Melbourne priest Father Greg Reynolds has been excommunicated by the Catholic Church over his views in support of marriage equality and the ordination of women priests, undercutting recent suggestions the church may be becoming more accepting of homosexuality.
While the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart made moves to laicise or “defrock” Reynolds last year, excommunication is a much more extreme sanction as it comes directly from the Vatican.
Reynolds received a letter informing him of his banishment written in Latin and sent very soon after the election of the current Pope Francis, which gave no reason for the directive. He believes he is the first priest in Melbourne to be excommunicated, meaning he can no longer hold any church office or receive sacraments.
After resigning as a parish priest in 2011, Reynolds founded the group Inclusive Catholics last year to create a safe space for Catholics feeling disenfranchised by the Church to celebrate the Eucharist. Reynolds counts a number of LGBTI people among his congregation.
The group attracted criticism from senior members of the church in Australia, but Reynolds told the Star Observer they have been overwhelmed with messages of support since the news of his excommunication became public.
“It’s still very early days yet but we’ve been getting heaps of messages of support, so hopefully it’s been good publicity,” Reynolds laughed.
Reynolds was optimistic about recent statements by Pope Francis indicating the church is becoming more accepting of gay people.
“I’d be hopeful that Pope Francis is true to his word and means what he says. My situation seems to contradict that, but what I don’t know is how much he’s aware of my case and what he was told, so I just don’t know how directly responsible he is for that,” said Reynolds, acknowledging the current Pope would have just begun his tenure when the excommunication order was sent.
“He’s saying and doing all the right things it seems to me, ever the optimist.”
Reynolds encouraged members of the LGBTI community to come along to Inclusive Catholics, and said he was proud to have been involved in the push for marriage equality.
“I was chuffed to be invited back to the Equal Love rally this year to conduct the mass weddings on the steps of the treasury building, so that was a lovely experience again for me,” he said.
Visit www.inclusive-catholics.com for more information about Inclusive Catholics and details of upcoming masses.