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Italian priest excommunicated after calling pope ‘usurper’

An Italian diocese announced Monday that a pastor had incurred excommunication following a public “act of a schismatic nature.”

The parish of San Ranieri in Guasticce, northwest Italy. Public Domain.

The Diocese of Livorno in northwest Italy said Jan. 1 that Fr. Ramon Guidetti had violated canon 751 of the Code of Canon Law at a Mass on New Year’s Eve at his parish of San Ranieri in Guasticce, with his “refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff and of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”


The diocese said that Livorno’s Bishop Simone Giusti had issued a decree declaring that the 48-year-old priest had, as a result of committing the schismatic act, incurred latae sententiae excommunication.

Latae sententiae excommunication, often called “automatic excommunication,” is a medicinal penalty incurred by the offender at the moment that Church law is violated, rather than at the end of a canonical process. 

However, while canon law provides such “automatic” penalties for certain grave crimes, primarily those committed against the faith or the Church itself, for the full effects of those penalties to become operative, a competent ecclesiastical authority must declare that the penalty was incurred.

The offense was committed and the penalty incurred by a 20-minute homily that Guidetti preached on Dec. 31, 2023 — the first anniversary of the death of Pope Benedict XVI — at the parish in Guasticce, a small town just outside of the port city of Livorno where the priest has served since 2017. 

According to Italian media, Guidetti said: “Last Dec. 17, at a shrine near Buenos Aires, where the unnamed [Pope Francis] was archbishop, lightning struck the statue of St. Peter. And what did it go on to incinerate? The halo and the keys. The halo because Peter is no longer holy, because there is a Jesuit Freemason linked to world powers, an anti-pope usurper. And the keys because the good Benedict kept those.”

Guidetti was referring to an incident that reportedly occurred at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of San Nicolás, which is located in the Buenos Aires Province but not in Pope Francis’ former Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. Dec. 17 marked the pope’s 87th birthday.

By saying that Benedict XVI retained St. Peter’s keys, Guidetti appeared to indicate that he believed the German pope did not resign validly in 2013 — a position dubbed “Benevacantism,” which has been widely discredited by canonists.

The congregation applauded loudly at the conclusion of Guidetti’s homily.

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The Livorno diocese, which serves around 187,000 Catholics and is in the ecclesiastical province of Pisa, said that Guidetti had been “suspended a divinis and removed from the office of pastor.”

Suspension a divinis means that a priest is effectively barred from ministry and from the public celebration of the sacraments, with the exception in canon law for the requirement to hear confessions and impart absolution in cases of imminent danger of death.

The diocese said: “The priests and faithful are admonished not to participate in any of his celebrations or other worship practices, as they would ipso facto [by that very fact] incur the very serious penalty of excommunication.”

Guidetti’s excommunication follows a case in Brazil where a priest is facing canonical proceedings after his archdiocese said that he had made schismatic statements, as well as ignoring restrictions on the use of pre-conciliar liturgical rubrics.

The Archdiocese of São Paulo announced on Nov. 29, 2023, that it was opening a preliminary investigation into Fr. Fábio Fernandes’ alleged schismatic activity and, at the same time, removed him from Our Lady of Sorrows church in the Barra Funda district of the city of São Paulo, where he served as pastor.

Fernandes rejected the archdiocese’s allegations but it is unclear to what degree he intends to fight the charges of schism.

Fr. Guidetti discussed his excommunication in a Jan. 2 interview with Radio Domina Nostra, hosted by Alessandro Minutella, a Sicilian priest who was himself excommunicated latae santentiae for heresy and schism in 2018.

Guidetti said that he planned to frame his excommunication and hang it on a wall.

“The Church should be maternal, in reality it is a tyrant,” he said.

Bishop Giusti told Italian media that Guidetti had received a warning before Christmas.

"The excommunication was an automatic act because he broke communion with the pope and the Catholic Church,” Giusti said. 

“He had already been warned not to perform that act before Christmas and in the end had agreed to override his intentions, understanding the seriousness of the matter.” 

“Then at the Dec. 31 Mass [came] his declaration of rupture, at that point unexpected, contesting the election of Pope Francis, his ministry, and authority, celebrating not in communion with the pope, with a schismatic attitude.” 

Giusti added: “I called him the same day after Mass and he did not answer. He had already packed his bags and left the keys not to me, but to a lady from the parish, leaving soon after, sucked into schismatic groups opposed to the Church. It had all been prearranged.”

The bishop said that he hoped the priest would reconsider as “the doors are always open for him.”

Excommunication, as defined in canon law, prohibits a person from any ministerial participation in any liturgy or “ceremonies of worship whatsoever” and bars them from reception of the sacraments. The penalty also bars the person affected from the exercise of any ecclesiastical or ministerial office.

As a medicinal penalty, the purpose of excommunication is to effect the reform of the one who has incurred the penalty and, as such, its declaration must include the means and conditions by which the offender can return to communion with the Church. 

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