Q. 1. What is the meaning of the Latin words "latae sententiae" that are found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law?
A. 1. The Latin phrase "Latae Sententiae" usually refers to an automatic excommunication. The phrase means that the "Latae Sententiae" penalty is ipso facto (automatic) at the moment that the law is broken (contravened). For example, the moment a person is involved in an abortion, an automatic excommunication is imposed.
Canon Law # 1314 says, "Generally, a penalty is ferendae sententiae, so that it does not bind the guilty party until after it has been imposed; if the law or precept expressly establishes it, however, a penalty is latae sententiae, so that it is incurred ipso facto when the delict is committed."