As part of an “ad limina” visit to Rome last week, Austrian Bishop Andreas Laun said that although many seek to take it into their own hands, the Church belongs to Christ as does all of its teachings.
“In Austria we have a lot of 'lay-initiatives'” that support same-sex marriage, “birth control, priestly ordination of women” and Communion for remarried divorced Catholics, Bishop Laun told CNA Jan. 30 interview.
“All of those groups think, that they are 'the' Church but have obviously not been to Holy Mass in a while, since then they would have noticed that it is 'his' Church,” he said.
Bishop Laun is the auxiliary bishop of Salzburg, a well-known city in Austria, and was present in Rome last week for the Austrian Bishops' “ad limina,” in which residential diocesan bishops and certain prelates with territorial jurisdiction meet with the Pope and report on the state of their dioceses or prelature.
During their meeting with Pope Francis, the pontiff told the bishops that despite the challenge of a declining number of Catholics in the country, the trend “should not find us inactive, but should encourage our efforts for the new evangelization that is always needed.”
On the importance of the Church's mission of evangelization, especially to those who are far from God, the Pope emphasized that “An important area of our work as shepherds is the family.”
“The Church's concern for the family begins with good preparation and proper accompaniment of the bride and groom, as well as a faithful and clear presentation of Church doctrine on marriage and the family,” he said.
Referring to those who seek to change the Church's doctrine on issues such as marriage and the reception of Communion by divorced and re-married Catholics, Bishop Laun noted that the Church is “not mine, not yours,” but “his Church – that is: the Lord, Jesus Christ – he is the Lord of the Church.”
“He is the head,” the bishop repeated, rather than those who believe that they need “to restructure the Church.”
Drawing attention to the heavy media coverage this issue has received, Bishop Laun emphasized that “the media brings this topic up way too much,” and that “even Church-men and Bishops sometimes bring these topics back up, as if they are up for discussion; they behave as stirred by the media.”
Recalling a recent article he wrote, the bishop recounted the story of a woman he met in this situation as a remarried divorced Catholic who first “sought for excuses to justify her position over and over again to silence her conscience.”
But today, the bishop explained, “she says: the Churches' position is absolutely correct. It hurts, but the Church does the right thing.”
“It would be totally false to argue with mercy, since it does not fit,” he continued, adding that “she had learned to go to Communion with crossed arms over her chest and receive the blessing, which was an immense help, she said.”
Bishop Laun recalled that the woman told him that to do this “was good for her,” and that “that the Church remained firm.”
“The Church is not called to change reality; she does not have the power,” observed the bishop, explaining that “we are faced with a situation in which someone did something which is clearly against the commandments of God, but still wants to be in communion with Jesus Christ.”
“How is that supposed to work?” he asked, noting that this “is a contradiction in terms” and that “we need to be prudent in this question and not tie it to the topic of mercy – as unfortunately Cardinals have in the past.”
Mercy is “a totally different topic,” he stressed, adding that “doctors can also not be merciful, by denying sickness. They need to address and heal it, not deny it.”
Among the other topics discussed with the Pope, Bishop Laun revealed that he has made two suggestions to the pontiff, for a World Youth Day and World Family Day, as well as a Eucharistic Congress.
Jan Bentz contributed to this report.