Austrian cardinal continues dialogue with protesting priests

And he’s trying to downplay the controversy surrounding the situation, according to CNS:

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna is not playing “a game of chicken” with priests calling for reforms in church practice, but is interested in getting the priests to work with him to bring new life to Viennese parishes, his spokesman said.

“The situation is not as dramatic as the Austrian media make it seem,” said Michael Pruller, archdiocesan spokesman.

“There has been no discussion of sanctions, no ultimatum, no talk of punishment,” the spokesman told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Sept. 6.

The leaders of the “Initiative of Parish Priests” launched a “Call to Disobedience” in late June, urging priests to join them in saying a public prayer at every Mass for church reform; giving Communion to everyone who approaches the altar in good faith, including divorced Catholics who have remarried without an annulment; allowing women to preach at Mass; and supporting the ordination of women and married men.

Cardinal Schonborn met Aug. 10 with the four Vienna archdiocesan priests who are on the presiding council of the initiative, and he plans to meet with them again in a few weeks, but no date has been set, Pruller said.

“We don’t send spies to all the parishes to make sure all the rules are kept,” he said, but he added that, if a priest is violating church law, the situation will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Read the rest.

  • naturgesetz

    This sounds like a good approach: pastoral rather than penal — not how I’d have been tempted to approach them.

  • Rudy

    Defuse rather than ignite. I agree is a good approach. But sooner or later things will have come to a head if the priests insist on disobedient example and teaching, and leading people astray.

  • http://www.gerardnadal.com Gerard Nadal

    I don’t envy Cardinal Schonborn the task before him. Which benefits the people of God more? Keeping priests who mislead the faithful by throwing the moral norms of the Church into the trash, or getting rid of the rebels? If the desperation for warm bodies is so great as to cause us to feel we have no other choice than to keep the rebels, then we are in very dire straits indeed.

    The rebellion of these priests undermines all that this pope is doing to bring Europe back from the brink of utter ruin. They won’t change their minds or hearts anytime soon.

  • Bruce Tereski

    The past Sunday’s Gospel perfectly fits this situation.
    Sincere “dialogue” must be the first method employed by the Church, even when dissenters use threats.
    But, the problem here is that dialogue was not employed earlier to make sure the authentic Catholic Faith was being taught in the parish. Now so many are convinced of the dissent.
    Granted that we must give dissenters the benefit of the doubt that they are invincibly ignorant somehow about basic matters of faith and morals, these matters are precisely the bishops concern. He is there to ensure that his priests and deacons are passing on what was given to them, and not what they “want.”
    It seems that too often bishops become involved in the parish only when the collection goes down or the bishop’s appeal doesn’t meet its goal, but they leave pastors who often preach heresies because the bills are being paid and the cathedraticum keeps flowing. I’m not saying the bishops need to beat heretical priests over the head, but they need to call on those priest to remember their promise of obedience and their oath against heresy. It is a paternal appeal. And if the priest in conscience cannot give the obedience he once promised, he should be invited to resign his ministry.

  • Greta

    Not sure how long the dialouge should last but suspect that Pope Benedict XVI is involved with this mess. This is the problem of not speaking with solid voice on settled church matters and allowing so many to think that it was OK to reject whatever you did not like.

  • Richard Johnson

    Could this be one of those instances where the abuse scandal that is playing out in Austria has undermined the authority of Church leadership to the point that they lack any kind of moral authority to exercise in these matters?

    http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2011/04/13/over-800-complaints-to-austrian-catholic-church-sexual-abuse-commission/

  • http://www.gerardnadal.com Gerard Nadal

    Richard,

    The bishops may not have any popularity, but if we are entirely honest, they had none before the scandal. What they DO have is Apostolic Authority, and they must exercise that now. We don’t allow a total implosion simply because the roof on one wing of the house has caved in.

    The only hope for the Church in Europe is a complete return to holiness: for the bishops, priests, and laity. (The deacons appear to be doing quite well).

  • cathyf

    Just remember — the Austrian laity are the most likely to practice their Catholicism than any other nation in western Europe. If the Austrians are the only ones protesting, it’s most likely because nobody else in Europe gives a ****. You’ve got to give the bishops — and BXVI — credit for recognizing that the most likely outcome from a “crackdown” is that the Austrians would join the rest of Europe in not giving a ****.

  • Richard Johnson

    Gerard, it’s not popularity I was citing, and I understand that the leadership has the ecclesiastical authority to enforce conformity with church teaching.

    On a thread over on The Anchoress’ blog there has been a lively discussion regarding President Obama’s calls for civility in political debate, and his lack of rebuke to the fire-throwers in his own party. His calls for civility, something that is needed in our dialogue, go unheeded at best and ridiculed by many because of his inactions towards those in his own party who threaten the opposition. His own actions undermine any moral authority he might have had in making such a call, regardless of the position he holds.

    Similarly the leadership of the church in Austria is calling for obedience in the wake of having failed so dramatically in the abuse scandal. Apostolic authority exists, but when the ones in which that authority is vested have failed so thoroughly is it not understandable why these leaders would be viewed in a less than charitable light by those who call for “reform”?

  • friscoeddie

    Let’s look at what the priests want,
    1. End to mandatory celibacy. The convert priests/bishops have ended it anyway, no problem
    2. Communion to the re-married. happens in your parish and mine every week. no problem =internal forum
    3. women’s ordination.. that will take discussion. Just put it on the table and the priests will say ok lets talk it over for a while. Is ‘on the table’ the hill you will sacrifice Catholicism in Europe or Austria on?
    Schonborn is an aristocrat and his upbringing and tradition is to lead and not kowtow to Rome. also a pastoral approach which is different than the knucke approach I read here. His ancient family told him he ought serve both God and Europe, and that’s maybe the one good thing I see about aristocrats. Noblesse oblige

  • JP

    This problem began at least 30 years ago when this crop of clergy went through the Seminary and, apparently, received a deficient formation. As a former seminarian myself in ’80s (although not in Austria) I know whereof I speak. Many of my former classmates are outside the Church and living very “interesting” lives.

    As I was remarking to a friend today, Pope John Paul (at the time) could have taken a hardline approach and risked schism. Instead, he reformed the seminaries and allowed attrition to do it’s work. Granted there have been many casualties of this “incremental” reform. However, it’s much easier to heal a wounded limb than a severed one. Schism is nothing to take lightly ..


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