THE CODE OF CANON LAW AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON EXCOMMUNICATION

Today, I want to provide some information for those of you – hundreds, probably many thousands – who wrote on your own Facebook page or commented on the pages of others about the law enacted two days ago in New York that now allows abortion up to and through the ninth month of pregnancy, literally the last hours of pregnancy.

The word “excommunication” came up many times in postings, most referring to Gov. Cuomo of New York who says he is a Catholic. There were other Catholic legislators in New York who helped pass this horrendous, inhuman legislation.

What does the Catholic Church teach about excommunication? Might a bishop or priest refuse communion to an excommunicated Catholic?

The following information is from or about the Church’s Code of Canon Law. I studied Canon Law for a while at the Dominican University here in Rome known as the Angelicum. I signed up for this course many years ago when I began to work at the Vatican, doing so not to get a degree but to increase my knowledge in this field. I truly hope this helps.

By the way, if you want to post something on this topic, please make it clear that either you have some background in Canon Law or what you write is merely your opinion. That helps all of us.

It would be enormously helpful to many people if you would share this! That helps in evangelization. Thanks!

THE CODE OF CANON LAW AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON EXCOMMUNICATION

Some definitions:

Latae sententiae from the Latin meaning “sentence (already) passed”, used in Code of 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. (simply put a personally automatically excommunicates himself or herself by committing a specific crime or delict.)

Ferendae sententiae, also from Latin, is a penalty that binds a guilty party only after it has been imposed on the person (simply put, excommunication is imposed on an individual by a proper authority who committed a specific crime or delict)

Excommunications

Unless the excusing circumstances outlined in canons 1321–1330 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_P4W.HTM) exist, the Code of Canon Law imposes latae sententiae excommunication on the following:

· an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic;
· a person who throws away the consecrated Eucharistic species or takes and retains them for a sacrilegious purpose;
· a person who uses physical force against the Pope;
· a priest who absolves his accomplice in a sin against the commandment against adultery;
· a bishop who ordains someone a bishop without a papal mandate, and the person who receives the ordination from him;
· a confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal of confession;
· a person who procures a completed abortion;
· accomplices without whose assistance a violation of a law prescribing latae sententiae excommunication would not have been committed.

Can the proper ecclesial authority refuse the sacraments to a Catholic he knows to be excommunicated, be it through latae sententiae or ferendae sententiae?

– According to Canon 1331 of the Code of Canon Law:
Can. 1331 §1. An excommunicated person is forbidden:
1/ to have any ministerial participation in celebrating the sacrifice of the Eucharist or any other ceremonies of worship whatsoever;
2/ to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments;
§2. If the excommunication has been imposed or declared, the offender:
1/ who wishes to act against the prescript of §1, n. 1 must be prevented from doing so, or the liturgical action must be stopped unless a grave cause precludes this;
2/ invalidly places acts of governance which are illicit according to the norm of §1, n. 3;
3/ is forbidden to benefit from privileges previously granted;

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