Latae sententiae

Last updated
Scale of justice, canon law.svg
Part of a series on the
Canon law of the
Catholic Church
046CupolaSPietro.jpg Catholicismportal

Latae sententiae is a Latin phrase, meaning "sentence (already) passed", used in the canon law of the Catholic Church. A latae sententiae penalty is one that follows ipso facto or automatically, by force of the law itself, when a law is contravened.

A penalty that binds a guilty party only after it has been imposed on the person is known as a ferendae sententiae (meaning "sentence to be passed") penalty. [1]

The 1983 Code of Canon Law, which binds Catholics of the Latin Church, inflicts latae sententiae censures for certain forbidden actions. The canon law that binds members of the eastern Catholic Churches (see Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches) does not include latae sententiae penalties.


Latae sententiae is an adjectival phrase (in the genitive case) that accompanies a noun, such as "an excommunication latae sententiae". When used in connection with a verb, the phrase takes an adverbial form in the ablative, as in: "they were excommunicated lata sententia".

Penalties in the Code of Canon Law

The censures that the Code of Canon Law envisages are excommunication, interdict, and suspension. Excommunication prohibits participation in certain forms of liturgical worship and church governance. [2] Interdict involves the same liturgical restrictions as excommunication, but does not affect participation in Church governance. [3] Suspension, which affects only members of the clergy, prohibits certain acts by a cleric, whether the acts are of a religious character deriving from his ordination ("acts of the power of orders") or are exercises of his power of governance or of rights and functions attached to the office he holds. [4]


Unless the excusing circumstances outlined in canons 1321–1330 [5] exist, the Code of Canon Law imposes latae sententiae excommunication on the following:

Legislation outside of the Code of Canon Law may also decree latae sententiae excommunication. An example is that governing papal elections, which applies it to persons who violate secrecy, or who interfere with the election by means such as simony or communicating the veto of a civil authority. [14]

The ipso facto excommunication that applied before 1983 to Catholics who became members of Masonic associations was not maintained in the revised Code of Canon Law that came into force in that year. However, the Holy See has declared that membership remains forbidden and that "the faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion". [15]


Instances in which one incurs a latae sententiae interdict include the following:

An example of an interdict that is not latae sententiae but instead ferendae sententiae is that given in canon 1374 of the Code of Canon Law: "One who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; one who promotes or moderates such an association, however, is to be punished with an interdict." [18]


Automatic suspension applies to clerics (those who have been ordained at least to the diaconate) in the following cases:

Ferendae sententiae suspension (along with other punishments) is to be inflicted on any cleric who openly lives in violation of chastity [26] and on any priest who "in the act, on the occasion, or under the pretext of confession" solicits a penitent to a sexual sin. [27]


If one commits an ecclesiastical offence for which a ferendae sententiae punishment is prescribed, the penalty takes effect only when imposed by the competent ecclesiastical authority. [1] It can also happen that the ecclesiastical authority issues a declaration that a particular individual has in fact incurred a latae sententiae censure. In both these cases the effects are more severe than those of a merely automatic censure. [28]

Those under interdict or excommunication of any kind are forbidden to receive the sacraments, including the Eucharist, [29] but a priest may not refuse Communion publicly to those under merely automatic censure, even if he knows that they have incurred this kind of censure;[ citation needed ] However, if the excommunication has been imposed or declared, others are obliged to prevent the censured person from acting in a ministerial capacity in the liturgy or, if this proves impossible, to suspend the liturgical service; [30] and the censured person is not to be admitted to Holy Communion [31] (see canon 915).


Apart from cases where remission of a censure is reserved to the Holy See, it is for the ordinary responsible for its infliction or, after he has been consulted or in extraordinary circumstances in which such consultation is not possible, the ordinary of the locality where the censured person is present to remit a declared or imposed censure established by law. [32] However, an ordinary can remit a merely automatic censure for his subjects, wherever they are, and for anyone present in his territory or who committed the delict in his territory, and any bishop can remit merely automatic censures for anyone whose sacramental confession he is hearing. [33]

If a penitent finds it burdensome to remain in grave sin for the duration of the time necessary for obtaining remission by the competent authority from an undeclared latae sententiae excommunication or interdict that excludes the penitent from the sacraments, the confessor may immediately remit the censure in the internal sacramental forum, while requiring the penitent to have recourse within one month to the competent authority. [34]

Remission cannot be granted to someone who maintains contumacy, nor can it be denied to someone who withdraws from contumacy. [35]

See also

Related Research Articles

Excommunication Censure used to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community

Excommunication is an institutional act of religious censure used to end or at least regulate the communion of a member of a congregation with other members of the religious institution who are in normal communion with each other. The purpose of the institutional act is to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community or to restrict certain rights within it, in particular, those of being in communion with other members of the congregation, and of receiving the sacraments.

In Catholic canon law, an interdict is an ecclesiastical censure, or ban that prohibits persons, certain active Church individuals or groups from participating in certain rites, or that the rites and services of the church are banished from having validity in certain territories for a limited or extended time.

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, a distinction is made between the internal forum, where an act of governance is made without publicity, and the external forum, where the act is public and verifiable. In canon law, internal forum, the realm of conscience, is contrasted with the external or outward forum; thus, a marriage might be null and void in the internal forum, but binding outwardly, i.e., in the external forum, for want of judicial proof to the contrary.

Absolution is a traditional theological term for the forgiveness experienced by Christians in the life of the Church. It is a universal feature of the historic churches of Christendom, although the theology and the practice of absolution vary between denominations.

In the Catholic Church, the Seal of Confession is the absolute duty of priests not to disclose anything that they learn from penitents during the course of the Sacrament of Penance (confession). Even where the seal of confession does not strictly apply – where there is no specific serious sin confessed for the purpose of receiving absolution – priests have a serious obligation not to cause scandal by the way they speak.

Bernard Tissier de Mallerais Traditionalist french bishop

Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, SSPX is a French Traditionalist bishop of the Society of Saint Pius X.

Alfonso de Galarreta Spanish bishop

Alfonso de Galarreta Genua, SSPX, is a Spanish-Argentine bishop of the Society of Saint Pius X. He was declared excommunicated latae sententiae by Pope John Paul II because of his unauthorized consecration by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, deemed by the Holy See to be "unlawful" and "a schismatic act". The SSPX denied the validity of the excommunication, saying that the consecrations were necessary due to a moral and theological crisis in the Catholic Church. The automatic excommunication was remitted by the Holy See on 21 January 2009.

Valid but illicit and valid but illegal are descriptions applied in Catholic Church to an unauthorized celebration of a sacrament or an improperly placed juridic act that nevertheless has effect. Validity is presumed whenever an act is placed "by a qualified person and includes those things which essentially constitute the act itself as well as the formalities and requirements imposed by law for the validity of the act".

The Sacrament of Penance is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, in which the faithful are absolved from sins committed after Baptism and they are reconciled with the Christian community. While in current practice reconciliation services may be used to bring out the communal nature of sacraments, mortal sins must be confessed and venial sins may be confessed for devotional reasons. According to the current doctrine and practice of the Church, only those ordained as priests may grant absolution.

The Écône consecrations were a set of episcopal consecrations that took place in Écône, Switzerland, on 30 June 1988. They were performed by Catholic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Meyer, and the priests raised to the episcopacy were four members of Lefebvre's Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). The consecrations, performed against the explicit orders of Pope John Paul II, represented a milestone in the troubled relationship of Lefebvre and the SSPX with the Church leadership. The Holy See's Congregation for Bishops issued a decree signed by its Prefect Cardinal Bernardin Gantin declaring that Lefebvre had incurred automatic excommunication by consecrating the bishops without papal consent.

Reserved cases or reserved sins is a term of Catholic doctrine, used for sins whose absolution is not within the power of every confessor, but is reserved to himself by the superior of the confessor, or only specially granted to some other confessor by that superior.

Canon 1398 is a rule of canon law of the Catholic Church which declares that "a person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication."

Canon 915, one of the canons in the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, forbids the administration of Holy Communion to those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared or who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin:

Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

Canon 1324 is a canon of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, according to which penalties prescribed in canon law must be diminished or replaced by a penance. The canon does not automatically remove the penalty completely except in cases of latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication.

The canonical situation of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a group founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, is unresolved.

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, excommunication, the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society. Being a penalty, it presupposes guilt; and being the most serious penalty that the Catholic Church can inflict, it naturally supposes a very grave offense.

A censure, in the canon law of the Catholic Church, is a medicinal and spiritual punishment imposed by the church on a baptized, delinquent, and contumacious person, by which he is deprived, either wholly of in part, of the use of certain spiritual goods, until he recover from his contumacy.

Catholic canon law is the set of rules and principles (laws) by which the Catholic Church is governed, through enforcement by governmental authorities. Law is also the field which concerns the creation and administration of laws.


  1. 1 2 "Can. 1314". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  2. "Can. 1331". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  3. "Can. 1332". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  4. "Can. 1333". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  5. "Cann. 1321-1330". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  6. "Can. 1364". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  7. "Can. 1367". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  8. 1 2 "Can. 1370". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  9. 1 2 "Can. 1378". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  10. "Can. 1382". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  11. "Can. 1388". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  12. "Can. 1398". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  13. "Can. 1329". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  14. John Paul II. "Universi Dominici Gregis" . Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  15. Declaration on Masonic Associations
  16. "Can. 1390". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  17. "Can. 1394". Code of Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  18. "Can. 1374". Code of Canon law.
  19. Code of Canon Law, canon 1370
  20. Code of Canon Law, canon 1378
  21. Code of Canon Law, canon 966
  22. Code of Canon Law, canon 976
  23. Code of Canon Law, canon 1380
  24. Code of Canon Law, canon 1383
  25. Code of Canon Law, canon 1390
  26. Code of Canon Law, canon 1395
  27. Code of Canon Law, canon 1387
  28. Code of Canon Law, canon 1331 §2
  29. Code of Canon Law, canons 1331-1332
  30. "Code of Canon Law, canon 1331 §2". Retrieved 2012-04-03.
  31. 1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 915
  32. Code of Canon Law, canon 1355 §1
  33. Code of Canon Law, canon 1355 §2
  34. Code of Canon Law, canon 1357
  35. Code of Canon Law, canon 1358