To be read: March 3, July 3, November 3
If a brother presumes to associate with an excommunicated brother in any way, or to speak with him, or to send him a message, without the command of the Abbot, 2let him incur the same penalty of excommunication.
There are those who do not understand that the discipline the Church exercises in separating a member from the Body for grievous fault is for the good of the Body. Again, we all too often mistake being nice with being Christian. Sometimes an unrepentant member of the Body must be removed before even greater harm comes to the Body by their seditious behavior. And though it may seem kind to reach out to the one removed, it has the potential to cause even greater harm.
Let me provide an illustrative scenario. One of the primary ways that the devil will attack a parish is to divide the leadership, and especially the clergy and worship teams (musicians, acolytes, dancers, etc.). For if the enemy can disrupt the worship of God, then the people of God will quickly fall out of relationship with Him. For example, if a person intent upon doing harm to the parish were to try to come between the members of the clergy, and that effort would prove unsuccessful, then this individual might seek to divide the members of the worship team from each other. Should that fail and the worship team remains united and they remain submitted to the clergy, this rebel could then begin to sow seeds of disunity between the congregation and the worship leadership. Ultimately, this person must be made to step down from all positions of responsibility and influence in the parish. It he or she continues to show no repentance or amendment of life, excommunication from the parish must be exercised. Some members of the parish, being unaware of the reasons for the individual’s departure, may want to reach out to this person encouraging him or her to come back. Though it may seem compassionate, it would be most ill advised. To welcome this individual back without repentance would be divisive to the Body. Thus, Benedict notes that to continue association with a rebellious individual is to open ourselves to their unhealthy influence. It is a poison. We need to not “presume to associate with an excommunicated brother in any way…” for the good of the whole Body of Christ.
All of this sounds so very harsh, but it is the only way to maintain the health of the Body. For when one part of the Body is ill or broken the whole Body is affected. Every effort should be made to facilitate healing, but if the individual is rebellious and unwilling to accept correction and pursue penitence, then the only option left to the leadership of the Body is excommunication. As St. Benedict states in chapter 28 of the Rule: “‘If the faithless one departs, let him depart’ (1 Cor 7:15); lest one diseased sheep infect the whole flock.” We will look at this further when we examine that chapter.