Mr. (formerly Fr.) Greg Reynolds of Melbourne, Australia expressed “shock” at being the first priest to be excommunicated by Pope Francis for advocacy of women’s ordination, homosexual marriage, and other offenses.
The letter, a copy of which NCR obtained and translated, 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,” read the document, signed by Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect for the congregation, and his secretary, Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria.
Excommunication refers to the severest measure of censure for Catholics and forbids an individual from participation in any eucharistic celebration or other worship ceremonies; the reception or celebration of sacraments; and holding any ecclesiastical or governing role in the church.
The document, dated May 31 — coincidentally Reynolds’ 60th birthday — provided no reason for the excommunication. However, a separate letter sent Friday from Hart to his archdiocesan priests indicated Reynolds’ support of women’s ordination was a primary reason.
“The decision by Pope Francis to dismiss Fr Reynolds from the clerical state and to declare his automatic excommunication has been made because of his public teaching on the ordination of women contrary to the teaching of the Church and his public celebration of the Eucharist when he did not hold faculties to act publicly as a priest,” [Melbourne Archbishop Denis] Hart wrote.
But Reynolds said he believes the excommunication also resulted from his support of the gay community. He told NCR that in the last two years, he has attended rallies in Melbourne advocating same-sex marriage and has officiated at mass weddings of gay couples on the steps of Parliament — “all unofficial of course.”
Reynolds apparently bought into the media narrative that Pope Francis is a “liberal” who would be sympathetic to his goals:
“I am very surprised that this order has come under his watch; it seems so inconsistent with everything else he has said and done,” he said.
The now-laicized priest has been in trouble with his diocese and the Church for several years now. In 2010 he grabbed headlines when he preached a sermon to the three parishes he was responsible for, claiming that it was God’s will that women be ordained priests. In August 2011 Reynolds resigned from pastoral duties and Archbishop Hart removed his priestly faculties, however Reynolds founded a dissident group called “Inclusive Catholics” which meets for liturgies (often as Protestant churches) in which women at times preside. These illicit liturgies managed to give scandal in various ways, including on one occasion by presenting communion to a dog.
Even with the media’s carefully crafted image of Pope Francis as a progressive who will institute radical changes in the Church which theological dissidents have long yearned for, it’s a bit hard to understand how someone as obviously at odds with Church doctrine and practice as Reynolds could imagine that Pope Francis would be sympathetic to him. Nonetheless, the answer to the question “Is the pope Catholic?” clearly remains “yes”, and one can only hope that somehow Reynolds will eventually realize that outside of the Church there is neither truth nor salvation, and repent of his sins.