Why doesn't murder and violent rape have automatic excommunication?

As I’m sure you are aware, the mortal sin of abortion comes with automatic excommunication, being that it is the taking of a human life.

As far as I know, no such penalty exists for murder of innocent people already born, or for violent rape (i.e. not statutory, but involving assaulting the victim to the point where they lose the ability to resist).

To me, it seems like murder should give you automatic excommunication since that is the penalty for abortion.


Excommunication only comes from admitting to something you are engaging in a irreparable evil such as abortion.
If a person is convicted of murder and maintains his innocence, the Church doesn’t go by civil law. So if a person is found guilty by a civil court yet the person still maintains their innocence, that is between the person and God whether he is lying. The Church won’t excommunicate someone who feels remorse for what they did either.
Excommunication is rare. If you are a politician promoting abortion, you aren’t excommunicated, you just are a public servant who is known to unremorsefully continue to support a mortal sin. It would be the same if you had Hitler trying to go receive communion while he was openly bragging about murdering millions.

You aren’t really answering my question…my question has nothing to do with whether someone is convicted in a civil court of law.

The bold part is untrue if the person committed abortion, i.e. it is an automatic excommunication. So I ask again…if abortion, the murder of an innocent human life, results in an automatic excommunication, why doesn’t murder of an innocent human life outside the womb result in an automatic excommunication in the same way?

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I speak of formal excommunication from the church, not the kind that can be mended by Confession and Penance. Murder isn’t that common, at least not as common as pornography, masturbation, fornication, etc…

Being in a state of mortal sin, and thus not able to present oneself for communion without incurring further sin, is not the same thing as excommunication. Excommunication is a technical term for a penalty levied, either automatically by the law itself, or else by declaration, as a punishment for a crime, wherein the excommunicate cannot receive any of the sacraments without the lifting of the penalty.



I spoke prematurely once again! I’m not at all clear on the difference, but it is my task to avoid serious sin inthe first place.

Let me throw some gas on your fire here.
The church does excommunicate for rape and murder. If the victims are the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops or a nuncio. But that would also be the penalty if you hit one of the above. (Ask st nick)

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Why and How One Is Excommunicated Fr. Charles Grondin • 8/20/2017 lists the automatic excommunication for certain actions, including the conditions necessary for the same to be applied.

There are some excommunications reserved to the Pope, some to the Bishop and others by priests who have been given that faculty by their Bishop CCC #1463



canon #1370

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I suggest you read this. It’s quite pertinent to your question:

Some interesting paragraphs:

“In 1884 the Third Council of Baltimore, in an attempt to stop Catholics from performing the then rare, but still evil, act of obtaining a divorce and attempting a civil marriage, enacted an automatic excommunication against such conduct (Acta, n. 124). Now, who knows, maybe the threat of automatic excommunication did dissuade some Catholics from divorcing and remarrying (Deo gratias). But with each passing decade the numbers of divorced-and-remarried Catholics continued to climb at rates nearly identical to those of the general population and, by the 1970s, literally millions of American Catholics were supposedly excommunicated.”

“Neither deterred from breaking the law nor spurred to seek forgiveness for having done so, many divorced and remarried Catholics instead boasted of their excommunication (I heard such claims myself), or, less confrontationally, they saw their excommunication as a excuse ‘to pay no more attention to a Church that has already kicked me out’. In time it became obvious that the canonical sanction attached to divorce and remarriage, whatever feasibility it might have enjoyed in its early years, had not only failed in preventing Catholics from divorcing and remarrying on a massive scale, it had actually become, canonically and pastorally, a hindrance to their reconciliation.”

“In dropping the excommunication for divorce and remarriage the Church did not, of course, change her teaching on the permanence of marriage nor did she recognize these second, pseudo-marriages; to this day, civilly divorced and remarried Catholics are prohibited holy Communion under the (non-penal) Canon 915. But, however irregular their situation, divorced and remarried Catholics no longer labor under the canonical and pastoral consequences of being automatically excommunicated for it and so their reconciliation with the Church, and with God, is thereby facilitated.”

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Excommunication is not a punishment like a prison sentence or fine - it’s a sanction done for the sake of bringing one to repentance. When a person is unrepentant because they do not think what they did it wrong, excommunication is an extreme sanction placed to show someone the extreme nature of the sub they committed and show the need for repentance.

I don’t know enough to say whether or not murder brings on automatic excommunication while abortion does…but knowing the church my bet is that in our culture no one doubts for a second that murder is wrong. Millions, in contrast, think abortion is perfectly acceptable. The need for a corrective tool is better employed when people are unrepentant because they don’t know it’s wrong, rather than a punishment for a crime. The church isn’t punitive.


And for that matter, why don’t politicians who advocate for abortion (and even worse, supporting murdering a newborn who has survived a botched abortion) get excommunicated? Is there some something in Canon Law or the Catechism that addresses this?

The point of putting an excommunication penalty in place is to emphasize to the person who might commit the sin, or who has committed the sin, that what they are doing is seriously wrong and needs to be corrected. In a society where abortion is legal and many approve of abortion, the excommunication penalty served the purpose of emphasizing that the Church regards it as a grave wrong.

In the case of rape and murder, there’s no need for an excommunication penalty to let people know the wrong is grave. People in general, including non-Catholics, non-Christians, non-religious and atheists, all know that rape and murder are gravely wrong acts, and society has strong laws against them (whereas abortion is legal and condoned by much of society).

The point of excommunication is not to punish someone, the point of excommunication is to let the person know they committed a wrong that needs to be corrected so they hopefully correct it and return to the Church. People always think of excommunication as an ultimate punishment when that’s not the point, as Canon Law Made Easy blog has noted.

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No, they don’t. They are in grave sin and out of a state of grace, but they are still members of the church and, if they decide to repent and confess, they don’t need to jump through the additional canon law hoops that an excommunicated person would have to do.

There seems to be a constant school of thought on here that a Catholic who commits grave sin, is lapsed in their practice, or doesn’t accept all the Church teachings, has somehow “excommunicated” himself. You can’t excommunicate yourself. Excommunication is a canon law penalty. It doesn’t just mean you’re a big sinner.

The latest excommunication call - by Canon Lawyer Dr Edward Peters, 2013.

There’s also this article Canon 915’s moment has arrived from 2019 by Dr Peters also.


I don’t know the nuts and bolts answer to the question but…
murder (of the born) and rape are not sanctioned by our civil structure.
Abortion is.

Perhaps the excommunicative penalty is seen as remedial for a crime against humanity that is actually condoned by our society. The structure of sin that is abortion and the victims of abortion cry out for recognition.

If nothing else, excommunication gives some voice to the voiceless.

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First, it is more complex to determine who is excommunicated. Second, murder is different than killing. Abortion is intrinsically evil.

To incur excommunication one must know that it is an excommunicable offense at the time of the abortion.

See CIC Canon 1323 - 1325. Two shown below.


Can. 1323 The following are not subject to a penalty when they have violated a law or precept:
1° a person who has not yet completed the sixteenth year of age;
2° a person who without negligence was ignorant that he or she violated a law or precept;
inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance;
3° a person who acted due to physical force or a chance occurrence which the person could not
foresee or, if foreseen, avoid;
4° a person who acted coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or due to necessity or
grave inconvenience unless the act is intrinsically evil or tends to the harm of souls;
5° a person who acted with due moderation against an unjust aggressor for the sake of
legitimate self defense or defense of another;
6° a person who lacked the use of reason, without prejudice to the prescripts of cann. 1324, §1,
n. 2 and 1325;
7° a person who without negligence thought that one of the circumstances mentioned in nn. 4
or 5 was present.

Can. 1325 Crass, supine, or affected ignorance can never be considered in applying the
prescripts of cann. 1323 and 1324; likewise drunkenness or other disturbances of mind cannot
be considered if they are sought deliberately in order to commit or excuse a delict, nor can
passion which is voluntarily stimulated or fostered.


Murder is also intrinsically evil, which was the whole point of this thread. But the reasons behind no excommunication for murder has already been explained…

Not all murder is pre-meditated.

Intrinsic evil is an act of intention that, by nature, is essentially or necessarily, not in conformity with the divine law.

Not always premeditated, but it doesn’t matter. Murder is by definition intentional killing of another person which would violate divine law, premeditated or not.

I am not sure why you are bringing these points up.

Clarity. Not all killing is murder and what is legally called murder is not always intended (such as felony murder - unintended killings done while intentionally committing another serious felony). There has to be a differentiation made.

"The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. The law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere.” Catechism 2261

“There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery.” Catechism 1756

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