The leader of the Pfarrer-Initiative (“Priests’ Initiative” or “Pastors’ Initiative”) in Austria is Fr. Helmut Schüller. Die Presse in Vienna reports on the networking of similar organizations from six countries. Representatives of reformist organizations met in Voralberg, Austria Thursday to Saturday of this week. Topics were the priest shortage, the involvement of women in the Church, the future of congregations, and how their organizations could get a hearing with the bishops.
Thirty participants in the meeting came from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, USA, Ireland, and Australia. The goal was not to create a large umbrella organization, but to network among existing organizations. Schüller reports that it was quickly discovered that the concerns of the participants around the world are the same. The meeting generated a long list of ideas for future work.
The group discussed the notion of collegiality which Pope Francis is advocating. “We are extremely displeased with so-called dialogue in the Church,” Schüller said. The group hopes to get a hearing at the bishops’ synod on the family announced by Pope Francis for 2014, and is reflecting on how this could be done. They are concerned that little preparation time remains before that synod, such that all the concerns could be heard in the synod preparations. One concern is pastoral care of people in second marriages.
Martha Heizer of “Wir sind Kirche” (“We Are Church”) in Austria said that “it is a shame and a massive injustice that women cannot be ordained.” Deborah Rose-Milavec, director of “FutureChurch” in the US, said that “women should have a vote – at the family synod, at the next election of a pope.”
The participants discussed intensively the shortage of priests. In Ireland there will soon be only a handful of priests, only very few young ones, but Fr. Tony Flannery said that “the church does not wish to discuss this.” Sister Christine Schenk from FutureChurch reported on church closings and dissolved parishes. “The first right of a Christian is to hear the Good News. We will not give up until everyone can celebrate Mass once a week.”