But Bilgri’s departure from the Church and his continued actions as a priest are two separate things, a canon law expert told CNA.
“By leaving the Church and joining the ‘Old Catholics,’ Mr. Bilgri has committed the delict of schism,” said Father Stefan Mückl, a canon law professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, on May 18.
“This results in excommunication as a penalty. However, excommunication is intended to induce the perpetrator to insight and repentance,” Mückl explained.
“The persistence in a schismatic community, and, aggravatingly, the exercise of priestly functions in it, realizes further canonical delicts, such as persistence in schism despite admonition, as well as sacrilegious acts such as the administration of sacraments despite excommunication.”
“In addition, there is also the ‘marriage’ with another person, which obviously is also a delict for a cleric, punishable among other things by dismissal from the clerical state,” the professor told CNA.
Mückl emphasized that in Bilgri’s case, dismissal from the clerical state was an expiatory punishment, which, moreover, had a permanent character.
“The point here is to atone for behavior that is intolerable for the ecclesiastical community with an appropriate punishment,” he said.
"Mr. Bilgri has rightly earned this punishment after all that he has done publicly and non-publicly. Nevertheless, the call remains for him to repent and reconcile with the Church — for the sake of his own salvation.”