A friend just passed on this article from Catholic News about Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide providing a public apology to the Sisters of St. Joseph after what he deemed the wrongful excommunication of Mary MacKillop in 1871. He provided this apology as a statue of Mary MacKillop was going up in the plaza of Victoria Square.
This is the first time that I’ve heard of an excommunication overturned (can someone provide information on other ones? What a fascinating topic!). It reminds me of other Catholics who weren’t so appreciated in the time that they were on Earth, but have later become appreciated by the Church’s hierarchy (both Galileo and Dorothy Day come to mind).
What is interesting is to do a sociological study of all the comments on the internet that go up when the topic of excommunication comes about. I’ve really only explored it when figures on the left side of the political/theological spectrum are excommunicated. Typically, the supporters from the left cry out that these excommunications are unjust, that the hierarchy is just bullying, etc. And typically, the supporters of the hierarchy from the right say that the Bishop is just doing what is right for the Church to maintain the true Catholic faith, promote proper understanding of teaching and doctrine, etc.
How does all this change when an excommunication is revoked? It’s too bad we don’t have blogs from 1871 to show the support that Mary MacKillop surely had in her day from her supporters. Hopefully Google will do its job and continue to archive comments from this blog, as well as other sites that seem to bring out both sides of the Catholic spectrum, so that if/when another excommunication is revoked, we can remember who was saying what at the time it happened.