|Who are the ants making this picture? Twitter and Flickr users. Not too many of them up in my neck of the woods. The one of Europe is pretty cool too.|
Vienna cardinal takes tough line on priest revolt
The head of Vienna's Roman Catholic community ruled out sweeping changes demanded by dissident priests and said there could be "serious conflict" if they defied Church teaching on celibacy or give communion to remarried divorcees.
Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn said he would not lead his diocese into a schism with leaders in the Vatican by letting priests flout Church rules after a group of priests issued a "Call to Disobedience" manifesto to try to press reform. (Interesting phrasing--leaders in the Vatican.)
In weekend interviews with Austrian radio and television, Schoenborn backed celibacy for priests, limiting ordination to men and preserving marriage as a life-long commitment.
"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 said on Saturday. (More interesting phrasing. He could have said "I would never do this", but he didn't.)
Late on Friday, he again warned dissident priests that they faced consequences if they stuck to their revolt.
"If it comes to actions that clearly contradict Catholic teaching on faith then it can lead to serious conflict," he said, adding it was not too late to reach common ground in a second round of talks due later this year. (Another interesting phrase, he could have said "contradict Catholic discipline" but he didn't.)
"All possibilities are open. I am counting on dialogue and cooperation," he said.
Dissidents led by parish priest Helmut Schueller have issued the manifesto and say they hope the campaign will persuade Schoenborn to push reforms with Pope Benedict and the Vatican.
The dissidents, who have broad public backing in opinion polls, say they will break Church rules by giving communion to Protestants and remarried divorced Catholics or by allowing lay people to preach and head parishes without a priest.
They oppose the current drive to group several parishes together because of a shortage of priests.
"We are now really going to step on the gas," Hans-Peter Hurka, head of the Catholic reform group "We are the Church," told newspaper Der Standard this week, announcing plans to have hundreds of demonstrators march on bishops' offices.
"It is like in Egypt. There will be a revolution of Church people in Austria. We will make St. Stephen's Square (before the cathedral in Vienna) into Tahrir Square," another activist, Anton Achleitner, said, referring to the square where Egyptians staged protests that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.
The dispute has come to a head just before Pope Benedict's September 22-25 visit to neighbouring Germany. Benedict, 84, grew up in Bavarian villages close to the Austrian border.
Catholic reform groups in Germany have made similar demands, and a prominent retired Irish bishop, Edward Daly, called on Tuesday for an end to compulsory celibacy for priests, saying it was pushing new recruits away.
Cardinal Schonborn is playing a very careful strategy. I keep thinking back to yesterday's posted article from Vatican Insider. If Cardinals like Schonborn and Martini have serious support in the global church, a schism in Austria- or elsewhere-would not be a welcome event. Cardinal Schonborn' statement is carefully worded to make the distinction between the universal Church and 'leaders in the Vatican'. I think I get where he might be going.
The global world is in serious straights. The one global organization which might still have the moral standing to make a difference is the Roman Catholic Church. It can't effectively do that if it splinters into more sects, especially nationally driven sects. I'm aware of the fact I might have written something about an autochthonuos American Church, but in the bigger global picture, that was not terribly strategic on my part. I'm not talking about a global strategy ala JPII where Catholicism becomes a kind of uber theocracy, or the kind of strategy being employed by the dominionists to turn the US into a Christian theocracy. I'm talking about a global strategy that provides a consistent helping hand for refugees and immigrants--the least of the least. A hand that isn't colored by national drum beating, that doesn't need to bring 'help' via a military presence. A hand that takes events like the upcoming Assisi meeting and lives that kind of spirituality as a matter of course, not a one time single event.
Three of the more pressing problems facing the Church are the clerical abuse scandal, the hemorhaging of cradle Catholics across the globe, and the uber traditionalists who want to retreat into fortress Catholicism.
By the time Pope Benedict is done, the uber traditionalists will have their own personal forts where they can live out their theology of fear through the certitude of answers the pre Vat II Church excelled at. The rest of us can move on, but not all that effectively if we separate into national or regional churches.
I've written previously that the trend in spirituality is towards the recognition that on a fundamental level we are all one. We are in the mess we have made of our world by own free choice and we are all together in that mess. Nothing is separate from it's constituent parts. Nothing happens in some sort of holy vacuum. No one, not even Benedict, has the whole Truth. All we really have are pieces of a puzzle that none of us has the pay grade to claim we've put all together. We never will as long as our perception is limited by this reality.
We are like ants crawling across a painting. We can claim knowledge of the color in the area we are in, but we are totally blind to and unaware of the beauty of the Mona Lisa for which our colors are a part. Imagine the hubris to remove the colors of other ants when you have no idea what the painting describes.
I don't read these words of Cardinal Schonborn as capitulation to the Vatican. I think he's working a bigger strategy and he wants to avoid a tactical schism for the sake of the bigger strategy. He's given plenty of hints of what that strategy will include and it won't be more Latin in exchange for less transparency.
I think Pope Benedict will have a much different experience in Germany than he did in Spain during the heavily orchestrated World Youth Day. He's going to see for himself that he hasn't quite rubbed out the ants who believe Vatican II had serious things to say. We may have walked off of the painting, but we haven't forgotten the colors.