What is the meaning of excommunication? Does it mean I’m Catholic, but can’t receive communion, or does it mean I am no longer considered a member of the Church, or something else?

This quote was in a Reuters’ story:

“Under Church law, someone who knowingly does or backs something which the Church considers a grave sin, such as abortion, inflicts what is known as “automatic excommunication” on themselves.”

So if I commit mortal sin, I am excommunicated?


From my understanding, no. Not unless you “back” that particular sin, believing it is not sin.

I think the key part of the Reuter’s quote is the “backs” part. If a person commits a mortal sin and stands by the sin (not admitting that it is sinful), then they impose excommunication upon themselves.

On the other hand, one who commits mortal sin and realizes that it is sin, and seeks reconciliation through the Sacrament of Penance, does not “back” the sin, and therefore is not excommunicated.

Take it for what it’s worth. I am not a Canon Lawyer, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. :smiley:


Never trust the mass media when it comes to things Catholic. The Church attaches automatic excommunication to only a few grave sins–but bishops can also excommunicate people as they see fit for other grave offenses. So no, committing a mortal sin is not automatic excommunication.

Here is a good article explaining excommunication:



not necessarily, only if you commit a mortal sin that carries with it an automatic penalty of excommunication, such as procuring or undergoing an abortion or assisting someone else to do so. Every mortal sin bars you from receiving communion because you have chosen to separate yourself from that communion, and may not receive until you have confessed to a priest and received absolution. There are different types and circumstances of excommunication, which have been discussed many times hear, and a search will show up some great links explaining in detail.


It’s not called “automatic excommunication.” Rueters is LAME. It’s Latae Excommunicae… self excommunication. And no, generally mortal sin does not cause self excommunication (except whereby it cuts us off from sanctifying grace, which might as well be excommunication).

Latae Excommunicae is reserved for those who promulgate sin deliberately with willful intent to continue (people who would be an example: Hitler (not actually a catholic anyway, but common myth says he was), Archbishop Lefebvre, abortion doctors, certain abortion patients, etc). To be Excommunicated is to be no longer a member of the church until pardon is granted… that’s more than no sanctifying grace… it’s no sacraments, no graces of any kind, and (technically, though not enforced) not even allowed to attend mass.


It is not called “Latae Excommunicae” (*Excommunicae is not even a grammatical Latin formation). And it does not mean “self excommunication”. All excommunication is “self” excommunication – The Church recognizes this (unfortunate) condition, but does not create it (the offender himself does that).

It is called *latae sententiae excommunicatio *-- [The penalty of] “excommunication having been passed”, as opposed to *ferendae sententiae excommunicatio *-- [The penalty of] “excommunication needing to be imposed”. It is not reserved “for those who promulgate sin deliberately …”, it is reserved for those offenses so enumerated in Canon Law. The commission of some offenses may carry a penalty of *ferendae sententiae *excommunication (ie, a proper authority, bishop, tribunal, et cetera, needs impose the penalty); a very few others carry a penalty of *latae sententiae *excommunication (the sentence is consdered passed by the commission of the act itself, without the participation of some authority).

All that said, however, I can certainly agree: Reuters poorly states the facts.

Not a Canon Lawyer, but fancies himself a Latinist. :nerd:


Well, per a canon lawyer on CA radio show recently, you are actually still Catholic just no sacraments and you ARE still required to attend Mass.


Excommunication means that, by your own actions, you have seperated yourself from the Church. The “official statement” from the Church is not so much an action but a notification. In the example of the priest violating the seal of the confessional, for example, he is excommunicated through the action, not the notification.
What excommunication is is a call to conversion, really. The Church is notifying you that by your own actions you are placing your salvation at risk, and offers you a chance to rectify the situation, grow in holiness, and experience conversion.


well, that’s where the ambiguity comes in… the case you’re talking about does not actually involve a latae sen… blah blah excommunication. That’s why the Canon lawyer made the clarification. Per pope Benedict, those who are excommunicated should consider themselves “strangers to the church.”


A good example:

It is absolutely heard, that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as the like is not among the heathens; that one should have his father’s wife. And you are puffed up; and have not rather mourned, that he might be taken away from among you, that hath done this deed. I indeed, absent in body, but present in spirit, have already judged, as though I were present, him that hath so done, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus; To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 5:1-5 (Douay Rheims).

And if any one have caused grief, he hath not grieved me; but in part, that I may not burden you all. To him who is such a one, this rebuke is sufficient, which is given by many: So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore, I beseech you, that you would confirm your charity towards him. For to this end also did I write, that I may know the experiment of you, whether you be obedient in all things. And to whom you have pardoned any thing, I also. For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned any thing, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ.

2 Cor 2:5-10 (Douay Rheims).

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he instructed them to excommunicate the incestuous man for the sake of encouraging him to come to his senses and reform his life. In Paul’s second letter, after the incestuous man had repented and reformed, Paul instructed the Corinthians to allow the man back into the Church.


I am not a Canon Lawyer, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

:rotfl: :rotfl:


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