Excommunication

Q. Why don’t the bishops excommunicate self-proclaimed Catholic politicians who not only dissent from Church teaching, but actively work to undermine the Church’s mission?

Maurice

A. Here’s a reply from Msgr. Charles Pope:

When it comes to excommunication, or denying holy Communion to someone, we are dealing not only with Church Law, but also with the prudential application of that Law. It would seem that most bishops consider the application of these penalties, in public ways, to be imprudent.

In Scripture, we see that Jesus himself gives answers as to how to deal with sinners in the Church. He offers that for unrepentant sinners who will not even listen to the Church, they should be considered as a tax collector or Gentile (i.e., excommunicated) (Mt 18:17). But elsewhere Jesus tells a parable that, when the field hands urged the owner to tear out the weeds from the field, the owner cautioned that to do so might harm the wheat. He then said, let them grow together to the harvest (see Mt 13:30).

Hence we see that a prudential judgment is necessary. Currently many bishops have expressed concerns that to excommunicate would make “martyrs” of these public figures and further divide the Church.

What is clear is that the pastors of such politicians, and other wayward Catholics, should meet with them privately, to call them to repentance. 

And, if their repentance is lacking, they should privately be urged to stay away from holy Communion and be mindful of their final judgment before God.