Church $5000 for 32 years

GREG Reynolds, the dissident priest who resigned last year over his support for women priests, has been offered just $5000 by the Catholic Church for his 32 years of service.

Supporters of his Inclusive Catholics group described the payout, to take the form of rent to his landlord, as harsh in light of the unwritten guideline of $1500 a year of service, which should have brought him $48,000. Fairfax understands two other priests who resigned recently each got about $50,000.

Priests who retire are given independent accommodation, a car if they can still drive, and money to supplement the pension, according to Father Reynolds: ''They live quite comfortably.

''The day I resigned, both the Archbishop [Denis Hart] and Vicar General [Les Tomlinson, now Bishop of Sandhurst] told me that they'd look after me financially, but I'd have to apply to the St Patrick's Trust Fund.''

Father Reynolds said that by the time he applied he had started Inclusive Catholics. To the church, he was now disobedient and, he said, he was told he would not get anything.

He is living in a shared house and is on the dole until Inclusive Catholics can afford to support him. The group includes disaffected Catholics, especially women, abuse victims and former priests.

Archbishop Hart has asked the Vatican to defrock Father Reynolds because he defied orders not to celebrate Mass in Melbourne.

Father Reynolds said he felt sad rather than bitter. ''They were going to give me nothing, but a few people wrote to the Archbishop, so he got the board to reassess it.

''Can't they see that my ministry is bridge-building with disillusioned Catholics? Why do they see me as the enemy rather than complementing what they do? That's the tragedy,'' he said.

A church spokesman said Father Reynolds resigned freely, to the regret of the Archbishop, so there was no question of his undertaking public ministry as a Catholic priest.

He said Father Reynolds could apply for more rental support and the trust had also offered to pay for private health insurance ''until further notice''.

This story Church $5000 for 32 years first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.