Church dumps rebel priest
- September 21, 2013
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Religion editor, The Age.
Dissident priest Greg Reynolds has been both defrocked and excommunicated over his support for women priests and gays – the first person ever excommunicated in Melbourne, he believes.
The order comes direct from the Vatican, not at the request of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, and apparently follows a secret denunciation in the best traditions of the inquisition, according to Father Reynolds.
The excommunication document – written in Latin and giving no reason – was dated May 31, meaning it comes under the authority of Pope Francis who made headlines on Thursday calling for a less rule-obsessed church.
Father Reynolds, who resigned as a parish priest in 2011 and last year founded Inclusive Catholics, said he had expected to be laicised (defrocked), but not excommunicated. But it would make no difference to his ministry.
”In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such trust and respect,” he said.
”I’ve come to this position because I’ve followed my conscience on women’s ordination and gay marriage.”
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.
Fairfax Media understands that the only other Melbourne priests laicised against their will have been notorious paedophiles.
As with the removal of Bishop Bill Morris from Toowoomba, the Vatican moved much more swiftly on Father Reynolds over women priests.Father Reynolds said he was called to meet the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, John Salvano, a canon lawyer, to ”discuss some issues” on Wednesday morning.
When he arrived, Father Salvano translated the document for 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.
”The Vatican never contacted me, and it gives no explanation.”
Archbishop Hart said Father Reynolds was excommunicated because after his priestly faculties were withdrawn he continued to celebrate the Eucharist publicly and preach contrary to the teachings of the church.