The reproach of St. Paul is devastating and it is hard to not hear how it echoes in our own day. Once immorality becomes known the Church has a responsibility to root it out – if we do not and try to justify it out of pride, the whole lump of us will rot. We have nothing to boast about as a Church if we begin to condone what is wrong or simply fail to pronounce judgement in a way that demonstrates clearly that sin separates us from God. The Church can only remain attached to Her Spouse if she detaches Herself from sin. On the one hand, each of us are personally held accountable before God for our own sins and failings – we are called to repentance so that the Lord’s mercy may heal us and we may convert our lives with the help of His grace. On the other hand, we are collectively responsible for the holiness of the Church – this is where the practice of excommunication came from. Certain errors and sinful practices, when they become publicly known and defended must be removed, and if that means individual persons are no longer held to be in communion with the Church, it is for their good and the good of the Church. They cannot be saved if they do not understand their need to convert in order to return to communion. The Church cannot be a sacrament of salvation if it espouses the lies and practices of Satan.
In the minds of the Church Fathers, the Church was not at all an earthly kingdom. The Church, as they explain, is a hospital. St. Maximus of Turin sees the Church as a boat wherein we find an abundance of fish pulled out of the waters of the world and half-dead. By remaining in the boat, the fish are brought – not to the market – but to the shores of eternal life. The fish are certainly taken out of the comforts of the waters where they swam, but they are given lungs to begin breathing the pure air of the Spirit.