Father Greg Reynolds is the first priest to be excommunicated during the first six months of Pope Francis’s pontificate. At one stage as stated on the NCR website (Sept 27), one of the reasons put forward for his excommunication was that he had given communion to a dog. This allegation is totally untrue and accepted as such by the Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart. This reported incident only serves to divert attention from the primary reasons as outlined by the Archbishop and presented in a letter of excommunicated from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith which was approved by Pope Francis.
The letter, in Latin, stated that the ‘decision by Pope Francis to dismiss Fr. Reynolds from the clerical state and to declare his automatic excommunication has been made for 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 have the faculties to act publicly as a priest. This is a final and unappealable decision’ .
In his Jesuit magazine interview, Pope Francis did reiterate the traditional theological principle, argely ignored by the last two Popes, that there is a ‘hierarchy of truth’ in the catholic tradition. Obviously if a Christian denies a basic fundamental truth of Christianity, such as the divinity of Christ, such a denial puts one outside of the Church. But how can dissension from a Papal pronouncement such as that the ‘door is shut on the ordination of women’ , as recently stated by Pope Francis, be on a par with the denial of a basic Christian truth and be equally subject as grave matter for excommunication for such dissent? Placing the ordination of women on the same doctrinal level such as the divinity or humanity of Christ is a literal subversion of truth. Dogma and theological opinion are now interchangeable .
Pope Francis as with his predecessors have a major blind spot when it comes to the place of women in the Catholic Church. What are they afraid of in a woman on the altar that they forbid Catholics even to discuss, under the threat of excommunication, the possibility of women priests ? It is acceptable to discuss the role of woman as virgin and mother but not as lover and priest. How many more priests /theologians must suffer needlessly because they say what the rest of the people of God are saying openly. Not only are clerics expected to keep their eyes cast down but their mouths shut as well. Fr. Reynolds is in a long line of priests who have been sacrificed to expediency in the Catholic Church and the rest of us must not allow his name to be eradicated from Church history ; rather we should be eternally grateful to him and to so many of our own Irish priests for having the courage to challenge orthodoxy gone mad .