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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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
In the end, the Elders' decision was to disfellowship our father--a severe punishment from the standpoint of his immortal soul, but scarcely satisfactory for those of us who still had to live with this man.
In "sighs," Wolfson detects a rueful pun on size, which further reinforces Keats's sense of disfellowship from "grown-up" society (106).
The Elders of the Church, however, believed that members could not withdraw from the congregation and proceeded to "disfellowship" Guinn by publicly announcing her sins and reading the biblical passages she had violated.
The repercussions of us coming out to them won't be felt until after the television show and articles become public, because then it may become necessary for the religious organization to disfellowship Jacob and I or take steps toward their version of excommunication--in which case, our family and our friends who are Jehovah's Witnesses wouldn't be able to speak to us anymore.