Revoking Excommunications

A friend just passed on this article from Catholic News about Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide providing a public apology to the Sisters of St. Joseph after what he deemed the wrongful excommunication of Mary MacKillop in 1871.  He provided this apology as a statue of Mary MacKillop was going up in the plaza of Victoria Square.

This is the first time that I’ve heard of an excommunication overturned (can someone provide information on other ones?  What a fascinating topic!).  It reminds me of other Catholics who weren’t so appreciated in the time that they were on Earth, but have later become appreciated by the Church’s hierarchy (both Galileo and Dorothy Day come to mind).

What is interesting is to do a sociological study of all the comments on the internet that go up when the topic of excommunication comes about.  I’ve really only explored it when figures on the left side of the political/theological spectrum are excommunicated.  Typically, the supporters from the left cry out that these excommunications are unjust, that the hierarchy is just bullying, etc.  And typically, the supporters of the hierarchy from the right say that the Bishop is just doing what is right for the Church to maintain the true Catholic faith, promote proper understanding of teaching and doctrine, etc.

How does all this change when an excommunication is revoked?  It’s too bad we don’t have blogs from 1871 to show the support that Mary MacKillop surely had in her day from her supporters.  Hopefully Google will do its job and continue to archive comments from this blog, as well as other sites that seem to bring out both sides of the Catholic spectrum, so that if/when another excommunication is revoked, we can remember who was saying what at the time it happened.

4 thoughts on “Revoking Excommunications

  1. I think these are some great questions…Was Joan of Arc excommunicated, or “simply” burned at the stake for being a heretic? (I guess another question is, in those days, was death not as bad as excommunication?) I would think you can’t beatify an excommunicated person.

    Also, can somebody explain what Mary MacKillop actually was accused of that lead to excommunication?

    • Joan of Arc is the patron saint of those who have been wronged by the Church…so that says somethin’. I don’t know if she was formally excommunicated or not, but she was cast out and then brought back in……

  2. I believe Mother Theodore Guerrin (I don’t know how to spell her name–she founded the Sisters of Providence in Indiana) was excommunicated by the bishop in Indiana & re-communicated (is that a word?) by her “home bishop” back in France…It is interesting, isn’t it?

  3. I’m not all that familiar with the case of Sr Mary MacKillop. I believe that for an excommunication to be revoked, the person ex-communicated would have to repent (as a minimum, at least) and be accepted back into the Church. This is what several of the members of a parish in St Louis MO did (I can’t recall the parish name – but it was Polish, I think).

    Once a person is dead, that isn’t obviously the method. Perhaps the ex-communicated person’s cause gets spearheaded by a group of persons (much like the cause for canonization) to have the circumstances investigated and then a ruling issued – probably similar to an appeal.

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