Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna has challenged a group of dissident priests to renounce their “Call to Disobedience” manifesto or give up administrative posts in his archdiocese.
The cardinal and the Priests’ Initiative group, formed by Father Helmut Schueller, have engaged in an intensifying war of words for several months.
The priests’ group has pledged to give Communion to Protestants and to divorced and remarried Catholics. It has also called for an end to the celibate priesthood and for the ordination of women as priests.
The group says these such reforms are necessary to reduce the number of Catholics cancelling their membership of the Church, and to make the priesthood a more attractive option for young men.
Fr Schueller says 10 per cent of Austrian clergy have joined his group, though other reports say the figure is closer to 7.5 per cent.
Cardinal Schonborn has criticised the group for using the word “disobedience”, saying “you cannot build up Church life on the basis of disobedience”.
He said: “We think the diagnosis is correct: yes, there is a crisis. But we have a different opinion regarding the therapy.”
Cardinal Schonborn said he will not appoint supporters of the manifesto to the position of dean, and will not renew appointments of those who already have this status.
“You can easily remain a member of the Priests’ Initiative. You must only distance yourself from the ‘Call to Disobedience’ in an appropriate way,” his spokesman said.
One dean, Father Peter Meidinger, said he had stepped down after a conversation with the cardinal. He said that the manifesto used the word “disobedience” in the sense of “civil disobedience”, a concept to be used “when the leaders are simply not prepared to listen to people”.
Image: Benoit-et-moi 2012
News category: World.