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Austrian cardinal says disciplinary action possible against dissident priests

Catholic World News - May 18, 2012

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has indicated that he may take action against the dissident Austrian priests who have issued a “Call to Disobedience.”

“We might take disciplinary measures,” the cardinal told the Italian daily La Stampa; “but I hope that this is not necessary."

Cardinal Schönborn said that it is “time to clarify the various issues” raised by the Priests’ Initiative, which has encouraged priests to defy the hierarchy on a series of controversial issues including clerical celibacy, ordination of women, homosexuality, and the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion. The cardinal said that he agreed that the Catholic Church faces a crisis in Austria, but strongly disagreed with the solutions the group has proposed.

Nearly a year ago, Cardinal Schönborn expressed shock at the decision by the Priests’ Initiative to issue an open call to disobedience. But he has consistently avoided disciplinary action. Early this year Msgr. Helmut Schüller, the former vicar general of the Vienna archdiocese and leader of the Priests’ Initiative, said that he did not anticipate any further talks with the cardinal. Msgr. Schüller has said that he hopes this year to promote the “Call to Disobedience” in other countries beyond Austria.

Some Vatican officials have reportedly urged Austria’s bishops to take concrete action against the dissident priests. In his homily on Holy Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI made a point of criticizing priests who openly disobey Church teachings; the Pontiff clearly was alluding to the Austrian group.

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