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Austrian bishops, in pastoral letter, suggest limits of dissent

Catholic World News - October 26, 2012

Responding to pressure from Rome, the bishops of Austria have released a lengthy pastoral letter calling for unity in the Church.

The bishops’ 15-page letter, entitled Jahr des Glaubens (“Year of Faith”), is largely a response to the demands for radical reforms put forward by the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, a dissident group that has challenged Church authority in a public “Call to Disobedience.”

In the pastoral, the Austrian bishops say that they understand the calls for reform, but warn that radical changes would fracture the unity of the universal Church, and they as bishops are “bound to preserve and promote that unity.”

In an interview with John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter Austria’s leading Catholic prelate, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, said that the proposals of the Priests’ Initiative “fall short” of the goal of reviving Catholicism and enabling the Church to respond to the challenges of contemporary society. “For example,” he says, “the whole question of secularization doesn’t appear in their proposals, and that’s astonishing to me.”

Nevertheless, Cardinal Schönborn says, the Austrian bishops plan to continue their dialogue with dissident priests:

In our dialogue with the Roman Curia, which is going very well and is very cordial, that’s been upheld, especially in light of what the Holy Father said in his Holy Thursday homily. He said there is only one possibility, which is to go forward together.

“Of course, there have to be limits,” the cardinal adds. He notes that the bishops of Austria have agreed that “you can’t call for disobedience and also hold a major diocesan job.”

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  • Posted by: Cornelius - Oct. 27, 2012 9:11 AM ET USA

    A dissenter can't hold a "major diocesan job". What a fine shepherd - you can be a parish priest, though, and lead your flock completely astray - no problem there. This really isn't about saving souls, is it?

  • Posted by: impossible - Oct. 26, 2012 11:10 PM ET USA

    Where are the saints of our day? We need courageous clergy like St. Athanasius to set these dissident priests right. What is it that scripture says the Lord will do with the lukewarm?

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