Just days after a controversial interview with Pope Francis was published in the Jesuit magazine America, the pontiff has reportedly excommunicated a priest in Melbourne, Australia because of his support for female priests and gay marriage.
According to Barney Zwartz reporting at The Age in Victoria, dissident priest Greg Reynolds has been both defrocked and excommunicated over his support for women priests and same-sex marriage. Zwartz says that Reynolds believes he is the first person ever excommunicated in Melbourne.
The order reportedly comes direct from the Vatican and not at the request of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart. Zwartz wrote that Reynolds said his order of excommunication “follows a secret denunciation in the best traditions of the inquisition.”
The excommunication document, reportedly written in Latin and providing no reason for the order, was dated May 31st.
Reynolds resigned as a parish priest in 2011 and founded a group called Inclusive Catholics in 2012. He reportedly said he had expected to be defrocked, or laicized, but not excommunicated.
”In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such trust and respect,” Reynolds said. ”I’ve come to this position because I’ve followed my conscience on women’s ordination and gay marriage.”
Excommunication in the Catholic Church is the strongest sanction and bans an individual from receiving the sacraments. The Church uses excommunication as a means to urge an individual to reflect on his or her life in the hope of eventually bringing that person back into communion with the faithful. Laicization indicates that a man is no longer a priest.
Zwartz reports that Fairfax Media states the only other Melbourne priests laicized have been notorious pedophiles.
Reynolds said he was called to meet the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, John Salvano, a canon lawyer, last Wednesday.
“He told me that Denis Hart did not apply for me to be laicized, but someone else unknown has gone over his head and contacted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith…”
Several days ago, a controversial interview was released in which Pope Francis, who is a Jesuit, told Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal, that the Church should not be concerned with “small-minded rules” that are detached from the larger issues of the Faith.
The pope said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and contraceptive methods.”
Admitting that he has not spoken much about these issues and that he was “reprimanded” for not doing so, the pope said these concerns must be talked about “in a context,” and that, because the teaching of the church is clear on these matters, “it is not necessary to talk” about them continually.
In addition, the pope described himself during the interview as “really, really undisciplined,” yet also says he is “wary of decisions made hastily,” an interesting paradox considering his many spontaneous, off-the-cuff remarks that have left his advisors at the Vatican in a spin.
In the interview, the pope stated, and America magazine highlighted, that he encountered “serious problems” due to his “authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions” as a Jesuit Superior. Francis said this led to him being accused of being “ultraconservative,” a description he apparently does not apply to himself.
The day after the interview was published, however, Francis condemned abortion in the strongest terms to date since he assumed the papacy.
In a meeting with Catholic gynecologists in Rome Friday morning, the pontiff said, “Every unborn child, though unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of the Lord, who even before his birth, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world.”
LifeSiteNews reported Friday that in response to the pope’s interview for the Jesuits, the United States’ largest pro-abortion organization, NARAL, posted an image on its Facebook page thanking Pope Francis for his comments and signing its message to him from “Pro-choice women everywhere.”
In addition, the New York Times published an article about the interview entitled, “Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion, and Birth Control.”
On Friday, however, in an address to the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, Pope Francis said:
On the one hand we see progress in the field of medicine, thanks to the work of scientists who passionately and unreservedly dedicate themselves to the search for new cures. On the other hand, however, we also encounter the risk that doctors lose sight of their identity in the service of life.
While new rights are attributed to or indeed almost presumed by the individual, life is not always protected as the primary value and the primordial right of every human being. The ultimate aim of medicine remains the defense and promotion of life.
The pope told the physicians, “Your being Catholic entails greater responsibility: first of all to yourself, in the effort to be consistent with the Christian vocation, and then to contemporary culture, to help recognize the transcendent dimension in human life, the imprint of the creative work of God, from the very first moment of conception.”
At the end of his address, the pontiff told the doctors to “bear witness to and disseminate this ‘culture of life’…remind all, through actions and words, that in all its phases and at any age, life is always sacred and always of quality…”