Fr. Minutella excommunicated for 'heresy' and 'schism' after rejecting validity of current pontificate
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While dissident, pro-LGBT clergy like Fr. James Martin are allowed to travel on speaking tours and are welcomed into dioceses around the world, the Vatican is quick to shut down priests who criticize the Pope. A closer examination shows the case of Fr. Alessandro Maria Minutella may be a justified excommunication — but the double standard applied by the Holy See in allowing liberal, equally questionable clergy free rein in the Church raises questions.
In mid-November, the archdiocese of Palermo announced the excommunicationlatae sententiae for "heresy and schism" of 45-year-old Fr. Minutella in accordance with canon 1364 of the Code of Canon Law. The excommunication came after three long years of disputes between Fr. Minutella and three bishops and one year after Fr. Minutella refused to present a public statement of loyalty to Pope Francis, as ordered by the Congregation for the Clergy.
Father Minutella argued the provision was absurd, as he had already provided a letter to the archbishop of Palermo, Corrado Lorefice, professing all truths of the Catholic faith, including his adherence "with submission of will and intellect to the Roman Pontiff."
Archbishop Lorefice is one of Pope Francis' most cherished appointments. In 2015, he went from simple priest to archbishop of a diocese founded in apostolic times. He's often remembered for riding a bicycle in the chancel of Palermo's cathedral and was instrumental in the composition of the Sicilian Episcopal Conference's guidelines for the application of the controversial chapter 8 of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia: "In some circumstances regarding the divorced and remarried, according to the evaluation of the confessor and considering the good of the penitent, it's possible to absolve and allow access to the Eucharist, even if the confessor knows that for the Church this is an objective disorder."
Father Minutella has been a fiery critic of both Amoris Laetitia and Pope Francis. The priest became known in the international Catholic press in 2017 after being removed from his parish, as well as having all his faculties suspended by Lorefice.
His was presented as a story of a persecuted priest who dared to stand up for the Catholic faith, but that is, arguably, only partially true, at best. What first emerged as fair criticism to the issues fostered by the current pontificate later showed signs of extremely concerning behavior, as Fr. Minutella seemed to be leading the faithful through a cult of personality.
The double standard applied by the Holy See in allowing liberal, equally questionable clergy free rein in the Church raises questions.
His defiant attitude traces back to the previous archbishop of Palermo, Cdl. Paolo Romeo, who in 2015 intervened in support of the bishop of Monreale, Michele Pennisi. Pennisi had forbidden Fr. Minutella from saying Mass or administering the sacraments in the diocese of Monreale, where Fr. Minutella illicitly established a spiritual community called "Piccola Nazareth."
Bishop Pennisi admonished Fr. Minutella because of his alleged "interior locutions" from Our Lady, St. Michael the Archangel and St. Padre Pio. According to Minutella, Our Lady gave him specific directions to find a spring of water that heals "spiritual maladies," and St. Michael the Archangel asked him to place a St. Michael statue in the community's garden.
The prophetic messages are often self-referential, revolving around Fr. Minutella's "mission." Our Blessed Lady always refers to Fr. Alessandro Minutella as "my son," "my martyr," "my chosen one"; many times, She states that "through him, God has decided to address you," and that "this son of mine will be persecuted" as "Freemasons are enraged with him." Padre Pio allegedly calls Minutella his "poor brother" whom he wishes to see "accepted and supported by the faithful" in his lone battle against Freemasonry.
Since Fr. Minutella's "divine locutions" are largely widespread … and they represent a serious risk of deep disturbance for many consciences, it must be noted that his "prophecies" are deceptive and misleading, and their diffusion puts genuine devotion to Our Lady, the angels and the saints at serious risk. … [T]he invention of the miraculous water … plays with the sacred sensibility of the faithful. ... It's mandatory to warn the faithful that such practices, other than being against the will of the Church, are strongly suspicious of manipulation of consciences.
Bishop Pennisi has endured backlash from Minutella's followers, to the point where the police had to intervene in order to avoid violent confrontation.
Even though Fr. Minutella's catecheses are theologically solid and completely faithful to Church teaching, his self-centered mysticism and unhinged comments on Pope Francis have overshadowed any legitimate criticism he initially expressed. Not only does Fr. Minutella claim that Pope Francis is not the legitimate pontiff, he also claims Francis is the Antichrist, and that those who insist on attending Masses in communion with Pope Francis are attending demonic rituals:
Mass [in communion] with Pope Francis isn't valid. If Catholics attend these Masses, instead of taking the body of Christ, they are taking the body of satan. Whoever follows this Church, follows satan. Go to any Mass in communion with Pope Francis and you'll be eating demons.
He also refers to the Church that accepts Pope Francis as pontiff as "an unworthy prostitute." Responding to his excommunication, he declared it invalid and repeatedly warned the faithful he might be assassinated: "If the Virgin has chosen me to be the leader of the Catholic resistance, then God Himself will provide. … If they decide to kill me … I'll die like St. Maximilian Kolbe, with the sweet name of Mary on my lips."
Archbishop Lorefice might have gone too far with the excommunication, but it's indisputable he's dealing with a questionable priest with whom he tried to reconcile for years.
Archbishop Lorefice might have gone too far with the excommunication, but it's indisputable he's dealing with a questionable priest with whom he tried to reconcile for years. Coming from a Church that promotes pederasts and heretics, it's only expected that the faithful react suspiciously to the excommunication of a seemingly orthodox spiritual leader, but Fr. Minutella is not so much a case of unjust persecution as it is a case of self-inflicted punishment and extreme imprudence.
The core of the matter is that in spite of his erratic behavior, Fr. Minutella is a charismatic communicator who vigorously preaches the truths of the Catholic Church. As Vatican insider Marco Tosatti put it, Minutella "is certainly problematic for the things he says. ... There's no doubt though, that his preaching and his following, represent a symptom … of the uneasiness of the faithful facing such an ambiguous Church."
Three bishops and the Congregation for the Clergy have shown they clearly know how to admonish and excommunicate a difficult priest. Faithful Catholics await the day they apply these measures to faithless clergy involved in cocaine-fueled orgies or who proudly boast of being married to other men.