If you want to avoid the this stuffy discussion on excommunication, feel free to wait for the next post called Kick More Butt, Churches, to see whether we should be…well, kicking more butt rather than tolerating and accommodating bad behavior in our churches.
My first thought to the suggestion (in the comments to the last post) that Josh Hamilton should be excommunicated was one of protest.
Excommunication has always for me, carried the notion of permanent and even eternal damnation, and in no way could my previous post have suggested that for Josh Hamilton.
Where my perception of excommunication came from, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always heard the term in conjunction with historical figures who have committed the most serious of sins such as heresy or apostasy, sins I have associated with a permanent state leading to a removal from the church, and eternal damnation. Such figures would be Henry VIII and Martin Luther (as well as competing anti-Popes during the Western Schism.)
According to Gennadios Scholarios, George Koressios, the Orthodox Confession, and Chrysanthos of Jerusalem, mortal sins are those voluntary sins which either corrupt the love for God alone, or the love for neighbor and for God, and which render again the one committing them an enemy of God and liable to the eternal death of hell. 17.
See Regulae Fusius 2, PG 31, 909A; tr. Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, pp. 233-234.
“Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell.” However, the Catechism does not by name say a specific person is in Hell, but it does say that “…our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back.” See “Catechism paragraph 1864”. Vatican.va. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
My understanding is that that Henry VIII who was excommunicated after his marriage to Anne Boleyn, was unrepentant (particularly since he repeated the offence over and over,) and his death resulted in a permanent break from the Catholic Church and eternal damnation.
The term excommunication, more correctly though, in pretty much every faith, carries with it the idea of temporary disfellowship, censure, and shaming, not eternal damnation.
Both Christ and Paul suggest the act of excommunication to be understood as an act of temporary disfellowship, or a “kicking out of the local church.”
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” 1 Corinthians 5:11
(More on eating with sinners next post)
The thought of excommunication however, always carries with it, the opportunity of repentance after which the offender is welcomed back into fellowship. Different faiths have different concepts of how that repentance is carried out, including regret, confession, and restitution.
So perhaps the concept of excommunication fits perfectly in our discussion of Josh Hamilton after. Should we excommunicate Josh Hamilton?
One last Josh post next time.