In the Roman Catholic Church, the word interdict (in’tér-dikt) usually refers to an ecclesiastical penalty. Interdicts may be real, local or personal. A personal interdict pertains to one or more persons. A real or local interdict, which is no longer a part of canon law, suspends all public worship and withdraws the church's sacraments in a territory or country. A local interdict against a country was to it the equivalent of excommunication against an individual. It would cause all the churches to be closed, and almost all the sacraments not to be allowed (i.e. preventing marriage, confession, anointing of the sick, and the eucharist). Certain exceptions allow for baptism, anointing of the sick, and sacraments on Christian holidays.
Interdiction was used by the Pope during the Middle Ages as a way to influence rulers. For example, Pope Innocent III placed the kingdom of England under an interdict for five years between 1208 and 1213 after King John refused to accept the pope's appointee Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. Pope Gregory XI placed the city of Florence under interdict in March 1376 during the War of the Eight Saints, while Pope Paul V placed the Republic of Venice under interdict in 1606 after the civil authorities jailed two priests. Rome itself was placed under interdict by Pope Adrian IV as a result of a rebellion led by Arnold of Brescia.
An interdict can also be a penalty against a specific individual or group. It is like excommunication in that the person is barred from receiving the sacraments and participating in public worship, but it does not bar the person from continuing to hold and exercise ecclesiastical office. For a lay member of the church, it is basically equivalent to excommunication, though with the implication that they remain Catholic.
Bishops in the Anglican Communion in theory may still possess the power of interdict, although apparently it has not been exercised since the English Reformation.
Certain offenses incur an automatic (latae sententiae) interdict:
- Physical violence against a bishop (canon 1370 §2)
- Attempting to preside over or concelebrate in Mass while being a deacon or lay person (canon 1378 §2 1°)
- Hearing and/or attempting to absolve confessions while being a deacon or lay person (canon 1378 §2 2°)
- Falsely accusing a priest of soliciting adultery while in confession (canon 1390 §1)
- Attempting to marry while having a perpetual vow of chastity (canon 1394 §2)
Other offenses may incur an interdict:
- Public incitement against the Apostolic See or the local ordinary (canon 1373)
- Promoting or directing a prohibited association (canon 1374)
- The crime of simony (canon 1380)
In 1909, the town of Adria in Italy was placed under interdict for 15 days after a local campaign against the move of a bishop.
In Malta between 8 April 1961 and 4 April 1969 the leadership of the Malta Labour Party, readers, advertisers and distributors of Party papers as well as its voters were interdicted. Previously, between 1930 and 1933 interdiction was imposed on the Constitutional Party and Labour. In both cases, the Nationalist Party won elections while its opponents were interdicted.
Bishop René Henry Gracida of Corpus Christi, Texas interdicted a Catholic politician in the late 20th century for supporting legal abortion; the unnamed individual died while under interdict.
- ↑ American International Encyclopedia, J.J. Little Co., New York 1954, Vol VIII
- ↑ Seattle Catholic - The Venetian Interdict of 1606-1607
- ↑ CNS STORY: Holding public figures accountable to church: centuries of precedent
- ↑ "The Unholy War" (PDF). Malta Today,. http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/2005/10/09/pix/interdett.pdf. Retrieved March 13, 2005.
- ↑ Church and State in Malta, Jon P. Mitchell 
- ↑ Catholic World News : US bishop imposed interdict on pro-abortion politician
- "A Medieval Glossary of Terms". Renaissance Magazine. http://www.renaissancemagazine.com/glossary/glossaryg-j.html.
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