Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Catholic Dictionary

Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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An ecclesiastical censure by which one is more or less excluded from communion with the faithful. It is also called anathema, especially if it is inflicted with formal solemnities on persons notoriously obstinate to reconciliation. Some excommunicated persons are vitandi (to be avoided), others tolerati (tolerate). No one is vitandus unless that person has been publicly excommunicated by name by the Holy See, and it is expressly stated that the person is "to be avoided," Anyone who lays violent hands on the Pope is automatically vitandus.

In general, the effects of excommunication affect the person's right to receive the sacraments, or Christian burial, until the individual repents and is reconciled with the Church. In order for an excommunication to take effect, the person must have been objectively guilty of the crime charged. (Etym. Latin ex-, from + communicare, to communicate: excommunicatio, exclusion from a community.)