BARCELONA, March 15, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Barcelona archbishop Lluís Martínez Sistach has begun excommunication proceedings against a priest in his diocese who has boasted of paying for abortions and blessing homosexual unions, according a statement posted on the archdiocesan website.

The communiqué states that the archbishop and two other diocesan officials met with Fr. Manuel Pousa i Engroñat yesterday, “regarding several declarations of said priest regarding an abortion published in a book about himself.”

The statement points out that the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law levies a penalty of automatic excommunication for cooperating in abortions, but adds that “the same Code establishes that it is necessary to give due diligence with the purpose of verifying the reality of the facts, and then proceed to carry out this administrative procedure.”

Fr. Manuel Pousa first acknowledged he had paid for abortions in 2008. While his statements were reported widely in the Catholic press, Cardinal Sistach did not act against the priest at the time, instead calling him into his office for a private conversation.

However, the cardinal has decided to act in the face of new statements made by Pousa in a book recently published about the priest, “Manel Pousa: Closer to earth than to heaven.”

In the book Pousa admits to having paid for an abortion, as well as having blessed homosexual unions, including a union between a female prison guard and an inmate.  He also rejects the obligation of clerical celibacy, supports the ordination of priestesses, and admits to having a girlfriend - with whom he claims to maintain a celibate relationship.

The archdiocese adds in its communiqué that “these procedures required by canonical norms do not impede the recognition of the social work that this priest has been carrying out for many years at the service of the most needy groups of our society.”