The Bishop explains:
"Seen in this way," he goes on to say, "a censure such as excommunication is not at all vindictive, but may be seen as a sort of 'tough love,' just as loving parents discipline their children to teach them the difference between right and wrong."
Properly understood in this way as a medicinal penalty, excommunication certainly does not expel the person from the Catholic Church, but simply forbids the excommunicated person from engaging in certain activities in the life of the church until the offender reforms and ceases from the offense. Once this happens, the person is to be restored to the fullness of participation in the life of the church. Although the remission of the censure pertains to the competent authority to determine whether the person has actually ceased from the offense, in a sense the offender holds in his or her own hand the key to the release from the censure. If the wrongful behavior ceases and any necessary reparation or restitution is made, the excommunication will be lifted; if not, it continues.
Thus, some people may be excommunicated for only a short time. For others, the excommunication may never be lifted if they do not repent and change their ways [more].