The term Anathema (in Greek ἀνάθημα, the devotees curse '), also anathema or excommunication, refers to a condemnation by the Church, which is associated with the exclusion of the ecclesial community and is canonically equivalent to an excommunication.


The original meaning of the word is Broken Featured ( Noun to ἀνατίθημι ). From there, the term narrowed to the deity in the temple Situated Featured, votive offering (see anathema ) and further to the deity Exposed, her grace or her anger surrendered for ( so the Septuagint ).

This resulted in Anathema Esto as a formula: he was ( the God ) gave them! ( 1 Cor 12:3 EU [ of Jesus]; Rom 9.3 EU 1.8 Gal EU; 1 Cor 16,22 EU) In this sense the word several times in the New Testament appear.

The focus of his original dualistic blessing and curse character was already in the Septuagint, and especially in the New Testament to the curse. Thus, the separation from the Divine protected area connected to the input of the judgment of God was meant. So he was in the language of the Church ( Church Latin) and also adopted into German.

The Orthodox Church still defined strictly according to the original meaning that an anathema is not a curse by the Church, but the person is left out of the church itself.

Text example

Si quis unum Deum verum visibilium et invisibilium creatorem Dominum et negaverit: anathema sit. ( Vatican I: Constitutio dogmatica " Dei Filius " de fide Catholica, Canon 1.1)


The anathema was since the New Testament, the traditional response of the Church to heresy ( Gal 1.8 EU) and serious cases of sin without will to repentance ( cf. 1 Cor 5:12 f EU).

Since the Synod of Elvira (c. 306) conciliar condemnations were issued by the Anathemaformel.

Pope Honorius I was forty years after his death by the Third Council of Constantinople Opel ( 680-681 ) is due to its flexible attitude towards the Monothelites with the anathema.

1054 occupied the eastern and the western churches mutually with anathemas.

In the Latin Church the word according to Gal was 1.8 imposed on the technical term for the exclusion from the communion ( excommunication ), the above heretics and insubordinate or has been threatened them. The fully coated spell separated after the underlying conviction not only of the Church but also from God. The anathema was Romanum according to the Pontificale solemnly imposed ( c. 2257 § 2 CIC/1917 ), which was not taken up later by CIC/1983 so.

Due to inflation and use as a means of political pressure on the part of many popes anathema lost the character of an exclusive church punishment and thus its effectiveness in the Middle Ages.

The two Dogmatic Constitutions Dei Filius and Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I (1870 ) were completed by canons, which are formulated as anathema.

The texts of the Second Vatican Council use the Anathema not because this council was rather conceived as a Pastoral Council and condemnations purposely avoided. Also, the current Roman Catholic Church law ( CIC/1983 ) knows no excommunication, but rather the canonical penalty of excommunication. On the last day of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, anathemas of the year were celebrated in Rome and Constantinople Opel in the simultaneous act of 1054 "wiped from memory and from the midst of the Church and the convictions of the Eastern Churches against the West and the Western against the eastern repealed ".

Great and Little excommunication

A distinction was drawn up in 1869 between the Little and the Great excommunication excommunication:

  • The Little excommunication was a censure, were excluded with the believer temporarily from the sacraments. Also ecclesiastical offices were denied the accursed. The Lesser Banishing was usually imposed for a limited time.
  • The Great excommunication closed the affected throughout and with no stated time limit of the municipality of ( full excommunication ). In the period between 1220 and the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, a church ban the Holy Roman Empire moved automatically the secular imperial ban by itself.