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Traces of Schism in Austria


Austria flag

Over 300 of Austria’s 4,200 priests have pledged to take part in a “Call to Disobedience”, an initiative launched in June. The document cites “the Roman refusal of a long-overdue Church reform and the inaction of bishops.” Priests who support the document pledge among other things:

  • to pray for Church reform at every liturgy based on “freedom of speech”

  • to offer the Holy Eucharist to “believers of good will,” including non-Catholic Christians and those who have remarried outside the Church

  • 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 promote individual leaders in parishes without a priest, “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.”

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

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?

Those who truly in conscience believe that they must disobey the hierarchy ought in consequence to “travel the way no more with the Roman Catholic Church… The one who gives up the principle of obedience dissolves unity.” He pointed out its “inconsistencies,” such as “priestless Eucharist.”

Here are our comments on this piece of news. What is happening in Europe, Austria, and Holland is threatening us too. You can find similar things in America already. As an example, the Bishop of Green Bay, WI recently appointed a dynamic nun as parish administrator/liturgy director/extraordinary minister of Communion, etc. in charge of two parishes because of the shortage of priests. Priests will visit the parishes once in a while to make sure other sacraments will be offered to the communities. This is creating a precedent which could very soon change the face of normal Catholic parish life. Does he have the support of Rome for such a appointment or even that of the USCCB?

We are dealing with an open attack on the celibacy of the priesthood, the hierarchical function of the Church, and on the principle of unity to the successors of the Apostles. Needless to say, we are well aware of the modernist trends which have been slowly injected into the veins of the Church. Now, we are rapidly witnessing the conclusion of this revolutionary process.

This sounds very much like what de Lubac (in his Mémoire sur l’occasion de mes écrits1) was complaining about when he referred to the “para-Council” set up by radicals like Schillebeeckx and Rahner, promoters of a miserable secularization and spiritual desert. The message of de Lubac and Benedict XVI is clear: without going back to the past, we need to salvage the Church from the progressivists who put in jeopardy the work of the true Council which has not yet been received.

Sounds like déjà vu.  Those who sowed the wind are now complaining about the impending storm. The extravagance of avant-garde priests is the logical conclusion of the very spirit of liberty which they promoted so forcefully.


1 Henri de Lubac, Ed. Culture et verite, Namur 1989, p. 346-347.
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