The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has made public the action of Bishop Thomas Olmsted to excommunicate Father Chris Carpenter, former pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church in Mesa and one-time “Father Flick” film reviewer for The Catholic Sun newspaper. Ordained in 1995, he served the Mesa church from 1997 to January 2006.
The Sun’s Web Site on Monday posted a story by the Sun’s editor Rob DeFrancisco that said the bishop sent a letter to Carpenter, who now lives in Long Beach, Calif., notifying him that he has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church for aligning with the Reformed Catholic Church, which is not in communion with Rome and which embraces such progressive ideas as female and married priests. On April 21, we made public Carpenter’s letter to friends in which he stated he was sending a letter that week to Olmsted to say he had no choice but to leave Roman Catholicism. He said he was finding new spiritual fulfillment in Reformed Catholicism and was newly appointed vicar for California. “Their leadership has welcomed me with open arms and I am grateful,” he said. He explained that he found it likely that, once Olmsted got his letter, he could be excommunicated or disciplined in other ways. That came to pass.
The Sun’s Web story explained, “According to canon law, baptized Catholics who knowingly place themselves outside of full communion with the church and in opposition to the legitimate authority of the church are subject to excommunication.” Said the Sun: “The excommunication became ‘automatic’ once Fr. Carpenter became affiliated with the Reformed Catholic Church. The bishop’s notice to him, ‘the Decree of Excomunication’ was the formal declaration of what had already happened by virtue of his schismatic act.”
By putting himself in “scism,” Carpenter has willingly separated himself from the Roman Catholic Church and censure follows. With this action, the 41-year-old Phoenix native cannot participate in a Roman Catholic Mass celebration “or in any celebration of worship,” the Sun said. “He is also prohibited from celebrating or receiving any of the sacraments and cannot represent himself as a priest.” That is a Roman Catholic priest.
Carpenter intends to be busy as the first Reformed Catholic Church priest in California. He is at work establishing a parish in Long Beach that he has named the Community of the Resurrection, and he will remain active in a non-denominational interfaith hospice chaplain. He has long been open about his disagreements with Olmsted. He was among nine priests ordered by the bishop in 2004 to take their names off the Phoenix Declaration letter that Arizona clergy signed calling for full acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in the life of faith communities. He would say later that “something died as a result of the personal and public showdown … A chilling effect has been experienced throughout all Catholic parishes and institutions concerned about outreach and ministry to LGBT persons.”
The Sun explained the actions this way, “The primary purpose of excommunicationis to repair the scandal caused by the teachings and actions of the cleric, to restore justice inthe church and to reform the offender.” The bishop said he was sad to take the action and was praying for Carpenter’s “reconciliation with Christ and His Church.”
My sense is Carpenter is not looking back and believes he is out in front in serving Christ’s true church.