Ex-Communicated. Again

For some background information on this article, it is important to know that Bruce lived from 1274 until 1329, 200 years before Martin Luther's 95 Theses and before Henry VIII made his split from the Catholic Church. In other words, in his day to be Christian was to be Catholic.

For some background information on this article, it is important to know that Bruce lived from 1274 until 1329, 200 years before Martin Luther's 95 Theses and before Henry VIII made his split from the Catholic Church. In other words, in his day to be Christian was to be Catholic.

And Bruce himself seems to have been a rather devout Catholic. He counted among his close friends and associates Bishops Lamberton and Wishart, and Bernard de Linton, Abbot of Arbroath. He carried the relics of both St. Columba and St. Fillan to the Battle of Bannockburn in June of 1314. And on the morning of the main battle, Bruce started the day with Mass, his army of thousands on its knees before Maurice, the blind and barefoot abbot of Inchaffray, not only saying Mass, but receiving absolution. The Declaration of Arbroath, sent to the Pope in 1320, compares Bruce to the Biblical figures of Joshua and Judas Maccabeus, who led their people against oppressors. One of his unfulfilled dreams was to go on a Crusade. Such was his wish that, though he was unable to fulfill it himself, he exhorted a promise from his closest friend, James Douglas, that, after Bruce's death, James would take his, Bruce's, heart on Crusade. This James Douglas did, carrying Bruce's heart in a silver casket.
As to excommunication, it is a formal declaration of exclusion from the community, and within the Catholic Church typically means one is no longer allowed to partake of communion.
For a devout Catholic, Robert Bruce had a bad knack for getting ex-communicated. It started with the murder of John Comyn, the Red Comyn, Lord of Badenoch (yes, these were all the same man-- just to be clear which of several John Comyns we're talking about) before the altar of Greyfriars Church in 1306. In Blue Bells of Scotland, Shawn expresses disbelief that a man should be excommunicated for killing, as it seems, to him, to be the national pastime of medieval Scotland. And it is true that the real issue was not so much the killing, as the killing of a man on holy ground.
The thing to remember about excommunication is that it's like drenched. You can't get more drenched, and you can't get more excommunicated. Unlike drenchings, though, excommunication does not 'dry out.' You remain so until it is formally lifted. And this is why it's an almost amusing story, that in 1317, with the former excommunication never having been lifted, and no more severe penalties to inflict, Pope John XXII once again excommunicated Bruce. This time, however, he applied the punishment to all of Bruce's associates, the whole of Scotland, really, and furthermore, declared that the prelates of York and London were to repeat the excommunication ceremony every single Sunday and every holy day for a whole year. As if a drenched man might become even more drenched.
Interestingly, many sources credit the Pope's ridiculous order as the inspiration for the Scottish nobles writing the Declaration of Arbroath, Scotland's most famous document on a par with, and many say largely the basis for, our own Declaration of Independence.
I wonder how Bruce or his comrades felt about all of this. I suspect that they were strong enough in their faith in the rightness of their cause, declaring the independence that had always been theirs before Edward Longshanks invaded, that it was little more than a source of amusement to them, although I would think it might also have saddened them, to be on the wrong side of a faith and church that they obviously valued.

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