Excommunication and Salvation

I have some questions in regards to excommunication and its effects on salvation. I think I can better phrase my questions as arguments, and make it easier for you guys to correct me where I’m right/wrong. I appreciate all help in pointing me towards the truth.

  1. If someone is excommunicated, they cannot partake in the sacraments. The Catholic Church holds that the sacraments are needed for salvation. Therefore, the excommunicated person cannot be saved.

  2. If someone is excommunicated they are not in the body of the church. The Catholic Church holds that if you are not in the body of the Church you cannot be saved. Therefore the excommunicated person cannot be saved.

An excommunicate may participate in exactly one Sacrament, namely Confession (Reconciliation). If the excommunicate has forfeited his Baptismal Grace through mortal sin, this restores him to salvation. In any event, it restores him to full communion with the Church.

  1. If someone is excommunicated they are not in the body of the church. The Catholic Church holds that if you are not in the body of the Church you cannot be saved. Therefore the excommunicated person cannot be saved.

This is only partially correct. Excommunication is a judicial act, not a doctrinal act. An excommunicate may very well remain in a State of Grace, and be entitled to salvation.

Gosh. I don’t have the time for another thread, but this has always been so interesting to me.

The OP has EXCELLENT questions which I never hear asked.

If caprotodox means that if you are not a member of the “church” you cannot be saved in the sense of the Catholic church - it immediately is wrong, of course. People not in the Catholic church can be saved - for instance protestants or others who believe in Christ as their savior.

So let’s put that aside.

Tell me if these two people are ex comm:

They are a mature couple living together for at least 20 years. They were told that they could participate in the liturgy and life of the church but they could not receive communion (of course).

Who cannot receive communon? Those with a mortal sin. We say that if you have a mortal sin you are out of God’s grace - or lost, or not saved.

SO, if they can’t receive communion, they are in mortal sin and are not saved - what I ask is this:

What’s the use of inviting them to participate in the liturgy, in meetings, in processions, etc.? What is the goal here? To save their soul or to let them participate somewhat in church services?

God bless

Just to clarify, the catholic church does not teach that if you are not in the body of the church (ad understanding the Catholic Church) you are not saved.

The ex-comm question is totally different and I’ve had my own questions on this and will follow with much interest.

God bless

First, you seem to be confusing excommunication with not being able to receive Communion. If someone commits the mortal sin, for example, of living in a sexual relationship outside marriage they are not able to receive Communion but they are not excommunicated.
Whether a person is only in a state of mortal sin or additionally excommunicated they are not lost. They just have to be sorry and go to Confession to be reconciled to Christ and his Church.

Yes. I know very little of ex-communication.

However, I have knowledge of sin (LOL) and can’t quite understand what you mean by:

**Whether a person is only in a state of mortal sin or additionally excommunicated they are not lost. **

Not sure what you mean by “lost”. If you’re in a state of mortal sin and die, we teach that we go to hell. I call that being lost; you might have a different meaning for it.

If we can’t agree on this, my question is moot.

God bless
My question is that it’s not important if they can receive communion or not - what’s important is that if they CAN’T then they are lost (my definition) and so what’s the use of going to litergies?? Is the goal communion or is the goal salvation?

You again misunderstand. Nobody is lost while they are still alive. Whether you are lost or saved happens when you die and the state of your soul at death determines your destination. We all have until our dying breath to repent and be saved.

As thistle has been telling you, excommunication is a penalty, not a death sentence. A person under the penalty of excommunication cannot be saved while the penalty is in effect. However, this person is still able to repent, get the penalty lifted, receive sacramental absolution, and thereby return to a state of grace… which would enable him to be saved.

w. If someone is excommunicated they are not in the body of the church. The Catholic Church holds that if you are not in the body of the Church you cannot be saved. Therefore the excommunicated person cannot be saved.

As others have mentioned, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” doesn’t mean that “only Catholics (i.e., who are ‘in the body of the Church’) can be saved”.

So, on both counts, the answer is a solid “no”. :wink:

Here is where I get confused. If the person is excommunicated they only have one sacrament available - confession. While in excommunication, that person is separated from the Church ergo separated from the body of Christ. If that person does not partake in confession, then essentially the Church has damned the person to Hell right? But isn’t Christ the only one that can make the determination of whether salvation is lost? I can understand a person puts their salvation in jeopardy by being excommunicated, but I’m not sure if it goes all the way to damnation if the person does not make confession.

As others have mentioned, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” doesn’t mean that “only Catholics (i.e., who are ‘in the body of the Church’) can be saved”.

So, on both counts, the answer is a solid “no”. :wink:

I think I need more clarification on part 2.

Thanks for answering everyone, although I’m still a bit confused.

I’m not sure what the difference is between a judicial act and a doctrinal act. Doctrinal, I’m assuming only pertains salvation, and judicial only pertaining to punishment?

Would you be able to explain to me how a person could still remain in a State of Grace and still be entitled to salvation?

Thanks again, I appreciate your help.

A judicial act places someone outside of the Sacramental life of the Church, except for Confession. For most Catholics, the impact of this is that s/he is still required to attend Mass, but may not receive Eucharist.

An excommunication is not a doctrinal statement that the person is not in a State of Grace. The Church cannot actually make such a determination. It is entirely possible that an excommunicate has not committed a mortal sin, and would be admitted into heaven if s/he died.

Only mortal sin can remove us from a State of Grace. The Church can absolve mortal sin, but cannot infallibly say if any individual is in need of this absolution.

Excommunication is a judicial penalty which is intended to reform some offensive behavior, not to determine whether this behavior is mortally sinful. Something can be offensive without incurring mortal sin.

HUH???

I guess we can’t get to the point I wanted to make, unless it happens further down, which I truly doubt since we never speak of this even in church meetings, and the such. Even priests side-step this by saying that going to the liturgy is good because you never know when the person might “convert” and understand their wrong.

So, of course you could be saved at the last moment of your life. That wasn’t the point.
I gave a specific scenario:

**Not sure what you [thistle] mean by “lost”. If you’re in a state of mortal sin and die, we teach that we go to hell. I call that being lost; you might have a different meaning for it.
**

and you changed it by giving me the above teaching, so we can’t get to my point.

BTW you must know that IF you die in mortal sin, you are LOST.

However, we could skip this since it’s not what my question is.

No problem.

God bless

Well, technically, no. A person who is excommunicated must first have the canonical penalty of excommunication lifted before he can receive absolution in confession.

While in excommunication, that person is separated from the Church ergo separated from the body of Christ. If that person does not partake in confession, then essentially the Church has damned the person to Hell right?

No. If a person has separated himself from the Church and refuses to return, then he has made a decision for himself.

But isn’t Christ the only one that can make the determination of whether salvation is lost?

Yes; and through His ministry and His revelation in the Bible, He’s let us know a bit about that determination. It has to do with the choice of either following Him or giving in to sin. It’s some of these sins that are the reasons for excommunication. What it comes down to is that excommunications don’t result from the Church making up rules on its own, but from the Church applying the standards of behavior that Jesus taught.

I can understand a person puts their salvation in jeopardy by being excommunicated, but I’m not sure if it goes all the way to damnation if the person does not make confession.

If a person sins, and then does not repent, how would you describe it, then?

I think I need more clarification on part 2.

Sure; although there are already lots of threads around here on “extra ecclesiam nulla salus.” Notice what it says (and what it doesn’t say!) It’s not “a person who is outside the Church cannot be saved”; rather, it’s just that salvation proceeds from Christ and His Church. No other means of salvation exists; anyone who is saved… is saved by Christ through the graces of the Church He founded.

Do you have a particular question about it?

The separation from the Church due to excommunication is not complete and utter separation. Everyone in a state of grace, even non-Catholic Christians, non-Christian believers, and unbelievers, are in some sense and to some extent members (at least implicitly) of the Church. An excommunicated person can be in a state of grace and therefore on the path of salvation.

Saint Joan of Arc died in a state of excommunication. Yet she went to heaven.

Not even. Excommunication prevents a person from validly receiving absolution. The penalty must be lifted first.

If the priest has the faculty to lift the penalty, he can do so THEN absolve from the sin. But if the penalty is reserved to the Bishop or even the Holy See, then those authorities need to be contacted to have the penalty lifted before absolution can be imparted.

Yep; I’m good with that.

An excommunicated person can be in a state of grace and therefore on the path of salvation.

Umm… how? Given current canon law, the penalty of excommunication follows the commission of some mortal sin. How might it be that a person today is excommunicated (for procuring an abortion, desecrating the Eucharist, etc) and yet still in a state of grace?

Saint Joan of Arc died in a state of excommunication. Yet she went to heaven.

That’s not the whole story. She died prior to the pope ratifying her excommunication, and when the matter was brought to his attention, he refused to do so. In other words, she was never formally excommunicated, it’s just that an excommunication was in process at the time of her death (and was later abandoned).

Excommunication can also be imposed, in error or even unjustly. If such an punishment is imposed (i.e. not latae sententiae), it’s binding and effective. In this case, the person may remain in the state of grace but still bound by the penalty. It will have to be remedied or appealed.

It’s also possible for the sinner to make an act of perfect contrition (which of course includes the intention to confess as soon as possible, which by extension includes the effort to get the penalty lifted). The state of grace may persist even if the person dies before the penalty is lifted. Of course, if he gets to a priest when he’s in danger of death, he can indeed be absolved the penalty notwithstanding.

This is true, strictly speaking, but many (if not most) Bishops delegate the authority to lift excommunications to his priests (those not reserved to the Holy See, which are few), and this happens during Confession (the person does not need to meet with the priest beforehand).

My brother’s Bishop has delegated this authority to him. I’m not aware of any Diocese in the United States where this is not the case. This was recently discussed here when the Pope granted faculties to all priests to lift abortion-related excommunications during the Jubilee Year. Nobody could cite an example where priests did not already have these faculties (from their Bishops).

So, practically speaking, going to Confession usually kills two birds with one stone, at least in America. Perhaps other Bishops are not as permissive.

Only actual mortal sin deprives the baptized person of the state of grace. A person might commit an objective mortal sin, but without sufficient knowledge or deliberation to make the sin actual.

Canon law has a penalty of excommunication for heresy. Yet I notice many Catholics online espousing and promoting heresy, without realizing the gravity of their sin.

A Bishop has the authority to excommunicate. It is not true that the Holy See must approve the excommunication for it to be effective.

Excommunication prevents a person from validly receiving absolution. The penalty must be lifted first.

Canon Law explicitly allows the sin to be forgiven by a priest who does not have faculties to life the excommunication, provided that the penitent seeks a priest or bishop who can life the excommunication within a reasonable period of time: Canon 1357. This applies to “undeclared latae sententiae” excommunications, which includes almost all excommunications for abortion.

The claim that “the penalty must be lifted first” is not a teaching of the Church, nor an absolute requirement of Canon law. Typically, the person repents and returns to the state of grace immediately with perfect contrition. Then the person goes to confession and the sin is forgiven at the same time as the penalty is lifted. Sometimes the person goes to confession for the sin to be forgiven first, and later (e.g. Canon 1357) obtains formal lifting of the penalty from a pastor or bishop.

Then Canon 1335 also allows an excommunicated person, prior to the lifting of the sanction, to receive sacraments, if the excommunication is undeclared latae sententiae.

Can. 1335: “If a latae sententiae censure has not been declared, the prohibition is also suspended whenever a member of the faithful requests a sacrament or sacramental or an act of governance; a person is permitted to request this for any just cause.”

The vast majority of excommunications are latae sententiae and undeclared, meaning that no authority in the Church has declared (latae sententiae) or imposed (ferendae sententiae) the excommunication in the individual case. The vast majority of excommunications for abortion are undeclared latae sententiae excommunications. Therefore, Canon 1335 applies. The excommunicated person can then request any Sacrament for any just cause.

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