excommunicate

John Kent

Senior Member
Korea - English
Hi, everyone!

Can the word "excommunicate" only be used in Catholic Church? For example, "He shall be excommunicated by the church." Does it mean that he must be a catholic? On the other hand, like the house church (Christian church) in China, can we say "He shall be excommunicated by the church"? Or "He shall be expelled by the church" Which is better?

Thanks!
 
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  • Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Excommunication strictly means the formal removal of someone from the communion (i.e. membership) of the Catholic Church. I suppose another church could use the same term for an equivalent procedure, but unless this is actually an established term in that Church it's better to use a different word, such as expulsion.
     

    Szkot

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't think the Catholic Church has a monopoly on excommunication. The Free Church of Scotland, among others, also uses the term:

    Excommunication is the gravest censure and is applied only where the offender is deemed utterly recalcitrant and defiant.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I agree. 'Excommunication' does not refer specifically to the Roman Catholic Church. It refers to any church which has a means of expelling members from the fellowship of the act of communion. That includes the Church of England and the episcopal churches associated with it. A point made by some Anglican authorities is that the Church of England never excommunicated Roman Catholics, who remain welcome as members of the catholic* church to take communion with Anglicans.

    It also has an extended use referring to other religious communities.

    * A reminder that the Roman Catholic Church is not the only catholic church. (OED "Of or belonging to the church universal, universal Christian.")
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Have a look at the Wikipedia article on excommunication:
    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 Catholicexcommunications 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 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..
    Excommunication - Wikipedia

    As you can see it doesn't necessarily pertain to the Roman Catholic church, but because the RC church has had a longer history it is often associated with it. Before the Reformation, there were no Protestant churches to speak of! The Anabaptist (Mennonite, Amish) term is the ban.

    Do you know George Eliot's novel Silas Marner? This is set in the early 19th century, where the main character Silas belonged to a Dissenting church (a Calvinist non-conformist church - ie not Church of England). He is effectively excommunicated when he is thought to have been guity of theft. The word is not used though:
    He was solemnly suspended from church-membership, and called upon to render up the stolen money: only on confession, as the sign of repentance, could he be received once more within the folds of the church. Marner listened in silence. (Chapter 1)

    'Suspended from church membership' sounds like a reasonable phrase to use if you don't want to use 'excommunicated'.
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, there were. The Orthodox churches just didn't loom large in Western Europe, and therefore we read about the Pope excommunicating Luther or excommunicating Elizabeth I and so on.

    No, it can't be specific to the RC church because Paul certainly talks about it. ('And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?' 1 Corinthians 5:2). Again a different term: put out of fellowship.
     

    Colombia asking for help

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Colombia
    Yes, there were. The Orthodox churches just didn't loom large in Western Europe, and therefore we read about the Pope excommunicating Luther or excommunicating Elizabeth I and so on.

    No, it can't be specific to the RC church because Paul certainly talks about it. ('And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?' 1 Corinthians 5:2). Again a different term: put out of fellowship.
    and in this context, what is the concept that this expression has?
    "Upon these Words, Adams fetched two Strides across the Room; and snapping his Fingers over his Head muttered aloud, He would excommunicate such a Wretch for a Farthing;" (Joshep Andrews & Shamela by Henry Fielding; p.23-24)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Adams is a parson, isn't he? It has the usual meaning, but he probably doesn't mean it - any more than we mean it when we say "I would happily strangle him".
     
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