Many people across the globe, worshipers and non-worshipers alike, have noticed that the new pope is different. Recently, he has commented on the problems with the economic system, the rights and roles of the working class, and nodded to atheists. He has been hailed as a “breath of fresh air” by many and is said to be bringing the younger generation back to the church with his forward-thinking views. However, Pope Francis has also excommunicated a priest for teaching women how to become ordained themselves.
Fr Greg Reynolds was dismissed from the order in the first excommunication since Pope Francis has taken office. In a letter written by the Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, the Archbishop wrote that the Pope had decided to declare Reynolds’ excommunication and dismiss him from the clerical state because of his public belief that women could become ordained and his teachings thereof. Hart went on to say that such teachings are contrary to the beliefs and instruction of the church, meaning that Reynolds had betrayed his duty to publicly act as a priest. According to another letter by Hart to other priests, such teachings on the ordination of women are automatic grounds for excommunication.
Reynolds told the National Catholic Reporter that he was quite surprised to be handed the order under Pope Francis, saying that it seemed to go against a lot of what the Pope has been doing and preaching. As a supporter of same-sex marriage as well, having attended rallies and reportedly performed same-sex ceremonies to marry couples, Reynolds was likely quite disappointed by his excommunication by Pope Francis simply for teaching women how to become priests themselves.
While the Pope holds to the age-old rules that state women are not eligible to become priests, he does state that the Catholic Church must stop putting all decision-making power into the hands of the ordained and allow women to have a voice in religious matters. Pope Francis went on to say that the concept that ordination equals power has robbed the Church of the valuable insight of women and also presents an incorrect view of the sacraments and priesthood. He claims that priesthood does not set a priest above others, and that women tend have distinctive skills that men often do not possess, such as intuition and sensitivity. The Pope would like the Church to take better advantage of those skills.
Despite Reynolds’ excommunication and his strong stance on not allowing women to become ordained, Pope Francis has made many priests nervous with his dismissal of luxury and how he has continued to overturn traditional policies and practices as well as change the attitude of the Catholic Church. Instead of the red loafers his predecessors wore upon taking office, the Pope wears humble black sandals, and has relinquished the fancier and expensive goods his office once brought to its holders, such as velvet capes trimmed in fur and a personal papal ring. As for attitudes, Pope Francis recently asked the Council of Cardinals he established as an advisory committee to search out far and wide and bring back to Rome the views of the Catholic people on several controversial topics such as birth control, divorce, unmarried couples living together and even gay marriage.
Reynolds may have had it right when he shared his surprise at being excommunicated by Pope Francis for teaching women the rites of ordainment as a priest. Advocates are left to wonder if the Pope, after tackling the controversial topics he seems to be bringing up, will take another look at the equal rights of women when it comes to ordainment.
By Marisa Corley