Church reforms ruled out in Austria


THE CARDINAL Archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference has ruled out reforms demanded by an estimated 400 priests in that country and said there could be “serious conflict” if they defied church teaching on celibacy or gave communion to remarried divorcees.

Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said he would not lead his diocese into a schism with the Vatican by allowing priests flout church rules after they, almost 10 per cent of the 4,200 priests in Austria, were reported to support an “Appeal to Disobedience” campaign.

The initiative was launched on Trinity Sunday last, June 19th, and priests behind it said that “Roman refusal to take up long-needed reforms and the inaction of the bishops not only permits but demands that we follow our conscience and act independently”.

On their website,, they called for the abolition of celibacy; for married clergy to be allowed; for shared Communion with remarried people and other Christians.

They have also called for reform of the liturgy and introduction of the term “Priestless Eucharistic Celebration” for a liturgy of the Word with distribution of Communion.

The initiative is being led by the former vicar general of Cardinal Schïonborn, Msgr Helmut Schüller.

In weekend interviews Cardinal Schönborn said that: “If in our diocese here I would step out of line with the community of the Catholic Church then I would lead our diocese into a schism. I am not ready for this and I think no Austrian bishop is ready for this.”

He warned the priests that they faced consequences.

“If it comes to actions that clearly contradict Catholic teaching on faith then it can lead to serious conflict,” he said, but “all possibilities are open. I am counting on dialogue and co-operation.”