Last week I wrote about the conciliatory remarks that Pope Francis made in an interview. He sounded very sincere and humble in his deference to the integrity of gay Catholics, and expressed a kind of frustration about the current obsession in the American Catholic Church with abortion, LGBT issues and birth control. However, his words, which I compared to sticking his ceremonial staff into a hornets' nest, were quickly superseded when the story hit the news today on the Huffington Post: a priest in Australia has been excommunicated because of his advocacy.
Yes, that is correct. This priest, Father Greg Reynolds, did not commit acts such as child rape or eloping with a nun or mismanaging the parish bank account. He spoke in support of the ordination of women and marriage equality, and for this he was excommunicated.
When Francis was first elected, I cautioned my readers that his initial charm might be deceptive. I would put it this way: no radical, anywhere in any generation, is going to be elected Pope. That isn't going to happen. The Catholics who have built themselves condominiums in Fool's Paradise have just had a rude shock. It will be the first of many.
When Francis was quoted last week to say, "Who am I to judge?" he quickly followed that up with, "I'll tell you who I am to judge. I'm the Pope, kiddo, and I'm infallible on matters of faith and doctrine, or had that slipped your mind?" Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That adage is never truer than in religion, when time after time, across all faith lines, clerical figures make tragic mistakes.
I am not going to get to be the first person to say this to Father Reynolds, but dude, The Episcopal Church Welcomes You! For Catholics who are no longer into total, mindless submission, the Anglican Communion is a very nice way indeed to be a Catholic.
The main trouble with the Catholic Church is that not enough people say "NO!" to it. I have a huge family-in-law over in Guam, and those of them who still attend the Catholic Church either go or don't go, but they are not confrontational about it. There are a whole lot of Christmas-and-Easter Catholics, and many more who will put in an appearance at a wedding or funeral. And I'm guessing that when they do show up, the preaching might well remind them of why they don't go to Mass more often.
It is ironic that the Episcopal Church went through a schism over the LGBT issue, and who would have thought that those who went off into schism were the bigots who wouldn't accept the mainstream Episcopal inclusiveness? In the Church of Rome it is just the opposite: the liberal Catholics are dropping out one way or the other. The very nice man, Andrew Sullivan, is one of the foremost spokespersons for inclusiveness in Catholicism, and his attitude is one of holding out until something gives. But we (and Sullivan) ought to see in news stories like the one about Father Reynolds that nothing is going to budge in the Catholic Church for generations to come.
I am waiting for Pope Francis to confront the African priests who hold nuns in sexual slavery, affirming their priesthood but declining priestly celibacy. This has been going on for many years, and it has been reported to Rome, but there has been no action so far. I don't think anyone will ever do anything about it, as African priests force themselves on young women and nuns live in terror of the local parish. But Francis, or more likely Benedict, has taken care of Father Reynolds. Doesn't that make you feel a whole lot better?
For more info: read the article on Father Reynolds here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/pope-francis-excommunicates-pri...