Vatican faces revolt among Austrian flock
Third of churchgoers sign petition for women's ordination and an end to priestly celibacy
Wednesday 05 July 1995
Religious Affairs Correspondent
The crisis in the Catholic Church in Austria will intensify today when the organisers of a petition in favour of women priests will announce that more than 400,000 people have signed it. That figure, equivalent to every third Mass-attending Catholic, represents an extraordinary rebellion by the laity in a traditionally conservative country.
The petition also calls for an end to compulsory priestly celibacy; a more relaxed attitude to questions of sexual discipline, including birth control and the acceptance of divorced and remarried people; and a greater local voice in the appointment of bishops.
A leading conservative bishop, Karl Krenn of St Poelten, further inflamed opinion last week when he compared those who signed the petition in favour of Church democracy to the Austrians who voted for union with Hitler's Germany in the referendum of 1938. It was immediately pointed out that the Catholic bishops of the day had unanimously and publicly urged their countrymen to vote for Hitler when they had the chance. Bishop Krenn has been attacked by fellow bishops and by the opposition Green Party, which has urged the Vatican to sack him.
Bishop Krenn is now one of the chief targets of the rebellion, but the crisis was started by another Vatican appointee, the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Hans Hermann Groer.
Cardinal Groer was accused before Easter by former seminarians of sexually abusing them when they were in his care. He has refused to respond to these allegations at all. His silence has puzzled some church members and enraged many. The signals from the Vatican have been confusing: a coadjutor bishop with the right of succession to Cardinal Groer has been appointed, but the Cardinal appears to remain in good odour. He accompanied Pope John Paul II on his visit to Slovakia which ended yesterday.
The organisers of the petition in Austria had hoped for 100,000 signatures. It has been displayed outside churches in sympathetic dioceses (it is banned in Bishop Krenn's) for the past four weeks. Some newspapers have also offered readers a chance to write in, so supporters of the petition point out that not all who signed it will be devout Catholics. But they believe that about 95 per cent of the signatories are.
"There were all these little old women coming out of the churches saying they would never vote for women priests, but as the weeks went by and the silence from the Vatican went on and on, they just got angrier and angrier and finally they did sign up for women priests along with all the other things they really wanted," said one Catholic observer of the process.
Rumours that the Vatican will intervene decisively continue. A leading Austrian theologian, Professor Paul Zulehner, told Austrian radio yesterday that the Vatican was planning to remove both bishop Krenn and Archbishop Groer in the near future.
A lighter touch was added by Fr Leonhad Lechner, the parish priest of Schieblingkirchen, who told his congregation on Sunday that he was resigning to live with his mistress. "Celibacy was no longer a form of life which could keep him happy," according to a church source.
Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage could be found within a week as search reaches 'very critical juncture', says minister
Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
Royal Tour 2014: Is the Duchess of Cambridge the only person ever to climb into a fighter jet wearing a dress and high heels?
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 How We Met: Alison Moyet & Emma Kennedy: 'I knew we'd be friends because she was happy to make a prat of herself'
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...