Will Rick Pitino Be Excommunicated?

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Will Rick Pitino Be Excommunicated?
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

One of the saddest stories in this sordid Rick Pitino affair is that he said he paid for Karen Sypher to have an abortion.

Under the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, that is one of the 9 grounds for excommunication from the Church:

1. Heresy
2. Violating the species - i.e. taking the consecrated host off for black magic rituals or trampling on it or doing other wrong things with it.
3. Using force against the body of the Pontiff
4. Giving absolution to a person who is a partner in violation of the 6th commandment except in time of death.
5. Pretending to be a priest (i.e. saying mass hearing confessions etc)
6. Consecrating someone a bishop who isn't a priest.
7. Breaking the seal of confession
8. Being an interpreter and breaking the seal of confession
9. Procuring an abortion


The city of Louisville grew up around the Cathedral of the Assumption. Given how high profile this case has become, will Archbishop Joseph Kurtz (pictured right) have any choice but to excommunicate Pitino if the allegation is true?

While abortion is legal in the United States, the Catholic Church has no grey area on this topic. There may have been many members of the Catholic Church who have had abortions but kept it quiet. This story is far from quiet.

The Archbishop cannot take a neutral stance if the allegation is true. In this century, the Church excommunicated the mother of a nine-year old Brazilian rape victim, for obtaining an abortion for her daughter, as well as the doctors performing the abortion (source: Wikipedia). Is there any way they can be silent in the Pitino case?

It is a perfect storm that would give the Church to take a hugely visible stand and make an example of Pitino to show President Obama, the Congress, and the American people that its position on abortion is more than words.

Pitino is a coach, a human being with faults as we all do, who is not being slapped by the University of Louisville administration. At least not yet. At least not publicly.

But what will the Church do?

Update: August 14, 2009

According to the Canon Law site In the Light of the Law, Pitino may not face excommunication because a five year statute of limitations has run out, and a Canonical investigation cannot be started:

We may be spared having to think through the 20-plus ways of dodging excommunication latae sententiae (automatic)—which institute, as I have said before, is disappearing from canon law and should be dropped entirely—nor need we discuss the admittedly fewer loopholes available to defendants in excommunication ferendae sententiae (formal) cases for the simple reason that the canonical statute of limitations has already run: the abortion canon,c. 1398, has a five-year "prescription" period per 1983 CIC 1362, meaning that a canonical investigation cannot be opened now regarding an abortion that all sides agree occurred on August 29, 2003.


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