Latest news out of the troubled land of Austria: 300 out of Austria's 4,200 priests have pledged to take part in an effort known as the "Call to Disobedience", as reported by Catholic Culture and the National Catholic Reporter. Here is what the signatories to the "Call to Disobedience" website are pledging:
•to pray for Church reform at every liturgy, since “in the presence of God there is freedom of speech”
•not to deny the Holy Eucharist to “believers of good will,” including non-Catholic Christians and those who have remarried outside the Church
•to avoid offering Mass more than once on Sundays and holy days and to avoid making use of visiting priests--instead holding a “self-designed” Liturgy of the Word
•to describe such a Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion as a “priestless Eucharistic celebration”; “thus we fulfill the Sunday obligation in a time of priest shortage”
•to “ignore” canonical norms that restrict the preaching of the homily to clergy
•to oppose parish mergers, insisting instead that each parish have its own individual leader, “whether man or woman”
•to “use every opportunity to speak out openly in favor of the admission of the married and of women to the priesthood”
Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna weighed in on this in a July 7 letter, saying, "This open call to disobedience shocked me...Christian obedience is a school of freedom; it is about the concrete translation into life of what we pray in every Our Father, when we ask the Father that His will be done in heaven and on earth … This willingness is made concrete in religious obedience to the Pope and bishops.” He went on to say that those who persist in disobedience would do better to simply leave the Church altogether.
When I first heard about this and read the Cardinal's statements, one thought crossed my mind: There are only seven dioceses in Austria, and Vienna is by far the largest. Schönborn has been Archbishop of Vienna since 1995, but he was an Auxiliary Bishop in 1991 - that's 20 years in this Archdiocese. There is a good chance that Schönborn personally ordained many of these 300 dissenters. What kind of formation did they have? And if they had poor formation (which it seems evident they did), how did the Cardinal let them go on for 20 years without trying to rectify the problem? Did this Cardinal, who in the wake of the sex abuse crisis suggested there needed to be "unflinching examination" in the "issue of priest's training" himself fail to recognize the seeds of dissent in these priests? Ths sort of dissent does not just come out of nowhere, though the "shocked" disposition of Cardinal Schönborn would seem to suggest that he at least may think it does. If 300 priests in your diocese suddenly rise up in formal, united dissent, the Ordinary of the diocese who probably ordained a lot of these guys is certainly not blameless.
If he knew this sort of dissent was brewing in his prebyterate, he was negligent in not addressing it. If on the other hand, if he has been there for 20 years and really had no clue this was the temperament of his priests, then he demonstrates an exceptional degree of cluelessness. I grant it may not be so simple; after all, being a bishop in this day and age is a very complex thing, something a layman like me could not possibly understand.
Furthermore, if Cardinal Schönborn insists on personally celebrating Masses like this and explicitly approves functions like this one, can he really be surprised that he reaps the fruits of disobedience? When he sets this tone for his diocese, on what grounds is he so "shocked"?
Since my co-blogger at large, the illustrious Anselm, lives in the great land of Austria, I would be more than interested to hear is take on this.