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Austrian priests plan open disobedience, await cardinal's response

August 31, 2011

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A group of dissident Austrian priests has announced plans to engage in open defiance of Church law.

The Priests’ Initiative, which claims the support of 329 clerics, has argued in favor of administering Communion to Catholics who are divorced and remarried, allowing lay people to preach and to lead Communion services, ending priestly celibacy, inviting married priests to return to active ministry, and advocating the ordination of women. The group says that it will ignore a warning from Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, the president of the Austrian bishops’ conference, who warned that such open contempt for Church authority would have consequences.

In a statement released in July, Cardinal Schönborn expressed shock at the open defiance expressed by the Priests’ Initiative. He said that he planned to meet with the group’s leaders soon—according to a spokesman, sometime in late August or September. As August comes to a close the meeting has not taken place, and leaders of the Priests’ Initiative, complaining about “delay tactics” have said that they will go forward with their plans.

The dissident group is led by Father Helmut Schüller, who was vicar general of the Vienna archdiocese until he was dismissed by Cardinal Schönborn in 1999. Now a pastor, Father Schüller argues that open disobedience will force the Catholic hierarchy to reconsider Church policies.


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  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2011 8:40 AM ET USA

    The Cardinal appears to view this issue as complex and nuanced: it is not. It is an open declaration that, though they are supported by the Catholic Church and preach it its name, they are not Catholic. The dissidents are quite correct that there is no basis for delay and stalling on the Cardinal's part. The matter is quite simple: has the Church regained its will to protect the faithful and thus to discipline?

  • Posted by: - Aug. 31, 2011 5:31 PM ET USA

    I trust the good cardinal will take swift action to help these priests clarify their thinking and vocational goals.

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Aug. 31, 2011 3:43 PM ET USA

    Nothing new here. Martin Luther did this kind of thing about 500 years ago.