Australian Priest Excommunicated for LGBT Support Under Pope Francis

Fr. Greg Reynolds with his notification of excommunication

An Australian priest has been excommunicated for his support of women and LGBT people in the Catholic Church in a troubling development while many still celebrate Pope Francis’ inclusive-minded interview released last week.

Fr. Greg Reynolds received notification of his excommunication directly from the Vatican with no explanation provided in the Latin text. The Age notes that the notification is dated May 31, 2013, which is well into Pope Francis’ papacy and reports:

“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.’ “

It appears that Fr. Reynolds’ archbishop in Melbourne did not submit anything to the Vatican about the priest, but that the priest was reported anonymously by someone else directly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Archbishop Denis Hart did say the excommunication is a consequence of Fr. Reynolds’ continuing to preach and celebrate Mass after he resigned from the priesthood.

Some speculate Fr. Reynolds’ trouble is because of his support for women’s ordination, and only marginally LGBT matters. Fr. Reynolds spoke to The Herald about his excommunication and broader efforts at renewal of the Catholic Church in Australia:

“ ‘Just from my own experience, I’m aware of a number of priests who share my belief and my guesstimate would be well over half of the Australian clergy would share that belief.’

“ ‘Understandably none of them haven’t spoken out publically about it because they fear they will suffer the same fate as myself.’…

” ‘I still love the church and am committed to it, I’m just trying to bring about in my own little way to help highlight some of the failing and limitations.’ “

Last week, Pope Francis’ interview with Jesuit publications was a hopeful sign for many that the Catholic Church was moving towards an era where it is less obsessed with rules and more in a posture of mercy and dialogue. Fr. Reynolds claims that interview makes his excommunication “outdated” as the two men are working for similar ends of renewal and reform. Still the excommunication formally remains.  Does this mean that Pope Francis’ positive words on LGBT issues won’t be translated into equally positive acts from the Catholic hierarchy?  Or was this decision made too early in his papacy to be a real indicator of his attitude?  What do you think?  Offer your thoughts in the  “Comments” section of this post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

20 replies
  1. John Steinson
    John Steinson says:

    Why would anyone be surprised by what has occurred? The Pope is Catholic, yes? Since sex between 2 people of the same sex is still a sin I’m not sure what is expected.

  2. Gabor Kale
    Gabor Kale says:

    It’s a vile tactic. Those members of the Catholic hierarchy in the Vatican, who oppose the changes, waited for a favorable moment. Why do you think this letter hasn’t been sent before? It was a nasty tactic, I guess.

  3. Terence Weldon
    Terence Weldon says:

    As I read the report in The Australian Age, it seemed to me that the reason for his excommunication was not because of either his support for gay marriage, or for women priests. Rather, it seemed to be because he continued to say Mass after his faculties to do so had been removed.

    • Gabor Kale
      Gabor Kale says:

      You are right, that in the report of The Australian Age can be read that “Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart said Father Reynolds was excommunicated by the Vatican because after his priestly faculties were withdrawn he continued to celebrate the Eucharist publicly”, but (!) the sentence continued: “and preach contrary to the teachings of the church”. I guess it means, that the real reason of excommunication was that Fr Reynolds “preach contrary to the teachings of the church”.

      • Gerry
        Gerry says:

        If he “resigned from the priesthood” in 2011 and continues to perform the duties of a priest, should anyone really be surprised he would be ex-communicated? I would also lay odds that the process involved in ex-communicated was probably initiated prior to Pope Francis’ papacy.

  4. Friends
    Friends says:

    I wonder if Pope Francis even knew about it — or if it was done by some bumbling Vatican bureaucrat with an itchy trigger finger. This is clearly NOT the way Francis himself has been approaching difficult and controversial issues within the Church. He has been approaching them with an attitude of healing and understanding and open dialogue.

  5. Ryan Sattler
    Ryan Sattler says:

    When the “people of GOD” are so hungry for “pastoral leadership,” many of us are giving Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt. However, many women and men have voiced their concern about Pope Francis comments about the role of women in the church. And now this excommunication. Soon, Francis’ “honeymoon” will be over and his inspiring words must be become meaningful changes in the direction of “our church.”

  6. John Steinson
    John Steinson says:

    Ignoring the fact that sex between 2 people of the same sex is still a sin won’t help your efforts. Is there a strategy to get around this small detail?

    • Jim
      Jim says:

      Yes John Steinson, there is a strategy for moving beyond obsession with rules that regulate genital contact. Focus more on the teachings and example of people like Jesus, Pope Francis and the majority of priests and people in the pews who are more concerned about encouraging and affirming love, respecting human diversity and working for justice for the marginalized.

  7. Charles Bolser
    Charles Bolser says:

    What happens if Greg simply ignores the document – and moves on with his life of faith – and actively participates in the Sacraments? It is time to ignore actions from the hierarchy that are unjust and to refuse to acknowledge them and utilize our own conscience. A letter received from the Vatican that is unjust can simply be thrown in the trash where it belongs and ignored. It should have no bearing on how I choose to live my life.

  8. Janice Poss
    Janice Poss says:

    I do not think I would ignore the document, but I would address it face on and ask ‘Why’? If we are attempting to reform, or as I prefer to say, transform the Church, then the Vatican must ne questioned. I would rally support and have Fr. Reynolds constituency all write letters to the Vatican CFDF! Barrage them with letters of support. Against church teachings or not, things won’t change unless questions are asked for which answers must be found. If we are all Imago Dei in the eyes of God, then how can humans in the Vatican say that women and LGBTQ are a little less Imago Dei? It makes no sense. If God had wanted only ‘straight’ people he would have made only ‘straight’ people, or all men, or all white men, for that matter!! The illogic of the teachings needs to be addressed. It is also about time that we address the issue of our human sexuality that is there for a reason, a healthy reason(s), not just for pro-creation, but also to show our love of the other in ways that words do not–and that includes same-sex love. Today we have a better understanding, not just of women, but of the LBGTQ community and we know that patriarchy divides instead of unifying, creating half people instead of whole persons fully in God’s light.
    All of us make up the Church, not just those in the Vatican. I would assume that this letter was in the works way before Francis took over, since as we all know the Vatican works quite slowly in these matters. We must all remember that God made us all and that women and LGBTQ people are and have been the Church for its entire run from the beginning. We all need to own that for ourselves and once we do that we are empowered to take a stand in the ‘white’ section of the bus, as Rosa Parks did and demand that we are equal! If we do not stand together, putting these demands before the Vatican, then nothing will ever change!

  9. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    Sad, isn’t it. The church hierarchy can only respond with an extreme punishment – one that doesn’t hold the power it once did (thank God!). Prophets are often killed and punished. It takes courage to be a prophet.

    • Helen Kauffman, LCSW-C
      Helen Kauffman, LCSW-C says:

      If sin and alliance with “sinners” has become criteria for xcommunicatin, we should all ” self-deport.”
      many have already, it’s healthy self preservation to leave abusive relationships.God knows our hearts.

  10. K.T.
    K.T. says:

    Is it possible that Pope Francis himself didn’t know about the excommunication? I’m just wondering that just because something came from the Vatican, didn’t mean it came directly from the Pope.

  11. TY
    TY says:

    Steinson, why then those paedophile priests are not ex-communicated, even though they sinned the 6th of the Ten Commandments “Thou shall not commit adultery”? These priests have more reasons to be excommunicated as they are a disgrace to the Catholic church! And yet, Fr Greg who tried to practise God’s teaching “love one another as I have love you” to embrace all God’s children and to promote unjust is being punished? What type of Catholic teaching is this??? We devoted Catholics certainly deserve a good explanation from Pope Francis of his action to Fr Greg!

  12. Christian Schmemann
    Christian Schmemann says:

    This secular media is trying to make something out of this that isn’t there. It is exceedingly rare that that the Catholic Church excommunicates clergy for supporting same-sex marriage. At the most, the most severe sanction that the Vatican would impose in this situation would be laicization.

    Simply put, the reason this pirest was excommunicated had far more to do with the fact that this priest gave Eucharist to a dog!


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  1. […] Tablet reported that Australian former priest Greg Reynolds, whose support for same-sex marriage was reported to have been part of the reason that the Vatican laicised and and excommunicated him, has revealed […]

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