MELBOURNE, Australia, Sept. 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Vatican has excommunicated a Melbourne priest who backed same-sex “marriage” and set up a rebel group for disgruntled Catholics after he was suspended two years ago following a homily promoting women’s ordination.
The priest, Greg Reynolds, who was also laicized, took the story to Australian media last week. LifeSiteNews.com spoke briefly with the Archdiocese of Melbourne’s spokesman, James O’Farrell, who confirmed the excommunication.
Reynolds says the excommunication document was dated May 31st, after Pope Francis’ election, and that he was told by the archdiocese the move came straight from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and not by the request of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart.
The news broke Saturday, two days after a controversial 12,000 word interview with the Pope, in which he had briefly addressed abortion and gay “marriage,” was published in Jesuit magazines around the world.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” Pope Francis had said in that interview.
“This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that,” he added. “But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
The off-the-cuff remarks were interpreted by much of the mainstream press as a call by the Pope for the Church to downplay, or even abandon, its teachings on difficult moral issues. However, that narrative was interrupted when, the following day, the pope issued his strongest remarks to date against abortion, condemning the practice as a manifestation of a “throwaway culture.”
The following day, the excommunication of Reynolds became public.
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Reynolds told The Age that he was summoned to a meeting on Wednesday morning with Fr. John Salvano, Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in which Fr. Salvano read and translated the excommunication notice to him. ''He told me that Denis Hart did not apply for me to be laicised, but someone else unknown has gone over his head and contacted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” Reynolds said. ''The Vatican never contacted me, and it gives no explanation.''
The now-former priest said he had thought he would be laicized but was surprised to learn of the excommunication.
Archbishop Hart suspended Reynolds in 2011 after the priest delivered a homily supporting women’s ordination.
A year later, Reynolds founded a group called “Inclusive Catholics” through which he has been offering Mass illicitly. On the group’s website, Reynolds explains that he founded it because of his “growing conviction that the Institutional Catholic Church was wrong in its teaching on Women's Ordination and on Homosexuality.”
In an Aug. 2012 article, The Age reported that at one of Reynolds’ ‘Inclusive Catholics’ Masses, he allowed an attendee to give a host to his dog.
Excommunication is the gravest penalty that the Church imposes on Catholics.
Though it is often perceived that the Church imposes excommunication as an act of spite, canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters, the Edmund Cdl. Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and a consultant to the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, explains that the penalty is “fundamentally oriented to fostering the reform of the individual.”
“Excommunication is classified as a ‘medicinal penalty’ by the Church precisely because its main purpose is to bring about reform in the individual,” he told Ignatius Insight in 2006. “Having certain actions punished by excommunication demonstrates that certain actions are gravely wrong in themselves and cause deep harm both to their perpetrators and to others.”