excommunication(redirected from Disfellowshipment)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia.
EXCOMMUNICATION, eccl. law. An ecclesiastical sentence, pronounced by a spiritual judge against a Christian man, by which he is excluded from the body of the church, and disabled to bring any action, or sue any person in the common law courts. Bac. Ab. h.t.; Co. Litt. 133-4. In early times it was the most frequent and most severe method of executing ecclesiastical censure, although proper to be used, said Justinian, (Nov. 123,) only upon grave occasions. The effect of it was to remove the excommunicated "person not only from the sacred rites but from the society of men. In a certain sense it interdicted the use of fire and water, like the punishment spoken of by Caesar, (lib, 6 de Bell. Gall.). as inflicted by the Druids. Innocent IV. called it the nerve of ecclesiastical discipline. On repentance, the excommunicated person was absolved and received again to communion. These are said to be the powers of binding and loosing the keys of the kingdom of heaven. This kind of punishment seems to have been adopted from the Roman usage of interdicting the use of fire and water. Fr. Duaren, De Sacris Eccles. Ministeriis, lib. 1, cap. 3. See Ridley's View of the Civil. and Ecclesiastical Law, 245, 246, 249.