Austria: Priests’ revolt threatened with ‘consequences’

A drive by Austrian priests to reform the rules around the ordination of women and an end to celibacy is getting widespread support.

In a recent poll conduced by the Oekonsult polling institute, 71.7% of Austrians said the “priests initiative” was both “fair and reasonable”, with 64.7% saying they would sign a “call for insubordination”.

The “Priests’ Initiative,” signed by 329 clergy want

  • women and married people to be allowed to be ordained priests
  • an end to the celibacy rule
  • the right for lay people to preach
  • members of other Christian faiths to receive holy communion
  • remarried people also have the right to receive holy communion.

Some 86.8% were of the opinion celibacy created more problems than it had advantages and 84% said the refusal of the Catholic Church to reform is likely to further alienate believers.

The revolting priests threaten to split the Austrian Church just weeks before Pope Benedict visits neighbouring Germany.

The dissidents said they will break Church rules by giving holy communion to protestants, re-married Catholics and allowing lay people to preach at Mass.

According to Reuters, dissident leader Rev Helmut Schueller, who as Vienna vicar general was Schoenborn’s deputy from 1995 to 1999 and once led the Austrian chapter of the international Catholic charity Caritas, has said he has no intention of giving up.

In response Cardinal Schonborn, a former student of Ratzinger has indicated he may excommunicate the priests.

“This cannot go on. If someone has decided to go down the path of dissent, that has consequences,” Schonborn said.

The survey was conducted from July 20 to August 28 among 1,265 Austrians.


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