Vienna cardinal takes tough line on priest revolt

VIENNA Sat Sep 17, 2011 2:47pm BST

Related Topics

VIENNA (Reuters) - The head of Vienna's Roman Catholic community ruled out sweeping changes demanded by dissident priests and said there could be "serious conflict" if they defied Church teaching on celibacy or give communion to remarried divorcees.

Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn said he would not lead his diocese into a schism with leaders in the Vatican by letting priests flout Church rules after a group of priests issued a "Call to Disobedience" manifesto to try to press reform.

In weekend interviews with Austrian radio and television, Schoenborn backed celibacy for priests, limiting ordination to men and preserving marriage as a life-long commitment.

"If in our diocese here I would step out of line with the community of the Catholic Church then I would lead our diocese into a schism. I am not ready for this and I think no Austrian bishop is ready for this," he said on Saturday.

Late on Friday, he again warned dissident priests that they faced consequences if they stuck to their revolt.

"If it comes to actions that clearly contradict Catholic teaching on faith then it can lead to serious conflict," he said, adding it was not too late to reach common ground in a second round of talks due later this year.

"All possibilities are open. I am counting on dialogue and cooperation," he said.

Dissidents led by parish priest Helmut Schueller have issued the manifesto and say they hope the campaign will persuade Schoenborn to push reforms with Pope Benedict and the Vatican.

The dissidents, who have broad public backing in opinion polls, say they will break Church rules by giving communion to Protestants and remarried divorced Catholics or by allowing lay people to preach and head parishes without a priest.

They oppose the current drive to group several parishes together because of a shortage of priests.

"We are now really going to step on the gas," Hans-Peter Hurka, head of the Catholic reform group "We are the Church," told newspaper Der Standard this week, announcing plans to have hundreds of demonstrators march on bishops' offices.

"It is like in Egypt. There will be a revolution of Church people in Austria. We will make St. Stephen's Square (before the cathedral in Vienna) into Tahrir Square," another activist, Anton Achleitner, said, referring to the square where Egyptians staged protests that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.

The dispute has come to a head just before Pope Benedict's September 22-25 visit to neighbouring Germany. Benedict, 84, grew up in Bavarian villages close to the Austrian border.

Catholic reform groups in Germany have made similar demands, and a prominent retired Irish bishop, Edward Daly, called on Tuesday for an end to compulsory celibacy for priests, saying it was pushing new recruits away.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (5)
4unborn wrote:
“there could be ‘serious conflict’”–there already is!

“then I would lead our diocese into a schism. I am not ready for this”
I hope not!!

“second round of talks due later this year” Why wait??

Cardinal Schonborn is not taking a tough enough stance.

Sep 17, 2011 12:12am BST  --  Report as abuse
DocMugwump wrote:
We are most grateful for the heroic and compassionate stance of Cardinal Schoenborn. He is a true prince of the Church. This group of protestors is more than a bit odd – if they are so unhappy with the “Catholicity” of the Roman Catholic Church – why don’t they leave and join another Church which embraces all they desire to embrace or start their own Church – aka: the Church of “Anything Goes”…
The truth is that these very precepts which they are rebelling against (Catholic teaching on the topics of married priests, divorce and reception of the Eucharist, lay involvement versus Holy Orders and the role of the ordained priest in administering the sacraments, etc) have a deep and rich history of spiritual discernment about them which when followed as they are written, actually do edify one’s soul and assist us in maturing in our Christian spirituality. Pope Benedict and Cardinal Schoenborn are men of peace, depth and great intellect. They will open their hearts to dialogue and work tirelessly to speak with and listen to these priests. But, they will not betray the established doctrine of the Faith which as it is understood is refered to as the “Deposit of Faith” in order to appease a public temper tantrum.

Sep 18, 2011 6:00am BST  --  Report as abuse
CradleCatholic wrote:
The Deposit of Faith is the “fullness” of the faith left to us by the Apostles, which would include a married male priesthood.

If St. Peter wanted to be a priest today, no seminary of the Latin rite would take him, because he was married. Since 1139AD, celibacy has been a requirement for ordination, against the Deposit of Faith.

Peter could enter an Orthodox denomination in union with Rome, though married. But in Orthodox denominations, he would be prevented from being a bishop, and that too, is against the Deposit of Faith.

Read 1Timothy 3:1-5 and Titus Chapter One. Also, read 1Corinthians 9:5. Ordained church members are to be married MEN.

We can always throw out the Bible entirely, and just “do church” our own Roman Catholic way. But please, let’s not call this the “Deposit of Faith”.

Neither Peter, nor Paul or the other apostles would recognize mandated celibacy for ordained men. So mandated celibacy needs to end, and the sooner the better.

No ordination for women, either – as that too, comes from Gnostic beliefs almost 100 years after Pentecost.

Please, to my fellow Catholics: either read the Bible & obey it, honoring it as the Word of God, or disregard it entirely as a bunch of hooey that’s not Holy Spirit-inspired and as such, not of any value.

Sep 18, 2011 10:10pm BST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.