In a recent development, an Italian priest, Father Ramon Guidetti, has faced excommunication from his local bishop for expressing controversial views about Pope Francis during a homily. The Diocese of Livorno, located in Tuscany, issued a decree on January 1, alerting Catholics to Father Guidetti’s actions, asserting that he “publicly committed a schismatic act” during Mass, leading to an automatic excommunication under Canon law.
Bishop Simone Giusti, the local bishop, explicitly directed Catholics not to attend any Masses conducted by Father Guidetti, cautioning that doing so would result in the serious penalty of excommunication. The bishop invoked Canon 751, which defines schism as “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”
A video posted on YouTube captured the contentious homily delivered by Father Guidetti on December 31, 2023, marking the one-year anniversary of Benedict XVI’s death. In the video, the priest referred to Pope Francis as a “usurper” and a “freemason,” questioning the legitimacy of his papacy. Moreover, Guidetti outright denied that Pope Francis had been the pope for the past decade.
The 48-year-old priest had been serving as the parish priest of the Church of San Ranieri since 2017, situated outside the coastal city of Livorno, approximately 150 miles north of Rome. This move by the local bishop to excommunicate Father Guidetti comes after a meeting held before Christmas, where the bishop addressed the priest’s dissent and subsequently issued the official excommunication decree following Guidetti’s public act of schism on December 31.
Bishop Giusti emphasized the seriousness of the situation, highlighting the implications of excommunication for those who defy the directive: “Catholics are not to attend any Masses offered by the excommunicated priest or they would also incur the very serious penalty of excommunication.”
The use of canonical law to address cases of dissent or schism within the Catholic Church is not uncommon. Canon law provides a framework for maintaining order and discipline within the Church, and excommunication is considered one of the most severe penalties. The decision to excommunicate Father Guidetti stems from his public declarations challenging the legitimacy of Pope Francis’ papacy, constituting a direct violation of Canon 751.
Father Guidetti’s controversial statements, as captured in the video, play a central role in the bishop’s decision to issue the excommunication decree. In the homily, the priest not only referred to Pope Francis as a “usurper” and a “freemason” but also asserted that the current pope had not held the position for the past decade. These statements directly challenge the authority and legitimacy of the Supreme Pontiff, a grave offense within the context of the Catholic Church.
The decree issued by the Diocese of Livorno reflects the seriousness with which the Church addresses matters of schism and dissent. The term “latae sententiae excommunication” used in the decree indicates that Father Guidetti incurred automatic excommunication as a result of his actions during the Mass. This means that the penalty is applied automatically by virtue of the actions committed, without the need for a formal declaration from Church authorities.
The bishop’s adherence to canonical law and the use of excommunication as a disciplinary measure underscores the importance of maintaining doctrinal unity within the Catholic Church. While the Church encourages theological discussions and diverse perspectives, actions that directly challenge the authority of the Pope and the core tenets of Catholicism can lead to severe consequences, as witnessed in the case of Father Guidetti.
The decision to excommunicate Father Guidetti also serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between freedom of expression and the need for adherence to the doctrines of the Church. While individuals within the Church are encouraged to engage in open dialogue, the public expression of views that undermine the fundamental beliefs and authority structures of the Catholic Church can result in serious repercussions.
The local paper in Livorno reported that Bishop Giusti had met with Father Guidetti before Christmas to address his dissent. The subsequent excommunication decree indicates that the bishop deemed the priest’s public act of schism on December 31 as a clear and unacceptable breach of canonical norms. The bishop’s decision to proceed with the excommunication highlights the significance of upholding the unity and integrity of the Catholic faith.
The excommunication of Father Ramon Guidetti by the Diocese of Livorno for challenging the legitimacy of Pope Francis’ papacy during a homily underscores the seriousness with which the Catholic Church addresses matters of dissent and schism. The use of canonical law, specifically invoking Canon 751, reflects the Church’s commitment to maintaining doctrinal unity and discipline. This case serves as a poignant reminder of the boundaries set by the Church to safeguard its core tenets and authority structures.