Early Church Fathers Quotes on Excommunication
And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel. But to anyone that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. – The Didache
All of those who separate from the church and give heed to old wives’ tales, like these persons, are truly self-condemned. Paul commands us “to avoid [these men] after a first and second admonition.” Furthermore, John, the disciple of the Lord, has intensified their condemnation. For he desires us not even to address them with the salutation of “Godspeed.” He says, “He who bids them Godspeed is a partaker with their evil deeds.”
From all such persons, therefore, it behooves us to keep aloof, but to adhere to those who, as I have already observed, do hold the doctrine of the apostles, and who, together with the order of priesthood (presbyterii ordine), display sound speech and blameless conduct for the confirmation and correction of others. – Against Heresies, Book IV
Clement of Alexandria
Now, reproof addressed to sinners has their salvation for its aim, the word being harmoniously adjusted to each one’s conduct; now with tightened, now with relaxed cords.
But it will be said that some of us, too, depart from the rules of our discipline. In that case, however, we count such persons no longer as Christians.
CHAP. V.–THE INCONSISTENT LIFE OF ANY FALSE CHRISTIAN NO MORE CONDEMNS TRUE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, THAN A PASSING CLOUD OBSCURES A SUMMER SKY….As to your saying of us that we are a most shameful set, and utterly steeped in luxury, avarice, and depravity, we will not deny that this is true of some. It is, however, a sufficient testimonial for our name, that this cannot be said of all, not even of the greater part of us. It must happen even in the healthiest and purest body, that a mole should grow, or a wart arise on it, or freckles disfigure it. Not even the sky itself is clear with so perfect a serenity as not to be flecked with some filmy cloud. A slight spot on the face, because it is obvious in so conspicuous a part, only serves to show purity of the entire complexion. The goodness of the larger portion is well attested by the slender flaw. But although you prove that some of our people are evil, you do not hereby prove that they are Christians. Search and see whether there is any sect to which (a partial shortcoming) is imputed as a general stain. You are accustomed in conversation yourselves to say, in disparagement of us, “Why is so-and-so deceitful, when the Christians are so self-denying? why merciless, when they are so merciful?” You thus bear your testimony to the fact that this is not the character of Christians, when you ask, in the way of a retort, how men who are reputed to be Christians can be of such and such a disposition. There is a good deal of difference between an imputation and a name, between an opinion and the truth. For names were appointed for the express purpose of setting their proper limits between mere designation and actual condition. How many indeed are said to be philosophers, who for all that do not fulfil the law of philosophy? All bear the name in respect of their profession; but they hold the designation without the excellence of the profession, and they disgrace the real thing under the shallow pretence of its name. Men are not straightway of such and such a character, because they are said to be so; but when they are not, it is vain to say so of them: they only deceive people who attach reality to a name, when it is its consistency with fact which decides the condition implied in the name. And yet persons of this doubtful stamp do not assemble with us, neither do they belong to our communion: by their delinquency they become yours once more since we should be unwilling to mix even with them whom your violence and cruelty compelled to recant. Yet we should, of course, be more ready to have included amongst us those who have unwillingly forsaken our discipline than wilful apostates. However, you have no right to call them Christians, to whom the Christians themselves deny that name, and who have not learned to deny themselves. – Ad Nationes
What would be said, if, when you thought the doctor necessary, you were to find fault with his instruments, because they cut, or cauterize, or amputate, or tighten; whereas there could be no doctor of any value without his professional tools? Censure, if you please, the practitioner who cuts badly, amputates clumsily, is rash in his surgery; and even blame his implements as rough tools of his are. Your conduct is equally unreasonable, when you allow indeed that God is a judge, but at the same time destroy those operations and dispositions by which He discharges His judicial functions. We are taught God by the prophets, and by Christ, not by the philosophers nor by Epicurus. – Against Marcion — Book II
In this example of a leper … [the Law] prohibited any contact with a person who was defiled with sin. The apostle also forbids us even to eat food with such a one. For the taint of sins can be communicated as if contagious, wherever a man mixes himself with the sinner.
We must separate from a believer who lives irregularly and contrary to discipline. Paul [said] to the Thessalonians: “But we have commanded you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that you depart from all brethren who walk disorderly and not according to the tradition that you have received from us.”
“Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things comes the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience; be not you therefore partakers with them.” Therefore let no one associate himself with the contumacious, and those who do not fear God, and those who entirely withdraw from the Church. But if any one should be impatient of entreating the Lord who is offended, and should be unwilling to obey us, but should follow desperate and abandoned men, he must take the blame to himself when the day of judgment shall come.
Constitutions of the Apostles
If any one, even in the house, prays with a person excommunicate, let him also be suspended. – Book VIII
Receive ye the penitent, for this is the will of God in Christ. Instruct the catechumens in the elements of religion, and then baptize them. Eschew the antheistical heretics, who are past repentance, and separate them from the faithful, and excommunicate them from the Church of God, and charge the faithful to abstain entirely from them, and not to partake with them either in sermons or prayers: for these are those that are enemies to the Church, and lay snares for it; who corrupt the flock, and defile the heritage of Christ, pretenders only to wisdom, and the vilest of men; concerning whom Solomon the wise said: “The wicked doers pretend to act piously.” For, says he, “there is a way which seemeth right to some, but the ends thereof look to the bottom of hell.” – Book VI
Alexander of Alexandria
Before them, indeed, many heresies existed, which, having dared more than was right, have fallen into madness. But these by all their words have attempted to do away with the Godhead of Christ, have made those seem righteous, since they have come nearer to Antichrist. Wherefore they have been excommunicated and anathematized by the Church. And indeed, although we grieve at the destruction of these men, especially that after having once learned the doctrine of the Church, they have now gone back; yet we do not wonder at it; for this very thing Hymenaeus and Philetus suffered, and before them Judas, who, though he followed the Saviour, afterwards became a traitor and an apostate. Moreover, concerning these very men, warnings are not wanting to us, for the Lord foretold: “Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My flame, saying, I am Christ; and the tithe draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.” Paul, too, having learnt these things from the Saviour, wrote, “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils which turn away from the truth.” – Epistle II On the Arian Heresy and the Deposition of Arius: Epistle Catholic
Covetousness is a great evil; and it is not possible in a single letter to set forth those scriptures in which not robbery alone is declared to be a thing horrible and to be abhorred, but in general the grasping mind, and the disposition to meddle with what belongs to others, in order to satisfy the sordid love of gain. And all persons of that spirit are excommunicated from the Church of God. But that at the time of the irruption, in the midst of such woful sorrows and bitter lamentations, some should have been audacious enough to consider the crisis which brought destruction to all the very period for their own private aggrandizement, that is a thing which can be averred only of men who are impious and hated of God, and of unsurpassable iniquity. Wherefore it seemed good to excommunicate such persons, lest the wrath (of God) should come upon the whole people, and upon those first of all who are set over them in office, and yet fail to make inquiry. – Canoncial Epistle