The “Pastors’ Initiative” (Pfarrer-Initiative) in Austria numbers 313 priests and deacons. Pray Tell has mentioned them before. I see they are getting more feisty. (For the negative reaction of Bishop Kapellari, see below.)
On Trinity Sunday the Pastor’s Initiative issued an “Appeal to Disobedience.” The Roman refusal to take up long needed reforms, they say, and the inaction of the bishops, not only permit but demand that they follow their conscience and take action themselves. Their plans:
- In every liturgy they will include a petition for church reform.
- They will not deny Communion to faithful of good will, especially remarried people, members of other Christian churches, and in some cases those who have officially left the Catholic Church.
- As much as possible they will avoid celebrating multiple times on Sundays and feastdays, and avoid scheduling circuit rider priests unknown to the community. A locally-planned Liturgy of the Word is preferable.
- They will use the term “Priestless Eucharistic Celebration” for a Liturgy of the Word with distribution of Communion. This is how the Sunday Mass obligation is fulfilled when priests are in short supply.
- They will ignore the prohibition of preaching by competently trained laity, including female religion teachers. In difficult times, the Word of God must be proclaimed.
- They will advocate that every parish has a presiding leader – man or woman, married or unmarried, full-time or part time. Rather than consolidating parishes, they call for a new image of the priest.
- They will take every opportunity to speak up publicly for the admission of women and married people to the priesthood. These would be welcome colleagues in ministry.
They express solidarity with colleagues no longer permitted to exercise their ministry because they have married, and also with those in ministry who are in a permanent relationship.
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Bishop Kapellari of Graz, vice president of the bishops’ conference, strongly rejects the “Appeal to Disobedience.” He stated yesterday that it endangers the unity of the Catholic Church. The Pope and bishops are aware of the pastoral needs of the Church; discussions have taken place and will continue. But there is no state of emergency justifying a special path for Austria apart from the universal Church. “The bond with the universal Church and the Pope is part of our irrevocable identity,” Kapellari stressed.
The Bishop sees “selective reading of the current situation of the Church in Austria as a whole.” Their demands may well seem plausible to many people, but they “endanger very seriously the identity and unity of the Catholic Church,” he emphasized. “It is legitimate to express the cares and concerns of parish communities openly. But it is something entirely different to call for disobedience, to endanger the commonly held character of the universal Church, and to renounce commonly held obligations one-sidedly.”
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The Pastors’ Initiative is holding a generally assembly this November 6th in Linz.