EXCOMMUNICATION

EXCOMMUNICATION

excommunication, n. Eccles. law. A sentence of censure pronounced by a spiritual court for an offense falling under ecclesiastical cognizance; expulsion from religious society or community. ? In England, an excommunicated person was formerly subject to various civil disabilities, such as an inability to be a juror, to be a witness in any court, or to sue to recover lands or money due. These penalties were abolished by the Ecclesiastical Courts Act (1813). St. 53 Geo. 3, ch. 127.

¡ª Also termed excommengement. ¡ª excommunicate, vb.

¡°Closely allied to outlawry is excommunication; it is in fact an ecclesiastical outlawry, and, like temporal outlawry, though once it was the law’s last and most terrible weapon against the obstinate offender, it is now regarded as a normal process for compelling the appearance in court of those who are accused. Indeed as regards the laity, since the spiritual courts can not direct a seizure of the body, lands, or goods, those courts must, if mere citations fail to produce an appearance, at once have recourse to their last weapon. Then, as ordained by William the Conqueror, the lay power comes to their aid. If the excommunicate does not seek absolution within forty days (this period seems to be fixed already in the twelfth century), the ordinary will signify this to the kind; a writ for the arrest of the offender will be issued, and he will be kept in prison until he makes his submission.¡± 2 Frederick Pollock & Frederic William Maitland, History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I 500 (2d ed. 1899).


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