• RSS Queering the Church

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS Spirit of a Liberal

    • Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand September 15, 2014
      Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand: A Vietnam Soldier's Story has just been released. The title comes from a stanza of the gospel traditional, Down by the Riverside, with its refrain--"Ain't gonna study war no more." Golden Sand is a bold, dark, and intense retelling of the Vietnam experience through the eyes of an army scout that is […]
      Obie Holmen
    • Gay Games Symposium July 21, 2014
      I am pleased and honored that the UCC has asked me to moderate a symposium during the games entitled Queer Christians: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
      Obie Holmen
  • RSS There Will be Bread

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS The Wild Reed

    • Come, Spirit . . . November 26, 2015
      . . . help us sing the story of our land.Recently my friend Pete and I watched Terrence Malick's 2005 film The New World. It's a beautifully rendered historical drama depicting the founding of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia and inspired by the historical figures Captain John Smith (played by Colin Farrell), Pocahontas (Q'orianka Kilcher) […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Quote of the Day November 25, 2015
      Let me tell you: The facts are out. In Minneapolis, black people are almost nine times more likely to be arrested for minor offenses than white people. Black youth are almost six times more likely than their white peers to be arrested for low-level crimes. Black people consistently report bias in how they are treated by police, and the numbers support this. […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
  • RSS Bilgrimage

    • Two Thanksgiving Videos: Brothers and Sisters Under the Skin, and Our Chance to Atone for the Holocaust November 26, 2015
      And two more Thanksgiving videos for you this morning (with greetings and a statement of appreciation for readers outside the U.S., who aren't celebrating this American national holiday): the video at the head of the posting, featuring Appalachian singer Sam Gleaves reminding us that we're brothers and sisters under the skin despite our incidental […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
    • God's Mercy and Hate Rhetoric in the U.S. Public Square: A Thanksgiving Meditation November 26, 2015
      A little (American) Thanksgiving day meditation I shared this morning on Facebook. Since a friend there told me she thought it was valuable, I now think to share it with all of you here, too — and with greetings to many readers of this blog who aren't celebrating the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving today, but whom I don't intend to exclude by framing […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
  • RSS Enlightened Catholicism

  • RSS Far From Rome

    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
  • RSS The Gay Mystic

    • Rest in Peace Father John McNeil September 25, 2015
      One of the very great patron saints of the gay rights movement in the Catholic Church and the  US passed away on September 22. I can't begin to express how much I owe to him and how deeply his death has moved me. I feel somewhat the way I felt with the news of Thomas Merton's death so many years ago - that there was no longer anyone left that one c […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Richard Cameron )
    • Back from Summer Camp August 31, 2015
      Just returned from eight intense non stop weeks of summer camp with Czech kids. Exhausted beyond words, but I wouldn't have missed a moment of it. Thankfully, the world and it's woes were far, far away from us.Now it's back to reality.Here are some of my adorable kids walking through the forest in a happy mood.
      noreply@blogger.com (Richard Cameron )
  • RSS The Jesus Manifesto

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS John McNeill: Spiritual Transformations

  • RSS Perspective

    • Links November 27, 2015
      - Pope Francis is visiting Kenya, then Uganda, and then the Central African Republic. The African Catholic Church is the fastest growing, but it's also the most conservative. Kaya Oakes at Religion Dispatches addresses this: Will Pope’s African Tour Change Attitudes on Divorce and LGBTQ Among African Catholics? - With the Supreme Court taking up the iss […]
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

Austrian Bishops Respond to Catholic “Rebellion”: Continuing Dialogue Promised

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna has responded to the Austrian rebels with a promise of dialogue, not discipline: jaw-jaw before war-war: but has firmly rejected calls to “disobedience”.

Last week the Austrian branch of “We are Church” issued a statement of support for the Austrian priests’ earlier “call to disobedience, and at the same time urged laypeople to start making up for clergy shortages by consecrating and distributing Holy Communion, as well as preaching and presiding at Mass.

This call immediately preceded a four-day meeting  of the Austrian bishops, at which the priests’ rebellion was already due to be discussed. The bishops have now concluded their meeting, and have released a statement in response, which is well worth reading and considering carefully.

Part of the response is entirely predictable – a rejection of the principle of disobedience, and for lay people to celebrate the Mass themselves.

The bishops said that some demands connected to “this call for disobedience at the initiative of priests and laity are simply unsustainable” and breach “the central truth of our Catholic faith.”


I’m not sure that this is correct – I would have thought that the “central truth” of our Catholic faith was to follow the example of one Jesus Christ – who was notably wary of slavish adherence to religious rules and religious leaders.  Just consider, for instance, the words from the Gospel reading two weeks ago, and in particular its closing lines:

You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. 

Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ. 
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

No, the “central truth” that is being breached here is not that of the Catholic faith, but of clerical (and especially episcopal) power, that has been gradually claimed for themselves in a two millennium long power grab. What the call for lay celebration of the Eucharist does, is to return to the practice of the earliest church, when communities chose from amongst themselves people to lead their liturgies. These served as part-time ministers, not full-time professionals – and bishops did not even exist.

The issue of “disobedience” specifically is another matter – but it cuts both ways. It is true that priests take vows of obedience to the bishops – but the bishops in turn are supposed to be responsive to the needs of the Church. The overwhelming evidence from research the world over, is that (collectively) they are not.

But inside the statement, there is also encouragement. It is clear that the Austrian bishops have recognized the seriousness of the crisis, and while they reject the rebels’ outright defiance, they have some sympathy with their fundamental aims. They have attempted to show a conciliatory tone, and to demonstrate some common ground. They too, are anxious for reform and renewal. They also emphasise a flexible understanding of “obedience” itself, which does not have to be blind and slavish:

“As bishops, we are all naturally concerned about our church’s real and serious problems –Austrian dioceses are facing up to the situation and taking opportunities to innovate,” said a statement issued at the end of the Nov. 7-10 meeting.

In their statement, the bishops said the duty of obedience had its source “in the Bible and living tradition of the church” and did not mean “being blind or slavish.” They said debates were under way in each diocese and they were confident they would “find answers to the questions asked today.”


That’s in the formal, prepared statement, as quoted by US Catholic Magazine. Behind the scenes, we can be sure that there will be much more, continuing discussion (not for public dissemination). This was explicitly promised by Cardinal Schonborn, in a press conference following their meeting.

“We are in talks and will remain in talks because I and the bishops are still convinced that a lot can and must be cleared up by dialogue,” Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said on Friday after a four-day meeting of bishops.

Equally interesting, as always in discussions of ecclesiastical politics, is what is not said: there is absolutely no mention of disciplinary sanctions against the rebels, imposed or threatened.

The bishops find themselves in an impossible situation. It is clear that they have substantial sympathy with the aims of the Austrian reform movement, but they are unable to comply with the demands with themselves falling into direct conflict with their own superiors in Rome. As the view from the Vatican, and that from ordinary Catholic households, continues to drift further and further apart, the challenge to Austrian bishops in attempting to straddle the divide will be repeated, in many other countries.

 Related articles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 150 other followers

%d bloggers like this: