To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
All Commentaries on 1 Corinthians 5:5 Go To 1 Corinthians 5
Cornelius a Lapide
To deliver such an one to Satan. Theophylact thinks that by these words Paul actually excommunicates the fornicator, but it is truer to say that by them he orders his excommunication to be carried out by the prelates in the Corinthian Church. If otherwise, he would have said, "I deliver," instead of "I have judged to deliver;" and the same is borne out by his bidding that he be delivered over to Satan in public assembly of the Church.
2. Observe that the ancients understood this passage of the power and act of excommunicating which is lodged in the prelates of the Church. So Chrysostom, Anselm, Augustine, and others quoted by Baronius, p448 , A.D57.
2. The excommunicate are said to be delivered over to Satan, because being ejected from the fellowship of Christ and His Church, and being deprived of all its benefits, its prayers, suffrages, sacrifices, and Sacraments, of the protection of God, and of the care of pastors, they are exposed to the tyranny and assaults of the devil, whose rule is outside the Church, and who goes about against them more then before, and impels them to every kind of evil. Cf. Ambrose, Augustine (lib. iii. Ep. contra Parmen. c2), Jerome ( Ephesians 1ad Heliod.), Innocent (apud S. Aug. Ephesians 51).
For the destruction of the flesh1. That the devil may harass him with bodily sickness, wounds, and diseases; that his flesh may be brought low and its vigour be destroyed; that being thus humiliated he may learn wisdom. So say Theodoret, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Å’cumenius, Anselm.
2. Ambrose and Anselm here, and S. Augustine in the passage just cited, explain it to mean, for the destruction of the pleasure of the body through this confusion and shame. But though shame may restrain a man from the external act when there is danger of its being commonly known, yet it does not do away with the inner desire of the heart, and therefore the first meaning, which is supported by more Fathers, is the more true and suitable.
From these Fathers we gather, though some deny it, that the excommunicate were formally handed over to the devil, and also corporally vexed and possessed by him, that they might learn to fear excommunication. Theodoret says this expressly here, and also at1Tim. iv20 , and Ambrose too there says that this was the tradition of his forefathers, and that this is the strict meaning of "the destruction of the flesh." Frequently examples of diabolic possession are to be found in the lives of the Fathers, and especially in the life of S. Ambrose by Paulinus. When Ambrose had delivered a certain man to Satan, devil at that very moment seized him and began to tear him. For this reason Christ, in S. Matt. x, gave, S. Thomas says, to the Apostles power over unclean spirits, both to expel them from and to admit them into men"s bodies to vex them. For other examples, cf. Delrio de Magia (lib. iii. p1 , qu7), Petr. Phyrus (De Dmon. p. ii. c30), Lerarius (in Tob. c6 , qu20).
That the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. That the soul and mind, gaining from this punishment wisdom and renewal, may be saved in the day of judgment. Hence it appears that the end of excommunication should be borne in mind, which is to cause the excommunicate shame and distress, that he may be humiliated, and ask to be received back, and seek for pardon from God and the Church. The faithful, therefore, should pray secretly for him, and endeavour to win him back to unity.