Orkney hermits excommunicated for calling Pope a 'heretic'

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Stephen De KerdrelImage source, Westray hermits
Image caption,
Father Stephen De Kerdrel is one of the group of three Westray hermits

Three hermits living in Orkney have been thrown out of the Roman Catholic church, after they called the Pope a "heretic", and said evil was "destroying" the church.

The group published the comments in an online declaration.

A spokesman for the diocese of Argyll and the Isles said they were warned it would lead to excommunication.

He said offers of dialogue had been refused, so "the penalty now applies".

The group - two men who call themselves a priest and a monk, and a lay woman who was a senior doctor - live on the island of Westray.

They run a controversial blog in which they outline their objections to the church's stance on issues including homosexuality.

In 2015 the trio were thrown out of a church house in Northamptonshire for bringing the diocese into disrepute.

And at the beginning of last year one of the group was convicted of sending homophobic abuse to an Episcopal clergyman.

Image caption,
The group published their "Declaration" online in April 2019

One of the group, Stephen De Kerdrel, told BBC Radio Orkney they believed the church was facing desperate times, and that called for desperate measures.

"Most Christian churches, with the exception of the Orthodox churches, are now so over-run by liberalism and secularism and humanism that they've ceased really being churches," he said.

"But I actually think we're seeing a great battle between Western society and Christianity. And the one they really want to take a pot shot at is the Catholic church.

"So, it almost seems that we're joining the enemy. But we're actually trying to save it from itself."

Image source, Westray hermits
Image caption,
The group live on land in the Orkney island of Westray, with a number of cats

On their website the group criticise Pope Francis and compared the Roman Catholic church to a sinking ship.

They said they had no option but to withdraw obedience from the Pope and sever communion with the Holy See.

And they accepted their stance would inevitably lead to them being excommunicated.

Image caption,
The group describe Pope Francis as the worst pope in history

Fr De Kerdrel said the bishop's decision to implement the sanction was "rubber-stamping it".

A spokesman for the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles said: "In April the group wrote to Bishop McGee to say they intended to withdraw their 'obedience from Pope Francis and sever communion with the Holy See.'

"The bishop advised them that their actions would incur automatic excommunication and urged them to reconsider and made several offers of dialogue all of which were refused.

"As a result, the penalty of excommunication now applies."

Excommunication is the harshest penalty the church can apply. It means they are barred from taking communion at Holy Mass.

The penalty is designed to encourage repentance and can be lifted.

However, the group argue that they haven't left the church. They believe that under the leadership of Pope Francis, the church has left them.

One church insider said that there are about 700,000 Catholics in Scotland, but just three hermits. To call them marginal "would be doing them a favour", he added.

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