Just a couple months before Pope Benedict resigned, I was informed by the Vatican that he had expelled me from the priesthood because of my public support for the ordination of women. As a Catholic priest for 40 years, this was very difficult and painful.
When Pope Francis replaced Pope Benedict, Francis’ warm personality and from-the-heart statements gave many Catholics great hope. Many—myself included—believed that the Catholic Church might stop living in the Middle Ages and enter the modern world, where issues of equality for women and the LGBT community are a priority.
I’m sad to say, our hope was short-lived. Pope Francis has expelled from the priesthood Father Greg Reynolds of Australia, because of his advocacy for the ordination of women. Fr. Reynolds expressed his shock and pain at being kicked out of the priesthood for following his conscience.
In announcing his resignation, Pope Benedict said that he had made his decision after examining his conscience before God. Catholics are taught that our conscience is sacred because it always urges us to do what is right and what is just. After examining our consciences, Fr. Reynolds and I (along with a majority of Catholics) believe that, since men and women are created equal, both can be called to the priesthood. “There is neither male nor female. In Christ you are one” (Galations 3:28).
I guess I should have known better. Long ago, as a young priest in Bolivia, I learned that power is an addiction, and that our all-male, clerical culture sees women as a threat to male power. In living with the poor of Latin America, I was taught that change would not come from those who abuse their power and oppress others, but from the oppressed themselves. Change will come—not from the top down, but from the bottom up.
At the core of the crisis in the Catholic Church today are men who claim that only they can know the will of God. And the God they tell others to worship is effectively male and heterosexual. Most young Catholics are leaving the Church because it is anti-women and anti-gay. If the Catholic Church does not change, it will go the way of the dinosaurs.
In the midst of my sadness and disappointment in Pope Francis, I nevertheless have great hope because I know that any movement rooted in love, justice, and equality cannot be stopped. In July, Pope Francis told reporters, ”On the ordination of women, the door is closed.” He should know that no one—not even the Pope—can close a door that God wants to open.