Pope Francis excommunicates dissident priest in Australia

Melbourne, Australia, Sep 25, 2013 / 02:06 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has ordered the excommunication of a Catholic priest in Australia who illicitly said Mass, taught that women should be ordained priests and advocated for “gay marriage.”

An Archdiocese of Melbourne spokesman said the Pope had ordered the excommunication of Father Greg Reynolds, who has also been dismissed from the clerical state, the Australian Associated Press reports.

Australian newspaper The Age reported that Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne said the excommunication was due to the priest’s public celebration of Mass without faculties to do so, and his preaching contrary to the teachings of the Church.

The letter announcing the penalty, written in Latin, was dated May 31.

Excommunication is a canonical penalty intended to warn and correct those who commit grave offenses against the Church. Priests who are excommunicated may not receive or celebrate the sacraments.

Reynolds said he expected to be dismissed from the clerical state, but not excommunicated. He said he was told that Archbishop Hart did not apply for dismissal from the clerical state, but that someone else contacted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Reynolds had resigned as a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 2011. He founded a group called “Inclusive Catholics” the following year, and has indicated he will continue his work with the group.

In August 2012, a visitor to the group’s woman-led religious service reportedly fed “consecrated bread” to his dog. Media reports at the time were unclear whether the bread was in fact the Holy Eucharist, as the priest’s involvement in the service was minimal. However, the reports led Archbishop Hart to say such a sacrilege of the Blessed Sacrament would be an “abomination.”

The Catholic Church requires priests to have faculties, or the approval of Church authorities, to licitly celebrate Mass. Catholic teaching is that women cannot be ordained priests for ecclesial reasons, because Christ did not grant the Church authority to do so.

Several individuals who have participated in the simulated “ordination” of women have been excommunicated.

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