The priest on trial refuses to attend the hearing, which he calls "medieval and totally un-Christian."
"It's like the Inquisition has returned," said the Rev. Ned Reidy, of Bermuda Dunes, who also is charged with schism.
The church defines heresy as the denial of a church truth and schism as the refusal to submit to the authority of the pope or church leaders.
If the diocesan tribunal concludes that Reidy committed heresy and schism, he will be formally excommunicated from the church -- although the Vatican believes no one can ever fully lose his priesthood. Heresy is the same charge that Galileo faced for defying church teaching.
Most might be confused as to why Reidy is having a heresy trial, especially since he has formally separeted himself from the Catholic Church. But there's a reason and it's a bit confusing.
The pundits over at the Christian Communication Network speculate that it could be "the first time ever in American history that such a judicial process is conducted on the part of Roman Catholic officials in an American Diocese."
If such were the case, the significance automatically becomes much bigger, if only for the "never happened before" reason, but that is not the case as the article states that the very same diocese held a heresy trial involving a Rev. Anthony Garduno in 1993 and the Vatican last excommunicated a priest for heresy in 1997.
Here, the experts speak:
Lawrence Cunningham, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and an expert on church history, said he is unaware of Catholic heresy trials in the United States outside the San Bernardino diocese. Several other Roman Catholic scholars said they, too, are unaware of other U.S. trials.
Monsignor Thomas Green, a professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said such trials in modern times are rare worldwide.
"By and large, once you get past the Council of Trent and the 1600s and 1700s, you don't hear much about it," he said.
David Olson at Inland Southern California's The Press-Enterprise delves deep into the Reidy story and while the heresy trial angle is a catchy headline that makes it seem like a big deal, it actually seems more like a formality, as for the fact that Reidy was automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church when he joined the Ecumenical Catholic Communion.
This actually seems to be more of a public relations/marketing battle:
"He is still using the term 'Catholic' in quotes, in advertising and on the Internet," he said. "Because of the confusion in not differentiating between his church and the Roman Catholic Church, the diocese felt we must proceed with this official action in order to make that distinction."
Reidy said he severed his ties to the Roman Catholic Church when he resigned from his order. The homepage of Reidy's current parish, Pathfinder Community of the Risen Christ, states: "We are a Non-Roman-Catholic Community."
Overall, I thought the article covered the subject quite thoroughly, even though the "this-is-the-first-inquisition-since-Galileo" theme was played up just a bit. Olson clearly did a great deal of research and spoke to many experts on the subject.