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  Wikipedia: Excommunication

Wikipedia: Excommunication
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Excommunication is religious censure intended to deprive one of membership of a religious community.

Roman Catholicism

Excommunication is considered automatic for some sins within the Roman Catholic but can also be a formal affair, generally reserved for renegade clerygymen and such.

The word literally means "out of communion"; the outward sign of this loss of community involves barring the person from participating in Communion, i.e., receiving the Eucharist, and as a consequence losing their status as members of the church. Certain other rights and privileges normally resulting from membership of the church are revoked. Excommunication is often intended to be only temporary, a "medicinal" procedure intended to provoke repentance. In the Roman Catholic church excommunication is usually terminated by repentance and absolution. For minor excommunications the absolution may be pronounced by a confessor (a Priest). More serious offences must be absolved by a more senior official.

Automatic excommunication

There are seven sins for which Roman Catholics are automatically excommunicated:

Eastern Orthodoxy

In the Orthodox Church, "excommunication" refers to any situation in which a member is required to refrain from eucharist. It is not expulsion from the Church. This can happen due to minor reasons like not having confessed within that year or be imposed as part of a penitential period. The Orthodox Church does have a means of expulsion, by pronouncing anathema, but this is reserved only for acts of serious and unrepetant heresy. Even in that case, the individual is not "damned" by the Church but is instead left to his own devices.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the "Mormons"), practices excommunication, as well as the lesser sanctions of disfellowship or probation, as penalties for those guilty of serious sin. The decision to excommunicate a member is generally the province of the leadership of a Stake, which consists of several local congregations. Excommunications occur only after a formal "church court" in which twelve members of the Stake High Council listen to evidence and then vote.

Excommunication includes losing the right to take the Sacrament (Communion); in addition, a person who has been excommunicated loses their membership in the church, and to regain membership, the person must be re-baptized. Excommunicated persons are welcome and encouraged to attend church meetings, but they cannot participate, and they cannot enter a Latter-day Saint temple, or wear Temple garments. In many cases, the church publicizes the fact that a person has been excommunicated, but not the reasons why, which are kept confidential. Excommunicated members may be re-baptized after a waiting period, and after sincere repentance, as judged by a series of searching interviews with church leaders.

Excommunication is generally reserved for what Mormons consider to be the most serious sins, including serious crimes, adultery, polygamy, homosexual conduct, apostasy, teaching false doctrines, or openly criticizing the leadership of the Church. In the case of apostasy, false teaching, or being openly critical of church leadership, excommunication is often done as a last resort after repeated warnings.

Some Church critics charged LDS leaders with using the threat of excommunication to silence member researchers and critics who disagree with established Church policy and doctrines. However, Church policy dictactes that local leaders are responsible for excommunication, without influence from General Church leadership. Church apologists claim that many alleged excommunications never take place or are used as a publicity stunt to draw attention to their cause for gain. A recent example they point to is Thomas Murphy, who claimed the Church was going to excommunicate him because his DNA research (see Archaeology and the Book of Mormon). Such an excommunication to this date has never taken place or been arranged.

As an lighter penalty, a Latter-day Saint may be disfellowshipped, which means that they do not lose their membership in the church, but they may not participate in the Sacrament or in church meetings, and they may not wear Temple garments. For more minor sins, or where the sinner appears truly repentant, the member may be put on probation for a time, which means that further sin will result in disfellowship or excommunication.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses resort to disfellowshipping in cases where a person has seriously violated the group's moral standards, based on their understanding of the Bible. Disfellowshipping is not automatic, in most cases follows repeated violations. If a judicial committee established by the congregation is convinced that the person has not repented of the sin committed, disfellowshipping will result. If the person believes that an error in judgment has been made, he or she has the right to appeal and have the case investigated by a committee of more experienced elders from another congregation. Disfellowshipped persons may be reintegrated into the congregation if they cease the activities that led to their disfellowshipping and give evidence of having repented; they will not, however, be considered eligible for special privileges, such as being a congregation elder, for a number of years after their reinstatement. For more information, see Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses and Shunning.

In Judaism

Cherem is the highest ecclesiastical censure in the Jewish community. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. Except in rare cases in the Ultra-Orthodox community, cherem stopped existing after The Enlightenment, when local Jewish communities lost their political autonomy, and Jews were integrated into the greater gentile nations which they lived in. A fuller discussion of this subject is available in the cherem article.

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