An Australian priest has been excommunicated for his support of women and LGBT people in the Catholic Church in a troubling development while many still celebrate Pope Francis’ inclusive-minded interview released last week.
Fr. Greg Reynolds received notification of his excommunication directly from the Vatican with no explanation provided in the Latin text. The Age notes that the notification is dated May 31, 2013, which is well into Pope Francis’ papacy and reports:
“Father Reynolds, who resigned as a parish priest in 2011 and last year founded Inclusive Catholics, said he had expected to be laicised (defrocked), but not excommunicated. But it would make no difference to his ministry.
” ‘In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such trust and respect,’ he said.
” ‘I’ve come to this position because I’ve followed my conscience on women’s ordination and gay marriage.’ “
It appears that Fr. Reynolds’ archbishop in Melbourne did not submit anything to the Vatican about the priest, but that the priest was reported anonymously by someone else directly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Archbishop Denis Hart did say the excommunication is a consequence of Fr. Reynolds’ continuing to preach and celebrate Mass after he resigned from the priesthood.
Some speculate Fr. Reynolds’ trouble is because of his support for women’s ordination, and only marginally LGBT matters. Fr. Reynolds spoke to The Herald about his excommunication and broader efforts at renewal of the Catholic Church in Australia:
“ ‘Just from my own experience, I’m aware of a number of priests who share my belief and my guesstimate would be well over half of the Australian clergy would share that belief.’
“ ‘Understandably none of them haven’t spoken out publically about it because they fear they will suffer the same fate as myself.’…
” ‘I still love the church and am committed to it, I’m just trying to bring about in my own little way to help highlight some of the failing and limitations.’ “
Last week, Pope Francis’ interview with Jesuit publications was a hopeful sign for many that the Catholic Church was moving towards an era where it is less obsessed with rules and more in a posture of mercy and dialogue. Fr. Reynolds claims that interview makes his excommunication “outdated” as the two men are working for similar ends of renewal and reform. Still the excommunication formally remains. Does this mean that Pope Francis’ positive words on LGBT issues won’t be translated into equally positive acts from the Catholic hierarchy? Or was this decision made too early in his papacy to be a real indicator of his attitude? What do you think? Offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry