Are Catholics Supposed to Avoid Contact With Excommunicated Persons?

Have you ever wondered whether Catholics are supposed to avoid contact with excommunicated Persons? What is are the Catholic Church’s teachings on excommunicated Catholics

Question 1

A pal of mine who was raised evangelical, but has just lately decided to be a part of the Church, asked me concerning the Church’s guidelines (or potential lack thereof) relating to social interaction with excommunicated individuals. He was raised in a church which, after eradicating somebody from their own group by means of a vote of the registered church members, wouldn’t permit their members to interact in regular social interplay with that individual aside from maybe an off-the-cuff, polite greeting if a member have been to move that individual on the street. They cite Matthew 18:15-17 the place Jesus ends by saying, “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector,” somebody with whom the original audience of that saying was not even permitted to share a meal. What does the Church say about how to interact with those who have been excommunicated? –Thomas

Question 2

My husband is a non-Catholic Christian, and he and I have been having some troublesome discussions these days relating to the teachings of the Church.  He claims that, since he’s a “schismatic,” he isn’t only mechanically excommunicated from the Church, however that the results of that excommunication would come with a lack of the next:

“the sacraments, public services and prayers of the Church, ecclesiastical burial, jurisdiction, benefices, canonical rights, and social intercourse.”  Our principal level of rivalry rests on the ultimate penalty listed, the loss of social intercourse.

My query has two elements:

1) Assuming my husband is excommunicated from the Church (or, relatively, has effectively excommunicated himself by being a non-Catholic), what are the results according to Canon Regulation?
2) Clearly, in apply, the Church doesn’t anticipate me to truly shun my husband, and clearly non-Catholics (even hopeless schismatics) are allowed to attend Mass, however does this imply there’s a discrepancy between the content material of the regulation and its software? –Marianne

A: It’s been stated earlier than in this area, however it bears repeating: after marriage and annulment, the difficulty of excommunication is probably probably the most misunderstood canonical concept on the planet.  In “Am I Excommunicated? Sanctions, Part I,” we appeared at the Church’s “medicinal penalty” of excommunication, and the way this sanction principally works.  These questions, nevertheless, don’t middle around the effects it has on the excommunicated individual himself, however focus as an alternative on the obligations of these non-excommunicated Catholics who are available contact with him.  Let’s first take a common take a look at what Thomas is asking, after which we should always find a way to deal with Marianne’s more specific question.

Canon 1331 tells us what an excommunicated individual is forbidden to do:

—Have any ministerial position within the celebration of the Mass or some other ceremonies of public worship (c. 1331.1 n. 1);
—Have fun the sacraments or sacramentals [blessings, for example], and receive the sacraments (n. 2); and
—Train any ecclesiastical workplaces or ministries (n. 3).

Notice that a lot of the above applies only to clergymen.  If a lay Catholic is beneath excommunication, far and away crucial effect is found in canon 1331.1 n. 2, which was simply talked about: he is forbidden to obtain the sacraments until he returns to communion with the Church.

The next paragraph of canon 1331 offers an inventory of other restrictions on a person whose excommunication was “imposed or declared.”  As was discussed at length in “Have Pro-Abortion Politicians Excommunicated Themselves?” censures corresponding to excommunication can, underneath sure circumstances, be incurred with out anyone else even understanding about it.  In these conditions, the sentence of excommunication just isn’t “imposed or declared,” and subsequently the restrictions in canon 1331.2 wouldn’t apply.  In any case, speaking usually, these provisions are relevant virtually solely to members of the clergy.

To date, we’ve looked at how a censure like excommunication affects the excommunicated individual himself.  However what does the code have to say about other Catholics in good standing, who for whatever purpose have contact with the excommunicated individual?  In a phrase, nothing.  For Catholics who remain in communion with the Church, there are not any authorized restrictions in any respect on their social interactions with excommunicated individuals.

Does that imply, subsequently, that Catholics can talk with someone underneath excommunication precisely as they might if every thing have been effective?  The answer is, “it depends.”  If the pastor of a parish (for example) was excommunicated for some cause, the Catholic trustworthy shouldn’t ask him to baptize their babies or bless their rosaries—because as we’ve just seen, he is forbidden to do such things.  If somebody have been unaware of the excommunication and made this request in good faith, the priest can be obliged to refuse. 

Similarly, if a lay theology professor is understood to be beneath excommunication, it will make little sense for a Catholic to join his theology course, or ask him for info on what the Church teaches!  (See “Was Theologian Hans Küng Ever Excommunicated?” for extra on excommunicated theologians.)  Canon regulation doesn’t assert explicitly that we should not do this stuff; somewhat, they’re simply logical consequences of the canonical restrictions positioned on the excommunicated individual.

Think about now that a Catholic laywoman was declared to be excommunicated as a result of she deliberately desecrated the Blessed Sacrament, as per canon 1367.  She is totally defiant, making it clear that she does not repent of her motion at all.  Let’s say she is married to a Catholic man, they usually have youngsters who’re being raised Catholic too.  In case you search the code for some statement to the impact that her Catholic family-members can not reside in the same house with their spouse/mom, you’ll look in useless. 

Granted, we might hope that her husband can be appalled at his wife’s actions, and that the youngsters would likewise be upset in the event that they’re sufficiently old to perceive what is occurring.  If they are genuinely concerned for the lady’s religious wellbeing, it’s solely natural that they may attempt to remonstrate together with her, to convince her that she needs to repent, make amends ultimately, and return to full communion with the Church.  But strictly talking, there’s no canonical obligation for them to do even this a lot—they usually definitely usually are not required to move out of the house, stop speaking to her, or refuse to share a meal together with her.

Does this contradict Our Lord’s phrases in Matt. 18:15-17, which Thomas cites in his question?  Not essentially.  Keep in mind that Jesus Himself typically ate with tax collectors (see Matt. 9:10-12, Mark 2:15-17, and Luke 5:29-32)—not because He needed to sign approval for his or her line of work, however so as to draw them away from their immoral way of life.  

Similarly, we Catholics should clearly be unhappy when one among us is excommunicated, and we shouldn’t want to be rubbing shoulders unduly with such a person if we may help it, in great part because we might conceivably be influenced by him in some damaging approach; but when there’s a chance (via our phrases or our instance) for us to urge that individual to amend and are available back to the Church, then we should always definitely be prepared to have contact with the excommunicated Catholic so as to do that.  Thomas now has the reply to his query.

Marianne’s query, then again, shouldn’t be solely extra specific, however it’s full of faulty assumptions that can’t be ignored.  For starters, her husband claims that he’s excommunicated for schism, because he isn’t a member of the Catholic Church.  But observe that Marianne describes her husband as “a non-Catholic Christian,” which might recommend that he has never been a Catholic at any level in his life.  And if her husband has by no means been a member of the Catholic Church, then it’s quite unattainable for him to be sanctioned by the Church as a schismatic!

Schism is defined in canon 751 because the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church who are topic to him; and as canon 1364.1 tells us, a schismatic incurs excommunication.  But like the remainder of the Code of Canon Regulation, these canons pertain solely to Catholics (cf. c. 1).  In case you’ve never been a member of the Catholic Church in your entire life, then as a basic rule, what it requires or forbids doesn’t concern you, and its penalties do not apply to you.

That is—or must be, at the least—notably apparent with regard to the sanction of excommunication.  You possibly can’t be excommunicated, for those who have been by no means in communion within the first place!  As soon as once more, we see here an instance of a very common misunderstanding about what excommunication really is.

Consequently, Marianne’s assertion that her husband “has effectively excommunicated himself by being a non-Catholic” makes absolutely no sense in any respect.  A lot of her query, subsequently, instantly turns into irrelevant.

While we’re on the subject, word additionally that, as was discussed at size in “Could a Pope Ever Be Excommunicated? (“Excommunication” Outlined),” this can be very misleading to assert as Marianne does that anyone is ever “automatically excommunicated.”  That’s because canon 1323 accommodates an inventory of circumstances which must first be in place, before anybody incurs excommunication.  In different phrases, if a person fails to meet even one of the circumstances found in canon 1323, he isn’t excommunicated.  Period.

To date, it must be clear to all that Marianne’s non-Catholic husband isn’t a schismatic, and isn’t excommunicated.  But the place did he get that astonishing phrase about excommunicated persons dropping “the sacraments, public services and prayers of the Church, ecclesiastical burial, jurisdiction, benefices, canonical rights, and social intercourse”?  There are a number of issues with this assertion, but let’s stick to the topic at hand.  As we’ve already seen right here, there’s nothing within the code about Catholics who are underneath excommunication dropping “social intercourse.”

The answer is just an internet-search away.  In the event you seek for the phrase in quotation-marks that Marianne cites, you’ll shortly discover that it was taken from an entry within the Catholic Encyclopedia, written all the best way again in 1909.

There’s no denying that the older version of the Catholic Encyclopedia is a treasure-trove of useful info.  Its entries on historic topics include an enormous quantity of detailed information that is still terribly useful in the present day.  But most of the entries within the Catholic Encyclopedia are, by their very nature, utterly outdated by now, and are thus of only historic interest.

Anything pertaining to canon regulation would, in fact, fit into this latter class.  Notice that an encyclopedia entry from 1909 was written not only earlier than the 1983 Code of Canon Regulation, which is in drive as we speak; it predates even the earlier code, from 1917.  As a source of present church regulation, subsequently, the previous Catholic Encyclopedia is actually worthless; and as soon as again, Marianne’s questions that stem from this outdated reference are irrelevant.  There isn’t any “discrepancy between the content of the law and its application,” as she puts it.

By now, you’ve to ponder whether Marianne’s husband is actively in search of an argument!  It appears that evidently he could also be cherry-picking canonical trivia off the internet, in order to pressure the information to match his predetermined concept.  Heaven only is aware of how many Catholics are married to non-Catholics, all all over the world; it’s completely apparent that the Catholic Church does not inform all of them to shun “social intercourse” with their spouses.  We’ve got here an ideal instance of a canonical non-issue.

To sum up, if a Catholic incurs the penalty of excommunication, his involvement within the religious lifetime of the Church is restricted severely.  He has, in any case, reduce himself off from communion with the remainder of the Catholic trustworthy.  It ought to come as no surprise if other Catholics don’t care to spend lot of high quality time with such an individual; but there are many circumstances where contact with the excommunicated Catholic is unavoidable—and, if it leads to the individual’s return to full communion within the Church, that contact can do a world of excellent.

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Raphael Benedict

Raphael Benedict is a Catholic who wants nothing but to spread the catholic faith to reach the ends of the world. Make this possible by always sharing any article or prayers posted on your social media platforms. Remain blessed

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