You’ve perhaps heard about the turmoil in the Austrian Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II and the Roman authorities decided early on to rein in the Austrians and restore good order and discipline in the Church. It pretty much blew up in their face, and seems to have given new life to progressive reform movements in the Austrian Catholic Church.
The whole saga is tragic, and quite unbelievable to us in the English-speaking world who tend to be more docile and passive. I was in Austria for four years of distressing excitement during my doctoral studies in the 90s and I’ve followed things there ever since. Extremely controversial appointments of bishops; laity lying on the pavement to prevent the procession from entering the Vienna cathedral at one ordination; thousands of laity staging several demonstrations in cathedral square calling for the removal of Bishop Krenn; Cardinal Groer refusing to speak to the charges of abusing several young men; Pope John Paul shutting down any investigation of the Cardinal; over half a million signing a petition for massive church reforms; dozens of priests refusing to say Bishop Krenn’s name in the eucharistic prayer; Bishop Krenn dismissing homosexual activity and child pornography in his seminary as harmless play of young lads (he was finally removed from office); and on and on.
Today we hear that the Holy Father has reminded Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna that only the Pope judges cardinals, and Schönborn should not have criticized Cardinal Sodano for giving bad advice to John Paul II and for offending abuse victims. I suspect this will not go down well with the Austrians. The impression that Rome demands absolute obedience and does not permit free expression could lower the Pope’s credibility in Austria even more.
We reported earlier that 327 Austrian clergy have called on the Pope either to address directly his actions in the CDF, or to resign from office. Today ORF (Österreichischer Rundfunk, “Austrian Radio”) reports on a poll of Austrian clergy. 81% favor the abolition of mandatory celibacy, 51% favor the ordination of women. More than half believe that Rome’s handling of the sex abuse scandal has been “poor” (“schlecht,” could also mean “terrible”). 80% believe that the sex abuse scandal should be taken as the occasion for a fundamental rethinking of the Church’s approach to sexuality. 48% find Church leadership “helpless” and “without vision.” 52% agree that they think differently than the Church leadership on many questions.
I wonder what they would think about Rome giving them a newly translated missal…