Mortal Sin or Excommunication


Which is worse? I was perusing another thread and people were talking about the difference, rather than interrupt that thread I thought I would start this one.


Well, it’s not really an either/or proposition. In order to be excommunicated, one would have committed a very grave offense.

I can’t really think of cases where one would be excommunicated and NOT in a mortally sinful situation, excepting of course if someone were abusing their power to excommunicate.


I’m thinking of when Pope Benedict XVI lifted the Excommunicated Bishops. There was no repentance. Just a lifting of a disciplinary action. Joan of Arc was Excommunicated but that was later declared null. However before the nullity, the Bishop who excommunicated her allowed her to receive the Eucharist before her death… etc.


Worse in what way?

Mortal sin, if unrepented, separates us from God for eternity. It doesn’t get worse than that.

Excommunication is but a remedial penalty designed to make the sinner aware of their grave sin and repent. Excommunication itself does not change one’s relationship with God, merely with His Church here on earth.

And excommunications are not infallible and it is completely possible that a person who has been excommunicated is not in fact in personal mortal sin. On the other hand excommunications are generally reserved for very grave sins, so in a way are indicative of some of the worst types of mortal sins.


Well, we don’t know whether there was repentance and sacramental confession or not in any particular case. But, in general, those people for whom the excommunication was lifted were still likely in a state of objectively mortal sin and in need of reconciliation before they would be free to exercise ministry in the Church.

As I said, excepting those cases where there was an abuse of excommunication.


If you are in a state of Mortal Sin, you can still receive some of the sacraments validly, (Confirmation, Reconciliation)

If you are excommunicated, you can’t recieve any of the sacraments(unless you repent) and you are also in a state of mortal sin.

In both cases, you are to be denied communion.


Well, the bishops were excommunicated automatically for being involved in an unapproved episcopal ordination, but the rule about needing approval was fairly new and put into place in order to have some say in who was ordained in Communist China, where the government wanted control over who was ordained.

Not like the excommunication of someone involved in an abortion, which is of itself mortally sinful.


:hey_bud: Interesting.


Actually you have access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, otherwise how can you repent and be absolved?


Hello Hoosier.

Easy answer: excommunication is worse because one of the consequences of being excommunicated is the person has lost his or her recourse to the Sacraments, Eucharist, Confession, Matrimony, Confirmation, Last Rites. Some excommunications can only be relieved by the Holy See and some are reserved to the Pope himself. Yeah. It is that bad. But in this case, the good news is that in danger of death if a Priest can be had, he can lift the excommunication if a good confession is made. The penitent should tell him that one has been struggling under excommunication for however many years or whatever. Think Nancy Pelosi is on her death bed and asks for a Priest. She pretty much has got a few specific things to say for the sentences imposed by the Church will be lifted.

This is not to minimize mortal sin by no means, for mortal sin kills the life of grace in the soul. Confession must be resorted to for mortal sin before Eucharist. They must be listed in number and kind and any other circumstances that will help the Priest decide appropriate means of healing, penance. Mortal sins have consequences that work in the mind and may so sicken the soul that a person no longer recognizes or even believes that he or she is in mortal sin. One single mortal sin unconfessed is enough to take away Heaven. All sin is bad and the sincere Christian works daily against their own, but mortal sin is unthinkable.

Hope this helps.


P.S. Can you link to the other thread


Dying excommunicated does not equal hell. But dying in mortal sin does.


Not that I am defending her, but I was unaware the Nancy Pelosi had been excommunicated.
It does no one any good to throw around a loaded term such as that without knowing all the facts. Just saying. :blush::shrug:


You still have access to Confession. You have no access to the other Sacraments.


Hello HoosierDaddy.

Dying excommunicated also can lead to Hell. Folks aren’t excommunicated for venial sins. They both generally can have the same outcome. The difference is that a mortal sin can be forgiven in the Confessional as soon as it is confessed, but an excommunication is a little more complex. Only some can be lifted in the Confessional, say abortion. It used to be a reserved sin, but in our country you can now simply confess it in the box.



OF course it CAN lead to hell. But it does not HAVE to equal hell. Dying in mortal sin does. Period. You die in mortal sin, that is it.

I mentioned earlier of the excommunication of the Bishops of the SSPX being lifted. Though someone said they COULD have repented that was not of any knowledge to the Pope who lifted the excommunications. Most of those Bishops have never even met the Pope. And are certainly not repentant of any act they defend and perpetuate to this day. ANd the Pope need not justify his reasoning either. He can lift them or impose them. repentance or not.

Constantine stripped St Nicholas of his Bishopric but reinstated him. Though not the same thing I think the difference between Excommunication and Mortal sin is that excommunication is a censure or punitive ruling on earth but loses authority at death.

I guess the question really is if you die, is it worse to die in Mortal Sin? Or Excommunication?

Of course neither is preferable.:wink:


Let’s explore…

Die in mortal sin, no excommunication = hell

Die in mortal sin, while excommunicated = hell

Die while not excommunicated, no mortal sin = heaven

Die while excommunicated, no mortal sin = heaven

It is easy to exclude excommunication per se from having any eternal relevance. Its only relevance is that it might be related to mortal sin - which is the point of excommunication.


I don’t get this one. Excommunication is a penalty arising from certain mortal sins committed so how can a person be excommunicated but not be in a state of mortal sin?


As discussed upthread, this certainly happens, eg St Joan of Arc.

I can see a number of ways it can happen…

a person may be excommunicated for a grave sin, but they may lack full knowledge or consent for it to be a personal mortal sin. In a way, this is the reason for their excommunication - to make them aware of the seriousness of their sin.

a person may be excommunicated due to a perceived grave sin, although it is in fact an error, or even an abuse of authority, on the part of Church officials.

a person may commit a personal mortal sin and be excommunicated, but are restored to a state of grave via perftect contrition and then they die before sacramental confession and having their excommunication lifted.


perhaps mortal sin need not even be present for a pronouncement of excommunication.


A grave sin is a mortal sin. Do you mean a sin of grave matter?

On your second point I don’t believe that excommunication by mistake or abuse is a valid excommunication.

As for your third point I am not sure that applies when a genuine excommunication penalty is in place but if you can provide me with something to read on this that would work for me. The CCC section on an act of perfect contrition does not cover a situation where excommunication applies. You are assuming it does. I’m not saying you are wrong but I would like to read a document on this matter.

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