Dissident Aussie priest excommunicated—by Pope Francis?

This likely wouldn’t have been too much of a story a week ago, but since some journalists and pundits announced last week that Pope Francis was supposedly tossing out all the rules, remaking every jot and tittle of Church doctrine, and formally becoming an Episcopalian (is my sarcasm obvious enough?), it becomes a bit more newsworthy (via The Age):

Dissident priest Greg Reynolds has been both defrocked and excommunicated over his support for women priests and gays – the first person ever excommunicated in Melbourne, he believes.

The order comes direct from the Vatican, not at the request of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, and apparently follows a secret denunciation in the best traditions of the inquisition, according to Father Reynolds.

The excommunication document – written in Latin and giving no reason – was dated May 31, meaning it comes under the authority of Pope Francis who made headlines on Thursday calling for a less rule-obsessed church.

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.

The “best traditions of the inquisition”? Goodness, does someone have a persecution complex? Well, we’re fortunate that Mr. Reynolds is still alive, having survived the paper cuts he must have suffered while opening his letter from the Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei.

Meanwhile, the Newcastle Herald reports that Reynolds claims over half of the Catholic clergy Down Under are over the top (but secretly, so to remain under the top) for the ordination of women and openly homosexual unions:

The Melbourne priest of more than three decades founded Inclusive Catholics, which he calls an “evolving community”, last year. A priest and bishop from the Independent Catholic tradition have joined him and services are held “every couple of weeks.”

A following of a dozen or so people attend the services but Father Reynolds says Inclusive Catholics has a mailing list of around 200 people and support is growing.

“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,” Father Reynolds said.

“I guess  when they weigh it up they feel they can do more good for the  community by staying within the system  and trying to bring about reform and renewal from within.

A blog operated by New Ways Ministries (“Building Bridges Between the LGBT Community and the Catholic Church”) expressed confusion as to why a (former) priest who repeatedly and publicly rejected Church teaching, openly disobeyed clear rules (ah, there’s that word), and scorned correction would suffer such a fate:

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. … 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?

As Tim Stanley notes in The Telegraph: “Actually what the Pope was saying was that he wants the Church to talk more about what it’s for than what it’s against. But that doesn’t mean it won’t still be against those things that contradict its teachings and traditions.”

Exactly. Why is that so hard to figure out? For one reason, many of those who openly reject the Catholic Church will not rest until the Church is either silenced or neutralized, and a simple way to accomplish such neutralization is to continually misrepresent what the Pope actually says. After all, it really does work on a large number of people, who still listen to and even trust the mainstream media, which is an act of blind faith that I do not understand in the least. Faith and reason go hand-in-hand, and having an unquestioned faith in secular journalism is not reasonable; in fact, it might well be superstitious, and as a Catholic I’ll have no part of that. In the meantime, Mr. Reynolds can keep pursuing his conscience (which was not properly formed or enlightened by the Truth (see CCC 1783), while the Church continues to preach the Truth.

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About Carl E. Olson 1200 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.