Pope Francis's Vatican drew a more firm line in the sand on its stance on women's ordination this month by excommunicating an Australian priest who advocated for the inclusion of female priests. Fr. Greg Reynolds became the first member of the Melbourne Archdiocese to be excommunicated for reasons other than pedophilia, according to a report from the National Catholic Reporter. They explain that the letter of excommunication:
"Accuses Reynolds of heresy (Canon 751) and determined he incurred latae sententiae excommunication for throwing away the consecrated host or retaining it "for a sacrilegious purpose" (Canon 1367). It also referenced Canon 1369 (speaking publicly against church teaching) in its review of the case. Pope Francis, Supreme Pontiff having heard the presentation of this Congregation concerning the grave reason for action ... of [Fr. Greg Reynolds] of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, all the preceding actions to be taken having been followed, with a final and unappealable decision and subject to no recourse, has decreed dismissal from the clerical state is to be imposed on said priest for the good of the Church."
A letter to the other priests in the archdiocese explained that his excommunication was "because of his public teaching on the ordination of women." Female priests are banned explicitly by Canon law, and Pope Francis has repeatedly stated that his beliefs on the subject are aligned with that law. The Pope did not address the issue in his interview last week in America magazine. Reynolds told the NCR that he also believes his support of the Melbourne LGBT community was also a factor.
The priest's advocacy goes a beyond a statement of support for female ordination. Reynolds is the founder of Inclusive Catholics, which advocates for women's ordination and for a reform of the church's teaching on homosexuality. He resigned from his parish ministry to lead the group (but not from the priesthood), providing a further reason for the church to seek him out for censure. In 2012, Reynolds received a letter of warning from Denis Hart, the Archbishop of Melbourne, for acting publicly as a priest without authorization, and for giving "alternate" forms of the Eucharist at Inclusive Catholics's monthly meetings.
Excommunication is serious, although Reynolds still technically remains Catholic. In addition to losing the ability to hold any sort of position in church hierarchy, Reynolds is also banned from participating in the Eucharist or other sacraments of the church. Excommunicants, however, are usually encouraged to attend Mass. They're just not allowed to participate. Ordaining, supporting, or becoming a female priest has been explicitly grounds for automatic excommunication since at least 2008, thanks to a declaration by Pope Benedict XVII. While Francis has praised the role of women in the Catholic community, he has largely stood by his predecessor's stance on female priests, and on those pesky American nuns.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.