Interdict (Roman Catholic Church)
In Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 canon law
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

, an interdict (icon) is an ecclesiastical censure that excludes from certain rites of the Church individuals or groups, who nonetheless do not cease to be members of the Church.

Distinctions in canon law

Before 1983, interdicts were either personal, if applied directly to persons, wherever they were, or local, if applied directly to a locality and only indirectly to the people in that place whether permanently or only on a visit. Only the Holy See was empowered to impose a general interdict on a diocese or country or a personal interdict on the people of a diocese or country, but bishops too could impose a general interdict on a parish or on the people of a parish or a particular interdict on a place (such as a church or oratory, an altar or a cemetery) or a person.

Effects under pre-1983 canon law

A local interdict forbade in general the public celebration of sacred rites. Exceptions were made for the dying, and local interdicts were almost entirely suspended on five feasts of the year: Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

, Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi (feast)
Corpus Christi is a Latin Rite solemnity, now designated the solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ . It is also celebrated in some Anglican, Lutheran and Old Catholic Churches. Like Trinity Sunday and the Solemnity of Christ the King, it does not commemorate a particular event in...

 and the feast of the Assumption of Mary
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

. Besides, in the case of a general local interdict, it remained permitted to celebrate in the cathedral or the only church in a town, but without any solemnity such as the ringing of bells and the playing of music, a single Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

, baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

, confession
This article is for the religious practice of confessing one's sins.Confession is the acknowledgment of sin or wrongs...

, and marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...


Those who were under personal interdict were forbidden to be present at any religious rite except the preaching of the word of God. While passive assistance by them did not require that they be expelled, but if they were well known to be under interdict they were to be prevented from taking an active part.

1983 Code of Canon Law

Today, one who is under interdict is forbidden to take any ministerial part in the celebration of the Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 or of any other ceremony of public worship. Indeed, one violating this prohibition is to be expelled or the sacred rite suspended, unless there is a grave reason to the contrary. The person under interdict is also forbidden to celebrate or receive the sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

s or to celebrate the sacramental
Sacramental may refer to:* Sacramental, as an adjective means of or pertaining to sacraments* Sacramentals, in Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, objects whose supernatural effects, unlike those of a sacrament, depend on the belief of the recipient...


If the interdict has been imposed or declared (not just incurred automatically), they are not to be admitted to Holy Communion (see canon 915
Canon 915
Canon 915, one of the canons of the current 1983 Code of Canon Law, forbids the administration of Holy Communion to those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared or who persist in manifest grave sin...

). In the same circumstances, local ordinaries
In those hierarchically organised churches of Western Christianity which have an ecclesiastical law system, an ordinary is an officer of the church who by reason of office has ordinary power to execute the church's laws...

 and parish priests lose their right to assist validly at marriages.

Automatic (latae sententiae
Latae sententiae
Latæ sententiæ is a Latin term used in the canon law of the Catholic Church meaning literally "given sentence".Officially, a latae sententiae penalty follows automatically, by force of the law itself, when the law is contravened....

) interdict is incurred by anyone using physical violence against a bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 as also by a person who, not being an ordained priest, attempts to celebrate Mass, or who, though unable to give valid sacramental absolution, attempts to do so, or hears a sacramental confession.
Automatic interdict is also incurred by anyone falsely accusing a priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 of soliciting sexual favours in connection with confession or attempting to marry while having a perpetual vow
A vow is a promise or oath.-Marriage vows:Marriage vows are binding promises each partner in a couple makes to the other during a wedding ceremony. Marriage customs have developed over history and keep changing as human society develops...

 of chastity
Chastity refers to the sexual behavior of a man or woman acceptable to the moral standards and guidelines of a culture, civilization, or religion....


An interdict is also the censure that canon law says should be imposed on someone who, because of some act of ecclesiastical authority or ministry publicly incites to hatred against the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 or the Ordinary
In those hierarchically organised churches of Western Christianity which have an ecclesiastical law system, an ordinary is an officer of the church who by reason of office has ordinary power to execute the church's laws...

, or who promotes or takes up office in an association that plots against the Church, or who commits the crime of simony
Simony is the act of paying for sacraments and consequently for holy offices or for positions in the hierarchy of a church, named after Simon Magus , who appears in the Acts of the Apostles 8:9-24...


  • Pope Innocent III
    Pope Innocent III
    Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

     placed the Kingdom of Norway
    Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

     under interdict in October 1198. Although King Sverre
    Sverre of Norway
    Sverre Sigurdsson was king of Norway from 1177 to 1202. He married Margareta Eriksdotter, the daughter of the Swedish king Eric the Saint, by whom he had the daughter Kristina Sverresdotter....

     forged letters to show that the interdict had been lifted, he and his subjects remained under interdict until Sverre's death in 1202.


  • The same Pope also placed the kingdom of England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

     under an interdict for five years between 1208 and 1213, after King John
    John of England
    John , also known as John Lackland , was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death...

     refused to accept the pope's appointee Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury
    Archbishop of Canterbury
    The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...



  • Following the rejection by Robert the Bruce (crowned King of Scotland in 1306) of papal mediation between England
    Kingdom of England
    The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

     and Scotland
    Kingdom of Scotland
    The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

    , Pope John XXII
    Pope John XXII
    Pope John XXII , born Jacques Duèze , was pope from 1316 to 1334. He was the second Pope of the Avignon Papacy , elected by a conclave in Lyon assembled by Philip V of France...

     placed Scotland under interdict in 1317 or 1318 because of continuing Scots raids into England; in 1328 the same Pope lifted the interdict in the light of the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton.


  • Pope Gregory XI
    Pope Gregory XI
    Gregory XI was pope from 1370 until his death.-Biography:He was born Pierre Roger de Beaufort, in Maumont, in the modern commune of Rosiers-d'Égletons, Limousin around 1336. He succeeded Pope Urban V in 1370, and was pope until 1378...

     placed the city of Florence
    Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

     under interdict in March 1376 during the War of the Eight Saints
    War of the Eight Saints
    The War of the Eight Saints was a war between Pope Gregory XI and a coalition of Italian city-states led by Florence, which contributed to the end of the Avignon Papacy.-Causes:...

    . Pope Paul V
    Pope Paul V
    -Theology:Paul met with Galileo Galilei in 1616 after Cardinal Bellarmine had, on his orders, warned Galileo not to hold or defend the heliocentric ideas of Copernicus. Whether there was also an order not to teach those ideas in any way has been a matter for controversy...

     placed the Republic of Venice
    Republic of Venice
    The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

     under interdict in 1606 after the civil authorities jailed two priests. Rome itself was placed under interdict by Pope Adrian IV
    Pope Adrian IV
    Pope Adrian IV , born Nicholas Breakspear or Breakspeare, was Pope from 1154 to 1159.Adrian IV is the only Englishman who has occupied the papal chair...

     as a result of a rebellion led by Arnold of Brescia
    Arnold of Brescia
    Arnold of Brescia , also known as Arnaldus , was an Italian monk from Lombardy who called on the Church to renounce ownership of property and participated in the failed Commune of Rome. Eventually arrested, he was hanged by the Church, burned posthumously, and then had his ashes thrown into the...

     in 1155. In 1909, the town of Adria
    Adria is a town and comune in the province of Rovigo in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, situated between the mouths of the rivers Adige and Po....

     in Italy was placed under interdict for 15 days after a local campaign against the move of a bishop.

  • On 23 June 1482, Pope Sixtus IV
    Pope Sixtus IV
    Pope Sixtus IV , born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 1471 to 1484. His accomplishments as Pope included the establishment of the Sistine Chapel; the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new artistic age,...

     decreed an interdict against the Republic of Venice
    Republic of Venice
    The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

    , unless it abandoned within 15 days its siege of Ferrara
    Ferrara is a city and comune in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy, capital city of the Province of Ferrara. It is situated 50 km north-northeast of Bologna, on the Po di Volano, a branch channel of the main stream of the Po River, located 5 km north...

    . The Venetians managed to evade it by an appeal to a future council.
  • On 27 April 1509, as he entered the War of the League of Cambrai
    War of the League of Cambrai
    The War of the League of Cambrai, sometimes known as the War of the Holy League and by several other names, was a major conflict in the Italian Wars...

    , aiming to recover papal control of the Romagna
    Romagna is an Italian historical region that approximately corresponds to the south-eastern portion of present-day Emilia-Romagna. Traditionally, it is limited by the Apennines to the south-west, the Adriatic to the east, and the rivers Reno and Sillaro to the north and west...

    , where Venice had seized several cities in 1503, Pope Julius II
    Pope Julius II
    Pope Julius II , nicknamed "The Fearsome Pope" and "The Warrior Pope" , born Giuliano della Rovere, was Pope from 1503 to 1513...

     issued an interdict against Venice. When Venice accepted peace terms on 14 February 1510, the interdict was lifted.
  • The Venetian Interdict
    Venetian Interdict
    The Venetian Interdict of 1606 and 1607 was the expression in terms of canon law, by means of a papal interdict, of a diplomatic quarrel and confrontation between the Papal Curia and the Republic of Venice, taking place in the period from 1605 to 1607...

     of 1606-1607 is a better known and more lengthy case.


  • Pope Innocent III
    Pope Innocent III
    Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

     put the whole kingdom of France under interdict on January 13 1200 to force Philip II of France
    Philip II of France
    Philip II Augustus was the King of France from 1180 until his death. A member of the House of Capet, Philip Augustus was born at Gonesse in the Val-d'Oise, the son of Louis VII and his third wife, Adela of Champagne...

     to take his wife Ingeborg of Denmark
    Ingeborg of Denmark, Queen of France
    Ingeborg was a Danish-born queen consort of France.She was a daughter of Valdemar I of Denmark and Sofia of Minsk. Her maternal grandparents were Volodar of Minsk and Richeza of Poland...

     back. After a reconciliation ceremony, the interdict was lifted on September 12 1200.

Notable personal canonical interdicts

In Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 between 8 April 1961 and 4 April 1969 the leadership of the Malta Labour Party
Malta Labour Party
The Labour Party is, along with the Nationalist Party, one of two major contemporary political parties in Malta. It is the party of opposition in the Maltese House of Representatives where it has thirty-four of the sixty-nine seats.- Party Structure :...

, readers, advertisers and distributors of Party papers as well as its voters were interdicted by the local bishop. Previously, between 1930 and 1933 interdiction was imposed on the Constitutional Party
Constitutional Party (Malta)
The Constitutional Party was a Maltese political party which had representatives in the Maltese Legislative Assembly and Council of Government between 1921 and 1945 and 1950 and 1953, forming a government between 1927 and 1930 with the support of the Labour Party. A splinter group, the Progressive...

 and Labour. In both cases, the Nationalist Party
Nationalist Party (Malta)
The Nationalist Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in Malta, along with the Labour Party. It was founded by Fortunato Mizzi in 1880 as the Anti-Reform Party, opposing taxation decreed by the British colonial authorities and measures to Anglicise the educational and the...

 won elections while its opponents were interdicted.

Bishop René Henry Gracida
René Henry Gracida
Bishop René Henry Gracida was the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami , the first Bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee and Bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi...

 of Corpus Christi, Texas
Roman Catholic Diocese of Corpus Christi
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Corpus Christi is a Roman Catholic diocese in Texas. It was founded on March 23, 1912.The past bishops of the diocese are:*Dominic Manucy *Peter Verdaguer y Prat...

 interdicted a Roman Catholic politician in the late 20th century for supporting legal abortion; the unnamed individual died while under interdict.

Anglican canon law

In Anglican canon law, bishops in the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

 may still in theory possess the power of interdict, but seem not to have exercised it since the English Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....


Scottish civil law

In Scottish law, "an interdict is a civil court order that tells a person not to do something or to stay away from you, your children or a specific place, such as your house. If a person doesn't stick to an interdict, the police might be able to arrest them if the interdict gives them the power to do so."
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