Austria: Catholics Denounce Dissenting “Priests' Initiative”

Source: FSSPX News

Fr. Helmut Schüller.

While a manifesto calling for “disobedience” was issued on June 19 by Austrian priest and signed by over 300 ecclesiastics, an association of laymen took the opposite direction, in the end of August, considering this initiative to be “totally unacceptable.”

The Priests' Initiative (Pfarrer-Initiative), an organization founded in 2006 in Vienna by 7 priests and presided over by Fr. Helmut Schüller, is at the origin of the manifesto bearing the same name.  This document established a list of reforms in 7 points, among which figure the communion of remarried divorcees, sermons by laymen, access for women and married men to the priesthood, and the direction of parishes without priests by laymen.

The Catholic Associations Work Community (AKV) in Austria demands that the Priests' Initiative “withdraw the call to disobedience and publicly consider it as an exaggeration.”  “Such behavior should not exist in Christianity,” esteems the AKV in a letter published by the Austrian press on August 26.

Bishop Egon Kapellari, Bishop of Graz-Seckau and vice-president of the Austrian Bishops' Conference, had already rejected the call of the Priests' Initiative.  “This document puts the unity of the Church in danger,” he declared on June 28.

For his part, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian Bishops' Conference, proved less categorical.  After having first judged that this call “dangerously undermined the unity of the Church,” he then met with some of the dissenters.  In an interview granted to the American press agency CNS on September 6, the Archbishop of Vienna's spokesman, Michael Prüller, claimed that the prelate wishes “the priests to work with him in order to lead a new life in parishes.”  He also specified that there has been no discussion concerning sanctions, no ultimatum, no discussion of punishments.”

This movement of protest united at its foundation parish priests desiring to “commit themselves in favor of an open discussion within the Church on the questions that are becoming urgent for her future,” and not “satisfied with the comportment of those responsible for the direction of dioceses and of the universal Church.”  The signers of the manifesto represent almost 10% of the Austrian clergy. (Sources: apic/cns/pfarrerinitiative – DICI#241, October 1, 2011)

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