Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
the judicial exclusion of offenders from the religious rites and privileges of the particular comemunlity to which they belong. It is a power founded upon a right inherent in all, religious societies, and is analogous to the powers of capital punishment, banishment, and exclusion from membership which are exercised by political and municipal bodies. If Christianity is merely a philosophical idea thrown into the world to do battle with other theories, and to be valued according as it maintains its ground or not in the conflict of opinions, excommunication, and ecclesiastical punishments and discipline are unreasonable. If a society has been instituted for maintaining any body of doctrine and any code of morals, they are necessary to the existence of that society. That the Christian Church is an organized polity, a spiritual "kingdom of God" on earth, is the declaration of the Bible; and that the Jewish Church was at once a spiritual and a temporal organization is clear. Among the Jews, however, excommunication was not only an ecclesiastical, but also a civil punishment, because in their theocracy there was no distinction between the divine and the statutory right (Exodus 31:14; Ezra 10:3; Ezra 10:11; Nehemiah 13:28). But among Christians excommunication was strictly confined to ecclesiastical relations, as the situation and constitution of the Church during the first three centuries admitted of no intermingling or confounding of civil and religious privileges or penalties. Excommunication, in the Christian Church, consisted at first simply in exclusion from the communion of the Lord's Supper and the love-feasts: "with such a one, no, not to eat" (1 Corinthians 5:11). It might also include a total separation from the body of the faithful; and such a. person was, with regard to the Church, "as a heathen man and a publican." But this excision did not exempt him from my duties to which he was liable in civil life, neither did it withhold from him any natural obligations, such as are founded on nature, humanity, and the law of nations (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:16-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 John 1:10-11). (See CHURCH).
I. Jewish. — The Jewish system of excommunication was threefold. For a first offense a delinquent was subjected to the penalty of נִדּוּי (niddui). Rambaam (quoted by Lightfoot, Horae Hebraicae, on 1 Corinthians 5:5), Moriunus (De Panitentia, 4:27), and Buxtorf (Lexicon Tahn. col. page 303 sq.) enumerate the twenty-four offenses for which it was inflicted. They are various, and range in heinousness from the offense of keeping a fierce dog to that of taking God's name in vain. Elsewhere (Talm. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16, 1) the causes of its infliction are reduced to two, termed money and epicurism, by which is meant debt and wanton insolence. The offender was first cited to appear in court, and if he refused to appearer to make amends, his sentence was pronounced "Let NI. or N. be under excommunication." The excommunicated person was prohibited the use of the bath, or of the razor, or of the convivial table; and all who had to do with him were commanded to keep him at four cubits' distance. He was allowed to go to the Temple, but not to make the circuit in the ordinary manner. The term of this punishment was thirty days, and it was extended to a second and to a third thirty days when necessary. If at the end of that time the offender was still contumacious, he was subjected to the second excommunication termed הֶרֶם (cherem), a word meaning something devoted to God (Leviticus 27:21; Leviticus 27:28; Exodus 22:20 ; Numbers 18:14). Severer penalties were now attached. The offender was not allowed to teach or to be taught in company with others, to hire or to be hired, nor to perform any commercial transactions beyoand purchasing the necessaries of life. The sentence was delivered by a court of ten, and was accompanied by a solemn malediction, for which authority was supposed to be found in the "Curse ye Meroz" of Judges 5:23. Lastly followed שִׁמָּתָא(shamma-tha), which was an entire cutting off from the congregation. It has been supposed by some that these two latter forms of excoanmunication were undistinguishable from each other. See BAN.
The punishment of excommunication is not appointed by the law of Moses. It is founded on the natural right of self-protection which all societies enjoy. The case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. (Numbers 16), the curse denounced on Meroz (Judges 5:23), the commission and proclamation of Ezra (Ezra 7:26; Ezra 10:8), and the reformation of Nehemiah (13:25), are appealed to by the Talmudists as precedents by which their proceedings are regulated. In respect to the principle involved, the "cutting off from the people" commanded for certain sins (Exodus 30:33; Exodus 30:38; Exodus 31:14; Leviticus 17:4), and the exclusion from the camp denounced on the leprous (Leveticus 13:46; Numbers 12:14), are more apposite.
In the New Testament, Jewish excommunication is brought prominently before us in the case of the man that was born blind and restored to sight (John 9). "The Jews had agreed already that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age, ask him" (John 9:22-23). "And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out" (John 9:34-35). The expressions here used, ἀποσυνάγωγος γένηται —ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω, refer, no doubt, to the first form of excommunication, or niddui. Our Lord warns his disciples that they will have to suffer excommunication at the hands of their countrymen (John 16:2), and the fear of it is described as sufficienmt to prevent persons in a respectable position from acknowledging their belief in Christ (John 12:42). In Luke 6:22, it has been thought that our Lord referred specifically to the three forms of Jewish excommunication, "Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company [ἀφορίσωσιν ], and shall reproach you [ὀνειδίσωσιν ], and cast out your name as evil [ἐκβάλωσιν ], for the Son of man's sake." The three words very accurately express the simple separation, the additional malediction, and the final exclusion of niddui, cherem, and shammathal. This verse makes it probable that the three stages were already formally distinguished from each other, though, no doubt, the words appropriate to each are occasionally used inaccurately. See the monographs in Latin on Jewish excommunication by Musculus (Lips. 1703), Opitz (Kilon. 1680). II. In the New Testament. — Excommunication in the New Testament is not merely founded on the natural right possessed by all societies, nor merely on the example of the Jewish Church and nation. It was instituted by our Lord (Matthew 18:15; Matthew 18:18), and it was practiced by and commanded by Paul (1 Timothy 1:20; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Titus 3:10).
1. Its Institution. — The passage in Matthew has led to much controversy, into which we do not enter. It runs as follows: "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained the brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear themn, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be. bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Our Lord here recognizes and appoints a way in which a member of his Church is to become to his brethren as a heathen man and a publican, i.e., be reduced to a state analogous to that of the Jew suffering the penalty of the third form of excommunication. It is to follow on his contempt of the censure of the Church passed on him for a trespass which he has committed. The final excision is to be preceded, as in the case of the Jew, by two warnings.
2. Apostolic Example. — In the Epistles we find Paul frequently claiming the right to exercise discipline over his converts (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 13:10). In two cases we find him exercising this authority to the extent of cutting off offenders from the Church. One of these is the case of the incestuous Corinthian "Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:2-5). The other case is that of Hymenmeus and Alexander: "Holding faith and a good conscience, which some, having put away concerning faith, have made shipwreck; of whom is Hymeneeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" (1 Timothy 1:19-20). It seems certain that these persons were excommunicated, the first for immorality, the others for heresy. What is the full meaning of the expression "deliver unto Satan" is doubtful. All agree that excommunication is contained in it, but whether it implies any further punishment, inflicted by the extraordinary powers committed specially to the apostles, has been questioned. The strongest argument for the phrase meaning no more than excommunication may be drawn from a comparison of Colossians 1:13.
Addressing himself to the "saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse," Paul exhorts them to "give thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." The conception of the apostle here is of men lying in the realm of darkness, and transported from thence into the kingdom of the Son of God, which is the inheritance of the saints in light, by admission into the Church. What he means by the power of darkness is abundantly clear from many other passages in his writings, of which it will be sufficient to quote Ephesians 6:12 : "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Introduction into the Church is therefore, in Paul's mind, a translation from the kingdom and power of Satan to the kingdom and government of Christ. This being so, he could hardly more naturally describe the effect of excluding a man from the Church than by the words "deliver him unto Satan," the idea being that the man ceasing to be a subject of Christ's kingdom of light, was at once transported back to the kingdom of darkness, and delivered therefore into the power of its ruler, Satan. This interpretation is strongly confirmed by the terms in which Paul describes the commission which he received from the Lord Jesus Christ when he was sent to the Gentiles: "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26:18). Here again the act of being placed in Christ's kingdom, the Church, is pronounced to be a translation from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God. Conversely, to be cast out of the Church would be to be removed from light to darkness, to be withdrawn from God's government, and delivered into the power of Satan (so Balsamon and Zonaras, in Basil. Song of Solomon 7; Estius, in 1 Corinthians 5; Beveridge, in Can. Apost. 10). If, however, the expression means more than excommunication, it would imply the additional exercise of a special apostolical power, similar to that exerted on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1), Simon Magus (8:20), and Elymas (13:10). (So Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, Hammond, Grotius, Lightfoot.)
3. Apostolic Precept. — In addition to the claim to exercise discipline, and its actual exercise in the form of excommunication by the apostles, we find apostolic precepts directing that discipline should be exercised by the rulers of the Church, and that in some cases excommunication should be resorted to: "If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother," writes Paul to the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 3:14). To the Romans: "Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have heard, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). To the Galatians: "I would they were even cut off that. trouble you" (Galatians 5:12). To Timothy: "If any man teach otherwise, ... from such withdraw thyself" (1 Timothy 6:3). To Titus he uses a still stronger expression: "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject" (Titus 3:10). John instructs the lady to whom he addresses his second epistle not to receive into her house, nor bid God speed to any who did not believe in Christ (2 John 1:10); and we read that in the case of Cerinthus he acted himself on the precept that he had given (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3:28). In his third epistle he describes Diotrephes, apparently a Judaizing presbyter, "who loved to have the pre- eminence," as "casting out of the Church," i.e., refusing Church communion to the stranger brethren who were traveling about preaching to the Gentiles (3 John 1:10). In the addresses to the Seven Churches the, angels or rulers of the church of Pergamos and of Thyatira are rebuked for "suffering" the Nicolaitans and Balaamites "to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things, sacrificed unto idols" (Revelation 2:20). There are two passages still more important to our subject. In the epistle to the Galatians, Paul denounces, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed [ἀνάθεμα ἔστω ]. As I said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (ἀνάθεμα ἔστω, Galatians 1:8-9). And in the second epistle to the Corinthians: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha" (1 Corinthians 16:22). It has been supposed that these two expressions, "let him be Anathema," "let him be Anathema Maranatha," refer respectively to the two later stages of Jewish excommunication — the cherem and the shammahi. This requires consideration.
The words ἀνάθεμα and ἀνάθημα have evidently the same derivation, and originally they bore the same meaning. They express a person or thing set apart, laid up, or devoted. But whereas a thing may be set apart by way of honor or for destruction, the words, like the Latin "sacer" and the English "devoted," came to have opposite senses—τὸ ἀπηλλοτριωμένον Θεοῦ, and τὸ ἀφωρισμένον Θεῷ . The Sept. and several ecclesiastical writers use the two words almost indiscriminately, but in general the form ἀνάθημα is applied to the votive offering (see 2 Maccabees 9:16; Luke 21:5; and Chrysost. Hom. 16 in Ep. cad Rom.), and the form ἀνάθεμα to that which is devoted to evil (see Deuteronomy 7:26; Joshua 6:17; Joshua 7:13). Thus Paul declares that he could wish himself an ἀνάθεμα from Christ if he could thereby save the Jews (Romans 9:3). His meaning is that he would be willing to be set apart as a vile thing, to be cast aside and destroyed, if only it could bring about the salvation of his brethren. Hence we see the force of ἀνάθεμα ἔστω in Galatians 1:8. "Have nothing to do with him," would be the apostle's injunction, "but let him be set apart as an evil thing, for God to deal with him as he thinks fit." Hammond (in loc.) paraphrases it as follows: "You are to disclaim and renounce all communion with him, to look on him as on an excommunicated person, under the second degree of excommunication, that none is to have any commerce with in sacred things." Hence it is that ἀνάθεμα ἔστω came to be the common expression employed by councils at the termination of each canon which they enacted, meaning that whoever was disobedient to the canon was to be separated from the communion of the Church and its privileges, and from the favor of God, until he repented (see Bingham, Ant. 16:2,16). (See ANATHEMA).
The expression Ἀνάθεμα μαραναθά as it stands by itself without explanation in 1 Corinthians 16:22, is so peculiar, that it has tempted a number of ingenious expositions. Parkhurst hesitatingly derives it from
אִתָּה מָחַרָם, "Cursed be thou." But this derivation is not tenable. Buxtorf, Morinus, Hammond, Bingham, and others identify, it with the Jewish shammatha. They do so by translating shammatha, "The Lord comes." But shammatha cannot be made to mean "The Lord comes" (see Lightfoot, in loc.). Several fanciful derivations are given by rabbinical writers, as " There is death," "There is desolation;" but there is no mention by them of such a signification as "The Lord comes." Lightfoot derives it from שִׁמֵּת, and it probably means a thing excluded or shut out. Maranatha, however peculiar its use in the text may seem to us, is a Syro-Chaldaic expression, signifying "The Lord is come" (Chrysostom, Jerome, Estius, Lightfoot), or "The Lord cometh." If we take the former meaning, we may regard it as giving the reason why the offender was to be anathematized; if the latter, it would either imply that the separation was to be in perpetuity, "donee Dominus redeat" (Augustine), or, more properly, it would be a form of solemn appeal to the day on which the judgment should be ratified by the Lord (comp. Judges 1:14). In any case it is a strengthened form of the simple ἀνάθεμα ἔστω. And thus it may be regarded as holding towards it a similar relation to that which existed between the shanmaftha and the cherem, but not on any supposed ground of etymological identity between the two words shammatha and maranatha. Perhaps we ought to interpunctuate more strongly between ἀνάθεμα, and μαραναθά and read ἤτω ἀνάθεμα· μαραναθά, i.e., "Let him be anathema. The Lord will come." The anathema and the cherem answer very exactly to each other (see Leviticus 27:28; Numbers 21:3; Isaiah 43:28). (See MARANATHA).
4. Restoration to Communion. — Two cases of excommunication are related in Holy Scripture, and in one of them the restitution of the offender is specially recounted. The incestuous Corinthian had been excommunicated by the authority of Paul, who had issued his sentence from a distance without any consultation with the Corinthians. He had required them publicly to promulgate it and act upon it. They had done so. The offender had been brought to repentance, and was overwhelmed with grief. Hereupon Paul, still absent as before, forbids the further infliction of the punishment, pronounces the forgiveness of the penitent, and exhorts the Corinthians to receive him back to communion, and to confirm their love towards him.
5. The Nature of Excommunication is made more evident by these acts of Paul than by any investigation of Jewish practice or of the etymology of words. We thus find
(1) that it is a spiritual penalty, involving no temporal punishment except accidentally;
(2) that it consists in separation from the communion of the Church;
(3) that its object is the good of the sufferer (1 Corinthians 5:5), and the protection of the sound members of the Church (2 Timothy 3:17);
(4) that its subjects are those who are guilty of heresy (1 Timothy 1:20) or gross immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1);
(5) that it is inflicted by the authority of the Church at large (Matthew 18:18) wielded by the highest ecclesiastical officer (1 Corinthians 5:3; Titus 3:10);
(6) that this officer's sentence is promulgated by the congregation to which the offender belongs (1 Corinthians 5:4), in deference to his superior judgment and command (2 Corinthians 2:9), and in spite of any opposition on the part of a minority (ib. 6);
(7) that the exclusion may be of indefinite duration or for a period;
(8) that its duration may be abridged at the discretion and by the indulgence of the person who has imposed the penalty (ib. 8);
(9) that penitence is the condition on which restoration to communion is granted (ib. 7);
(10) that the sentence is to be publicly reversed as it was publicly promulgated (ib. 10).
III. In the Post-Apostolic Christian Church.—
(I.) In general. — Such a power is necessarily inherent in every community; and although "the only sense in which the apostles, or, of course, any of their successors in the Christian ministry, can be empowered to 'forgive sins' as against God is by pronouncing and proclaiming his forgiveness of all those who, coming to him through Christ, repent and forsake their sins," yet since offenses as against a community may "be visited with penalties by the regular appointed officers of that community, they may enforce or remit such penalties. On these principles is founded the right which the Church claims both to punish ecclesiastical offenses, and to pronounce an absolute and complete pardon of a particular offender on his making the requisite submission and reparation." (II.) In the early Christian Church. —
1. In the discipline of the primitive Church, according to the apostolic injunction, recourse was not had to excommunication until "after the first and second admonition" (προθέσμια ). If the offender proved refractory after the time granted for repentance (Siegel, Alterthumer, 2:131), he was liable to excommunication, which at first consisted simply in the removal of the offender from the Lord's Supper and the love-feasts: hence the word excommunication, separation from communion. The practice was founded on the words,f the apostle (1 Corinthians 5:11), "with such an one, no, not to eat;" which do not refer to ordinary meals and the common intercourse of life, but to the agapae and other solemnities. The chief difference between Jewish and Christian excommunication consisted in this: the former extended in its consequences to the affairs of civil life, whereas the latter was strictly confined to ecclesiastical relations. It was impossible, in the constitution and situation of the Church during the three first centuries, that there should have been any confounding or intermingling of civil and religious privileges or penalties. But, though instituted at first for the purpose of preserving the purity of the Church, excommunication was afterwards by degrees converted by ambitious ecclesiastics into an engine for promoting their own power, and was often inflicted on the most frivolous occasions (Bingham, Orig. Ecclesiastes book 15, chapter 2). The primitive Church was very cautious in exercising its power of excommunication. No man could be condemned to it in his absence, or without being allowed liberty to answer for himself. Legal conviction was always required, i.e., by his own confession, by credible evidence, or by open notoriety. Minors were subjected to corporal discipline rather than to this censure (Bingham, Orig. Eccl. book 16, chapter 2; Cave, Prim. Christianity, 3:5).
2. There were two excommunications, the greater (major) and lesser (minor). The excommunicatio minor (ἀφορισμός ) excluded from participation in the Eucharist and prayers of the faithful, but did not expel from the Church; for the person under its sentence might stay to hear the psalmody, reading of the Scripture, sermons and prayers of the catechumens and penitents, and then depart as soon as the first service, called the service of catechumens, was ended (Theod. Ep. 77; ad Eelul. 3:797). This punishment was commonly inflicted upon lesser crimes, or if upon greater, upon such sinners only as showed a willingness to repent- upon those who had lapsed rather through infirmity than maliciousness. The excommunicatio major, greater excommunication (παντελὴς ἀφορισμός ), was a total expulsion from the Church, and separation from communion in all holy offices with it (Encyclop. Metropolitana). When attended with execratioans, excommunication was called anathema (see article, volume 1, page 219). The several churches mutually informed each other of their own separate excommunications in order that a person excommunicated by one church might be held so by all; and any church which received him was held deserving of similar punishment. He who was guilty of any intercourse with an excommunicated person, himself incurred a like sentence, which deprived him of Christian burial and insertion in the diptychs or catalogues of the faithful. No gifts or oblations were received from the excommunicated. No intermarriages might take place with them. Their books might not be read, but were to be burned (Bingham, Oruq. Eccl. book 15). For the restoration of excommunicated persons, penances (q.v.) and public professions of repentance were required; and in Africa and Spain the absolution of lapsed persons (i.e., those who, in time of persecution, had yielded to the force of temptation, and fallen away from their Christian profession by the crime of actual sacrifice to idols) was forbidden, except at the hour of death, or in cases where martyrs interceded for them. (See LAPSI).
(III.) The Roman Church. — As the pretensions of the hierarchy increased, excommunication became more and more an instrument of ecclesiastical power, as well as a means of enlarging it. When the Church had full control of the state, its sentences were attended with the gravest civil as well as ecclesiastical consequences. There are three degrees of excommunication, the minor, the major, and the anathema.
1. The minor is incurred by holding communion with an excommunicated person: oratione, locutione, bibendo, comedendo — praying, speaking, drinking, eating; and absolution may be given by any priest on confession. Priests who have incurred the minor ban may administer the Eucharist, but cannot partake of it.
2. The major excommussicatio falls upon those who disobey the commands of the pope, or who, having been found guilty of any offense, civil or criminal, refuse to submit to certain points of discipline; in consequence of which they are excommunicated from the Church triumphant, and delivered over to the devil and his angels. It requires a written sentence from a bishop after three admonitions. It deprives the condemned person of all the blessings of the Church in any shape, except that he is not debarred from hearing the Word. So long as the State obeyed the Church, civil disabilities followed the sentence of excommunication; no obedience was due to the excommunicated; the laws could give them no redress for injuries; and none could hold intercourse with them under penalty of excommunication. On this last point, however, a distinction has been made since the 15th century between those who are called tolerati (tolerated) and those who are designated as vitandi (persons to be shunned). Only in the case of the latter (a case extremely rare, and confined to heresiarchs, and other signal offenders against the faith or public order of the Church) are the ancient rules for prohibition of intercourse enforced. With the 'tolerated,' since the celebrated decree of Pope Martin V in the Council of Constance, the faithful are permitted to maintain the ordinary intercourse. By the 12th century the word ban (bannus, bannum), which in ancient jurisprudence denoted a declaration of outlawry, had come into ecclesiastical use to denote the official act of excommunication. (See BAN).
The professed aim of excommunication was the reform of the offender as well as the purification of the Church. Absolution can be granted, in case of the major ban, only by the authority which laid the bans or its successor. Before absolution the authorities must be satisfied of penitence. The "penitent must first swear to obey the commands of the Church, and to make all necessary atonement for his special offense; he must then be reconciled by kneeling, bareheaded and stripped to his shirt, before the bishop sitting at the church gates. Here he again repeats his oath, and the bishop, reciting the psalm Deus misereatar, strikes him with a rod during each verse. Then, after certain prayers, he absolves him and leads him into the church."
3. The anathema is attended with special ceremonies. "The bishop must be attended by twelve priests, each of whom, as well as himself, bears a lighted candle. He then sits before the high altar, or any other public place which he prefers, and delivers his sentence, which adjudges the offender to be anathemizatsum et damnatum cum diabolo et angelis ejus et omnibus reprobis in wternum igem — cursed and damned with the devil and his angels and all the reprobate to eternal fire. The candles are then dashed down. The ceremonials of absolution from this sentence are not very different from the last, although the form of prayer is varied" (Encyclop. Metrop. s.v.). The effects of the anathema were summed up in the monkish lines
Si pro delicto anathema quis efficiatur,
Os, orare, vale, comnamunio, mensa negatur.
"In the Roman Catholic Church the power or excommunicating is held t6 reside, not in the congregation, but in the bishop; and this is believed to be in exact accordance with the remarkable proceeding commemorated in the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:3; 1 Corinthians 5:5), and with all the earliest recorded examples of its exercise. Like all the powers of the episcopate, it is held to belong, in an especial and eminent degree, to the Roman bishop, as primate of the Church; but it is by no means believed to be. long to him exclusively, nor has such exclusive right ever been claimed by the bishops of Rome. On the contrary, bishops within their sees, archbishops while exercising visitatorial jurisdiction, heads of religious orders within their own communities, all possess the power to issue excommunication, not only by the ancient law of the Church, but also by the most modern discipline" (Chambers, s.v.). But Aquinas held that excommunication, as not belonging to the keys of order, not to those of jurisdiction, and as not referring to grace directly, but only accidentally, might be exercised by persons not in holy orders, but yet having jurisdiction in ecclesiastical courts (Summa, Suppl. 3, qu. 22). See Marshall, Penitential Discipline, Oxf. 1844, page 139. The Council of Trent declares (sess. 25, chapter 3, de Reform.) that, "Although the sword of excommunication is the very sinews of ecclesiastical discipline, and very salutary for keeping the people in their duty, yet it is to be used with sobriety and great circumspection; seeing that experience teaches that if it be rashly or for slight causes wielded, it is more despised than feared, and produces destruction rather than safety. It shall be a crime for any secular magistrate to prohibit an ecclesiastical judge from excommunicating any one, or to command that he revoke an excommunication issued, under pretext that the things contained in the present decree have not been observed; whereas the cognizance hereof does not pertain to seculars but to ecelesiastics. And every excommunicated person soever who, after the lawful monitions, does not change his mind, shall not only not be received to the sacraments and to communion and intercourse with the faithful, but if, being bound with censures, he shall, with obdurate heart, remain for a year in the defilement thereof, he may even be proceeded against as suspected of heresy." The popes have exercised the power of excommunication against entire communities at once. The Capitularies of Pepin the Less, in the 8th century, ordained that the greater excommunication should be followed by banishment from the countmy. On the claim of the popes to excommunicate and depose monarchs, and to free subjects from their allegiance, see M'Clintock, Temporal Power of the Pope (N.Y. 1855, 12mo). "The latest examples of papal excommunication of monarchs were Napoleon I in 1809, and Victor Emmanuel, king of Italy, in 1860; neither of whom, however, was excommunicated by name, the pope having confined himself to a solemn and reiterated publication of the penalties decreed by his predecessors against those who unjustly invaded the territories of the Holy See, usurped or violated its rights, or violently impeded their free exercise. The excommunication of a sovereign was regarded as freeing subjects from their allegiance; and, in the year 1102, this sentence was pronounced against the emperor Henry IV, an example which subsequent popes likewise ventured to follow. But the fearful weapons with which the popes armed themselves in this power of excommunication were rendered much less effective through their incautious employment, the evident worldly motives by which it was sometimes governed and the excommunications which rival popes hurled against each other during the time of the great papal schism" (Chambers, s.v.).
(IV.) The Greek Church. — In the Greek Church excommunication cuts off the offender from all communion with the 318 fathers of the first Council of Nicena, consigns him to the devil and his angels, and condemns his body to remain after death as hard as a piece of flint, unless lie humbles himself and makes atonement for his sins by a sincere repentance. "The form abounds with dreadful imprecations; and the Greeks assert that, if a person dies excommunicated, the devil enters into the lifeless corpse; and, therefore, in order to prevent it, the relations of the deceased cut his body in pieces and boil them in wine. Every year, and a fixed Sunday, the ‘ greater ban' is pronounced against the pope and the Church of Rome, on which occasion, together with a great deal of idle ceremony, he drives a nail into the ground with a hammer as a mark of malediction" (Buck, s.v.). Sir Paul Rycaut (Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches, Lond. 1679, 8vo), who wrote his observations on the state of that communion in 1678, has gives? in the original Greek, the form of an excommunication issued against an unknown thief whom the authorities were seeking to discover. It runs as follows: "If they restore not to him that which is his own, and possess him peaceably of it, but suffer him to remain injured and damnifyed, let him be separated from the Lord God Creator, and be accursed, and unpardoned, and undissolvable after death in this world, and in the other which is to come. Let wood, stones, and iron be dissolved, but not they: may they inherit the leprosy of Gehazi and the confusion of Judas may the earth be divided, and devour them like Dathn and Abiram; may they sigh and tremble an earth like Cain, and the wrath of God be upon their heads and countenances; may they see nothing of that for which they labor, and beg their bread all the days of their lives; may their works, possessions, labors, and services be accursed; always without effect or success, and blown away like dust; may they have the curses of the holy and righteous patriarchs Abram, Isaac, and Jacob; of the 318 saints who were the divine fathers of the Synod of Nice, and of all other holy synods; and being without the Church of Christ, let no human administer unto them the things of the Church, or bless them, or offer sacrifice for them or give them the ἀντίδωρον, or the blessed bread, or eat, or drink, or work with them, or converse with them; and after death let no man bury them, in penalty of being under the same state of excommunication; for so let them remain until they have performed what is here written."
(V.) In Protestant Churches. — New relations between Church and State followed hard upon the Reformation, and new limits were soon assigned to the exercise of discipline. According to the view of the Wittemberg reformers, the ban could have no civil effect unless ratified by the State. The necessity of the power of excommunication in the Church was asserted by all the Reformers. They maintained that excommunication is the affair of the whole Church, clergy and laity (Calvin, Institut. volume 4, chapter 11; Melancthon, Corpus Ref. ed. Bretschneider, 3:965). (See ERASTIANISM). They disclaimed the right of using the excommunicatio major. In general, the "Reformers retained only that power of excommunication which appeared to them to be inherent in the constitution of the Christian society, and to be sanctioned by the Word of God; nor have any civil consequences been generally connected with it in Protestant countries. To connect such consequences with excommcunication in any measure whatever is certainly inconsistent with the principles of the Reformation" (Chambers, s.v.).
The causes of excommunication in the established Church of England are, contempt of the bishops' court, heresy, neglect of public worship and the sacraments, incontinency, adultery, sinony, etc. If the judge of any spiritual court excommunicates a man for a cause of which he has not the legal cognizance, the party may have an action against him at common law, and he is also liable to be indicted at the suit of the king (Can. 65, 68; see also the Homily On the Right Uses of the Church). The 33d Article of Religion is as follows: "That person which, by open denunciation of the Church, is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful as a heathen and publican until he be openly reconciled by penance, and received into the Church by a judge that hath authority thereunto." "By old English law an excommunicated person was disabled from doing any act required to be done by one that is probes et legalis honzo. He could not serve on juries, nor be witness in any court, nor bring an action real or personal to recover lands or money due to him. By stat. 5 and 6 Edward VI, cap. 4, striking, or drawing a weapon to strike, in a church or churchyard, incurred ipso facto excommunication; ipso facto excommunication, or latae sententivs, meaning some act so clear or manifest that no sentence is requisite, in contradistinction from sententiae ferendae, i.e., when sentence must be passed before the offender be considered excoamumunicated. The offenses which, in the reign of Edward III, 1373, were punished by ipsofacto excommunication, are enumerated in some articai issued when Wittlesey was archbishop of Canterbury; most of them are such as might be injurious to the persons or properties of the clergyi The document may be found in Conc. Magn. Britt. 3:95. By 3 James I, cap. 5, every popish recusant convict stands to all intents and purposes disabled, as a person lawfully excommunicated.
The ecclesiastical law denies Christian burial to those excommunicated majori excommunicatione, and an injunction to the ministers to that effect will be found in the sixty-eighth canon, and in the rubric of the burial service. The law acknowledged two excommunications: the lesser excluded the offender from the communion of the Church only; the greater from that communion, and also from the company of the faithful, etc. The sixty fifth canon enjoins ministers solemnly to denounce those who stand lawfully excommunicated every six months, as well in the parish church as in the cathedral church of the diocese in which they remain, 'openly in time of divine service, upon some Sunday,' 'that others may be thereby both admonished to refrain their company and society, and excited the rather to procure out a writ de exconmunicato copiendo, thereby to bring and reduce them into due order and obedience.' By statute 52 George III, cap. 127, excommunications, and the proceedings following thereupon, are discontinued, except in certain cases specified in the act; which may receive definitive sentences as spiritual censures for offenses of ecclesiastical cognizance; and instead of sentence of excommunication, which used to be pronounced by the ecclesiastical courts in cases of contumacy, the offenders are to be declared contumacious, and to be referred to the court of chancery, by which a writ de contumae capiendo is issued instead of the old writ de excommunicato capiendo. Formerly this writ de excommunicato capiendo was issued by the court of chancery upon it being signified by the bishop's certificate that forty days have elapsed since sentence of excommunication has been published in the church without submission of the offender. The sheriff then received the writ, called also a significavit, and lodged the culprit in the county jail till the bishop certified his reconciliation. A similar method of proceeding to that now adopted was recommended by a report of a committee of both houses of Parliament as far back as March 7, 1710, and again on April 30, 1714. No person excommunicated for such offenses as are still liable to the punishment can now be imprisoned for a longer term than six months (Burns, Eccl. Law, by Tyrwhit, adv.). In Scotland, when the lesser excommunication, or exclusion from the sacraments has failed, the minister pronounces a form by which the impenitent offender is declared 'excommunicated, shut out from the communion of the faithful, debarred from their privileges, and delivered unto Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.' The people are then warned to avoid all unnecessary intercourse with him. Anciently, in Scotland, an excommunicated person was incapable of holding feudal rights, but at present the sentence is unaccompanied by any civil penalty or disqualification" (Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, s.v.).
The law of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, as expressed by the 42d canon of 1832, is as follows: Sec. 1. If any persons within this Church offend their brethren by any wickedness of life, such persons shall be repelled from the holy communion, agreeably to the rubric. Sec. 2. On information being laid before the bishop that any one has been repelled from communion, it shall not be his duty to institute an inquiry unless there be a complaint made to him in writing by the repelled party. But on receiving complaint, it shall be the duty of the bishop, unless he think fit to restore him from the insufficiency of the cause assigned by the minister, to institute an inquiry, as may be directed by the canons of the diocese in which the event has taken place. Sec. 3. In the case of a great heinousness of offense on the part of members of this Church, they may be proceeded against to the depriving them of all privileges of church membership, according to such rules or process as may be provided by the General Convention, and, until such rules and process shall be provided, by such as may be provided by the different State Conventions. See also the 33d Article of Religion.
In the Methodist Episcopal Church the power of excommunication lies with the minister after trial before a jury of the peers of the accused party. The grounds and forms of trial are given in the Discipline, part in, chap. i It is provided in the Constitution that no law shall ever be made doing away the privilege of accused ministers or members to have trial and right of appeal (Discipline, part 2, chapter 1, § 1).
"Among the Independents, Congregationalists, and Baptists, the persons who are or should be excommunicated are such as are quarrelsome and litigious (Galatians 5:12); such as desert their privileges, withdraw themselves from the ordinances of God, and forsake his people (Judges 1:19); such as are irregular and immoral in their lives, railers, drunkards, extortioners, fornicators, and covetous (Ephesians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 5:11). In the United States these simple principles of Church discipline are very generally followed by all evangelical denominations" (Buck, s.v.). See particularly the Form, of Government of the Presbyterian Church, book 2 of Discipline; Dexter, On Congregationalism (Boston, 1865), pages 191-2; Ripley, On Church Polity (Bost. 1867), page 81 sq.; Edwards, Nature and Use of Excommunication (Works, N.Y. 1848), 4:6:8.
Literature. — See, besides the works already cited, Ferraris, Promta Bibliotheca, ed. Migne, 3:846 sq.; Siegel, Christl.-kirchl. Alterthumer, 2:131 sq.; Bingham, Orig. Ecclesiastes book 16, chapter 2, 3; Van Espen, De Censuris Ecclesiasticis (Opera, Paris, 1753, 4 volumes); Scheele, Die Kirchenzucht (Halle, 1852, 8vo); Hooker, Eccl. Polity, 8:1, 6; Calvin, Institutes, book 4, chapter 12; Thorndike, Works (Oxford, 1856), 6:21; Waterland, Works (Oxford, 1853), 3:456; Winer, Comp. Darstellung, § 20; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, ed. Smith, § 255; Herzog, Real- Encyklopaldie, s.v. Bann; Palmer, On the Church, 1:96; 2:277, 304; Watson, Theological Institutes, 2:574; Burnet, On the Articles, Browne, On the Articles, Forbes, On the Articles (each on Article XXXIII); Wheatly, On Common Prayer, Bohn's ed., page 442 sq.; Scott, Synod of Dort (Philadelphia Presb. Board), page 249; Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chapter 15, part 5. (See ANATHEMA);(See BAN); (See DISCIPLINE).
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Excommunication'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/e/excommunication.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.