Via David Mills comes news that the Great Liberal Hope Of Rome has excommunicated an Australian priest for being persistently outspoken advocating gay rights and women priests. Excerpt:

The excommunication document – written in Latin and giving no reason – was dated May 31, meaning it comes under the authority of Pope Francis who made headlines on Thursday calling for a less rule-obsessed church.

Father Reynolds, who resigned as a parish priest in 2011 and last year founded Inclusive Catholics, said he had expected to be laicised (defrocked), but not excommunicated. But it would make no difference to his ministry.

”In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such trust and respect,” he said.

”I’ve come to this position because I’ve followed my conscience on women’s ordination and gay marriage.”

Not exactly true — Reynolds was given the boot because he continued to celebrate mass after his faculties to do so were withdrawn. Even so, Damon Linker tried to warn you progressive types the other day after the interview set off such gushing on the left. Excerpt:

Still, words remain mere words when they are unaccompanied by action—and this is something progressive Catholics need to keep in mind as they respond to the new pope. Francis hasn’t changed a single doctrine or dogma of the church, and he’s exceedingly unlikely to. By all means, reform-minded Catholics should rejoice when the pope changes the rhetorical emphasis of the Vatican. But a “revelation“? Get a grip.

My friend Andrew Sullivan gets wound up over the terrible, dreadful, no-good Pope Benedict, but to my knowledge, Benedict never did anything like this.

It’s funny how all of us project our own fears, hopes, and desires onto leaders, especially religious and political ones. For many liberals, Benedict couldn’t do anything right. For many conservative, John Paul could do no wrong; even when his failures of church governance were undeniable, these diehards spoke as if he was doing the right thing, only we mortals were too sinful to see it. This Mottramism, and Reverse Mottramism (that is, The Pope Can Do No Right), is always a temptation for all of us. Me too.

Catholic theologian Michael Peppard writes about what it means to say Pope Francis is a “liberal”:

Ever since the election of Pope Francis, Catholics had been wondering whether his dramatic changes in style—from turning down the papal apartment to phoning unsuspecting Italians—augured any changes in substance. Would this reform-minded pontiff fulfill liberal Catholic dreams for the church?

With the wide-ranging interview published on Thursday, we have outlines of an answer. While Pope Francis does not share all the convictions of liberal Catholics, he is temperamentally as liberal as any pope could reasonably be.

One more thing on the way Francis’s interview is reverberating through American Catholicism. A friend reports talking with his priest this past weekend about it. His priest is publicly enthusiastic about the Interview, privately not so much. My friend reports his priest fears that the Pope implicitly accuses priests who are serious about moral issues of being petty. Writes my friend:

At the moment, he is feeling a certain feeling that is analogous to what he felt at the height of the abuse crisis, when just being a public priest casts you as one of the bad guys in public perception; it’s similar after this interview, in that being morally serious is now likely to get you publicly cast as a problem.

 

My friend said he put the question I asked here the other day to pastors — “Is Francis’s interview making your job easier or harder?” — and said the priest instantly said, “Harder.” Why? Because he fears that a number of people will reject any attempt to talk about the Church’s teachings on abortion and sexuality as moralizing of the sort the Pope rejects. My friend says that Father X. is “far, far from moralistic. He is not at all a doctrinaire or ideological conservative. … This is a guy who in his ministerial practice is doing exactly what Francis would want. But he’s not finding the interview helpful.”

For what it’s worth…