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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Strangers, Communion of

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(Lat. communio peregrina), a punishment to which contumacious clergy were subjected in the early Church. It is mentioned in the Annals of the Council of Riez (A.D. 439), of Agde (A.D. 506), and of Lerida (A.D. 539). There has been much discussion as to the nature of the punishment.

1. Some confound it altogether with lay communion, as Binius, in his Notes upon the Council of Lerida, and Hospinian and the old Glossary upon Gratian (Caus. 13, quaest. 2, c. 11). This can hardly be true, for it is not probable that the ancient Church would use two such different names for the same thing when lay communion was a term so common. Again, they were evidently different from each other, for clergymen reduced to lay communion were totally and perpetually degraded from their orders, and could not ordinarily be restored to their office again, while those clergymen who had been reduced to the communion of strangers were capable of restoration (Council of Agde, Song of Solomon 2).

2. Bellarmine (De Euchar. lib. 4, c. 24) and others take this punishment for lay communion, but assert that lay communion was communion only in one kind. But all public communion in the ancient Church was in both kinds.

3. The author of the Glossary upon Gratian fancies that it signifies communion at the hour of death, taking death to be a pilgrimage into the next life.

4. Cardinal Bona mentions the fanciful opinion of one Gabriel Henao that the communion of strangers was that which was given to such clergymen as were enjoined to go on pilgrimage, either temporary or perpetual, by way of penance. Cassandler and Vossius think the communion of strangers means the oblation of the eucharist made after some peculiar rite and on some particular lays for the use of strangers, and that it was put upon delinquent clergymen as a punishment to communicate with these. This interpretation is not consistent, however, with the custom of the Church; for strangers, unless they had communicators letters to testify in their behalf, were regarded as under suspicion, and were refused communion, and only allowed common charity. According to these measures, clergymen who were delinquents were for some time treated much after the same manner, and thereupon said to be reduced to the community of strangers; that is, they might neither officiate as clergymen in celebrating the eucharist nor any other part of their office, nor in some cases participate of the eucharist for some time, till they had made satisfaction, but only be allowed a charitable subsistence out of the revenues of the Church, without any legal claim to a full proportion, till by a just penance they could regain their former office and station. Restoration was secured by private penance, for the order of the Church prohibited admittance to any clerical degree, or return to it after correction, after public penance. See Bingham, Christ. Antiq. bk. 17, ch. 3, 1 sq.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Strangers, Communion of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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