Church Fathers, Day 248: St. Ambrose tells us excommunication is a last resort

Church Fathers, Day 248: St. Ambrose tells us excommunication is a last resort March 26, 2015

saint_ambrose_4Excommunication is a last resort

We see it all the time: politicians, professors, even priests who call themselves “Catholic” but embarrass the Church with their public denials of Church teaching. Why doesn’t the Church just throw them out right away? St. Ambrose answers that it is, and should be, a hard thing to cut a limb off the body. First the bishop tries everything in his power to heal the disease.

The bishop should treat the clerics and attendants, who are indeed his sons, as members of himself, and give to each one that duty for which he sees him to be fit.

Not without pain is a limb that has become corrupt cut off the body. It is treated for a long time, to see if it can be cured with various remedies. If it cannot be cured, then it is cut off by a good physician.

Thus a good bishop wants to heal the weak, to remove the spreading ulcers, to burn some parts and not to cut them off; and finally, only when they cannot be healed, to cut them off with pain to himself. For that reason that beautiful rule of the Apostle stands forth brightly, that each one of us should look, not on his own interests, but on the interests of others (see Philippians 2:4).

In this way it will never happen that in anger we give way to our own feel­ings, or concede more than is right in favor to our own wishes.

–St. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, 2.27


Do I sometimes feel impatient with the Church authorities when I see so-called “Catholics” mocking the Faith in the press?

Could I take some of the energy I spend on anger and spend it instead on persuading others of the truth of real Catholic teaching?


Blessed be the Physician who came down and amputated without pain, and healed wounds with a medicine that was not harsh. 
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