Excommunication

Article

May 17, 2022

Excommunication (Latin excommunicatio, to the prefix ex- "from", outside; commūnis here communion, Eucharist) is in a broader sense the temporary or permanent exclusion from a church or a faith community or from certain activities in such a community. It is applied as a reprisal, i.e. until the misconduct is terminated or rectified.

Historical context

In a narrower sense, it is part of canon law, of canon law in general. The history of canon law is closely connected with the emergence of internal church structures and their outward development. Three major epochs can be divided: the first epoch comprised the time up to the beginning development of the legal church, whose rise began under Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085); the second epoch was a phase of excessive juridification, it was accompanied by violent conflicts with secular power; it is the time of the official church crises in the period from 1378 to 1417 through schism and reformation (occidental schism); the third epoch began with the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and lasted until the present. Before the consolidation of canon law in the Roman Catholic Church, the term anathema (ancient Greek ἀνάθημα or ἀνάθεμα "the consecrated to God, curse") was used. denoting an 'excommunication from the church' or - in connection with a curse - a 'banning curse', d. i. a conviction by a church, which is accompanied by exclusion from the church community and is equivalent to excommunication under canon law. Even in the early Christian church, excommunication and anathema were instruments of episcopal jurisdiction and effectively meant exclusion from the community of believers. The Catholic Church developed this form of punishment further in its history and finally anchored it in canon law. Thus, at the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the Alexandrian presbyter Arius, who denied the full unity of nature of Jesus Christ with God the Father, was 'banished' along with his followers. Under Pope Eugene III. The Decretum Gratiani, named after the Camaldolese monk Gratian, was created between 1140 and 1150 as the first collection of papal legal decrees of the jus novum and thus the actual preliminary stage of the Codex Juris Canonici. This collection includes i.a. on how to deal with the excommunication. Under Pope Innocent III. (1198-1216) the excommunication experienced a fundamental change. Together with the interdict and the suspension, it is referred to as a reprisal punishment (poena medicinalis) and distinguished from the ecclesiastical expiatory punishments (poena vindicativa) (ecclesiastical punishment). In the case of excommunication, a distinction must be made between a crime (poena latae sententiae) and a sentence (poena ferendae sententiae). In the first case, excommunication occurs automatically, for example in the case of abortion, heresy or as a schismatic. In the second case, the penalty would have to be imposed by a bishop, and then later through a formal administrative or judicial process. Innocent III. changed canon law permanently at the 4th Lateran Council (1215); he is considered one of the most important canon lawyers of the Middle Ages. He had a wealth of procedural rules passed at the council. However, his proposal for the financing of the Roman dicasteries was rejected, while the other canons were solemnly confirmed. These were later structured and numbered by the glossators and included in various collections of canon law and were widely received in the European particular churches, e.g. on provincial synods. In the Middle Ages, on the territory of the Holy Roman Empire, excommunication had the world