Three hermits have been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church after they called the Pope a “heretic” in an online declaration.
The group, who live on the island of Westray in Orkney, also claimed that evil was “destroying” the church and that its members appeared to be “paralysed with fear”.
According to the BBC, the trio is made up of two men calling themselves a priest and a monk and a lay woman who was a senior doctor.
They were reportedly warned by the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles that their post, published online in April last year, would see them thrown out.
One of the group’s members, Stephen De Kerdrel, told BBC Radio Orkney that desperate measures were necessary.
He said this was because the three members believed the church was facing desperate times.
“Most Christian churches, with the exception of the Orthodox churches, are now so overrun by liberalism and secularism and humanism that they’ve ceased really being churches,” Mr De Kerdrel said.
“But I actually think we’re seeing a great battle between Western society and Christianity. And the one they really want to take a pot shot at is the Catholic church.
“So, it almost seems that we’re joining the enemy, but we’re actually trying to save it from itself.”
In the declaration, the group describe the Pope as “the captain of the sinking ship”.
They claimed they were speaking out to save not just their own souls, but also those of others.
Their excommunication comes after the trio were reportedly thrown out of a church house in Northamptonshire for bringing the diocese into disrepute.
At the beginning of last year one of the group is also reported to have been convicted of sending homophobic abuse to an Episcopal clergyman.
“In April, the group wrote to Bishop McGee to say they intended to withdraw their ‘obedience from Pope Francis and sever communion with the Holy See’,” a spokesman for the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles told the BBC.
“The bishop advised them that their actions would incur automatic excommunication and urged them to reconsider and made several offers of dialogue, all of which were refused.
“As a result, the penalty of excommunication now applies.”
Excommunication is the most severe penalty the church is able to issue, though it can be reversed.