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Lateran IV

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CANON 47

Summary. Prelates are not to excommunicate subjects without a previous warning and without a reasonable cause; those guilty of this shall be punished. A subject also shall be punished who falsely protests that he has been unjustly excommunicated.

Text. With the approval of the holy council we prohibit the promulgation of the sentence of excommunication against anyone without a previous warning and in the presence of suitable persons by whom, if need be, such admonition can be proved. Should anyone act contrariwise, even if the sentence of excommunication is a just one, let him know that he is forbidden entrance to the church for a period of one month, which punishment, however, is to be altered should it be deemed advisable. Let also proper precaution be taken against excommunicating anyone without a just and reasonable cause; should this perchance have happened and he who imposed the sentence does not care to withdraw it without complaint, then the one injured may take his complaint of unjust excommunication to a superior, who, if there be no danger in delay, shall send him back to the excommunicator with the command that he absolve him within a specified time; otherwise he himself, should it seem fit, after the presentation of a sufficient reason, will grant him the required absolution either per se or per alium. When it is an evident case against the excommunicator of unjust excommunication, let him again be condemned to pay all the expenses and to repair all the damages incurred by the one unjustly excommunicated; if, however, the gravity of his fault demands it, let him be punished in accordance with the judgment of the superior, since it is not a trivial fault 'to impose such a punishment on an innocent person, unless per chance he erred from a probable cause, especially if there was apparently good ground for his action. But if against the sentence of excommunication no reasonable proof was offered by the complainant, then for the unjust annoyance of his complaint let him condemned to pay the expenses and repair the damages, or else, let him be punished in accordance with the decision of the superior, unless perchance probable error likewise excuses him; and in regard to the matter for which he was excommunicated, through an adequate pledge let him be compelled to make satisfaction, or let the original sentence be reimposed even for the purpose of forcing him to make condign satisfaction. But if the judge, recognizing his error, is prepared to revoke such a sentence, and he on whom it was imposed appeals against such a revocation unless satisfaction is made, let him not heed the appeal unless it be an error about which there can be a just doubt, and then on the receipt of a satisfactory pledge that he will obey the summons of him to whom the appeal has been made, or of one delegated by him, let him absolve the one excommunicated and thus he will in no way incur the penalties prescribed; let him be careful, however, not to forge an error to the detriment of another if he wishes to escape canonical punishment.




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