German-speaking priests mobilize against the “Appeal to Disobedience”

Pray Tell reported earlier on the Austrian priests’ “Appeal to Disobedience” calling for (more or less the usual) church reforms. Now another group of German-speaking priests, the “Netzwerk katholischer Priester,” has issued a statement opposing the reformist appeal, as reported by www. The statement of the “Network of Catholic Priests” says in part:

We are concerned about the reaction of those bishops in whose dioceses pastors have supported the Pfarrer-Initiative. So far, not one single bishop has called upon the members of the “Pfarrer-Initiative” [“Pastor’s Initiative” – ed.] to renounce their position. Instead, reassurance is given on all sides that of course there will be no sanctions. “Understanding” is shown for the initiators’ “anxieties,” and invitations to “dialogue” are given… As a whole, the impression is given that the bishops are afraid to speak clearly and would rather look on as the Pope is undercut in his authority as pastor of the universal Church. The “Pfarrer-Initiative” is a sad symptom of the de facto schism which has long since come to be in German-speaking lands under the eyes of the bishops… We call upon the bishops to intervene decisively against the dubious “reformist efforts” of the “Pfarrer-Initiative” and expect clear allegiance to the Vicar of Christ on earth. Whoever continues in mere looking on sins against the unity of the Church. The clock is ticking.

The “Netzwerk katholischer Priest” is a group of priests, deacons, and seminarians of varying ages. It claims 500 members, though there is not explicit membership, but rather loose association among like-minded people.



  1. You’re in favor of a schism then, John?
    Push out in both directions, malign the ones trying to hold things together in the middle, throw down the gauntlet on papal primacy — sounds like a recipe for schism to me. – 1

  2. Rita, I am afraid it is the dissenters causing any schism.

    We need more priests who belong to networks such as the NKP and the recently established Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in the UK. We also need to pray for all our priests, that they would be faithful to their calling and to our Holy Mother Church – and pray for our young Catholic boys and men as well, that if God calls them to be priests, they would answer that call joyfully!

    1. No, Matthew, too easy to say “It’s the other guy’s fault.” The people in the middle are trying to hold things together, and this new group comes along and pushes them to let go. Polarizing further right now is what will cause the situation to break. -1

      1. Who, exactly, is “in the middle…trying to hold things together” and what do they want?

      2. Who is in the middle? Well, duh, the bishops–obviously.
        What do they want? You have to ask that? Judging from the statements made by Cardinal Schoenborn, they want to hold the Church together; to lose neither priests nor people while remaining in union with Rome; to avoid pushing a frayed relationship further than it will hold. I think, you know, that Rome wants the same thing. After the meeting with Pope Benedict did the bishops come home and fling down the gauntlet? No, they did not.

      3. Christopher: That would also be my question.

        I would add that, at least in the doctrinal aspects of this, I don’t see that there is a “middle”. Practically, there is little dialogue to be had about, for example, the question of women priests – at least, dialogue in the sense of two sides coming to some sort of compromise. (Similarly with the issue of intercommunion, and their “new image” of the priest.)

        Staying with the example: the Church has no authority to ordain women. That is the end of the matter, whether one likes it or not. And, Rita, I would contend that it is not those who hold to the orthodox Catholic faith that are “polarizing” things or causing schism. You may think it too easy to say “it’s the other guy’s fault”, but I would point you to biblical texts such as 1 John and reply that, sometimes, stating the truth is the easiest thing to do.

        Prayer, fasting, fidelity and correction, all in charity. These are the things required here, not dialogue or holding the middle together.

      4. Matthew, you’re too negative. If you want dialogue, don’t start by stating your non-negotiables, but by stating some of your negotiables.

        What would you like to dialogue about? On what subjects do you have an open mind? What questions are you willing to discuss, without a definitive answer already set in your mind? On what subjects can you hope to be enriched by a common reflexion with people who come from a radically different perspective from yours?

        Take a step, and hope that others, too, will take a step. Maybe we have more in common than first appears.

      5. Matthew states:
        ” I would contend that it is not those who hold to the orthodox Catholic faith that are “polarizing” things or causing schism”

        Silly me, I thought those “orthodox” SSPX were in schism. I guess it’s just the progressives.

      6. Sorry, Dale, but your instant equation of orthodoxy with the SSPX is as helpful in this or any other debate as a knee-jerk reference to clown-Masses every time that the NO is mentioned.

      7. Don’t agree Tom.
        A few ridiculous clown masses vs millions in schism. That’s the difference. And the SSPX are adamant that THEY are the true orthodox Catholics and the rest of us Catholics have gone down the road to perdition. That means you and me.

      8. I’ve got to disagree, Dale: the SSPX is as much an unrepresentative bogeyman as the clown-Masses are.

        The SSPX represents a vanishingly small number of people and a tiny fraction of those who are attached to the EF, never mind those who hold conservative/restorationist (choose your label) views and happily attend NO Masses.

      9. Simple response – the “dissenters” in your mind are asking questions and discussions about changing/modifying church law and practice to be more pastoral. It is not about “doctrine” – you have fallen for the growing tendency to see doctrines where they do not exist and to centralize all truth in the papacy.

      10. Bill: [T]he “dissenters” in your mind are asking questions and discussions about changing/modifying church law and practice to be more pastoral. It is not about “doctrine” – you have fallen for the growing tendency to see doctrines where they do not exist and to centralize all truth in the papacy.

        In some respects, yes, they are. In other respects, they are most certainly not. I can sympathise with the lack of priests – in my diocese, we’re not exactly flush with them – and I’m happy to talk about possible solutions to this and other related problems. Calling for, e.g., the ordination of women, though, is not a solution. Such a call is not something that can be included in a legitimate discussion about modifying law and practice, because it would be not a modification of such, but a destruction.

        Perhaps the “growing tendency” is, in fact, the refusal to see doctrines (or their logical implications) where they do exist, and to treat the Magisterium as if it accounted for nothing…?

        And as for abusing the word “pastoral”… is it pastoral to let people eat and drink judgement upon themselves (cf. 1 Cor. 11:13)? Is it pastoral to delude people into thinking a “priestless Eucharistic celebration” is possible? Is it pastoral to lobby for something that can never happen (i.e. ordination of women), and thus teach an inauthentic understanding of Holy Orders?

        I would say not. Sometimes the most pastoral thing to be done, following Our Lord’s own example, is charitable correction.

      11. Matthew, most theologians find the magisterium’s reasons for non-ordination of women to be unconvincing: historical studies make it rather hard to claim that Jesus instituted such and such, that the plan is so specific that the Church has no power to change it. Why? Because it is known so clearly that much of the structures only arose in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th century. No one in the New Test. era (i.e, into the early 2nd century) is called ‘priest’ in the sense of ‘ordained minister.’ Most of the church had no notion of a minister being a ‘priest’ well into the 3rd or even 4th century.

        Here’s the challenge: when obviously the Church played such a large role in the discernment of Christ’s will and in the evolution of ordained ministry, how can one claim that the Church has no authority now to change or countenance evolution? I take “divine institution” to mean that Christ was with the Church, and his promised Spirit was guiding the Church… but not to mean that Christ isn’t still with the Church, and the Church can’t continue to play a role in ongoing evolution. Where this will lead, I don’t claim to know. Maybe never to women’s ordination. But it might – and that’s where theological discussion comes in.

        Cardinal Schoenborn once said that such a major evolution as women’s ordination could only be approved by an ecumenical council, not an individual pope. Here’s the point: he, cardinal of Roman church, co-author of the Catechism, could foresee women’s ordination, though he wasn’t advocating it.

        Granted, he was speaking to a riled up populace after Pope JP2 refused to investigate Cardinal Groer’s sex abuse, or even admit it happened. He needed to put out hope, but justify why the Pope couldn’t move on women’s ordination.

        You seem to want to stop discussion by saying the Pope has settled it. Other people have a more nuanced notion of how authority is fallible, sometimes corrupt, sometimes wrong – but still necessary. Magisterium fundamentalism isn’t helpful.


      12. [H]ow can one claim that the Church has no authority now to change or countenance evolution?

        I suppose it would be redundant to cite Pascendi dominici gregis 26-28 on the evolution of doctrine. I understand that it’s not a popular encyclical in many parts these days.

        And claiming that I want to stop discussion while throwing around epithets such as “Magisterium fundamentalism” seems a little inconsistent. Re. women’s ordination: I’ve already said above that I’m happy for discussion about the “why?” to take place, it’s when the discussion turns to lobbying and demands that I begin to have problems.

      13. Well get used to the “problems.” Whether you want to or don’t want to stop discussion is irrelevant and not worth spending cyber ink on. You are entitled to your opinion. It would be naive in the extreme for you to think that any other person is going to change their mind on promoting change in the church because you may or may not be happy about it. This is all the more so in the case of the ordination of women in light of Father Anthony’s summary of the historical position re presbyters and priests in the first few centuries. Your contributions show no knowledge or appreciation of the development of ministerial priesthood in the RCC.

      14. “Staying with the example: the Church has no authority to ordain women. That is the end of the matter, whether one likes it or not.”

        If you have only recently joined the RCC, it’s understandable that you would want to find there an absolutist position on topics that are dear to you. I’m afraid you’ll find nothing of the sort here.

        Looked at from the other perspective, the influx of disaffected former members of other Christian Churches to the RCC brings its own problems for the catholicity of the RCC.

      15. If you have only recently joined the RCC, it’s understandable that you would want to find there an absolutist position on topics that are dear to you. I’m afraid you’ll find nothing of the sort here.

        If by “here” you mean this blog, well, I can’t say I’m particularly surprised, though hope springs eternal!

        If, though, you mean the Church, then there are absolute positions held by her. One of those (among very many) is that she has no authority to ordain women. The only useful and fruitful discussion to be had about this is “why does the Church teach as she does?”, not whether or not some compromise position can be found. The Anglican communion (such as it is) is living proof that there is no middle ground on this particular issue.

        (By the way, I don’t consider myself that recent a convert!) 🙂

  3. Some famaliar quotes in regards to this “network” whatever they mean:

    “Prophecy is the prophetic protest against the self-righteousness of the institutions … God throughout history as not been on the side of the institutions but on that of the suffering and the persecuted.” …Josef Ratzinger 1962 (doesn’t seem to resemble the “Network”)

    “The first service that one owes to others in community consists in listening to them. Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives His Word but also lends us His ear. … Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and, in the end, there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words.” …Dietrich Bonhoeffer (would suggest that the German Network could learn from their brother minister)

    “If we talk of the “little flock” to defend our cozy traditionalism and stale pseudo-orthodoxy, in fear of the mentality of modern man and modern society, if we tacitly consent to the departure of restless, questioning people from the Church, so that we can return to our repose and orderly life and everything in the Church becomes as it was before, we are propagating, not the attitude proper to Christ’s little flock, but a petty sectarian mentality” Karl Rahner, 1971 (this seems to address the “Network” approach; again from another brother German priest)

    Sorry – when did “dissent or request for dialogue” become another word for “evil or schism” – feels like 100 years ago and we are re-fighting the…

    1. Bonhoeffer’s quote cuts both ways: we are all ultimately brothers and sisters to one another, whether lay or cleric. You criticise the hierarchy for not listening, yet it seems clear to me that many dissenters are not in a listening mood either. There is fault on both sides here.

      As for your quote from the Pope’s youth, to support your position you need to read “self-righteousness of the institutions” as identical with adherence to orthodox Catholic teaching, and I don’t think the equivalence is correct.

      Fr Rahner’s use of the phrase “modern man” just turns me off, I’m afraid. What makes “modern man” so special that the Church should bend over backwards to accommodate him? In any case, there is a difference between “restless, questioning people” and out-and-out dissent. I see very little in the way of sincere questioning in petitions for “reform”, or groups like FutureChurch or RCWP; I do, however, see a lot of demanding. Big difference.

      (It would also be nice if you provided full citations, so those of us interested in reading those quotes in context could do so!) 🙂

      1. It’s clear from the way you bandy the word “dissenter” that no one who wasn’t imbued with the zeal of a convert could have written that post. Catholicor Catholicisque.

      2. Mary: It’s clear from the way you bandy the word “dissenter” that no one who wasn’t imbued with the zeal of a convert could have written that post.

        “In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognise dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Ad limina address to the bishops of England and Wales, 2010)

  4. I was just thinking after visiting another blog site that with one side hunkering down resistant to any change except to turn the clock back that we are fast approaching schism. No one plans these things; they happen when those out of power see no hope for change and/or are expelled by those in power.

  5. I think in terms of trying to avoid schism or heal schism and to rebuild or maintain Christian unity that it is laudable for bishops and others in the Church to do whatever it takes to prevent or heal schism but without sacrificing respect for canon law, doctrine and moral teachings. Ecumenism begins at home.
    While the schism of Lefebvreists is based upon rejection of Vatican II’s authority over them and even papal authority in imposing Vatican II on them, theirs is a schism of discipline more than anything else. Yet how many here despise what Pope Benedict has done in lifting the excommunication of their bishops and trying to heal that rift?
    So I would say “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Bishops should be as magnanimous towards those clergy and laity in Europe who are preaching outright disobedience in order to keep them from schism and at the same time bishops should be thanking those in the association of priests who are challenging the “appeal to disobedience” cabal as a way to bring both far left and far right back to the middle where there actually is common ground.

    1. “….theirs is a schism of discipline more than anything else.”

      Think not, Fr. Allan….just as you can’t lump all “dissenters” into one bucket; so you can’t lump all SSPX into one bucket but most SSPXs object on their skewed understanding of doctrine – specifically, infallibility, papal magisterium, unchanging nature of the hierarchy and what it espouses…not discipline.

      In fact, the dissenters object to “discipline” which all agree can be changed rather than doctrine (however you understand the nature of the development of doctrine).

      Your equating dissent with disobedience is your opinion but tradition and history tells another story. Using your sweeping Southern Orders approach, Aquinas, Francis, Ignatius, Mendicants, others would be termed as “disobedient” in their dissent – usually, dissenting from a “misguided” pope or member of the hierarchy. Your vision of tradition and history, as usual, is either one sided or falls into the manichean – you are for us or against us model. That really is not how theology, scriptural exegesis development, ecclesiology, etc. have matured and grown – the church, classically understood, is usually “both/and” not either/or. Your use of terms such as “cabal”; “disobedience”, schism, despise reveals your feelings and opinion. So, let’s just continue to polarize things.

      1. And Bill where is your middle road with me? You’re sounding more like the association of priests rather than the
        priests calling for disobedience in your reply to me.
        Congratulations, reading southern orders has been contagious to your way of approaching things! 🙂

      2. And by the way Bill, since all the free advertisement you’ve given my blog here, I gone from about 800 hits a day to just
        over 1000 a day. Are you hitting southern orders a couple of
        hundred times a day? At any rate, I like the
        inflated numbers you have brought to my blog. Please leave a comment or two, won’t you?

  6. The SSPX, according to the Holy Father, Cardinal Hoyos, and other Prelates, have already stated openly that the SSPX are NOT in a state of schism. So as much as folk want to propoagate what is not true, let the truth be known. They may have commmitted a schismatic act through the illicit act of consecrating Bishops without Papal mandate, but that act did not result in a formal schism or break with Rome. We may define it however we like according to our own limited knowledge of Canon law but it does not make it the legal viewpoint. In Dubias sent to Rome to clarify attendance at SSPX Masses, the Faithful have been told they they may indeed attend Mass at an SSPX chapel as long as this is not being done so in opposition to the Holy Father or Magesterium. One might find few alternatives but an SSPX chapel if their own particular Diocese does not allow Mass according to the 1962 Missal. I don’t think the Congregation or Rome would advise the Faithful that they may attend such Masses if they were in a state of schism, so a correct understanding is needed when referencing the situation.

    1. That is an important clarification, Mitch. And now the
      excommunication of their bishops is lifted. However, I
      understand that their clergy are still “suspended” having no official “faculties” to say Mass, hear confessions and carry out other aspects of their priestly ministry. But the point I was
      making is that the “middle” meaning the bishops in complete union with the pope should be working to keep people in the flock or bring them back even through canonical means. This applies to the “disobey” cabal and the SSXP cabal if I can used the same word twice, cabal referring to both extremes.

  7. What puzzles me is inconsistency in terms of what is not helpful. We had in Archbishop Lebvre an individual who was not “Ecumenical Council Fundamentalist” when it came to Vatican II and certainly not a “fundamentalist” when it came to subsequent decisions by Pope Paul VI including Lebvre’s embrace of excommunication. I suspect in that regard he was at the highest level of Colbert’s moral development, meaning he was willing to embrace punishment for what he considered a just cause (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).
    But of course one might criticize him as a fundamentalist in other ways which isn’t conducive to the furthering the discussion of the merits involved in his decisions.
    I’ve always contended that if the pope alone or with an ecumenical council decided that women could be ordained, so be it, no skin off my back. I’d appreciate the sacramental help. But thus far no council has conceded or even hinted to its possibility and a pope has come just about as close with an infallible statement possible referring to the exclusion of women’s ordination within the “ordinary magisterium” of the Church and unchangeable. Could that change, maybe yes maybe no, but I think 2000 years of doing something that is now considered “dogmatic” more than likely won’t change, but I’m not clairvoyant.
    But the point is that it is one thing to bring discussion to the table and quite another thing when discussion occurs and a decision is made and the group that had things go in the wrong way of what they wanted tries to divide and conquer in the form of sour grapes. They may have the highest moral development in doing so and embracing whatever sanctions come their way, but is it worth it if the Church divides and is more fragmented then ever? Unbridled flexible progressiveness isn’t helpful either, the flip side of rigid fundamentalism.

    1. Had to laugh at your – “Lebvre (sp – Lefevbre, correct), I suspect, was at the highest level of Colbert’s moral development, meaning…….”

      You didn’t do well in Psychology class, did you? Using Fowler’s Stages of Faith models, Lefebvre would have a difficult time getting past stage three (sort of a glorified follow the rules guy developmentally at around age 14).

      Also, Colbert?? or did you mean Kohlberg Stages of Moral Development:

      Highlight in reference to Lefebvre:

      Stage 4. Maintaining the Social Order. The respondent becomes more broadly concerned with society as a whole. Now the emphasis is on obeying laws, respecting authority, and performing one’s duties so that the social order is maintained. In response to the Heinz story, many subjects say they understand that Heinz’s motives were good, but they cannot condone the theft. What would happen if we all started breaking the laws whenever we felt we had a good reason? The result would be chaos; society couldn’t function. (this appears to be the way Lefebvre envisioned the church and tradition – VII broke tradition)

      Contrast that with the vision of Vatican II:

      Stage 6: Universal Principles: Kohlberg’s justice follows that of great moral leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Accordingly, the principles of justice require us to treat the claims of all parties in an impartial manner, respecting the basic dignity, of all people as individuals. The principles of justice are universal; they apply to all. Thus, for example, we would not vote for a law that aids some people but hurts others. The principles of justice guide us toward decisions based on an equal respect for all. At stage 6, a commitment to justice makes the rationale for civil disobedience stronger and broader. Martin Luther King, for example. (not Lefebvre)

      1. Normally we can edit comments once we post them,
        but no more–schism in the tech world. So thanks for
        pointing out my errors. I’m glad you laughed at the spelling but you need to loosen up when it comes to Colbert, as
        in the Colbert Report? A little tongue and cheek humor, which is a part of my very dry sense of humor that you missed, but glad you agree with me on Martin Luther King, Jr and others
        like him. But in keeping with you contention that we
        “would not vote for a law that aids some people but hursts others” I suspect then you would not vote for a
        pro-choice politicians who upholds laws that
        supposedly help women but kill children in the process?

      2. I have never advocated for single issue voting. As you can see above, determining a candidate who lives and has experience at a Stage 5 or 6 moral development is difficult.

      3. You forget, Bill, English is not Father’s first language. So no need to remind him it’s tongue IN cheek.

  8. Cardinal Schoenborn was being rhetorical, knowing full well that no ecumenical council that is guided by the Holy Spirit will ever approve the ordination of women into the priesthood.
    I would hope that at the next ecumenical council for whatever reason it be called would also have the active participation of the Orthodox Churches. We should all be praying for a full re-union of these two great Christian traditions which in so many important issues are of one mind.

    1. You’re better at reading the Cardinal’s mind, and clarifying for him what he really meant, than am I. I had thouth that he, a bright theologian, was aware of what he was really saying… but as I say, you’ve clarified for him.

    2. I presume you mean praying for a full re-union of these THREE great Christian traditions, to include both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox. I also presume that your desire for unity with these great traditions is, partly if not completely, because of their not-yet-articulated movement in favour of the ordination of the c. 50% of the human race that happens to be female.

      On the other hand, you may not like their general aversion to Roman supremacy. Now there’s something the church catholic could learn something from.

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