If you are excommunicated from the catholic church can you ever get back in ? and How is the excommunication done ?

Yes, an excommunication can always be dissolved.

Excommunication is governed by several of the canons of the Code of Canon (Church) Law. There are two kinds: laetae sententiae, or automatic excommunication, and ferendae sententiae, or excommunication as a sentenced penalty after an ecclesiastical tribunal, or Church court, convicts you.

Excommunication is imposed for several crimes: heresy, apostasy and schism are what we might think of as the “classic” crimes warranting excommunication; procuring an abortion which can mean having an abortion, forcing someone (child, mentally or emotionally impaired person) under your care to have an abortion, performing an abortion, paying for an abortion, just being complicit in a completed abortion, etc.; or consecrating bishops without a Papal Mandate. I imagine there are others still, and furthermore I imagine the Pope himself can excommunicate as he pleases for crimes.

As far as who can absolve excommunication, it varies. It can be the diocesan bishop or his priest designate, the competent individual at one of the Vatican tribunals, or the Pope himself.

Excommunication, as I understand it, is both a punishment and an extremely strong invitation to examine one’s actions in order to come back within the fold of the Church. So as much as it is a punishment, we can equally say it is an act of compassion, akin to violently shocking someone back to his senses.

Excommunication is disciplinary, not a judgement about a person’s state of grace (though, in most cases, a reasonable inference can be made). The excommunicant is received back into the privilege of the use of the Sacraments upon repentance. Depending on the offense, what is required for repentance may differ. Certain sins excommunicate an individual simply by their commission (abortion, assault on the Pope). Others need to be pronounced by a diocesan tribunal after an investigation.

So if you are excommunicated are you given a letter telling you , you are excommunicated. If it is due to something like an abortion or anything to do with an abortion, surely the person has to confess it to the priest in order them to be excommunicated.

No, some things, like abortion, are automatic excommunications. One would not receive a letter, they would be excommunicated upon committing the act. Other things, like teaching heresy, require a more formal process.

Excommunication from abortion, however, does not usually require a formal process to lift. It can be lifted by a priest in the confessional if the person is repentant. Other things may require the Bishop or even the Pope to lift the excommunication.

If you are excommunicated via a trial or action of the bishop, you certainly would receive notice. Of course you would have been in contact all along as you would have been given numerous opportunity to recant your position or whatever issue is precipitating the excommunication.

No. There are acts that excommunicate you automactically by committing them.

So if the person had an abortion then they would be telling the priest they had one when they ask for forgiveness as they are repentant.so then they are automatically forgiven ?

What we mean by automatic excommunication is that the act itself “sentences” the person. As soon as the act is done, and by committing the act itself, the person is automatically sentenced to excommunication. No decree is needed, because Canon Law provides for the punishment automatically, and this is really an act of Papal authority since the Code of Canon Law was approved by the Pope.

We might liken a trial-sentenced excommunication to a civilian trial in which a person commits a crime and is sentenced to death or something. The act itself doesn’t sentence the person, the judge does.

We might liken automatic excommunication to a person touching a hot stove. “Punishment” is immediate by committing the act itself (even though in this case it is not a crime).

No, they are not automatically forgiven. The dissolution of excommunications incurred as a result of having an abortion are reserved to the diocesan bishop. The diocesan bishop either must dissolve the excommunication himself, or by a priest to whom he delegates such a power.

They can choose not to dissolve it ?

I think you are missing the point.

A person who goes to confession repentant of the abortion would certainly be absolved and have the excommunication lifted.

The lifting of excommunication penalties falls under the authority of the bishop. But, because abortion is so widespread, most all bishops have given faculties to their priests to lift the excommunication on the spot when a woman approaches the priest in confession. In the rare cases where the priest does not have faculties to lift excommunication, he contacts the bishop who would do so.

I can’t think of an instance where they would refuse the penitent’s request to be reconciled with the Church. Perhaps if the person were not sorry, but if they weren’t sorry they wouldn’t be approaching the priest in confession either.

Back in its day, excommunication was a big deal. If a person had dealings with someone who was excommunicated then that person was also excommunicated. It seems it would have been a death sentence upon someone. Not only was your property taken away but you had no one who would give you food, shelter or anything else necessary to sustain life – unless that person wanted to end up in the same boat as you.

Can you substantiate this?

c. 2267 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law said: “The faithful must avoid association in profane things with a banned excommunicate, unless it concerns a spouse, parents, children, householders, subjects, and so on, unless reasonable cause excuses.” This law was abrogated by the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

That was not a death sentence. A “reasonable cause” certainly included giving necessary food or shelter to sustain life. If customs prevailed such that people left the unfortunate soul to die, they were not acting with Christian charity and they were violating the teachings of the Church. They were not prohibited by law from giving aid.

This distinction of bans and shuns with excommunication does not exist anymore. Excommunication is frequently a private matter. Many people who are excommunicated latae sententiae do not have to tell anyone but their confessor. If an excommunicated person is shunned in any way, this is at the discretion of the individual who does not wish to associate with them.

Certainly. Taken from the Canons of the Second Lateran Council:

  1. We utterly prohibit those who have been excommunicated by their bishops to be received by others. Indeed, whoever knowingly presumes to communicate someone who has been excommunicated, before he is absolved by the one who excommunicated him, is to be held liable to the same sentence.


The Second Lateran did not provide for a ‘reasonable cause’ – I agree that would have been the Christ-like way of handling it. As originally written by Pope Innocent, it sounds like a death sentence. The Church became more Christian in its views between the 13th and 20th centuries.

That is a primary source and you are providing your own interpretation of this Canon. I would point out to you that as far as I am aware, to “communicate someone” means to give them Holy Communion. Are you sure that “to be received by others” does not merely mean “to be received by other [bishops]”? Are these canons binding on all members of the Church, including laity, or were they aimed at clergy and concerned with the care of souls?

Catholic Encyclopedia: Excommunication

[quote=“Catholic Encyclopedia: Excommunication”]Minor excommunication was really identical with the state of the penitent of olden times who, prior to his reconciliation, was admitted to public penance. Minor excommunication was incurred by unlawful intercourse with the excommunicated, and in the beginning no exception was made of any class of excommunicated persons. Owing, however, to many inconveniences arising from this condition of things, especially after excommunications had become so numerous, Martin V, by the Constitution “Ad evitanda scandala” (1418), restricted the aforesaid unlawful intercourse to that held with those who were formally named as persons to be shunned and who were therefore known as vitandi (Latin vitare, to avoid), also with those who were notoriously guilty of striking a cleric. But as this twofold category was in modern times greatly reduced, but little attention was paid to minor excommunication, and eventually it ceased to exist after the publication of the Constitution “Apostolicæ Sedis”.

Persons thus excommunicated are to be shunned (vitandi), i.e. the faithful must have no intercourse with them either in regard to sacred things or (to a certain extent) profane matters, as we shall see farther on.

The faithful, on their side, may, without sin, ask tolerated excommunicated ecclesiastics to administer sacraments to them; they would, however, sin grievously in making this request of the vitandi, except in case of urgent necessity.


Please note the terminology “unlawful intercourse [contact]” - this does not say “any contact at all” - it says “unlawful” contact. If you have extensive evidence that medieval excommunication was indeed a death sentence, then I would be happy to read it.


Similarly, Hyland (1928) noted that medieval theologians likened excommunication bans—formal removal from a religious fellowship—to experiencing death. The symbolic nature of excommunication maybe particularly terrifying in that a separation from God is symbolized (Logan, 1968):

After the judgment of the Angels, and with that of the saints, we excommunicate, expel, curse, and damn Baruch de Espinoza with the consent of God … the Lord will not pardon him. We command that none should communicate with him orally or in writing, or show him any favor, or stay with him under the same roof, or within four ells of him, or read anything composed by him. (Browne, 1932, p. 41; citing the ban of excommunication of the philosopher Spinoza from the Amsterdam synagogue)

I am seeing specific prohibitions against specific kinds of activity, but no blanket ban on acts of ordinary Christian charity or mere life-sustaining needs.

Yes maybe Iam missing the point or maybe I just really dont understand and rude people wont help …

Maybe you can be more specific as to which part of the explanation you don’t understand. :slight_smile:

This is about giving communion to someone who is excommunicated, not talking to them or doing business with them. This canon is saying that if one bishop excommunicates someone, another bishop can’t disolve or ignore that excommunication. For example, if Nancy Pelosi’s bishop says she can’t recieve communion, and she tries to get a bishop in Miami, Florida to life the excommunication, the Miami bishop can’t lift it and if he attempts to give her communion, he risks being excommunicated himself. This quote has nothing to do with daily business of the laity.

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