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The singer Madonna Louise Ciccone has stated in various interviews that she's been excommunicated by the Catholic Church multiple times.

The best-selling female recording artist then revealed that she had been excommunicated from the church three times. Corden, in disbelief, questioned whether or not she was serious but she assured him that it was true.

"The Vatican has excommunicated me," she said before the two of them started belting out her hit song, "Papa Dont Preach" off of her third studio album released in 1986, True Blue.

Madonna Talks Being Excommunicated by Church, Desire to Be Nun on James Corden's 'Carpool Karaoke'

and

“I’ve been excommunicated from the Catholic Church three times,” Madonna joked to the crowd in Philadelphia. “It shows the Vatican cares – deeply.”

Watch Madonna Dedicate a Song to the 'Popey-Wopey' (A.K.A. Pope Francis)

Has she formally ever been excommunicated on multiple occasions (or if not, why does she think she has)?

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  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. For more on what this site is all about, see: How we are different than other sites. Meanwhile, I hope you'll browse some of the other questions and answers on this site. Nov 3, 2017 at 18:23
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    You can't be formally excommunicated multiple times unless you have repented after the first time and rejoined the church. I leave it to the reader to determine how likely that is. Nov 3, 2017 at 18:59

2 Answers 2

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There are a few actions which, by canon law, cause a lay person to be excommunicated in and of themselves:

  • public declaration (usually repeatedly and by a prominent figure) that one rejects the Church. Technically this is known as apostasy. (Canon 1364)
  • public rejection of the authority of the pope over the Church, known as schism. (Canon 1364)
  • public rejection of some teaching which the Church requires to be believed, after being corrected by one's pastor or bishop, or by the pope. This is called heresy. (Canon 1364)
  • assaulting the pope or another bishop (canon 1370)
  • trying to consecrate the Eucharist (canon 1378)
  • falsely accusing a priest of trying to absolve someone he's had an affair with (canon 1390)
  • procuring (that is, arranging for, or possibly conducting) an abortion (canon 1398)

None of these appear to have applied to Madonna (although perhaps one of the first three might).

There are a number of other possible actions for which canon law prescribes that the offender is to be "punished with a just penalty". This just penalty can include excommunication. Of all of these possible actions, the only one I can think of that might apply is

A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults [against] or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty.

Canon 1369

It is possible that an official of the Catholic Church felt that some of Madonna's statements about the Church fit into this category. Wikipedia, for example, states "The ... music video [for Madonna's song "Like a Prayer"] featured many Catholic symbols such as stigmata and cross burning, and a dream of making love to a saint, leading the Vatican to condemn the video."

Typically an excommunication comes from one's ordinary: the head of the diocese in which Madonna lives. I'm not precisely sure of the timeline of Madonna's moves, but this would probably have been Terence Cardinal Cooke, archbishop of New York 1968–1983; Joseph Cardinal O'Connor, archbishop of New York 1984–2000; Roger Cardinal Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles 1985–2011; or possibly Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, archbishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Lisbon since 2013. It would be very rare indeed for the Vatican to excommunicate someone.

I can't find any reference to Madonna's excommunications that doesn't come from her, and there are a few statements of canon law that indicate it is probably not the case.

Once a person is excommunicated, a further excommunication is of no effect unless the person has repented, confessed, and had the excommunication listed. (An excommunication is more or less a temporary ban on receiving the sacraments (canon 1331)—it makes no sense to try and "multiply it".) Thus, if Madonna has indeed been excommunicated three times, she's had the excommunicated lifted at least twice. One would think that if this were the case, she would have mentioned it in the discussion. Furthermore, one cannot be excommunicated, per canon 1323, if one isn't aware that one is committing an act punishable by excommunication.

All things considered, then, in the absence of positive evidence that this is so, it probably isn't. Why then is she claiming it is so? It might be that she is trying to stir up animus against the Church; it could be that she is seeking notoriety; perhaps she is confused about what constitutes an excommunication and how it is handed down. Without more information (from her) it's impossible to tell.

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  • Would having an abortion count as procuring one,?
    – davidlol
    Nov 4, 2017 at 9:26
  • @davidlol As far as I'm aware, that's disputed among canonists. Nov 4, 2017 at 15:42
  • @davidlol You could always ask that question on this site :-) Jun 3, 2018 at 18:10
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    A well known figure such as Madonna has not been officially excommunicated. Such cases are made public by the Ordinary who levied the ecclesiastic judgement for the faithful to be aware of. No statement has ever been passed.
    – Ken Graham
    Feb 8, 2020 at 15:24
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    @KenGraham - That sounds like it should be made into an answer
    – Valorum
    Mar 29 at 17:33
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Has Madonna ever been excommunicated by the Catholic Church?

The short answer is no.

Although traditional Catholics would have no scruples in saying that Madonna actually merited being excommunicated by the Catholic Church, the fact is actually suspect if she was really excommunicated at all.

It is the practice within the Church to publish the excommunication of notorious sinners and this only occurs after they have been reprimanded in private several times!

A well known figure such as Madonna has not been officially excommunicated. Such cases are made public by the Ordinary who levied the ecclesiastic judgement for the faithful to be aware of. No statement has ever been passed.

It is not surprising that some bishops and theologians have indeed expressed their thoughts that Madonna true should be excommunicated.

The Vatican State and Popes of her generation condemned numerous of Madonna's acts. During the late-twentieth century, the Catholic Church opposed to her Italian show of the Who's That Girl Tour in 1987, her advertisement with Pepsi in 1989, the Blond Ambition Tour in 1990 or for her first book Sex, in 1992. Organizations related to the Church, such as the Episcopal Conference of Italy criticized Madonna, and tried to ban her concerts. A parish priest from the organization, denounced Madonna as "an infidel and sacrilegious".

She continued to attract public disapproval from Catholic Church in the early years of the 21st century. Vatican representatives questioned her forays with the Kabbalah. With her Confessions Tour, Madonna garnered a major backlash for her segment when she appeared crucified on a giant cross in the countries where the tour was scheduled. Ersilio Tonini speaking with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, commented "she should be excommunicated". In the 2010s, she was condemned with her Rebel Heart Tour by senior bishops like Patric Dunn from New Zealand, who commented, "There is no question in my mind that some of Madonna's material is highly offensive to Christianity and will be found just as offensive to the majority of people of religious faith", while Singaporean prelate William Goh commented, "There is no neutrality in faith".

Other leaders and groups from Christian denominations, such as the Baptist Church, have criticized her. Ghanaian religious leader Opoku Onyinah described thus "instead yielding to Christian principles, she decided to rebel against everything Christianity stands for". Vsevolod Chaplin from the Russian Orthodox Church, says "I'm absolutely sure that this person needs spiritual assistance" further adding "It's definitely clear for me that all these attempts to use religious symbols also reflect her state of mind and state of soul". American Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell and other conservative Christians leaders found Madonna's wearing religious symbols "trivializing" and "blasphemous" as well. In The Extermination of Christianity: A Tyranny of Consensus (1993) by clerics Paul Schenck and Rob Schenck, her usage of Christian imagery is described as obviously designed to raise the ire of the religious community, twice molesting them by using them as a free promotion. - Madonna and religion

In the long run, although Madonna was raised up Catholic, it is no longer sure she considers herself a Catholic at all. In fact, she has been at odds with all major world religions and it is almost impossible to say what she believes these days.

In the end, she can say that she has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church three times; but the Church generally only needs to excommunicate someone from the Catholic Church once. A second excommunication would be imposed only after a first excommunication had been lifted and someone feel into grave scandals a second time. I see no efforts in Madonna’s past that even remotely suggests that she was excommunicated and then was reconciled with the Church and then excommunicated a second and then a third time. Madonna is simply showing off!

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