Excommunicate

There is a chance I could be excommunicated.  I might not mind if I was.  “Excommunicate” means to “be out of communion with.”  There are things in which I am out of step with, in the church, and so it would probably serve me right.  Of course, it helps to remember that Jesus was excommunicated by His church.  Not only that, but church leaders instigated and encouraged His murder because He, though a faithful rabbi/priest, did not keep in step with their laws or customs.  He was faithful to God—not always to His church.  For good or bad, that is what I try to imitate.

A woman came to me recently for counsel that resulted in her receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Numerous times over eighteen years since being married outside of church law, she had attempted the sacrament.  Each time, she was told by a different priest that she could not be forgiven.  Though some were willing to offer her a blessing or pray with her, they could not absolve her of her sin, i.e., they couldn’t get her reconciled with the church.  They were only doing their job; they were doing what the church instructs us to do.  For eighteen years, she has been tormented, shunned by religious family members, victimized by self-harm and suicide attempts, degraded in her role as a Christian wife and mother, and institutionalized for mental anguish—though I’m convinced it is more spiritual than mental.  This state of her being seems directly related to thinking that God will not forgive her because the church does not.  Banned from the communion table, she thinks that God doesn’t want or love her.  It doesn’t help that religious family members from her side tell her that she lives in sin, that her children are illegitimate, and that she is headed to hell, while her husband’s side hates and condemns Catholicism.  That might torment the best of us.  Like some of you, I’ve heard thousands of versions of her story, usually connected to marriage or divorce.

I recall that the playwright, Tennessee Williams, when asked why he converted to Catholicism late in his life answered: “Because I wanted to be forgiven.”  Don’t we all!  In Jesus’ time, church people complained that He did many things that church law forbad, including forgiving sinners.  I forgave this woman of her sins—something that had not been offered her in eighteen years.  It puts me out of step with the church but, I believe, locks us in closer step with Christ, who was also out of step with His church.  The flood of tears that flowed from her eyes and the inexpressible joy that sought form in her actions showed me that even if I am wrong to usurp church guidelines, I am right to offer forgiveness.  People come to Confession to encounter Christ and His divine mercy; that’s who they should find there—not a judge. 

We should also note that He calls us to receive communion, not excommunication.  In His time, when self-righteous church people condemned others as sinners, Jesus went out of His way to break bread with those “sinners.”  He invited them to table to receive the bread of life and glory in His real presence.  He also challenged them to go and sin no more, i.e., to walk closer with God.  There is a lot of darkness and sin in our world right now, and particularly in our nation.  Though our initial tendency might be to judge, point fingers, or place blame, our Christian response should be otherwise.  Civil law and canon law remind us that sometimes people need to be removed from positions they abuse, resulting in impeachment, expulsion, incarceration, banning, shunning, or excommunication.  Moral law tells us that we should hate the sin and love the sinner.  And God’s law tells us that we should reflect the light of Christ and the face of mercy.  It is not ours to judge and condemn but to forgive and welcome.

13 thoughts on “Excommunicate

  1. This is Sam. If they take you they take me with you. We could have a 15-minute conversation on some of the wild stuff that I was told when I was a little boy. Scary scary stuff. Love your good words and your good work.Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S7.

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  2. I hope it doesn’t come to this. I deeply appreciate that you and other courageous people carefully and prayerfully consider the possibility that the human institution sometimes/often succumbs to same tendency to sin that we mortals do. Sincerely, Judy Carpenter

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  3. God love you, Father Farnan, and we all know HE would not excommunicate you!

    On Sat, Jan 9, 2021 at 12:56 PM CHARGED WITH SAINT CHARLES wrote:

    > Father Don Farnan posted: ” There is a chance I could be excommunicated. > I might not mind if I was. “Excommunicate” means to “be out of communion > with.” There are things in which I am out of step with, in the church, and > so it would probably serve me right. ” >

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  4. Father Don,
    If it weren’t for you, I cannot imagine where I would be. Your moral courage and faithfulness to His word has brought me through so much, particularly this year. You have talked me through one of the most difficult issues in my life and I am sure you don’t know the impact you had, but it was immeasurable. I was so moved by your words. No one should go through life being told they cannot reconcile with the Lord. As a newer convert to Catholicism, I also want to add that Pope Francis is what compelled me to learn more about the church and you continued to inspire me. Thank you for all you do everyday. We love and cherish how you always bring us closer to Him. I am praying for you and the church.

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  5. Fr. Farnan I admire the tremendous courage this post required and agree with you wholeheartedly. Stay the course; many thoughtful Catholics believe you are on the true path He wanted his people to follow.

    This reminds me of the famous dissents of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, which eventually became the law.

    Tom Bradshaw

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  6. Yep, that’s what a priest told me many years ago in Virginia Beach, that I wasn’t married and my children would be illegitimate….and, yep, my husband reacted the same way! Thankful I had a firm foundation of God and His Love. Thank you for leading people to a true, loving relationship with Christ and to God’s Amazing, overflowing, neverending, Grace for all of us sinners.

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  7. I hope it’s not true you’re even remotely at risk of this, you are a breath of fresh air in our faith & community! Forgive on! 😉😍 you are so loved!

    I’m going wherever you go!

    Megan Molle 816.510.1906 Meganmolle@gmail.com

    Please excuse any typos sent from my iPhone

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  8. Fr. Don,
    Wow, thank you for this beautiful post further humanizing our church. God knows we need it. Literally. You are courageous and surely have gained much favor with our merciful God. HE was inclusive, all-welcoming and loved unconditionally. Thank you for doing the same. You do not have an easy position. Those of us who support you understand that. Just know how much you are appreciated by many. And, for some of us long-time (and for me, long wavering) Catholics, sometimes your words of wisdom and compassion are the only thing we can hang on to in these tumultuous times in our church, in our world. Thank you and God bless you and your continuing passionate work on our behalf! Co O’Sullivan Bauman

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  9. Fr. Don,

    Thank you for offering that women the sacrament of reconciliation and mimicking or following Jesus even when it might not be easy. I can only imagine the weight you lifted from her. You are a good man and a great example of Gods love. Thank you for sharing. Wishing you peace my friend. I am always here to help you if I can.

    Sent from my iPhone

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  10. Father

    I take your side. I would do the same thing if I was in the same situation as you. I was told that it is a sin to think that God does not forgive me for my sins because He is all merciful.

    Mary Closser

    Sent from my iPhone

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