Excommunication follows after priest is made a bishop

The rebel cleric, Bishop Pat Buckley, has excommunicated himself from the Roman Catholic Church by being consecrated as a bishop…

The rebel cleric, Bishop Pat Buckley, has excommunicated himself from the Roman Catholic Church by being consecrated as a bishop, a Hierarchy spokesman has said.

The church spokesman said the ordination of Bishop Buckley by the Tridentine bishop, Dr Michael Cox, was "valid but unlawful" (under Canon law).

A statement from Bishop Cox said he had consecrated Father Buckley as a bishop at Bishop Buckley's Co Antrim home on May 19th.

Bishop Cox said he had "come to know of Bishop Buckley's compassionate work" and found himself "in full agreement with him on many matters". He had consecrated Bishop Buckley "according to the full Roman rite of episcopal ordination and consecration".

"If I as a traditionalist and he as a liberal can co-operate it will give great example to the church on accommodating both", he said.

A Hierarchy representative said that as a result of the ordination, both "bishops" had excommunicated themselves. Canon 1382 of Catholic Church law states: "Both the bishop, who without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See". This means that the automatic excommunication can be lifted only by the Holy See and the Pope.

Mr Jim Cantwell, director of the Catholic Press and Information Office, said the office of bishop "is essential to the unity of the Catholic Church". It breached that unity for a person to consecrate another bishop or to accept ordination on his own authority alone "and without any mandate from the Holy See."

Bishop Buckley said excommunication meant nothing to him as he is "very unhappy with canon law and how it can abuse human rights. It's a very medieval law which allows bishops to impose sentence without trial. We're both part of God's family."

Bishops Buckley and Cox are to found a society in which they will "co-operate pastorally and which will welcome men and women of every persuasion".

"We intend particularly looking at re-enacting the Holy Orders of those priests who have left and indeed we will examine the whole area of women's ministry in the church", a statement from Bishop Cox said.

Bishop Buckley said he had been praying and thinking about extending his ministry. Being a bishop would allow him to "ordain and consecrate others" who will continue his "special ministry to the many groups of people who are rejected by the `official church'." He said he was "desirous of dialogue with the Irish Catholic Hierarchy".

Roddy O'Sullivan

Roddy O'Sullivan

Roddy O'Sullivan is a Duty Editor at The Irish Times