Father Christopher House

Sunday, 03 March 2019 00:33

Understanding excommunication

Recently, the governor of New York, a Catholic, ignited a firestorm in the U.S. church with his support of new sweeping pro-abortion legislation in New York State and the response of many among the faithful has been a call for his excommunication from the church. For many, the notion of excommunication is a casting out, a spiritual condemnation as pronounced in the famous scene from Becket: “We declare him excommunicate and anathema. We cast him into the outer darkness. We judge him damned with the devil, and his fallen angels, and all the reprobate to eternal fire and everlasting pain.” That was our understanding several centuries ago, but not today.


Last year the church celebrated the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Next year the church will celebrate another golden anniversary in its life when she celebrates 50 years since the renewal of the permanent diaconate as one of the fruits of the council. From the earliest days of the church, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles, the diaconate was at the heart of the church’s mission in modeling the servanthood of Christ. Deacons were the conscientious co-workers with the Apostles and the bishops who succeeded them. However, around the fifth century, the presence of deacons as a permanent order of the clergy gradually disappeared in the western church.

Lately I have had lots of people ask me how recruitment efforts for seminarians are going and what the numbers will be for next year; well, as far as numbers go, only our good Lord knows what those will be, but I will happily let everyone know in the fall what our numbers end up being.

Last month I was privileged, along with one of my brother priests, to be hosted in Germany by the Franciscan Brothers of the Holy Cross. This religious congregation was founded by Brother James (Peter) Wirth in 1862 in the Diocese of Trier, Germany. The hospitality that we received was second to none and the superior general of the order very generously toured us around various parts of western Germany. The history of the area is rich and the sights and surroundings are beautiful, but richer and more beautiful still is the life and ministry of the Franciscan brothers that I witnessed.

In the Aug. 1 edition of Catholic Times Bishop Thomas John Paprocki spoke of the trip that he and I made to Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Mich. The seminary there specializes in pairing seminarians from Poland with dioceses here in the United States where they might serve as priests.