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Austrian bishops rap Vatican for lack of consultation on bishop’s appointment

Catholic World News - February 17, 2009

The Austrian bishops yesterday issued a statement frankly critical of the Vatican on the lifting of the excommunications of the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and the appointment of Father Gerhard Maria Wagner as an auxiliary bishop of the Linz diocese. The lifting of the excommunications, the statement emphasizes, does not mean that the SSPX bishops may automatically hold any office in the Church. Rather, they must respond to the Pope’s outstretched hand by accepting the Second Vatican Council, and Bishop Williamson, who has “disqualified himself” by his statements on the Holocaust, must publicly recant his position. Turning to the appointment of Father Wagner, the bishops state that the Pope may appoint any bishop he wishes, that no one wishes to return to the pre-1918 Austria in which the emperor appointed bishops, and that the popular election of bishops would create problems. Normal procedures, however, should be followed in the appointment of bishops-- a reference to the sense in Austria that Father Wagner’s appointment was made without adequate input from the Austrian hierarchy. “The faithful rightly expect that the selection process, the assessment of proposals, and the final decision are carried out with care and pastoral sensitivity,” the bishops wrote.

Reflecting the widespread protests among liberal clerics against the Wagner appointment, the bishops' statement called for the Vatican to name bishops "who are not 'against' but 'for' the local Church." The Austrian bishops promised that they would carefully watch Vatican appointments in the future, "cooperating closely with the Vatican offices involved."

Paul Zulehner, A theologian at the University of Vienna commented, “The seizure of power by the right-wingers has now failed, apparently through the clear intervention of several Austrian bishops.” He added, “I think people will now say: 'it is really good that Cardinal Schönborn has taken over the leadership of the Church again'."

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