Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Excommunication, an ecclesiastical punishment in Christian churches of being cut off from the privileges of church membership. It was a very real punishment in former days, when, in the case of private persons, the state enforced or allowed the penalties which it entailed, but modern views have made it only a spiritual penalty. Modern churches claim the right of exercising the power of excommunication; but it is a question how far, in states where the sovereign is the nominal head of the Established Church, the ecclesiastical authorities can go of their own motion. A clergyman exercising his supposed right of refusing communion to a parishioner is liable to a legal action.