Excommunication vs mortal sin

I have a question. If one person is excommunicated publicly (say via abortion) and one person commits a mortal sin, is there any difference in the method of coming back into the Church, or into the good graces (able to take the Eucharist?)

Is it just a valid confession and they are both back in the Church, or does the excommunicated have to make a public repentance? Thanks

Remember that excommunications aren’t always tied down to mortal sins. A person is excommunicated usually for violating canonical law. On certain situations, a sin may warrant automatic excommunication because many people are confused as to the moral acceptability of an action, such as abortion. If one murders there is no need for excommunication because people will be in agreement that it is wrong. But many people think abortion is okay, that is why the Church needs to reinforce the teaching with excommunication.

How do you return to the Church. With sin, a priest can absolve you of your sins and then you are free from sin. As for excommunication, it will depend on the law. If the law allows for a priest to lift your excommunication, then a priest can do that. Normally it will be the Bishop who can lift your excommunication. Some excommunications can only be lifted by the Pope.

Well explained, Constantine.

In the Lutheran practice, there is a much tighter relationship between mortal (unrepentant) sin and excommunication (barring from the Sacrament and rites of the Church.) As we do not have the extensive canon law of our Roman brethren, excommunication for us is almost always (I can’t think of an example to the contrary) tied to mortal sin, and the way back into fellowship with the Church and reception of the Sacraments, is through the Sacrament of Holy Confession and Absolution with their priest.

Grace and peace.

Mortal sin refers to the state of grace (or rather, the lack thereof); excommunication refers to the state of the person’s relationship with the Church (the Mystical Body of Christ).

It is important to note that being in the state of mortal sin and being in the state of excommunication are not interchangeable; they exist on two different planes. It is sometimes the case that the two states are found in the same individual, but certainly not the rule. So someone who has procured an abortion would be both in the state of mortal sin and in the state of excommunication latae sententiae (incurred by the act itself). Someone who has committed murder would be in the state of mortal sin but not necessarily in the state of excommunication. Someone who attacks a bishop may incur the state of excommunication without necessarily committing a moral sin.

Mortal sins can be forgiven in the context of sacramental confession. Period. As long as it’s a valid confession, the individual is no longer in the state of mortal sin after absolution. Excommunication can be lifted within the context of confession as well, if the excommunication is not “public” - latae sententiae excommunications, because it’s not an explicit excommunication declared by the Church, can usually be lifted in confession, provided the ordinary of the diocese has given permission for the priest to do so (and most do). An exception is if the excommunication is something so grave that the Apostolic See reserves the sole right to lift it. Someone who publicly argues that abortion is good may be excommunicated ferendae sententiae, in which the Church publicly declares that the individual has removed him/herself from the Church. These excommunications can only be lifted through the proper channels.

So to answer your question - normally someone who gets an abortion is not “excommunicated publicly” and can return to the sacraments through Confession. But by asking about excommunication and mortal sin, you are asking about two different but related things.

Hope that helps.

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