Grave Sins that incur Excommunication

What are they?
Can you explain them?
Can you give examples?
and Do these count before joining Catholism?

And whether or not it happened before or after joining the church, can you be forgiven of them? and can you eventually join the Church again?

  • I do not even know the list of grave, mortal, or venial sins.

After one is Catholic…

(and remember one knows what one is doing…and that such is there to bring the person back)

Examples: abortion…physically attacking the Pope…violation of the Eucharist…a Priest directly breaking the seal of confession…

There are two kinds of excommunication-- automatic, and imposed.

Remember, excommunication is one of a number of penalties that can be used by the Church to curb and correct wayward Catholics.

Imposed excommunication (or other penalty such as censure or interdict) happens after a trial or other process outlined in Canon Law. It depends upon what the individual has done, and of course after they have failed to correct their behavior or cease their activities.

There are a limited number of serious actions that have an automatic excommunication attached to them (if one knows they are excommunicable offenses, if one is over a certain age, etc)

These are also found in Canon Law. Here’s a good explanation in Wikipedia:

Here’s a lengthier article, but it’s from the old Catholic encyclopedia so the law has changed since this was published. But it’s still a good overview:

Only a Catholic can be excommunicated.

One can be forgiven of any sin.

Excommunication is not the same as a sin. It is a penalty imposed and removed by the Church. The penalty is to help the person understand what they did is wrong and to impress upon them the seriousness of what they have done. The goal is always to bring them back to the Church and the sacraments.

  • I do not even know the list of grave, mortal, or venial sins.

You can’t be excommunicated from the Church if you have never belonged to it. If you do belong to the Church, you can be excommunicated for various offenses, but any excommunication can be lifted by the proper authority. Some excommunications can be lifted by the priest, some by the local bishop, and some by the Pope. But they can all be lifted. In the case of danger of death, any priest, even a laicized priest, can lift an excommunication and forgive any sin. When an excommunication is lifted, the person again belongs to the Church.

For an excommunication to automatically apply the following conditions are necessary:

  1. The person must know with moral certainty that the action he is about to take will result in an automatic excommunication. If he believes it to be simply wrong, but not something that would automatically excommunicate him, then he is simply guilty of a sin which can be forgiven in Confession, but he is not excommunicated.

  2. If he wrongly believes that the action would result in his excommunication, but does it anyway, he still is not excommunicated, although he is guilty of a mortal sin.

Some examples of offenses that incur an automatic excommunication, notwithstanding #1, above, are abortion, or casting the Holy Eucharist on the ground or discarding it in the sacrarium (the sink in the church sacristy that drains directly into the ground), or any intentional desecration of the Eucharist, or attacking a priest, religious brother, or nun.

All clergy and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should be aware of that second one, because I’ve heard several EMHCs say that they do this. They are not aware that they should not be doing it! So in their case, being unaware of the penalty for doing so, it does not apply to them. Nevertheless, they should be instructed that they must not do that, and that if they knowingly ignore this law, then they are automatically excommunicated.

The reason the Church has imposed these penalties on certain actions is to educate the faithful about the seriousness of the offense. It’s one thing to tell EHMCs not to pour extra Precious Blood into the sacrarium. It’s a whole other thing to tell them that if they do so they will be automatically excommunicated. It adds a whole level of gravity to the law that gets the point across.

With regard to #1, some excommunications are immediately imposed just by the fact that a person does do something under the censure of excommunication. I don’t think knowledge is necessary for some. If you have information that says otherwise, please give the reference.

May God bless and keep you.


Ferendae Sententiae Excommunication (requires formal proceedings):

Canon 1378: The pretended celebration of the Eucharist or of sacramental Confession
Canon 1388: Violation of the seal of Confession by an interpreter

Latae Sententiae Excommunication (automatic):

Canon 1364: Apostasy, heresy or schism
Canon 1367: Violation of the Sacred Species
Canon 1370: Laying violent hands on the Pope
Canon 1378: Absolution of an accomplice
Canon 1382: Episcopal consecration without authorization from the Holy See
Canon 1388: Violation of the seal of Confession by a confessor
Canon 1398: Procuring abortion

Canon 1323, Paragraph 2:

Can. 1323 The following are not subject to a penalty when they have violated a law or precept:

  1. a person who without negligence was ignorant that he or she violated a law or precept; inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance;

The context of that canon makes it clear that excommunication is included in the word “penalty”. Here’s a link to the reference so you can see it in context:

BTW, Fr. Z recently discussed this very question on his blog in the context of burying consecrated Hosts:

I believe he also discussed this in another recent blog, more explicitly and at more length, but I can’t find that post.

And if you stop to think about it, this is consistent with the teaching on mortal sins in general. You have to know it’s a mortal sin to actually commit a mortal sin.

If you could be excommunicated for doing something that was not a mortal sin for you because you did not know it was seriously wrong, where would the justice be in that?!

Matt, here is your statement,

  1. The person must know with moral certainty that the action he is about to take will result in an automatic excommunication. If he believes it to be simply wrong, but not something that would automatically excommunicate him, then he is simply guilty of a sin which can be forgiven in Confession, but he is not excommunicated.

I respectfully disagree.

If a serious sin is committed, and there is an automatic censure attached to that sin, then even if they don’t know about the attached censure, they incurr that censure.

One example of this is abortion. There are more examples of automatic censures in Post #6.

Fr Z was saying that a person has to know that they were committing a sin.
He did not say that they had to know that they were incurring a censure.

A person does not have to know anything at all about an automatic censure to incurr it. Even tho he does have to know he is committing a serious sin because the censure is attached to the sin.

May God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine on you. May God be kind to you and give you peace.

I do not believe that to be correct. Please show us where the Church has documented this.

thistle, here is one reference.

Excommunication, especially a jure, is either latæ or ferendæ sententiæ. The first is incurred as soon as the offence is committed and by reason of the offence itself (eo ipso) without intervention of any ecclesiastical judge; it is recognized in the terms used by the legislator, for instance: “the culprit will be excommunicated at once, by the fact itself [statim, ipso facto]”.

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

I believe thistle is actually correct; a person who is unaware of the penalty of excommunication cannot incur it.

[quote=]Can. 1324 §1. The perpetrator of a violation is not exempt from a penalty, but the penalty established by law or precept must be tempered or a penance employed in its place if the delict was committed…

9/ by a person who without negligence did not know that a penalty was attached to a law or precept;

From EWTN:

[quote=]To actually incur the excommunication one must know that it is an excommunicable offense at the time of the abortion. Canon 1323 provides that the following do not incur a sanction, those who are not yet 16, are unaware of a law, do not advert to it or are in error about its scope, were forced or had an unforeseeable accident, acted out of grave fear, or who lacked the use of reason (except culpably, as by drunkenness).

I checked it out with someone else who would know, and they said the that the person must know that there is some kind of penalty attached.

So my apologies to everyone. I was wrong, and you were right.

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