The Hermits of Westray withdraw from the Catholic Church

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Pope Francis
Pope Francis

The hermits of Westray are a group of Catholics (now ex-Catholics) who have voiced their dissent from Pope Francis’ teaching. They reside in the Catholic Diocese of Argyll and the Isles in Scotland. They are Fr Stephen Joseph de Kerdrel, Sr Colette Maryanne Roberts, and Br Damon Jonah Kelly.

They formally withdrew from communion with Rome and Pope Francis sometime in April 2019, perhaps a bit before. They published their Declaration around that time.

Their Declaration states:

We who are watchmen for the Church, who must speak from the watch tower of Truth, have no option but to withdraw our obedience from Pope Francis and sever communion with the Holy See.

Hermits of Westray, Declaration (emphasis mine)

They go on to say …

This is not an act of schism

Hermits of Westray, Declaration

Oh, but it is. They have, in writing, explicitly withdrawn obedience to the Pope, and broken communion with the Holy See. That is schism. If not, then nothing is schism.

Their formal act of schism has now been recognised by their bishop, Bishop Brian McGee, who has made the position official from his side by issuing a formal excommunication.

Declaration of Schism by Hermits of Westray
Declaration of Schism, Hermits of Westray

It arrived on their doorstep on Christmas Eve, 2019. Here, where I live, it rains every Christmas Eve, even though it’s during the dry season.

Reformation Day, 31 October, would have been a more ironic date for delivery of the decree from their bishop. They had previously been kicked out of the Diocese of Northampton, England.

This is the first formal schism I know of coming from the anti-Francis crowd during the reign of Pope Francis.

There’s a misconception out there as the news breaks – people think that the excommunication has now removed them from the Catholic Church. No, their formal act of schism removed them from the Catholic Church, exiting by their own explicit intention. The wise bishop’s excommunication decree simply formalises it from his side too. Now we all know where he stands, and where they stand.

Will people like Cardinal Raymond Burke, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, and Archbishop Vigano eventually follow suit?

Update: The Hermits have issued a rather emotional and angry response. The blog reporting it seems even angrier.

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    • frantisek1 on December 30, 2019 at 12:14 am

    It is very interesting informations about schizmatics and excomunications group.

    • Alice Pavey on December 30, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    If their original statement had really excommunicated them, the bishop wouldn’t have bothered to do this.

    1. Actually, this is the normal way of doing such things. Official act of schism, therefore an official recognition of it. The first act, the act of schism, is what caused the separation in this case. The second act, the decree of excommunication by the bishop, establishes publicly what the first act caused, on behalf of the Church and as a witness to the people of God.

    • Mrs Dominie Mary Stemp on January 8, 2020 at 11:54 pm

    I am with them

      • Fr John on January 9, 2020 at 6:42 am

      Mrs Stemp,

      To which “them” are you referring? If you are referring to the Hermits, you can send your letter to your local bishop who, I’m sure, will furnish you with a similar letter.

      1. She is one of the signatories of the Hermits’ declaration. I imagine that she was excluded from the excommunication because she’s not formally part of the group of religious. Likely the bishop chose to excommunicate the group, but not individual supporters such as her. Formal schism declared from her side, yes. Formal recognition of that from the bishop, not for her. At least I think so – I haven’t seen the text of the excommunication decree.

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