A look at excommunication cases through the centuries

[A list of notable excommunications in Roman Catholic Church history]

– Roman Emperor Frederick II was excommunicated twice, in 1227 and 1239, because his growing empire threatened the independence of the papal states.

— In 1521, Martin Luther, founder of the 16th-century Reformation and of Protestantism, was excommunicated by Pope Leo X. In 1517, he had complained about the church practice of selling indulgences in exchange for a reduction in the penalty for sin. He widened his criticism, attacking papal authority.

— King Henry VIII of Britain tried to persuade the Vatican to grant him an annulment between 1527-33. The church did not budge, Henry founded the Anglican Church and was excommunicated by Pope Clement VII.

— In 1949, excommunication was applied to communist voters in Italy under the militantly anti-communist Pope Pius XII, an action aimed at the Italian Communist Party. In recent years, the church has dropped all mention of communists or their supporters being excommunicated.

— Juan Peron, president of Argentina from 1946-55 and 1973-74, was excommunicated in 1955 after launching an anti-clerical campaign. It was reportedly lifted after he repented.

— Clemente Dominguez was ordained a priest in 1976 by a renegade archbishop in Spain, and days later elevated himself to bishop. He was immediately excommunicated. In 1978, Dominguez proclaimed himself pope, saying the Virgin Mary had appeared and told him to do so.

— In 1988, French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was expelled for defying the liberal reforms of the 1962-65 Vatican Council. The Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre after he consecrated four bishops without Rome’s consent. The bishops also were excommunicated.

— In Washington in 1990, the Rev. George A. Stallings Jr. and his breakaway African-American Catholic Congregation, which encouraged the ordination of women and the use of birth control and abortion, were excommunicated for breaking ties with the Vatican.

— In 1997, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith excommunicated Sri Lankan theologian the Rev. Tissa Balasuriya, who the Vatican said had challenged the pope’s authority and church teaching on baptism, original sin and the virginity of Mary. Balasuriya called his excommunication arbitrary and complained he was given no chance to defend himself.

— In 1999, the Rev. James Callan, a U.S. priest who performed wedding ceremonies for gays and allowed women a prominent role on the altar, was excommunicated for starting his own church.

— In 2002, the Vatican excommunicated seven women — including Dagmar Braun Celeste, the ex-wife of former Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste, as well as women from Austria and Germany — who participated in an ordination ceremony aboard a boat traveling the Danube River and called themselves priests. The case was among those handled by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before becoming Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

— On May 4, 2006, the Vatican announced the excommunication of two bishops who were ordained by China’s state-approved Catholic church without papal consent.

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AP, via TheState.com, USA
May 5, 2006

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)