Excommunication (Lat. ex, out of, and communication intercourse), the cutting off' a member of a religious society from intercourse with the other members in things spiritual. This penalty was familiar to the pagan nations of antiquity, as well as to the Jews; and from them it passed into use among Christians. In Greece, persons guilty of enormous crimes were given over to the Furies with certain terrible forms of imprecation. There were three kinds of excommunication among the Greeks. By the first, the criminal was excluded from all intercourse with his own family; by the second, he was forbidden to approach any temple, or to assist at any sacrifice or public rite; by the third, it was forbidden to give him shelter, food, or drink. The Romans borrowed the rite from the Greeks, and the formulas sacris interdicere, to forbid the use of sacred things, diris devovere, to devote one to the Furies, execrari, to curse, etc, have much the above meaning. According to Caesar, the highest punishment inflicted by the druids, among Celtic nations, was to exclude an offender from all their religious rites. Such a man was considered by all as wicked and an enemy of the gods; he was shunned even by his own kindred, denied all justice and hospitality, and lived and died in infamy.

The Semitic races, in ancient and modern times, have practised excommunication, and it is now in use wherever Mohammedanism extends. We have the testimony of Josephus that excommunication was practised among the Jews, and he notes the extreme rigor with which the Essenes applied it. Among them, the criminal who was thus put out of the society of his brethren not only could hold no communication with them even for the necessaries of life, but was bound by vow not to ask food or shelter from strangers. Thus driven to subsist on herbs and hide in caves, they eked out a miserable life, which often ended in a tragic death. There were three kino's of excommunication among the Jews. The mildest form consisted in a temporary exclusion from religious and social intercourse for 30 days. If during this interval the culprit did not repent, another term of 30 days was added, which was lengthened to 90 days if he still remained obdurate. If he persisted at the end of that time, he was visited with the more severe and solemn form of excommunication, that is, publicly cast out of the synagogue, with awful execrations taken from the law of Moses. When this penalty and all other human means had been tried in vain, he was given over to the divine judgment as an irreclaimable sinner.-In the early Christian church we find excommunication practised by St. Paul, and enjoined both by him and by St. John. In the post-apostolic ages it was the universal custom both in the East and West, modified only from the Jewish practice in accordance with the requirements of Christian belief and worship.

The lowest degree consisted in the refusal of eucharistic communion; the next in exclusion from the church and the liturgical service; the third in total exclusion, by solemn denunciation, from membership with the church, and from all intercourse, social or religious, with Christians. This highest degree of excommunication was accompanied in some instances by an awful form which explains the anathema maranatha of St. Paul. When the person excommunicated was not only guilty of apostasy or heresy, but one who sought to draw the multitude after him, a prayer was made by some churches that God should come down in judgment and cut the seducer off, as in the cases of Julian the Apostate and Arius.-In the Latin church, since the publication of Gra-tian's Decretum, and the regular adoption of canon law, two kinds of excommunications have been described by canonists, the minor and the major. The former excluded the offender from the use of the sacrament and the benefit of certain ecclesiastical privileges and immunities. It was incurred for sins that were not public, or for communicating with persons under the solemn ban.

The major excommunication cut the offender off not only from church membership, but from social intercourse with Christians. He was solemnly and by name called vitandus,to be shunned by all." As heresy, public apostasy, and great crimes by which excommunication was incurred, came early to be recognized as state offences and misdemeanors punishable by the laws of the empire, so it was soon decreed by statute that the excommunicated should incur privation of office and rank, loss of civil rights, and forfeiture of property. These dispositions became more or less a part of the common law of western as well as of eastern Christendom. When the Roman empire was restored in Charlemagne, and the German emperors were wont to receive the imperial crown from the pope, public excommunication pronounced against them was held to involve a forfeiture of their crown. This was also held to be the case with sovereigns whose kingdoms were fiefs of the see of Rome. It was against such high offenders that the major excommunication was fulminated, with the awful ceremonies mentioned in history. In the present discipline of the Roman Catholic church the excommunication of sovereigns is reserved to the pope, and has been very rarely practised since the 16th century.

In 1570 Pope Pius V. excommunicated Queen Elizabeth of England, and formally absolved her subjects from their allegiance. In the modern Greek church ex-communication cuts off the offender not only from the "communion of saints," but from all intercourse, religious or social, and consigns him, living and dead, to the evil one.-The power of excommunication was maintained by the reformers, who claimed it as a prerogative of the Christian community, while the Roman { Catholic and eastern churches vested it in the episcopal order. In the church of England the vigorous provisions of the old canon law were for the most part kept in force after the reformation, and were a part of the law of the land until the reign of George III., when (52 George III., c. 127) excommunications and the consequent civil effects were done away with, except for certain specified cases. When the person excommunicated for the offences men-tioned in the act allows six months to pass; without submitting to correction, the bishop certifies this contumacy to the court of chan-cery, which issues its writ to the sheriff. The severest penalty enforced is six months' imprisonment.

In Scotland, when the lesser excommunication has failed, the delinquent is subjected to the greater, and the faithful are warned to avoid all unnecessary intercourse with him. In the Protestant Episcopal church certain offences entail the privation of holy communion, while "great heinousness of offence is followed by loss of all privileges of church membership." The Methodist Episcopal church vests the power of excommunication in the minister, after a trial before a jury of peers of the accused. Excommunication is inflicted among the Presbyterians, Con- gregationalists, and Baptists by the church, according to the view of the early reformers.