilmer]Can. 1369 A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty.
[/quote]

The impression I got was that it need not be public; though it does need to be ‘obstinate’. Perhaps a doubt does not qualify as obstinate if no one tries and fails sway the holder. That doesn’t concord with my intuitions though. You would think there would be frank and detailed commentary on this point.


#9

[quote=MichaelLewis]The impression I got was that it need not be public; though it does need to be ‘obstinate’…
[/quote]

You refer to Canon 1369, but Fr. Corapi was (apparently) discussing Can 1364. Canon 1369 (which, indeed, must be public) does not proscribe latae sententiae excommunication, BTW. Canon 1364 does not stupulate “public” disregard, but *does *provide for latae sententiae excommunication.


#10

[quote=DavidFilmer]You refer to Canon 1369, but Fr. Corapi was (apparently) discussing Can 1364. Canon 1369 (which, indeed, must be public) does not proscribe latae sententiae excommunication, BTW. Canon 1364 does not stupulate “public” disregard, but *does *provide for latae sententiae excommunication.
[/quote]

I’m sorry, but could you explain just what is entailed by latae sententiae excommunication?


#11

[quote=MichaelLewis]I’m sorry, but could you explain just what is entailed by latae sententiae excommunication?
[/quote]

It means an “automatic” excommunication - ie, if you do this, you excommunicate yourself. Such excommunication does not need to be pronounced by an ecclesiastical authority. This is the type of excommunication you inquired about in your original post


#12

[quote=DavidFilmer]It means an “automatic” excommunication - ie, if you do this, you excommunicate yourself. Such excommunication does not need to be pronounced by an ecclesiastical authority. This is the type of excommunication you inquired about in your original post
[/quote]

Ok, thanks. Now this means that, in light of:

Can. 1364 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in can. 1336, §1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.

anyone who, even privately, willfully doubts or disbelieves one of the Church’s teachings is excommunicated. Right? So someone who, for instance, says to themselves “I know that the church teaches that contraception is wrong, and I’m not going to use contraception, but that really is a silly teaching. God’s not offended by the use of contraception” would thereby excommunicate themselves? If so, how would they be reinstated? Would it be enough to confess this to a priest? If it really is excommunication, one would think it would take more than that, unless I misunderstand the gravity of excommunication.
Michael


#13

[quote=MichaelLewis]anyone who, even privately, willfully doubts or disbelieves one of the Church’s teachings is excommunicated. Right? So someone who, for instance, says to themselves “I know that the church teaches that contraception is wrong, and I’m not going to use contraception, but that really is a silly teaching. God’s not offended by the use of contraception” would thereby excommunicate themselves?
[/quote]

Of course. Substitute any other action for “contraception.” and this truth will be more clear. For example, “I know that the Church teaches that murder is wrong, and I have no intention of murdering anybody, but I think this teaching is silly.” How can a person who believes this be in Communion with Christ and His Church?

If so, how would they be reinstated? Would it be enough to confess this to a priest? If it really is excommunication, one would think it would take more than that, unless I misunderstand the gravity of excommunication.

Excommunication happens on different levels. In some cases it is “reserved to the Holy See,” meaning the case must be submitted to the Vatican. In other cases, it is reserved to the local Bishop (though most Bishops grant faculties to their priests to lift excommunication). But, if not otherwise stipulated, the excommunication may be lifted simply by confession.

unless I misunderstand the gravity of excommunication

Technically, anyone in a state of mortal sin is excommunicate.


#14

Ok, well that answers my question. That’s a remarkable teaching. Lets step back a bit though. Suppose someone thinks to themselves: “I’m not sure about the Church’s teachings on contraception. I’m not going to use contraception, and I’m not sure that it is ok to use it, but I think the Church MIGHT be wrong concerning this issue.” That seems to be willfull doubt, but not denial. I thought that Fr. Corapi indicated that that would excommunicate you as well, though it isn’t clear to me, from the Catechism text that you cited. Would you say that that would qualify as well?
If so, I presume that a thought like “I’m not sure, but the Catholic church might not have been established by God.” would excommunicate you as well. Is that a reasonable supposition?


#15

Hmmm,

In light of this conversation, can anyone relate the above Canons to this quote (which contains a quote of Saint Augustine’s) from the Summa Theologica related to heresy???

Reply to Objection 3. As Augustine says (Ep. xliii) and we find it stated in the Decretals (xxiv, qu. 3, can. Dixit Apostolus): “By no means should we accuse of heresy those who, however false and perverse their opinion may be, defend it without obstinate fervor, and seek the truth with careful anxiety, ready to mend their opinion, when they have found the truth,” because, to wit, they do not make a choice in contradiction to the doctrine of the Church.
(newadvent.org/summa/301102.htm)

Thanks and God Bless.


#16

[quote=MichaelLewis]…That’s a remarkable teaching. Lets step back a bit though. Suppose someone thinks to themselves: "I’m not sure about the Church’s teachings on contraception…
[/quote]

Doubt does not constitute heresy. Even for dogmas, one can maintain, “I accept that what the Church teaches is true, although I don’t understand how it could be, because the teaching seems wrong to me.” This is different than saying, “Because I don’t understand how this could be true, I refuse to accept the teachings of the Church, because I put my own opinions above the Teaching Authority of the Church” (now that would be heresy).

This is called “assent of faith.” We accept it, even if we don’t understand it, because we have faith in Our Lord’s promise that His Church would never teach error. A more complete assent would be “assent of the heart,” but this is not required.

To say we are “in communion” with the Church (which is the opposite of excommunicate), we must accept those teachings that the Church expects us to accept, and practice the normative behavior (going to Mass, etc) that she expects to practice. If we outright refuse to accept these, we can hardly be considered to be “in communion” with the Church - we are excommunicate (by our own free choice).


#17

[quote=DavidFilmer]Doubt does not constitute heresy. Even for dogmas, one can maintain, “I accept that what the Church teaches is true, although I don’t understand how it could be, because the teaching seems wrong to me.” This is different than saying, “Because I don’t understand how this could be true, I refuse to accept the teachings of the Church, because I put my own opinions above the Teaching Authority of the Church” (now that would be heresy).
[/quote]

Ok, but I’m not talking about someone who just doesn’t understand HOW the Chuch is right, but trusts that somehow it is. I’m talking about someone who isn’t sure if the Church is right or not. Someone who is reserving judgement about the truth of some Church teaching. Would that be Heresy?


#18

[quote=MichaelLewis]I’m talking about someone who isn’t sure if the Church is right or not… Would this be heresy?
[/quote]

Probably not “heresy” (which actually means to profess something contrary to doctrine). But he could be an apostate or a schismatic, depending on his reasons for his uncertantity.

If a person hears a Church teaching that somehow sounds wrong to him, and he withholds assent because he feels he lacks proper understanding then he is fine (who knows, maybe he heard it wrong, or misunderstood what was said). This presumes that he is open to learning the specifics of the teaching.

Once this person has become reasonably and properly informed, he must at least give assent of the mind (“it sounds crazy to me, but I’ll take your word for it because I accept your authority”). In similar fashion, St. Augustine said, “I would have never believed the Scriptures except that the Church told me they were true.” If he does not give at least assent of the mind, he is at that point an apostate (and excommunicates himself).

But if this person does not believe that the Church has the authority to bind Her members to this teaching in the first place - then he is a schismatic (or, at least, an apostate) and excommunicates himself.


#19

Thanks. I think I have a pretty solid understanding now.

Just to be clear though, sincere doubt isn’t a sin, is it? If a Catholic excommunicates him or herself by willfully investigating the Church with an open mind (prepared to accept evidence that the Church is false, should they find good reason to do so), they are excommunicated; but they aren’t wrong for doing so, are they? Would they have to confess this as a sin, assuming that they acted out honest doubt?

Michael


#20

[quote=MichaelLewis]If a Catholic excommunicates him or herself by willfully investigating the Church with an open mind (prepared to accept evidence that the Church is false, should they find good reason to do so), they are excommunicated; but they aren’t wrong for doing so, are they? Would they have to confess this as a sin, assuming that they acted out honest doubt?
[/quote]

It is possible that a person may excommunicate himself without incurring mortal sin (which requires that we recognize the true sinful nature of the act). Of course, if a person is “prepared to accept evidence that the Church is false,” obviously he was poorly catechized.

However, by cutting himself off from the Body of Christ (ie, the Church), this person *has *done injury to the Body, even if he does not realize it. This is, at least, a venial sin, but one which will have a profound impact on this individual’s spirituality (and the effects of this increase as he persists in this state).

If this person wishes to renounce his mistaken belief which separated him from communion with the Body, he should confess this sin against the Unity of the Church (which even Our Lord prayed for) and seek the Grace of the Sacrament to help repair the spiritual damage which has been done.


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