“We declare him excommunicate and anathema.”

In case you haven’t seen this.

Never gets old.  It’s the slight pause before … pain that really does it.

We could just adopt this rite as it is.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jfk03 says:

    Beckett lived and died in the 12th century. The Dies Irae was not composed until the 13th c. Details, details.

  2. Rachel says:

    If we’re nitpicking details I want to join! :) It’s weird that the chant ends with “Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem,” as this isn’t anybody’s funeral Mass. And Catholic excommunication does not mean “we judge him damned with the devil”– we can’t say that with certainty of anyone. (Though the pause before “pain” is indeed awesome.) As for the reference to excluding him “from all the Church’s sacraments in Heaven or on earth,” I never heard of a sacrament in Heaven before, unless we’re speaking of the indelible marks of baptism or priesthood, but no person loses those once he’s got ’em, not in Heaven or on earth or under the earth.

    Finally, I wonder how many dress rehearsals those black-robed friars needed to perform this rare rite with such synchronization and precision, and how embarrassing it would be if you let your stick drop early. :)

  3. Joshua08 says:

    Rachel, I am historically hitpicky too….but those words are actually accurate if it were the forumla for an anathema, though that was only done by the pope. Keep in mind excommunicati vitandi were shunned quite literally.Minor excommunication came about because to talk to an excommunicate was to become excommunicated yourself. But anyhows. My rough translation

    Since N., persuaded by the devil, disregarding, through apostasy, his Christian promise, which was professed at Baptism, does not shirk from devastating the Church of God, plundering ecclesiastical goods and violently oppressing the poor of Christ; solicitious, therefore, for him on the day of terribile justice, lest he perish through pastoral neglect, we are compelled to render an account before the Chief Pastor our Lord Jesus Christ, according to what our Lord Himself threaned terribly: “If thou dost not declare his iniquity to the wicked, I will require his blood at thy hand”, we have warned him canonically once, twice, thrice, and even a fourth time, to renounce his malice, inviting him to correction, satisfaction, and penance, and rebuking with paternal affection. But he, what sorrow!, spurning healthy warnings and inflated with a spirit of pride, has refused to make satisfaction to the Church of God which he has wounded. Reasonably we have informed him of the precepts of the Lord and Apostles, which we must do with transgressors of this sort. For the Lord says: “If thy hand or thy foot scandalizeth thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee.” And the Apostle says: “Put away evil from you.” And again: “If any man that is named a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or a server of idols, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, do not so much as eat with such a one.” And John, the discple of Christ beloved above the others, forbids greeting such a wicked man, saying: “Receive him not into the house nor say to him, a greeting. For he that saith unto him a greeting, communicateth with his wicked works.”

    Therefore, fulfilling the precepts of the Lord and Apostles, we cut off from the body of the Church the putrid and incurable member, who has not accepted medicine, with the sword of excommunication, lest such a pestilent disease infect the remaining members of the body, like poison. Therefore, since he has scorned our warnings and repeated exhortations, since thrice he has, called according to the Lord’s precept to correction, refused to come to penance, since he has neither considered nor confessed his fault, nor offered some excuse to the sent legate, nor asked pardon, but, the devil hardening his heart, he has persevered in the wickedness he began, according to what the Apostle said: “According to his hardnened and impenitent heart he treasureth up to himself wrath on the day of wrath.”

    Therefore, with all his accomplices and supporters, by the judgment of almighty God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and of the blessed Peter prince of the Apostles, and of all the Saints, and also by our mediocre authority of both binding and loosing in heaven and on earth, granted us by God we separate him from the reception of the precious Body and Blood of the Lord, and from the society of all Christians, and we exclude him from the thresholds of holy mother Church in heaven and on earth, we declare him to be excommunicated and anathematised, and we judge him damned with the devil and his angels, and all the reprobate in eternal fire; we hand him to Satan for the chastisement of flesh, until he recovers his senses from the snares of the devil, and returns to correction and penance, and make satisfaction to the Church of God, which he has wounded, that his spirit might be saved in the day of judgment.

    And all respond:
    So be it. So be it. So be it.

  4. Phil_NL says:

    This reminds me of the homily from Sunday, where father took some time to explain that the Bible shouldn’t be used as a biology or physics book (apparently his confirmation class had quite a few who’d fallen prey to the science-vs.-religion meme), but that doesn’t mean it has no meaning – it answers different (types of) questions.*

    Likewise, I’m pretty sure that the exact ceremonial shown in this film was only used for that very film. It’s not historically accurate. But that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of meaning. Far from it.

    * In a parish where the word ‘metaphysics’ would be unknown to 90% of the congregation, that took some efforts and guts. Kudos to him. At my own parish, this would have been so much easier.

  5. Gotta love the choice of Dies Irae as the monks process in. I named one of my children after this saint.

  6. Muv says:

    Such marvellously enunciated Welsh ham. It’s the pronunciation of the “i” in devil that gets me.

  7. teejay329 says:

    Cool…after you watch the clip there is a link that comes up where you can watch the ENTIRE film. Way cool.
    These past few weeks have been especially trying for me, with all of the unrest going on at home and abroad, so some big screen escapism will be a welcome treat…even if it’s not liturgically correct.
    Thanks, Fr. Z.

  8. Quirinus says:

    Beckett lived and died in the 12th century. The Dies Irae was not composed until the 13th c. Details, details.


  9. jhayes says:

    Joshua08, what doesn’t come through in the film is the medicinal purpose of the excommunication/anathema. In reality, he can still repent and be saved – and is invited to do that. The film version presents it as a casting out from which there is no way to escape inevitable eternal punishment.

    As it says in your translation of the real formula:

    “we have warned him canonically once, twice, thrice, and even a fourth time, to renounce his malice, inviting him to correction, satisfaction, and penance…”

    “since thrice he has, called according to the Lord’s precept to correction, refused to come to penance, since he has neither considered nor confessed his fault, nor offered some excuse to the sent legate, nor asked pardon…”

    “we hand him to Satan for the chastisement of flesh, until he recovers his senses from the snares of the devil, and returns to correction and penance, and make satisfaction to the Church of God, which he has wounded, that his spirit might be saved in the day of judgment.

  10. acardnal says:

    I wish the Church would use the word “anathema” again. Things become so much clearer then.

    “I declare the Mafia anathema!”

  11. The single finest scene in the entire corpus of the cinematic arts.

    The second finest one being the extreme unction scene in “Brideshead Revisited”.

  12. acardnal says:

    I hope AB Cordileone, AB Wuerl and Bp. Finn are using this tape for their own rehearsals.

  13. jhayes says:

    According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, apart from the fact that Becket isn’t the Pope, he is vested properly carry out the ceremony in the Pontificale Romanum. The monks should be twelve priests in surplices.

    In passing this sentence, the pontiff is vested in amice, stole, and a violet cope, wearing his mitre, and assisted by twelve priests clad in their surplices and holding lighted candles.

    He takes his seat in front of the altar or in some other suitable place, and pronounces the formula of anathema which ends with these words:

    “Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful,
    Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter,
    Prince of the Apostles, and of all the Saints, in virtue
    of the power which has been given us of binding and
    loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N —
    himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors
    of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our
    Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians,
    we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy
    Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare
    him excommunicated and anathematized and
    we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan
    and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he
    will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance
    and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to
    mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on
    the day of judgment

    Whereupon all the assistants respond: ” Fiat, fiat, fiat. ” The pontiff and the twelve priests then cast to the ground the lighted candles they have been carrying,

    The part in bold is omitted in the film and the rest is modified

  14. jhayes says:

    Reuters misunderstands excommunication as “a total cutoff from the Church:”

    “(Reuters) – Francis on Saturday issued the strongest attack on organised crime groups by a pontiff in two decades, accusing them of practising the “the adoration of evil” and saying mafiosi are excommunicated.

    It was the first time a pope had used the word excommunication – a total cutoff from the Church – in direct reference to members of organised crime.

    “Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated,” he said in impromptu comments at a Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in one of Italy’s most crime-infested areas.

    To sustained applause he told the crowd: “This evil must be fought against, it must be pushed aside. We must say no to it.” He branded the local crime group, the ‘Ndrangheta, as an example of the “adoration of evil and contempt of the common good” and said the Church would exert its full force in efforts to combat organised crime.

    “Our children are asking for it, our young people are asking for it. They are in need of hope and faith can help respond to this need,” he said.

    Vatican spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini said the pope’s stern words did not constitute a formal over-arching decree of canon (Church) law, regarding excommunication, which is a formal legal process.

    Rather, he said it was more of a direct message to members of organised crime that they had effectively excommunicated themselves, reminding them that they could not participate in Church sacraments or other activities because they had distanced themselves from God through their criminal actions.”

  15. Joe in Canada says:

    Rachel: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    In Purgatorio Dante has a level for those who died excommunicate incorrectly but who didn’t do what they needed to do on earth to be reconciled with the Church. In his literary vision one could imagine that those souls would be released from that level of Purgatory if the Church lifted the excommunication.

  16. Dienekes says:

    This is one of my favorite films, and this is my favorite scene from that film. If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, nothing will.

    Maybe copies should be sent to…oh, you know.

  17. Skeinster says:

    My early life was filled with recurring little Catholic “beeps”- signals from the Faith that caught my young attention.
    This was one- that Catholics were damned serious about sin.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Beckett lived and died in the 12th century. The Dies Irae was not composed until the 13th c. Details, details.”

    The earliest extant manuscript is from about 1250 A. D. That is not the same thing as being composed in 1250 A. D. Other evidence must be consulted. Just because in 1900 A. D. the earliest manuscript of the New Testament was from about 350 A. D., one could not conclude that the New Testament was written in 350 A. D. There may be manuscripts of the Dies Irae of which we are not aware that pre-date the Franciscan tradition. There may have been chant settings, now lost, of Zephaniah 1:15–16 that formed the basis for the Dies Irae as a trope template.

    Besides, this is an example of artistic license.

    The Chicken

  19. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Something even worse to hear is Matthew 7:21-23. From this, there can be no turning back:
    “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name?
    And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”

  20. tjmurphy says:

    I love this movie. I own a copy and watch it several times a year.

    So there may be some historical inaccuracies, who cares? Still a great movie.

  21. BLB Oregon says:

    Judged damned before death and not invited to public repentance, amendment, and a life of penance?

    Well, not even a prince of the Church is allowed to make such a declaration, not even against such a singularly heinous series of crimes, but I can’t say that a bishop whose priest had been treated in such an abominable manner wouldn’t be mightily tempted. Of course he would, and all the monks, too.

  22. AnAmericanMother says:

    Speaking as a history major undergraduate, there are inaccuracies, and then there are inaccuracies. This one bothers me not one bit – it’s not demonstrably wrong because it’s arguable in context.

  23. Amateur Scholastic says:

    I know most readers here already know this, but it doesn’t hurt to emphasise that certain un-named abortion-supporting politicians are already excommunicated, whether any bishop has said so or not. Those clerics who, knowing this, give them communion anyway, put themselves in a state of mortal sin.

  24. Rachel says:

    Joshua08, thanks so much for that long and awesome translation of the rite! It perfectly answers my objection– I thought the excommunicated guy was being pronounced doomed to Hell, but in the actual rite he’s only doomed “until he returns to correction and penance,” as jhayes points out.

    Joe in Canada, I absolutely accept the power of binding and loosing as expressed in that full rite of excommunication. I just meant that the Church can’t say with certainty that a particular individual is in Hell or definitely going there. Sounds like Dante and I agree. :)

    As for my nitpick about sacraments, I see that the real rite doesn’t include that word.

    I’ve never seen this movie– clearly I need to obtain it posthaste.

  25. BLB Oregon says:

    The actual rite with its invitation to repentance and hope for final salvation is much more powerful and truly reflective of the nature of chastisements handed down by the Church.

  26. Uxixu says:

    Not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse that modern Hollywood with it’s domination by atheists and homosexuals doesn’t remake or tribute movies like this instead of superhero tripe.

    Ah to lament again that Mel Gibson didn’t do some sequels to the Passion or Acts or better yet Saints Peter & Paul to Rome.

  27. Tantum Ergo says:

    Enough chat about the origind of the Dies Irae. When are they going to line up our politicians with snuffed candles and all?

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