Austrian Bishops: Winds of Catholic Reform


Far better than Maria Von Trapp’s Sound of Music are the reverberations coming from Austria.

The Austrian bishops in the course of a three day meeting in Mariazell:

(2)     have called for the ordination of married men

(1)     have asked that the Vatican open discussion about priestly celibacy

(3)    have called for “great reforms in the Church”

Earlier, last week, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna told a group of journalists that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the former Vatican Secretary of State, had “deeply wronged” the victims of sexual abuse by downplaying the importance of the issue. On Easter Sunday, Cardinal Sodano had surprised everyone at the papal liturgy in St. Peter’s Square with an unscheduled statement of support for Pope Benedict XVI. In that statement Cardinal Sodano had referred to criticism of the Pope’s handling of the abuse issue as “petty gossip.” 

Cardinal Schönborn hinted that Cardinal Sodano—still a highly influential figure in Rome, as the dean of the College of Cardinals– had a history of underestimating the abuse problem. Schönborn said that in 1995, the future Pope Benedict pushed for a probe into abuse allegations against Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër – then Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna —  but that Cardinal Sodano resisted the probe. Cardinal Schönborn had earlier told The New York Times in April that Cardinal Ratzinger had called for an investigation of Cardinal Groër, who served as Archbishop of Vienna from 1986 to 1995, but that “the other side, the diplomatic side, had prevailed.”

Schönborn is emerging as a fascinating figure to watch and listen to. Some think he is working to make himself a likely papal successor to his friend and former teacher Joseph Ratzinger.

During his interview with Austrian newspaper reporters, Cardinal Schönborn made several other noteworthy comments:

  • On homosexual couples: “a stable relationship is certainly better than if someone simply indulges in promiscuity.”
  • On Catholics who divorce and remarry: the cardinal said the Church might need to reconsider the idea that they should not receive Communion.
  • On  the Roman Curia: it is “urgently in need of reform.”

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