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Over 300 Austrian priests join ‘Call to Disobedience’

July 13, 2011

Over 300 of Austria’s 4,200 priests have pledged to take part in Aufruf zum Ungehorsam (Call to Disobedience), an initiative launched in June.

The Call to Disobedience document cites “the Roman refusal of a long-overdue Church reform and the inaction of bishops.” Priests who support the document pledge

  • to pray for Church reform at every liturgy, since “in the presence of God there is freedom of speech”
  • not to deny the Holy Eucharist to “believers of good will,” including non-Catholic Christians and those who have remarried outside the Church
  • to avoid offering Mass more than once on Sundays and holy days and to avoid making use of visiting priests--instead holding a “self-designed” Liturgy of the Word
  • to describe such a Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion as a “priestless Eucharistic celebration”; “thus we fulfill the Sunday obligation in a time of priest shortage”
  • to “ignore” canonical norms that restrict the preaching of the homily to clergy
  • to oppose parish mergers, insisting instead that each parish have its own individual leader, “whether man or woman”
  • to “use every opportunity to speak out openly in favor of the admission of the married and of women to the priesthood”

“The open call to disobedience shocked me,” Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said in a July 7 letter, noting that many professionals would have “long since lost their jobs” if they had called for disobedience. Reminding priests that they had freely promised obedience to their bishop at ordination, he asked, “Can I rely on you?”

“Christian obedience is a school of freedom,” the cardinal added. “It is about the concrete translation into life of what we pray in every Our Father, when we ask the Father that His will be done in heaven and on earth … This willingness is made concrete in religious obedience to the Pope and bishops.”

Those who truly in conscience believe that they must disobey the hierarchy, and that “‘Rome’ is on the wrong track [and] gravely contradicts the will of God,” ought in consequence to “travel the way no more with the Roman Catholic Church. I believe and hope, however, that this extreme case does not occur here.”

“The one who gives up the principle of obedience dissolves unity,” the cardinal continued, as he pledged to meet with the initiative’s leaders and point out its “inconsistencies,” such as “priestless Eucharist.”

The new initiative’s web site is registered in the name of Father Hans Bensdorp, until 2010 the parish priest of the Church of the Rosary in Hetzendorf in the Archdiocese of Vienna. A YouTube video, uploaded in 2009, shows an excerpt from the Mass commemorating the 35th anniversary of Father Bensdorp’s priestly ordination, according to the video’s description. Tensions between the papacy and segments of the Church in Austria are not novel, as witnessed by the advent of Josephinism in the 18th centry, the fin-de-siècle Los von Rom (Free from Rome) movement, and disagreements between the Vatican and Vienna Cardinal Theodor Innitzer in the face of the Nazi Anschluss.


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  • Posted by: impossible - Jul. 18, 2011 11:19 PM ET USA

    Their Bishops with the prompt help of the Vatican should give them their wish to be Protestants - remove them from their positions; cancel their faculties and laicize them. They can either form their new chruch or add 300 more denominations to the > than 30,000 already existing protestant denominations. But don't hold your breath because, unless I am mistaken, Hans Kung and Charles Curran are still priests in good standing. Go figure!

  • Posted by: fred3885 - Jul. 14, 2011 10:12 AM ET USA

    While I agree the underlying message is "we need more priests" I cannot accept that priests make a "call to disobedience" and make absurd proposals such as the ordination of women, which they know is impossible. Obedience is mandatory for priests, even if there are problems or they disagree with Church policy. Scandal is a sin, and should be avoided!

  • Posted by: - Jul. 14, 2011 6:50 AM ET USA

    Dear Pope, Please discover who let these useless priests into seminary and then toss them all out. And how has it gotten to this, why wasn't this discovered before this, I wonder????

  • Posted by: davidSanDiego - Jul. 13, 2011 10:18 PM ET USA

    The meta-message here isn't so much "Church Doctrine is wrong", rather, it seems to me to be "We have a priest shortage". The proposals range from the mundane "fewer masses" to the off-the-wall "women priests". I hope that the response to this will be addressed to the meta-message first. I believe that Christ called us his sheep for a reason. They aren't the smartest animals and they need a lot of looking after. But if you get one going in the right direction the others follow.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jul. 13, 2011 8:10 PM ET USA

    Call to Disobedience! The first one of those came from a serpent in the Garden of Eden. What corruption in the Temple!

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Jul. 13, 2011 6:05 PM ET USA

    Support for this kind of disobedience would almost vanish if all these priests (who have so conveniently identified themselves -- thanks, guys!) were to be suspended immediately, and proceedings begun for their laicization. But I fear that two or three years from now, we'll be hearing about a stern warning being delivered to them about possible grave consequences, etc.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jul. 13, 2011 4:03 PM ET USA

    Unfortunately, DrJazz, Austrian priests are paid by the State. Makes you glad for the American system, doesn't it?

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Jul. 13, 2011 3:46 PM ET USA

    Despite the Cardinal's hopes, I believe an extreme case has already occurred there. It must be met with a response of the same extremity. I propose that the Cardinal respond with a "Call to Stop Payment" . . . on the wages of these 300+ priests, that is.

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Jul. 13, 2011 10:38 AM ET USA

    300 priests signed this?! Wow. Now let me show you 300 priests who were poorly catechized and instructed by dissidents at seminary.