The excommunication of an Australian priest known for being outspoken on his support of same-sex marriage and ordaining women for priesthood is keeping the discussion about where Pope Francis stands on moral and social issues at the forefront.
Earlier this year, Greg Reynolds was defrocked and excommunicated for his views via a direct order from the Vatican, according to the Australian publication The Age. Reportedly the first excommunicate in Melbourne, Reynolds had already resigned as a parish priest in 2011 and had founded a progressive Catholic group known as Inclusive Catholics.
Negotiations are still in the process regarding benefits for Reynolds in light of his 32 years of service to the Roman Catholic Church as a priest, according to The Age.
''In times past, excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such trust and respect," said Reynolds to The Age. "I've come to this position because I've followed my conscience on women's ordination and gay marriage."
While the letter of notification for excommunication came in late May, the news has garnered renewed attention in light of Pope Francis' recent comments on the Catholic Church. Earlier this month, an extensive interview conducted by Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, of Pope Francis was published by Jesuit Magazines.
Of the many issues touched upon in the interview, two of them discussed were the Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality and the question of female ordination.
"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible," said Pope Francis. "The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
Coupled with remarks earlier this year regarding acceptance of the LGBT community, many individuals interpreted his remarks as showing an increasingly pro-gay stance for a religious institution known for its strong opposition to homosexuality.
Equally Blessed, a pro-LGBT Catholic group, released a statement in response to the interview stating that the Pontiff's words were "like rain on a parched land for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their supporters."
"We yearn for the day when the Catholic hierarchy can simply acknowledge the holiness of our lives and our relationships, as the majority of Catholics in the United States already do, and we pray that this pope will move us closer to that goal," continued the statement.
The Pontiff also appeared to be open to women having a more active role in the Catholic Church, telling Spadaro that the denomination should "investigate further the role of women in the church."
While many media sources believed that these words implied a possible change in views for Catholics, others pointed out that Pope Francis also reaffirmed the Church's stance on both issues.
Dr. Tim Stanley, United States Historian and author, recently penned a column for the United Kingdom publication The Telegraph where he stated that Pope Francis is "not the liberal the media wants."
"From all of last week's headlines saying that the Pope wants to forget this nonsense about abortion and gays, you'd imagine that Germaine Greer had been elected to run the Catholic Church," wrote Stanley.
"Reynolds would throw out Catholic doctrine – something Francis would never do because he is, despite the best wishes of so many in the media, a Catholic. His treatment of Reynolds proves that point."