Excommunication is an institutional act of religious censure used to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community or to restrict certain rights within it, in particular receiving of the sacraments. The term is often historically used to refer specifically to excommunications from the Catholic Church, but it is also used more generally to refer to similar types of institutional religious exclusionary practices and shunning among other religious groups. For instance, many Protestant denominations, such as the Lutheran Churches, have similar practices of excusing congregants from church communities, while Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as the Churches of Christ, use the term "disfellowship" to refer to their form of excommunication. The Amish have also been known to excommunicate members that were either seen or known for breaking rules, or questioning the church.
The word excommunication means putting a specific individual or group out of communion. In some denominations, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group. Excommunication may involve banishment, shunning, and shaming, depending on the group, the offense that caused excommunication, or the rules or norms of the religious community. The grave act is often revoked in response to sincere penance, which may be manifested through public recantation, sometimes through the Sacrament of Confession, piety or through mortification of the flesh.
In Latin Catholic canon law, excommunication is a rarely applied censure and thus a "medicinal penalty" intended to invite the person to change behaviour or attitude, repent, and return to full communion. It is not an "expiatory penalty" designed to make satisfaction for the wrong done, much less a "vindictive penalty" designed solely to punish: "excommunication, which is the gravest penalty of all and the most frequent, is always medicinal", and is "not at all vindictive".
Excommunication can be either latae sententiae (automatic, incurred at the moment of committing the offense for which canon law imposes that penalty) or ferendae sententiae (incurred only when imposed by a legitimate superior or declared as the sentence of an ecclesiastical court).
According to Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, "excommunication does not expel the person from the Catholic Church, but simply forbids the excommunicated person from engaging in certain activities..." These activities are listed in Canon 1331 §1, and prohibit the individual from any ministerial participation in celebrating the sacrifice of the Eucharist or any other ceremonies of worship; celebrating or receiving the sacraments; or exercising any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions.
Under current Catholic canon law, excommunicates remain bound by ecclesiastical obligations such as attending Mass, even though they are barred from receiving the Eucharist and from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.). "Excommunicates lose rights, such as the right to the sacraments, but they are still bound to the obligations of the law; their rights are restored when they are reconciled through the remission of the penalty." They are urged to retain a relationship with the Church, as the goal is to encourage them to repent and return to active participation in its life.
These are the only effects for those who have incurred a latae sententiae excommunication. For instance, a priest may not refuse Communion publicly to those who are under an automatic excommunication, as long as it has not been officially declared to have been incurred by them, even if the priest knows that they have incurred it. On the other hand, if the priest knows that excommunication has been imposed on someone or that an automatic excommunication has been declared (and is no longer merely an undeclared automatic excommunication), he is forbidden to administer Holy Communion to that person. (see canon 915).
In the Catholic Church, excommunication is normally resolved by a declaration of repentance, profession of the Creed (if the offense involved heresy) and an Act of Faith, or renewal of obedience (if that was a relevant part of the offending act, i.e., an act of schism) by the excommunicated person and the lifting of the censure (absolution) by a priest or bishop empowered to do this. "The absolution can be in the internal (private) forum only, or also in the external (public) forum, depending on whether scandal would be given if a person were privately absolved and yet publicly considered unrepentant." Since excommunication excludes from reception of the sacraments, absolution from excommunication is required before absolution can be given from the sin that led to the censure. In many cases, the whole process takes place on a single occasion in the privacy of the confessional. For some more serious wrongdoings, absolution from excommunication is reserved to a bishop, another ordinary, or even the Pope. These can delegate a priest to act on their behalf.
In the Eastern Catholic Churches, excommunications is imposed only by decree, never incurred automatically by latae sententiae excommunication.
A distinction is made between minor and major excommunication.
Those on whom minor excommunication has been imposed are excluded from receiving the Eucharist and can also be excluded from participating in the Divine Liturgy. They can even be excluded from entering a church when divine worship is being celebrated there. The decree of excommunication must indicate the precise effect of the excommunication and, if required, its duration.
Those under major excommunication are in addition forbidden to receive not only the Eucharist but also the other sacraments, to administer sacraments or sacramentals, to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions whatsoever, and any such exercise by them is null and void. They are to be removed from participation in the Divine Liturgy and any public celebrations of divine worship. They are forbidden to make use of any privileges granted to them and cannot be given any dignity, office, ministry, or function in the Church, they cannot receive any pension or emoluments associated with these dignities etc., and they are deprived of the right to vote or to be elected.
Minor excommunication is roughly equivalent to the interdict in Western law.
The excommunicable offenses can be distinguished
Persons belonging to an Eastern Catholic Church are never subject to a latae sententiae punishment; this is therefore not explicitly mentioned in the lists below.
A person is latae sententiae excommunicated or, if an Eastern Catholic, ferendae sententia if they:
A person may be ferendae sententiae excommunicated if he
According to the Code of Canon Law of 1917, the excommunications reserved to the Apostolic See were grouped in three categories, those reserved 1. simply, 2. in a special manner, 3. in a most special manner (each solvable by the Pope and by those priests the Pope had delegated the faculty to absolve for precisely that degree); and below the excommunications reserved to the bishop (which is now principally true of every excommunication), there was yet a category of excommunications reserved to no one (i. e., that could be solved by any confessor).
The excommunications for desecration of the Blessed Sacrament, physical violence against the Pope, attempted absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth Commandment, and breaking the Seal of the Confessional (no. 1-4 from the latae sententiae offences listed above) were reserved to the Apostolic See in most special manner. The excommunications for apostasy, heresy or schism were reserved to the Apostolic see in special manner, though they could be solved by the bishop (though not the general vicar) in his stead (can. 2314 § 2). The possible excommunication of someone not the Confessor who disclosed something under the Seal of the Confessional was reserved to no one; the excommunication for unlawful episcopal consecrations did not then exist (but there was a latae sententiae suspension), as neither did the possible excommunication (and certain suspension) of a priest who does have faculties but absolves a penitent he knows to be unrepenting. The other excommunications still in existence were reserved to the bishop as they are now.
The following further acts were excommunicable offenses
In the Eastern Orthodox churches, excommunication is the exclusion of a member from the Eucharist. It is not expulsion from the churches. This can happen for such reasons as not having confessed within that year; excommunication can also be imposed as part of a penitential period. It is generally done with the goal of restoring the member to full communion. Before an excommunication of significant duration is imposed, the bishop is usually consulted. The Orthodox churches do have a means of expulsion, by pronouncing anathema, but this is reserved only for acts of serious and unrepentant heresy. As an example of this, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, in its eleventh capitula, declared: "If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinarius Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their heretical books, and also all other heretics who have already been condemned and anathematized by the holy, catholic and apostolic church and by the four holy synods which have already been mentioned, and also all those who have thought or now think in the same way as the aforesaid heretics and who persist in their error even to death: let him be anathema."
Although Lutheranism technically has an excommunication process, some denominations and congregations do not use it. The Lutheran definition, in its earliest and most technical form, would be found in Martin Luther's Small Catechism, defined beginning at Questions No. 277-283, in "The Office of Keys." Luther endeavored to follow the process that Jesus laid out in the 18th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. According to Luther, excommunication requires:
Many Lutheran denominations operate under the premise that the entire congregation (as opposed to the pastor alone) must take appropriate steps for excommunication, and there are not always precise rules, to the point where individual congregations often set out rules for excommunicating laymen (as opposed to clergy). For example, churches may sometimes require that a vote must be taken at Sunday services; some congregations require that this vote be unanimous.
In the Church of Sweden and the Church of Denmark, excommunicated individuals are turned out from their parish in front of their congregation. They are not forbidden, however, to attend church and participate in other acts of devotion, although they are to sit in a place appointed by the priest (which was at a distance from others).
The Lutheran process, though rarely used, has created unusual situations in recent years due to its somewhat democratic excommunication process. One example was an effort to get serial killer Dennis Rader excommunicated from his denomination (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) by individuals who tried to "lobby" Rader's fellow church members into voting for his excommunication.
The Church of England does not have any specific canons regarding how or why a member can be excommunicated, although it has a canon according to which ecclesiastical burial may be refused to someone "declared excommunicate for some grievous and notorious crime and no man to testify to his repentance".
In the Reformed Churches, excommunication has generally been seen as the culmination of church discipline, which is one of the three marks of the Church. The Westminster Confession of Faith sees it as the third step after "admonition" and "suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season." Yet, John Calvin argues in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that church censures do not "consign those who are excommunicated to perpetual ruin and damnation," but are designed to induce repentance, reconciliation and restoration to communion. Calvin notes, "though ecclesiastical discipline does not allow us to be on familiar and intimate terms with excommunicated persons, still we ought to strive by all possible means to bring them to a better mind, and recover them to the fellowship and unity of the Church."
At least one modern Reformed theologian argues that excommunication is not the final step in the disciplinary process. Jay E. Adams argues that in excommunication, the offender is still seen as a brother, but in the final step they become "as the heathen and tax collector" (Matthew 18:17). Adams writes, "Nowhere in the Bible is excommunication (removal from the fellowship of the Lord's Table, according to Adams) equated with what happens in step 5; rather, step 5 is called "removing from the midst, handing over to Satan," and the like."
Former Princeton president and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, addresses the notion of excommunication as "removal from the fellowship of the Lord's Table" in his treatise entitled "The Nature and End of Excommunication". Edwards argues that "Particularly, we are forbidden such a degree of associating ourselves with (excommunicants), as there is in making them our guests at our tables, or in being their guests at their tables; as is manifest in the text, where we are commanded to have no company with them, no not to eat". Edwards insists, "That this respects not eating with them at the Lord's supper, but a common eating, is evident by the words, that the eating here forbidden, is one of the lowest degrees of keeping company, which are forbidden. Keep no company with such a one, saith the apostle, no not to eat — as much as to say, no not in so low a degree as to eat with him. But eating with him at the Lord's supper, is the very highest degree of visible Christian communion. Who can suppose that the apostle meant this: Take heed and have no company with a man, no not so much as in the highest degree of communion that you can have? Besides, the apostle mentions this eating as a way of keeping company which, however, they might hold with the heathen. He tells them, not to keep company with fornicators. Then he informs them, he means not with fornicators of this world, that is, the heathens; but, saith he, "if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, etc. with such a one keep no company, no not to eat." This makes it most apparent, that the apostle doth not mean eating at the Lord's table; for so, they might not keep company with the heathens, any more than with an excommunicated person."
In the Methodist Episcopal Church, individuals were able to be excommunicated following "trial before a jury of his peers, and after having had the privilege of an appeal to a higher court." Nevertheless, an excommunication could be lifted after sufficient penance.
Two for cursing and swearing.
Two for habitual Sabbath-breaking.
Seventeen for drunkenness.
Two for retailing spiritous liquors.
Three for quarrelling and brawling.
One for beating his wife.
Three for habitual, wilful lying.
Four for railing and evil-speaking.
One for idleness and laziness. And,
Nine-and-twenty for lightness and carelessness.
The Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection, in its 2014 Discipline, includes "homosexuality, lesbianism, bi-sexuality, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery, and any attempt to alter one’s gender by surgery", as well as remarriage after divorce among its excommunicable offences.
The Evangelical Wesleyan Church, in its 2015 Discipline, states that "Any member of our church who is accused of neglect of the means of grace or other duties required by the Word of God, the indulgence of sinful tempers, words or actions, the sowing of dissension, or any other violation of the order and discipline of the church, may, after proper labor and admonition, be censured, placed on probation, or expelled by the official board of the circuit of which he is a member. If he request a trial, however, within thirty dates of the final action of the official board, it shall be granted."
When believers were baptized and taken into membership of the church by Anabaptists, it was not only done as symbol of cleansing of sin but was also done as a public commitment to identify with Jesus Christ and to conform one's life to the teaching and example of Jesus as understood by the church. Practically, that meant membership in the church entailed a commitment to try to live according to norms of Christian behavior widely held by the Anabaptist tradition.
In the ideal, discipline in the Anabaptist tradition requires the church to confront a notoriously erring and unrepentant church member, first directly in a very small circle and, if no resolution is forthcoming, expanding the circle in steps eventually to include the entire church congregation. If the errant member persists without repentance and rejects even the admonition of the congregation, that person is excommunicated or excluded from church membership. Exclusion from the church is recognition by the congregation that this person has separated himself or herself from the church by way of his or her visible and unrepentant sin. This is done ostensibly as a final resort to protect the integrity of the church. When this occurs, the church is expected to continue to pray for the excluded member and to seek to restore him or her to its fellowship. There was originally no inherent expectation to shun (completely sever all ties with) an excluded member, however differences regarding this very issue led to early schisms between different Anabaptist leaders and those who followed them.
Jakob Ammann, founder of the Amish sect, believed that the shunning of those under the ban should be systematically practiced among the Swiss Anabaptists as it was in the north and as was outlined in the Dordrecht Confession. Ammann's uncompromising zeal regarding this practice was one of the main disputes that led to the schism between the Anabaptist groups that became the Amish and those that eventually would be called Mennonite. Recently more moderate Amish groups have become less strict in their application of excommunication as a discipline. This has led to splits in several communities, an example of which is the Swartzetruber Amish who split from the main body of Old Order Amish because of the latter's practice of lifting the ban from members who later join other churches. In general, the Amish will excommunicate baptized members for failure to abide by their Ordnung (church rules) as it is interpreted by the local Bishop if certain repeat violations of the Ordnung occur.
Excommunication among the Old Order Amish results in shunning or the Meidung, the severity of which depends on many factors, such as the family, the local community as well as the type of Amish. Some Amish communities cease shunning after one year if the person joins another church later on, especially if it is another Mennonite church. At the most severe, other members of the congregation are prohibited almost all contact with an excommunicated member including social and business ties between the excommunicant and the congregation, sometimes even marital contact between the excommunicant and spouse remaining in the congregation or family contact between adult children and parents.
In the Mennonite Church excommunication is rare and is carried out only after many attempts at reconciliation and on someone who is flagrantly and repeatedly violating standards of behavior that the church expects. Occasionally excommunication is also carried against those who repeatedly question the church's behavior or who genuinely differ with the church's theology as well, although in almost all cases the dissenter will leave the church before any discipline need be invoked. In either case, the church will attempt reconciliation with the member in private, first one on one and then with a few church leaders. Only if the church's reconciliation attempts are unsuccessful, the congregation formally revokes church membership. Members of the church generally pray for the excluded member.
Some regional conferences (the Mennonite counterpart to dioceses of other denominations) of the Mennonite Church have acted to expel member congregations that have openly welcomed non-celibate homosexuals as members. This internal conflict regarding homosexuality has also been an issue for other moderate denominations, such as the American Baptists and Methodists.
The practice among Old Order Mennonite congregations is more along the lines of Amish, but perhaps less severe typically. An Old Order member who disobeys the Ordnung (church regulations) must meet with the leaders of the church. If a church regulation is broken a second time there is a confession in the church. Those who refuse to confess are excommunicated. However upon later confession, the church member will be reinstated. An excommunicated member is placed under the ban. This person is not banned from eating with their own family. Excommunicated persons can still have business dealings with church members and can maintain marital relations with a marriage partner, who remains a church member.
The separatist, communal, and self-contained Hutterites also use excommunication and shunning as form of church discipline. Since Hutterites have communal ownership of goods, the effects of excommunication could impose a hardship upon the excluded member and family leaving them without employment income and material assets such as a home. However, often arrangements are made to provide material benefits to the family leaving the colony such as an automobile and some transition funds for rent, etc. One Hutterite colony in Manitoba (Canada) had a protracted dispute when leaders attempted to force the departure of a group that had been excommunicated but would not leave. About a dozen lawsuits in both Canada and the United States were filed between the various Hutterite factions and colonies concerning excommunication, shunning, the legitimacy of leadership, communal property rights, and fair division of communal property when factions have separated.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) practices excommunication as penalty for those who commit serious sins, i.e., actions that significantly impair the name or moral influence of the church or pose a threat to other people. According to the church leadership Handbook, the purposes of church discipline are (1) to save the souls of transgressors, (2) to protect the innocent, and (3) to safeguard the purity, integrity, and good name of the church.
The LDS Church also practices the lesser sanctions of private counsel and caution, informal probation, formal probation, and disfellowshipment.
Disfellowshipped is used for serious sins that do not rise to the level of excommunication. Disfellowshipment denies some privileges but does not include a loss of church membership. Once disfellowshipped, persons may not take the sacrament or enter church temples, nor may they offer public prayers or sermons. Disfellowshipped persons may continue to attend most church functions and are permitted to wear temple garments, pay tithes and offerings, and participate in church classes if their conduct is orderly. Disfellowshipment typically lasts for one year, after which one may be reinstated as a member in good standing.
In the more grievous or recalcitrant cases, excommunication becomes a disciplinary option. Excommunication is generally reserved for what are seen as the most serious sins, including committing serious crimes such as murder, child abuse, and incest; committing adultery; involvement in or teaching of polygamy; involvement in homosexual conduct; apostasy; participation in an abortion; teaching false doctrine; or openly criticizing church leaders. A 2006 revision to the Handbook states that formally joining another church constitutes apostasy and is an excommunicable offense; however, merely attending another church does not constitute apostasy.
An excommunication can occur only after a formal disciplinary council. Formerly called a "church court," the councils were renamed to avoid focusing on guilt and instead to emphasize the availability of repentance.
The decision to excommunicate a Melchizedek priesthood holder is generally the province of the leadership of a stake. In such a disciplinary council, the stake presidency and stake high council attend. The twelve members of the high council are split in half: one group represents the member in question and is charged with "prevent[ing] insult or injustice"; the other group represents the church as a whole. The member under scrutiny is invited to attend the disciplinary proceedings, but the council can go forward without him. In making a decision, the leaders of the high council consult with the stake presidency, but the decision about which discipline is necessary is the stake president's alone. It is possible to appeal a decision of a stake disciplinary council to the church's First Presidency.
For females and for male members not initiated into the Melchizedek priesthood, a ward disciplinary council is held. In such cases, a bishop determines whether excommunication or a lesser sanction is warranted. He does this in consultation with his two counselors, with the bishop making the final determination after prayer. The decision of a ward disciplinary council can be appealed to the stake president.
The following list of variables serves as a general set of guidelines for when excommunication or lesser action may be warranted, beginning with those more likely to result in severe sanction:
Notices of excommunication may be made public, especially in cases of apostasy, where members could be misled; however, the specific reasons for individual excommunications are typically kept confidential and are seldom made public by church leadership.
Those who are excommunicated lose their church membership and the right to partake of the sacrament. Such persons are usually allowed to attend church meetings but participation is limited: they cannot offer public prayers or preach sermons and cannot enter temples. Excommunicated members are also barred from wearing or purchasing temple garments and from paying tithes. Excommunicated members may be re-baptized after a waiting period and sincere repentance, as judged by a series of interviews with church leaders.
Some critics have charged that LDS Church leaders have used the threat of excommunication to silence or punish church members and researchers who disagree with established policy and doctrine, who study or discuss controversial subjects, or who may be involved in disputes with local, stake leaders or general authorities; see, e.g., Brian Evenson, a former BYU professor and writer whose fiction came under criticism from BYU officials and LDS Leadership. Another notable case of excommunication from the LDS Church was the "September Six," a group of intellectuals and professors, five of whom were excommunicated and the sixth disfellowshipped.
However, church policy dictates that local leaders are responsible for excommunication, without influence from church headquarters. The church thus argues that this policy is evidence against any systematic persecution of scholars.
Jehovah's Witnesses practice a form of excommunication, using the term "disfellowshipping", in cases where a member is believed to have unrepentantly committed one or more of several documented "serious sins". The practice is based on their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 ("quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man....remove the wicked man from your midst") and 2 John 10 ("never receive him in your home or say a greeting to him"). They interpret these verses to mean that any baptized believer who engages in "gross sins" is to be expelled from the congregation and shunned.
When a member confesses to, or is accused of, a serious sin, a judicial committee of at least three elders is formed. This committee investigates the case and determines the magnitude of the sin committed. If the person is deemed guilty of a disfellowshipping offense, the committee then decides, on the basis of the person's attitude and "works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20), whether the person is to be considered repentant. The "works" may include trying to correct the wrong, making apologies to any offended individuals, and compliance with earlier counsel. If deemed guilty but repentant, the person is not disfellowshipped but is formally reproved and has restrictions imposed, which preclude the individual from various activities such as presenting talks, offering public prayers or making comments at religious meetings. If the person is deemed guilty and unrepentant, he or she will be disfellowshipped. Unless an appeal is made within seven days, the disfellowshipping is made formal by an announcement at the congregation's next Service Meeting. Appeals are granted to determine if procedural errors are felt to have occurred that may have affected the outcome.
Disfellowshipping is a severing of friendly relationships between all Jehovah's Witnesses and the disfellowshipped person. Interaction with extended family is typically restricted to a minimum, such as presence at the reading of wills and providing essential care for the elderly. Within a household, typical family contact may continue, but without spiritual fellowship such as family Bible study and religious discussions. Parents of disfellowshipped minors living in the family home may continue to attempt to convince the child about the group's teachings. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that this form of discipline encourages the disfellowshipped individual to conform to biblical standards and prevents the person from influencing other members of the congregation.
Along with breaches of the Witnesses' moral code, openly disagreeing with the teachings Jehovah's Witnesses is considered grounds for shunning. These persons are labeled as "apostates" and are described in Watch Tower Society literature as "mentally diseased". Descriptions of "apostates" appearing in the Witnesses literature have been the subject of investigation in the UK to determine if they violate religious hatred laws. Sociologist Andrew Holden claims many Witnesses who would otherwise defect because of disillusionment with the organization and its teachings, remain affiliated out of fear of being shunned and losing contact with friends and family members. Shunning employs what is known as relational aggression in psychological literature. When used by church members and member-spouse parents against excommunicant parents it contains elements of what psychologists call parental alienation. Extreme shunning may cause trauma to the shunned (and to their dependents) similar to what is studied in the psychology of torture.
Disassociation is a form of shunning where a member expresses verbally or in writing that they do not wish to be associated with Jehovah's Witnesses, rather than for having committed any specific 'sin'. Elders may also decide that an individual has disassociated, without any formal statement by the individual, by actions such as accepting a blood transfusion, or for joining another religious or military organization. Individuals who are deemed by the elders to have disassociated are given no right of appeal.
Each year, congregation elders are instructed to consider meeting with disfellowshipped individuals to determine changed circumstances and encourage them to pursue reinstatement. Reinstatement is not automatic after a certain time period, nor is there a minimum duration; disfellowshipped persons may talk to elders at any time but must apply in writing to be considered for reinstatement into the congregation. Elders consider each case individually, and are instructed to ensure "that sufficient time has passed for the disfellowshipped person to prove that his profession of repentance is genuine." A judicial committee meets with the individual to determine their repentance, and if this is established, the person is reinstated into the congregation and may participate with the congregation in their formal ministry (such as house-to-house preaching), but is prohibited from commenting at meetings or holding any privileges for a period set by the judicial committee. If possible, the same judicial committee members who disfellowshipped the individual are selected for the reinstatement hearing. If the applicant is in a different area, the person will meet with a local judicial committee that will communicate with either the original judicial committee if available or a new one in the original congregation.
A Witness who has been formally reproved or reinstated cannot be appointed to any special privilege of service for at least one year. Serious sins involving child sex abuse permanently disqualify the sinner from appointment to any congregational privilege of service, regardless of whether the sinner was convicted of any secular crime.
Similarly to many groups having their origins in the 1830s Restoration Movement, Christadelphians call their form of excommunication "disfellowshipping", though they do not practice "shunning". Disfellowshipping can occur for moral reasons, changing beliefs, or (in some ecclesias) for not attending communion (referred to as "the emblems" or "the breaking of bread").
In such cases, the person involved is usually required to discuss the issues. If they do not conform, the church ('meeting' or 'ecclesia') is recommended by the management committee ("Arranging Brethren") to vote on disfellowshipping the person. These procedures were formulated 1863 onwards by early Christadelphians, and then in 1883 codified by Robert Roberts in A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias (colloquially "The Ecclesial Guide"). However Christadelphians justify and apply their practice not only from this document but also from passages such as the exclusion in 1Co.5 and recovery in 2Co.2.
Christadelphians typically avoid the term "excommunication" which many associate with the Catholic Church; and may feel the word carries implications they do not agree with, such as undue condemnation and punishment, as well as failing to recognise the remedial intention of the measure.
In the case of adultery and divorce, the passage of time usually means a member can be restored if he or she wants to be. In the case of ongoing behaviour, cohabitation, homosexual activity, then the terms of the suspension have not been met.
The mechanics of "refellowship" follow the reverse of the original process; the individual makes an application to the "ecclesia", and the "Arranging Brethren" give a recommendation to the members who vote. If the "Arranging Brethren" judge that a vote may divide the ecclesia, or personally upset some members, they may seek to find a third party ecclesia which is willing to "refellowship" the member instead. According to the Ecclesial Guide a third party ecclesia may also take the initiative to "refellowship" another meeting's member. However this cannot be done unilaterally, as this would constitute heteronomy over the autonomy of the original ecclesia's members.
Among many of the Society of Friends groups (Quakers) one is read out of meeting for behaviour inconsistent with the sense of the meeting. However it is the responsibility of each meeting, quarterly meeting, and yearly meeting, to act with respect to their own members. For example, during the Vietnam War many Friends were concerned about Friend Richard Nixon's position on war which seemed at odds with their beliefs; however, it was the responsibility of Nixon's own meeting, the East Whittier Meeting of Whittier, California, to act if indeed that meeting felt the leaning. They did not.
In the 17th century, before the founding of abolitionist societies, Friends who too forcefully tried to convince their coreligionists of the evils of slavery were read out of meeting. Benjamin Lay was read out of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for this. During the American Revolution over 400 Friends were read out of meeting for their military participation or support.
Iglesia ni Cristo practices a form expulsion similar to excommunication in Catholicism, expelling members it deems to have gravely sinned or gone against the teachings and doctrines of the church. The Sanggunian, the church's council, has jurisdiction to expel members from the church. People expelled by the church are referred to as dismissed (Tagalog: tiwalag). Offenses that may be grounds for expulsion include marrying a non-member, becoming pregnant out of wedlock (unless you get married before the child is born) and most especially disagreeing with the church administration. An expelled member can be re-admitted by pledging obedience to the church administration and its rules, values and teachings.
Unitarian Universalism, being a liberal religious group and a congregational denomination, has a wide diversity of opinions and sentiments. Nonetheless, Unitarian Universalists have had to deal with disruptive individuals. Congregations which had no policies on disruptive individuals have sometimes found themselves having to create such policies, up to (and including) expulsion.
By the late 1990s, several churches were using the West Shore UU Church's policy as a model. If someone is threatening, disruptive, or distracting from the appeal of the church to its membership, a church using this model has three recommended levels of response to the offending individual. While the first level involves dialogue between a committee or clergy member and the offender, the second and third levels involve expulsion, either from the church itself or a church activity.
There is no direct equivalent to excommunication in Buddhism. However, in the Theravadan monastic community monks can be expelled from monasteries for heresy or other acts. In addition, the monks have four vows, called the four defeats, which are abstaining from sexual intercourse, stealing, murder, and refraining from lying about spiritual gains (e.g., having special power or ability to perform miracles). If even one is broken, the monk is automatically a layman again and can never become a monk in his or her current life.
Most Japanese Buddhist sects hold ecclesiastical authority over their followers and have their own rules for expelling members of the sangha, lay or bishopric. The lay Japanese Buddhist organization Sōka Gakkai was expelled from the Nichiren Shoshu sect in 1991 (1997).
Hinduism has been too diverse to be seen as a monolithic religion, and with a conspicuous absence of any listed dogma or ecclesia (organised church), has no concept of excommunication and hence no Hindu may be ousted from the Hindu religion, although a person may easily lose caste status for a very wide variety of infringements of caste prohibitions. This may or may not be recoverable. However, some of the modern organized sects within Hinduism may practice something equivalent to excommunication today, by ousting a person from their own sect.
In medieval and early-modern times (and sometimes even now) in South Asia, excommunication from one's caste (jati or varna) used to be practiced (by the caste-councils) and was often with serious consequences, such as abasement of the person's caste status and even throwing him into the sphere of the untouchables or bhangi. In the 19th century, a Hindu faced excommunication for going abroad, since it was presumed he would be forced to break caste restrictions and, as a result, become polluted.
After excommunication, it would depend upon the caste-council whether they would accept any form of repentance (ritual or otherwise) or not. Such current examples of excommunication in Hinduism are often more political or social rather than religious, for example the excommunication of lower castes for refusing to work as scavengers in Tamil Nadu.
An earlier example of excommunication in Hinduism is that of Shastri Yagnapurushdas, who voluntarily left and was later expelled from the Vadtal Gadi of the Swaminarayan Sampraday by the then Vadtal acharya in 1906. He went on to form his own institution, Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Sanstha or BSS (now BAPS) claiming Gunatitanand Swami was the rightful spiritual successor to Swaminarayan.
Excommunication as it exists in Christian faiths does not exist in Islam. Moreover, there is a clear mandate within the Quran stating there is no compulsion in religion therefore one cannot force another to believe. Ergo, no one has authority over doctrinal matters. The nearest approximation is takfir, a declaration that an individual or group is kafir (or kuffar in plural), a non-believer. This does not prevent an individual from taking part in any Islamic rite or ritual, and since the matter of whether a person is kafir is a rather subjective matter, a declaration of takfir is generally considered null and void if the target refutes it or if the Islamic community in which he or she lives refuses to accept it.
Takfir has usually been practiced through the courts. More recently, cases have taken place where individuals have been considered kuffar. These decisions followed lawsuits against individuals, mainly in response to their writings that some have viewed as anti-Islamic. The most famous cases are of Salman Rushdie, Nasr Abu Zayd, and Nawal El-Saadawi. The repercussions of such cases have included divorce, since under traditional interpretations of Islamic law, Muslim women are not permitted to marry non-Muslim men.
However, takfir remains a highly contentious issue in Islam, primarily because there is no universally accepted authority in Islamic law. Indeed, according to classical commentators, the reverse seems to hold true, in that Muhammad reportedly equated the act of declaring someone a kafir itself to blasphemy if the accused individual maintained that he was a Muslim.
Cherem is the highest ecclesiastical censure in Judaism. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. Except for cases in the Charedi community, cherem stopped existing after The Enlightenment, when local Jewish communities lost their political autonomy, and Jews were integrated into the gentile nations in which they lived. A siruv order, equivalent to a contempt of court, issued by a Rabbinical court may also limit religious participation.
Rabbinical conferences of movements do expel members from time to time, but sometimes choose the lesser penalty of censuring the offending rabbi. Between 2010 and 2015, the Reform Jewish Central Conference of American Rabbis expelled six rabbis, the Orthodox Jewish Rabbinical Council of America expelled three, and the Conservative Jewish Rabbinical Assembly expelled one, suspended three, and caused one to resign without eligibility for reinstatement. While the CCAR and RCA were relatively shy about their reasons for expelling rabbis, the RA was more open about its reasons for kicking rabbis out. Reasons for expulsion from the three conferences include sexual misconduct, failure to comply with ethics investigations, setting up conversion groups without the conference's approval, stealing money from congregations, other financial misconduct, and getting arrested.
Judaism, like Unitarian Universalism, tends towards congregationalism, and so decisions to exclude from a community of worship often depend on the congregation. Congregational bylaws sometimes enable the board of a synagogue to ask individuals to leave  or not to enter.
Well, apostates are “mentally diseased,” and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings.
It would be best if he did this in a brief letter to the elders, but even if he unequivocally states orally that he is renouncing his standing as a Witness, the elders can deal with the matter.
transfusions have been relegated to 'non-disfellowshipping events' ... If a member has a transfusion, they will, by their actions disassociate themselves from the religion.
the person no longer wants to have anything to do with Jehovah's people and is determined to remain in a false religion? They would then simply announce to the congregation that such one has disassociated himself and thus is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The second situation involves a person who renounces his standing in the congregation by joining a secular organization whose purpose is contrary to counsel such as that found at Isaiah 2:4, … neither will they learn war anymore.
For the protection of our children, a man known to have been a child molester does not qualify for a responsible position in the congregation.
Anathema, in common usage, is something or someone that is detested or shunned. In its other main usage, it is a formal excommunication. The latter meaning, its ecclesiastical sense, is based on New Testament usage. In the Old Testament, anathema referred either to something (living or inanimate) that was consecrated or to something denounced as evil or accursed and set aside for sacrificial offering.Canon 1324
Canon 1324 is a canon of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, according to which penalties prescribed in canon law must be diminished or replaced by a penance. The canon does not automatically remove the penalty completely except in cases of latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication.Canon 1398
Canon 1398 is a rule of canon law of the Catholic Church which declares that "a person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication."Canon 915
Canon 915, one of the canons in the current Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, forbids the administration of Holy Communion to those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared or who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin:
Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.
The corresponding canon in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which binds members of the Eastern Catholic Churches, reads, "The publicly unworthy are to be kept from the reception of the Divine Eucharist".Censure (canon law)
A censure, in the canon law of the Catholic Church, is a medicinal and spiritual punishment imposed by the church on a baptized, delinquent, and contumacious person, by which he is deprived, either wholly of in part, of the use of certain spiritual goods, until he recover from his contumacy.Decet Romanum Pontificem
Not to be confused with Romanum decet pontificem.
Decet Romanum Pontificem (English: It Befits the Roman Pontiff) (1521) is the papal bull excommunicating Martin Luther, bearing the title of the first three Latin words of the text. It was issued on January 3, 1521, by Pope Leo X to effect the excommunication threatened in his earlier papal bull Exsurge Domine (1520) since Luther failed to recant. Luther had burned his copy of Exsurge Domine on December 10, 1520, at the Elster Gate in Wittenberg, indicating his response to it.
There are at least two other important papal bulls with the title Decet Romanum Pontificem: one dated February 23, 1596, issued by Pope Clement VIII, and one dated March 12, 1622, issued by Pope Gregory XV.
Toward the end of the 20th century, Lutherans in dialogue with the Catholic Church requested the lifting of this excommunication; however, the Vatican's response was that its practice is to lift excommunications only on those still living. Roland Bainton in "Here I Stand after a Quarter of a Century", his preface for the 1978 edition of his Luther biography, concludes: "I am happy that the Church of Rome has allowed some talk of removing the excommunication of Luther. This might well be done. He was never a heretic. He might better be called, as one has phrased it, 'a reluctant rebel.'"
Luther's rehabilitation has been denied however by the Vatican: "Rumors that the Vatican is set to rehabilitate Martin Luther, the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation, are groundless", said the Vatican spokesman, the Jesuit Federico Lombardi.Ecclesia Dei
Ecclesia Dei is the document Pope John Paul II issued on 2 July 1988 in reaction to the consecration of four bishops despite an express prohibition by the Holy See. It said that the two consecrating bishops and the four priests they consecrated were excommunicated. John Paul called for unity and established the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to foster a dialog with those associated with the consecrations who hoped to maintain both loyalty to the papacy and their attachment to traditional liturgical forms.
As is customary for such a papal document, it takes its name from the opening words of its Latin text, Ecclesia Dei, meaning "God's Church".Excommunication (Catholic Church)
For the canonical penalty of excommunication as regulated by the Code of Canon Law of 1917 and the present Code, see excommunication#Catholic Church. This article reflects the state of before 1917.
In the canon law of the Catholic Church, excommunication (Lat. ex, out of, and communio or communicatio, communion, meaning exclusion from the communion), the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society. Being a penalty, it presupposes guilt; and being the most serious penalty that the Catholic Church can inflict, it naturally supposes a very grave offense.
Excommunication is a rarely applied censure and thus a "medicinal penalty" intended to invite the person to change behaviour or attitude, repent, and return to full communion. It is not an "expiatory penalty" designed to make satisfaction for the wrong done, much less a "vindictive penalty" designed solely to punish. Excommunication, which is the gravest penalty of all, is always medicinal, and is "not at all vindictive".Its object and its effect are loss of communion, i.e. of the spiritual benefits shared by all the members of Christian society; hence, it can affect only those who by baptism have been admitted to that society. There can and do exist other penal measures which entail the loss of certain fixed rights; among them are other censures, e.g. suspension for clerics, and interdict. Excommunication, however, is distinguished from these penalties in that it is the privation of all rights resulting from the social status of the Christian as such. Excommunicated persons do not cease to be Christians, since their baptism can never be effaced; they can, however, be considered as an exile from Christian society and as non-existent, for a time at least, in the sight of ecclesiastical authority. But such exile can have an end as soon as the offender has given suitable satisfaction. Meanwhile, their status before the church is that of a stranger. They may not receive any of the sacraments. Moreover, if a cleric, he is forbidden to administer a sacred rite or to exercise an act of spiritual authority.The Church excommunicates as a last resort and at least nowadays, very rarely. Excommunications are lifted when the excommunicated person repents, or at least gives some sign of repenting.Excommunication of Catholic politicians who support abortion
Because the Catholic Church opposes abortion as a matter of doctrine, some Catholic bishops have threatened (but not acted) to refuse communion or to impose excommunication upon Catholic politicians who support abortion. In some cases, officials have stated that the politicians should refrain from receiving communion ad normam canon 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law; in others, excommunication has been suggested.Excommunication of Margaret McBride
The excommunication of Margaret McBride occurred following the sanctioning by the American religious sister in November 2009 of an abortion at a Roman Catholic hospital in Phoenix. It was lifted in December 2011. Her decision and her subsequent excommunication aroused controversy in the areas of medical ethics and Catholic theology.Fourth Council of the Lateran
The Fourth Council of the Lateran was convoked by Pope Innocent III with the papal bull Vineam domini Sabaoth of 19 April 1213, and the Council gathered at Rome's Lateran Palace beginning 11 November 1215. Due to the great length of time between the Council's convocation and meeting, many bishops had the opportunity to attend. It is considered by the Catholic Church to have been the twelfth ecumenical council and is sometimes called the "Great Council" or "General Council of Lateran" due to the presence of 71 patriarchs and metropolitan bishops, 412 bishops, 900 abbots and priors together with representatives of several monarchs.During this council, the teaching on transubstantiation— a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church which describes the method by which the bread and wine offered in the sacrament of the Eucharist becomes the actual blood and body of Christ— was defined.Herem (censure)
Herem (Hebrew: חֵרֶם, also Romanized chērem, ḥērem) is the highest ecclesiastical censure in the Jewish community. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. It is a form of shunning and is similar to vitandus "excommunication" in the Catholic Church. Cognate terms in other Semitic languages include the Arabic terms ḥarām "forbidden, taboo, off-limits, or immoral" and haram "set apart, sanctuary", and the Ge'ez word ʿirm "accursed".
Arguably the most famous case of a herem is that of Baruch Spinoza, the seventeenth century philosopher. Another renowned case is the herem the Vilna Gaon ruled against the early Hassidic groups in 1777 and then again in 1781, under the charge of believing in panentheism.Other famous subjects of a herem were early Russian communists Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev. Sometime in 1918, while Ukraine was under German occupation, the rabbis of Odessa pronounced herem against Trotsky, Zinoviev, and other Jewish Bolshevik leaders in the synagogue.Ipso facto
Ipso facto is a Latin phrase, directly translated as "by the fact itself", which means that a specific phenomenon is a direct consequence, a resultant effect, of the action in question, instead of being
brought about by a previous action. It is a term of art used in philosophy, law, and science. An example in law is money laundering: the act is not ipso facto illegal because it is an exchange but is done as a cover for something else, so the act puts the actions of an individual in question. A common English idiom with a similar meaning is "in and of itself". Compare also "by itself" and "per se".
Aside from its technical uses, it occurs frequently in literature, particularly in scholarly addenda: e.g., "Faustus had signed his life away, and was, ipso facto, incapable of repentance" (from Christopher Marlowe, The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus) or "These prejudices are rooted in the idea that every tramp ipso facto is a blackguard" (from George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London).Latae sententiae
Latae sententiae is a Latin phrase, meaning "sentence (already) passed", used in the canon law of the Catholic Church. A latae sententiae penalty is one that follows ipso facto or automatically, by force of the law itself, when a law is contravened.
A penalty that binds a guilty party only after it has been imposed on the person is known as a ferendae sententiae (meaning "sentence to be passed") penalty.The Code of Canon Law, which binds Catholics of the Latin Church, inflicts latae sententiae censures for certain forbidden actions. The canon law that binds members of the eastern Catholic Churches (see Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches) does not include latae sententiae penalties.List of excommunicable offences in the Catholic Church
This is a list, in chronological order, of present and past offences to which the Roman Catholic Church has attached the penalty of excommunication; the list is not exhaustive. In most cases these were "automatic excommunications", wherein the violator who knowingly breaks the rule is considered automatically excommunicated from the church regardless of whether a bishop (or the pope) has excommunicated them publicly. However, in a few cases a bishop would need to name the person who violated the rule for them to be excommunicated.
Excommunication is an ecclesiastical penalty placed on a person to encourage the person to return to the communion of the church. An excommunicated person cannot receive any sacraments or exercise an office within the church until the excommunication is lifted by a valid authority in the church (usually a bishop). Previously, other penalties could also be attached. In cases where excommunication is reserved for the apostolic see, only the bishop of Rome (the pope) has the power to lift the excommunication. Before 1869, the church distinguished "major" and "minor" excommunication; a major excommunication was often marked by simply writing, "Let them be anathema" in council documents. Only offences from the 1983 Code of Canon Law still have legal effect in the church.List of excommunicated cardinals
Only a few dozen cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church have been excommunicated. A cardinal is a Roman Catholic priest, deacon, or bishop entitled to vote in a papal election. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals. Excommunication—literally, the denial of communion—means that a person is barred from participating in the Sacraments or holding ecclesiastical office. Ne Romani (1311), promulgated by Pope Clement V during the Council of Vienne, extended suffrage in papal election to excommunicated cardinals in an attempt to limit schisms.This list includes only cardinals who have been explicitly excommunicated by a pope or ecumenical council, rather than those who (depending on one's interpretation) may have been excommunicated latae sententiae. For example, several precepts of papal election law prescribed automatic excommunication, such as Licet de vitanda of the Lateran Council which prohibited election by one-third, and Pope Pius X's Commissum Nobis, which made the exercise of the jus exclusivae by any cardinal punishable by excommunication. It also does not include excommunicated quasi-cardinals (cardinals elevated by antipopes) or clerics excommunicated before receiving the red hat.
Many excommunicated cardinals reconciled (most often with the successor of their excommunicator) and had their offices restored. Some would later be elected pope; for example, Formosus and Sergius III.List of people excommunicated by the Catholic Church
This is a list of some of the more notable people excommunicated by the Catholic Church. It includes only excommunications acknowledged or imposed by a decree of the Pope or a bishop in communion with him. Latae sententiae excommunications, those that automatically affect classes of people (members of certain associations or those who perform actions such as directly violating the seal of confession or carrying out an abortion), are not listed unless confirmed by a bishop or ecclesiastical tribunal with respect to certain individuals.
In Roman Catholic canon law, excommunication is a censure and thus a "medicinal penalty" intended to invite the person to change behavior or attitude that incurred the penalty, repent, and return to full communion. Excommunication severs one from communion with the Church; excommunicated Catholics are forbidden from receiving any sacrament and refused a Catholic burial, but are still bound by canonical obligations such as attending Mass or fasting seasonally. Excommunicated Catholics, however, are barred from receiving the Eucharist or from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.). They are still Catholics per se, but are separated from the Church.Regnans in Excelsis
Regnans in Excelsis ("reigning on high") was a papal bull issued on 25 February 1570 by Pope Pius V declaring "Elizabeth, the pretended Queen of England and the servant of crime", to be a heretic and releasing all her subjects from any allegiance to her, even when they had "sworn oaths to her", and excommunicating any that obeyed her orders.
"We charge and command all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others afore said that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication."
The bull, written in Latin, is named from its incipit, the first three words of its text, which mean "ruling from on high" (a reference to God). Among the queen's offences, "She has removed the royal Council, composed of the nobility of England, and has filled it with obscure men, being heretics."Takfir wal-Hijra
Takfir wal-Hijra (Arabic: تكفير والهجرة, translation: "Excommunication and Exodus", alternatively "excommunication and emigration" or "anathema and exile"), was the popular name given to a radical Islamist group Jama'at al-Muslimin founded by Shukri Mustafa which emerged in Egypt in the 1960s as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Although the group was crushed by Egyptian security forces after it murdered an Islamic scholar and former government minister in 1977, it is said to have "left an enduring legacy" taken up by some Islamist radicals in "subsequent years and decades."