A Brief History
On January 3, 1521, Roman Catholic (Augustinian) priest and reformer Martin Luther was ex-communicated from the church by Pope Leo X. 440 years later, on January 3, 1962, Pope John XXIII ex-communicated Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, an avowed communist and therefore an atheist.
The reasons for each of these men to be ex-communicated from the church are obvious, since Luther went against church dogma and policy and ignored numerous warnings to desist in his heretical teachings.
As the leader of a predominantly Catholic country (Cuba), Castro’s insistence on the institution of communism, an avowed atheistic philosophy would certainly raise the ire of the church and logically result in Castro’s ex-communication.
Along the way in its long and tortured history, the Catholic church has ex-communicated many persons of note, including many kings, other nobles, and even some Holy Roman Emperors. Among those of rather obvious (by name alone) suspicion include Pedro the Cruel, King of Castile and Leon. Oddly enough, he is also known as Pedro the Just.
Some of these ex-communicated people were later rehabilitated by the church and even made into saints, with the 1431 ex-communication and burning to death of Joan of Arc being nullified in 1456 and then changed to sainthood in 1920 an example.
Some of the royal pains in the butt of the church include Henry VIII and Elizabeth I of England, and Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French. Even the 21st Century continues to see people ex-communicated from the Catholic church for a variety of reasons, including advocating freedom of choice (abortions), advocates of same sex marriage, unsanctioned political activity, and involvement in the child abuse scandal.
Of course, other Christian denominations and other religions also have similar ex-communication rules and practices, and during the Bill Clinton sex scandal of the 1990’s some Jews wanted Monica Lewinski booted from the Jewish faith.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who do you think deserves ex-communication from whatever faith they profess? Please share your nominees and the reasons you think they should be ex-communicated in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Abingdon Press, 2013.
Castro, Fidel and Ignacio Ramonet. Fidel Castro: My Life: A Spoken Autobiography. Scribner, 2009.
Peters, Edward N. Excommunication and the Catholic Church: Straight Answers to Tough Questions. Ascension Press, 2010.
The featured image in this article, Luther Before the Diet of Worms by Anton von Werner (1843–1915), is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: The author died in 1915, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.
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