Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cardinal Schonborn Drops A Bomb But No One Seems To Have Heard It

Where is the media coverage on the latest doings in the Austrian Church?

The following short article is from Britian's Tablet.  It's about the only Anglo outlet that covered this story, and this little bare bones article would seem to be the extent of the Tablet's coverage.  This is mind boggling to me, because Cardinal Schonborn has essentially announced the Austrian Catholic Church is on life support.

Vienna cuts 75 per cent of parishes

The 660 parishes in the Archdiocese of Vienna are to be drastically reduced over the next 10 years to just 150.
The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, made the announcement to a startled audience of journalists at the annual media reception at the archbishops' palace on 20 September. (I can well imagine the media was startled.  Maybe that's why there hasn't been any coverage.)

The main factors behind the restructuring are the declining number of churchgoing Catholics and the shortage of priests. Parishes in the archdiocese will in future be much larger, with three to five priests in charge, one of whom will be responsible to the archbishop. Each of these large parishes will be run jointly by priests and lay Catholics.

Cardinal Schönborn described the move as "probably the greatest structural reorganisation of the Vienna archdiocese for 200 years".  (Maybe since the Reformation.)


Cardinal Schonborn announces this on September 20 and outlets like America, NCR, and Commonweal haven't uttered a peep?  Why is this?  Is it just to stark a story to report?  Maybe.

Cardinal Schonborn is essentially announcing a 75% down sizing in the Austrian Catholic Church.  Off hand I can't think of too many enterprises that have announced this kind of massive cut and still survived.  JPII and Pope Benedict seem to have accomplished their goal of a 'remnant church' in Austria.  Whether this will continue to be a viable church remains to be seen.  I'm not naive enough to think this is strictly an Austrian phenomenon.  I suspect France will be next and more dominoes to fall as time progresses.  It would seem to be a propitious time for a synod on a New Evangelization, but stacking that synod with the cast of characters who did so much to bring about the remnant church hardly seems to be the path of renewal.  Maybe the timing of this announcement is Cardinal Schonborns way of making a point.  Retreating to the past is not a form of new evangelizing and it doesn't work.  

Or maybe it's Schonborn's way of sending a message to his rebellious priests and laity, that in the much smaller Austrian Church of the immediate future, their participation is not necessary.  I would hope that's not the intended message, but in today's Church in Europe who knows.  I do know 400 rebellious priests is more than enough to get a good start on a truly reformed Catholic Church and maybe that's what's in the cards in Austria.  


  1. Thanks so very much for bringing us this important news. Betty Clermont

  2. It is important news and I am at a loss as to why real media outlets aren't covering this story.

  3. Colleen, thanks for this news. I would think that the "real media outlets aren't covering this story" because they don't know what to make of it. It has not registered. They're not connecting the dots, imho. Perhaps they are in shock.

    And what would the Trads print about this story other than what they are accustomed to doing, which is to blame any and all problems on the laity or Vatican II ??


  4. The real question is, will these parishes be big as Cardinal Shornborn believes. Will there be enough priests left for 4 to 5 in each parish. The more educated Europeans, other than the very wealthy Opus Dei type Catholics, continue to give up the Roman Church in disgust. Shornborn could have done the faithful People of God a Favor by announcing that he no longer could support the omniscient delusions of the Roman Church, taken his people back to The Way of Christ. That would be big news!!! dennis

  5. Sad, but not surprising. Meanwhile, the corporate takeover of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States continues apace. Benedict is getting his smaller church, but it isn't going to be a blessing.

  6. In the US I think the bishops are busy with their short list of intrinsic evils to paint President Obama as the devil. No time to worry about shrinking parishes and church attendance.

    The new format looks good.

  7. The new format is visually pleasing, I like not having to reload the whole page to see the comments. One problem though: when I pull up a segment on the Ipad2 the top entry is there but the scroll is scrolling the main page underneath. Thanks for the Austria info. How long o Lord, how long until they hear your voice (and the voice of the Spirit) and harden not their hearts?

  8. This is very interesting, thank you for sharing it. Vienna is not alone in this restructuring effort, which while dramatic is not surprising given the shortage of priests and faithful in the German speaking realm. As regards reformation along Lutheran lines, this is hardly a solution: the protestant churches in Germany are doing even worse in their numbers of vocations and faithful. There is a very deep underlying crisis of faith, especially in Europe, and certainly the scandals that rock the human institution of the Church do not help. Those communities that are strong are generally not those of wealthy Opus Dei type people, sorry to take the magic out of that cliché. They are communities that have faith, pray and receive the sacraments, and run strong social service programs. Where this becomes meaningless, the Church has lost its raison d'etre. No easy fix to that.

    1. Thanks for the comment Johannes. To your point about strong communities, this is really true for the exodus of Catholics in Brazil. The intentional destuction of the Base Community initiative has had a monstrous impact on Catholics leaving the Church for Evangelical sects. While the numbers is Europe are alarming, they are dwarfed by the numbers in Brazil.

    2. Glad you liked my comment, Colkoch. I was not aware of the destruction of these base communities. Interesting. I would like to read more about that. The Aparecida document from 2007 did address the need to bring faith and bible to the grass root level, which is what many evangelical groups (laudibly so) have been doing and not surprisingly people have indeed been leaving the Church to follow them in droves. The Church in Brazil has been strong on some social issues, but slow and mediocre in attending the spiritual needs of the faithful, for many and complex reasons. Again: When faith is taken out (be it for clinging to privileges and structures, or to social issues with no transcendence) , the Church loses its raison d'etre. Alas! It is important to address all these issues, and not stagnate the gospel with trench warfare between "liberals" and "conservatives". This impedes mature, honest reflection by all and finding transformational (truly transformational) answers. All the best!

    3. Johannes,

      You are correct that it is not just the problem of Opus Dei and right and left politics, but in fact good spiritual people in all countries are indeed leaving the RCC. The reason is the authoritarian structure and the lack of sense in handling scandals of any sort. The fastest growing religious group in the US is once catholics. This has been true in Europe for years and it has to do with the unbelievable aspects of the totalitarian mind set in the church. More than under educated peoples are leaving and have left in Brazil. There are many independent catholic churches that still follow the Liberation theology of Boff and others. The RCC has not been helped by its last two popes who have destroyed the big tent idea. Rome has looked more and more to the cultish Opus Dei to solve problems. It has not and will not work. dennis

  9. I think Fran is right. The news outlets just don't understand what is happening. And they apparently haven't any idea of who just might have a clue and be willing to share it with them on the record.

    Or they think it just isn't important enough to their audience to give more coverage. If this is the case, imho the absence is even more telling and an in-depth article.

    PS: The new format works for me. Although first thing on a Monday morning not so much ;) Hope you are feeling better soon, Colleen.

    1. Either the news outlets really don't understand it, or they really do and just don't know how to present this kind of statement about a Catholic Church on life support in Europe.

      Right now I am sure liking this format better than the new NCR format. I use Firefox as a browser and Firefox does not like the NCR layout.

      The weather girl is predicting rain mixed with snow for tomorrow. That would be so lovely because we might finally find some relief from the all the smoke haze. Walk around Helena right now, and it sounds like a monster tuberculosis ward.