In the wake of encouraging statements Pope Francis made in an interview published last week comes evidence that the Roman Catholic Church still definitely does not embrace LGBT equality — the excommunication of a gay-supportive priest in Melbourne, Australia.
Father Greg Reynolds, who supports marriage equality and the ordination of women as Catholic clergy, received the letter last week via a church lawyer, reports Australian newspaper The Age. It was dated May 31 and written in Latin, so canon lawyer John Salvano, who had called Reynolds in to discuss it, translated it for him.
The document gave no reason for the excommunication, but Reynolds told the newspaper, “I’ve come to this position because I’ve followed my conscience on women’s ordination and gay marriage.”
Reynolds’s archbishop, Denis Hart, confirmed to The Age that Reynolds was excommunicated for preaching “contrary to the teachings of the church” and continuing to celebrate the Eucharist — communion — when he no longer had authority to do so.
The Age notes, “According to church teaching, excommunication is the strongest sanction and means one can not hold any office or receive any sacraments. Being laicised means one is no longer a priest.” Reynolds, who had resigned as a parish priest in 2011, said he had expected the latter but not the former. The paper also reports, “The only other Melbourne priests laicised against their will have been notorious paedophiles.”
Reynolds said Salvano told him “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 [formerly the Inquisition].”
Reynolds, who has founded a group called Inclusive Catholics, says he will continue his ministry with that organization.
Pope Francis made headlines last week with the publication of an interview in America, a Roman Catholic magazine, in which he said he is “no one to judge” a gay person who “is of good will and is in search of God.” He also said the church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.” The church’s teaching on these matters is clear, “but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” he said. These and other statements made by the pope have led some LGBT Catholics and their allies to be cautiously optimistic about the church becoming more accepting and inclusive.
However, Tim Stanley, a conservative blogger for London’s Daily Telegraph, offered this take on the pope’s message in light of Reynolds’s excommunication: “Actually what the Pope was saying was that he wants the Church to talk more about what it’s for than what it’s against. But that doesn’t mean it won’t still be against those things that contradict its teachings and traditions.”