This is a very important story, described eloquent by the Jesuit journalist James Martin in America magazine. Here is the rub:
The stunning news that a soon-to-be-saint was excommunicated for urging the church to take action against a sex offender is a reminder of the virulence of the crimes of clerical abuse. And the astonishing story of Blessed Mary MacKillop, an Australian sister and foundress of a women’s religious order, who will be canonized on Oct. 17, says a great deal about sanctity, about sin, about women in the church and, finally, about hope.
The saga of Mother Mary MacKillop’s excommunication was thought to be well documented in church history books, and widely acknowledged as an almost unprecedented stop on her circuitous path to sainthood. After all, very few saints have been excommunicated—the church’s harshest penalty, which denies reception of any sacraments. But in 1870 Laurence Sheil, the bishop of Brisbane, formally ejected her from the church. Until recently, the story of MacKillop’s punishment was understood mainly as the result of a conflict between her and the bishop, who cited insubordination as the official reason for this extraordinary move against the foundress of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.But the full story is that Mary MacKillop was excommunicated out of “revenge,” in the words of one priest familiar with her life, for uncovering a case of sex abuse by a Father Keating, in a nearby parish.