The order comes direct from the Vatican, not at the request of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, and apparently follows a secret denunciation in the best traditions of the inquisition, according to Father Reynolds.

The excommunication document - written in Latin and giving no reason - was dated May 31, meaning it comes under the authority of Pope Francis who made headlines on Thursday calling for a less rule-obsessed church.

Father Reynolds, who resigned as a parish priest in 2011 and last year founded Inclusive Catholics, said he had expected to be laicised (defrocked), but not excommunicated. But it would make no difference to his ministry.

''In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such trust and respect,'' he said.

''I've come to this position because I've followed my conscience on women's ordination and gay marriage.''