Friday, October 26, 2007

Excommunication: a Very Commonly Misunderstood Church Punishment

Katherine Kersten of the StarTribune, the token conservative on that newspaper whose function is to keep the area's blood pressure specialists rich treating DFLers, posted Wednesday on complaints by homosexuals that the Catholic Church won't allow them to use church property as their sounding board for complaints about the Church.

Katherine is an excellent writer and her topics are always interesting. But what is even more interesting is the banter among her readers. She gets about 100 comments a day on a hot topic and most of them soon forget about her and what she wrote and devolve into "flame wars" among some generally very articulate people.

Someone pointed out that unlike other religions, Christians don't issue fatwas to kill apostates.

Somebody else responded: Historically, the Catholic Church held the threat of excommunication over the heads of misbehaving members. Fatwas weren’t necessary when the threat of eternal damnation would suffice. Of course in modern times such a threat is meaningless to all except the most devout, who would never be in danger of excommunication in the first place.

I wanted to make a correction to this response but even though I have been registered with the Strib for ten or 15 years, it wouldn't take my password today. It might tomorrow. Don't let anybody tell you that computers are nothing but science and engineering. And besides, it would be unlikely after 212 comments that anybody would bother to read my reaction anyway.

So anyway, I would just like to point out that, contrary to common opinion, "excommunication" does not subject someone to "eternal damnation."

Excommunication removes someone from "Communion with the Church." Think about that. It deprives people of the sacraments and the fellowship of the members of the Church in the hope that they will mend their ways, repent and return to that "Communion", within the fold.

It is serious and it generally takes more than three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys and a firm purpose of amendment to have a writ of excommunication removed.

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