Cardinal Cristoph Schönborn of Vienna has asked a group of priests to renounce a manifesto called “Call to Disobedience” or leave administrative posts in the Catholic Church.
Last month the cardinal told priests he would not appoint supporters of the manifesto, organized by a group called Priests’ Initiative, to the position of dean. He would not renew the assignments of those already in posts, Reuters reported.
“You can easily remain a member of the Priests’ Initiative. You must only distance yourself from the ‘Call to Disobedience’ in an appropriate way,” said the Archdiocese of Vienna spokesman Nikolaus Haselsteiner.
“In an average company, a department head can't say he doesn't care what the CEO says,” he explained.
The leader of the Priests’ Initiative, Fr. Helmut Schueller, has said his group represents 10 percent of clergy in Austria, though other reports say the figure is closer to 7.5 percent.
The group has pledged to give Holy Communion to Protestants and divorced and remarried Catholics despite Catholic teaching on the need for communicants to be properly disposed. It has also called for an end to the celibate priesthood and for the ordination of women as priests.
Fr. Peter Meidinger, a dean in the archdiocese, said he has stepped down after a conversation with the cardinal. He said that the manifesto used the word “disobedience” in the sense of “civil disobedience,” a concept which in his words is used “when the leaders are simply not prepared to listen to people.”
In a May 14 interview with CNA, Cardinal Schönborn criticized the call for disobedience because “you cannot build up a Church life on the basis of disobedience.”
He said there had not yet been sanctions against the Priests’ Initiative because of a belief in “the possibility of personal dialogue” but he also said priests will have to decide for themselves.
The cardinal said there are “practically no young priests” among the dissenting Catholic groups. He criticized “a certain nostalgia” among older clergymen who seem to think that if the Church would be “a little bit more liberal” then the churches would be filled again and have the popular acceptance they once did.
He said this kind of thinking is “a dream” and “an illusion.”