Pope Francis and His Followers Backsliding Already?



Just days after an interview with the Jesuit magazine America in which Pope Francis signaled a promising new tone on the gay community comes word that an Australian priest has been defrocked and excommunicated for his views on homosexuality and women priests.

The International Business Times, on September 23, reported that actions taken against Father Greg Reynolds, who resigned from his Melbourne parish under pressure in 2011, originated at the Vatican under the authority of Francis.

The order, written in Latin, cited reasons that included “heresy,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Reynolds said he adopted his favorable views on marriage equality and the ordination of women as a matter of “conscience.”

The Irish Times reported that following his resignation, Melbourne Archbishop Dennis Hart banned Reynolds from “active priestly ministry,” but he continued to celebrate Holy Communion. The newspaper cited “Vatican insiders” as arguing Francis had “little room for maneuver” given “his public celebration of the Eucharist when he did not hold faculties to act publicly as a priest.”

NCR reported that among the offenses the Vatican cited was Reynolds’ employment of the Eucharistic host “for a sacrilegious purpose.” An account from the Melbourne Age has a first-time visitor to a Mass Reynolds celebrated receiving the host and then breaking off a piece of it for his dog.

The order was dated May 31, nearly four months before Francis told America magazine, “This Church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”

Without articulating any change in doctrine toward gay people, the pope said, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. We have to find a new balance. Otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

If the disciplining of Reynolds predated Francis’ recent words, Providence College’s decision to revoke a speaking invitation to a marriage equality advocate came two days after the pope’s interview was published. The New York Times reports that on September 21, Hugh F. Lena, the provost of the Rhode Island Roman Catholic college, canceled an appearance by John Corvino, chairman of the philosophy department at Detroit’s Wayne State University, that was sponsored by nine academic departments. Lena cited a 2004 document from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

Lena later told the Times that Corvino’s visit might be rescheduled if a speaker opposing marriage equality appeared with him.