Association of Catholic Priests
Sean McDonagh reports on the AGM of the Austrian priests’ initiative, Pfarrer, at which he represented the ACP and conveys the thoughts of Fr. Helmüt Schueller, one of Pfarrer’s leaders.
I arrived in Vienna on October 19th 2012 to attend the Annual General Meeting of PFARRER –Initiative (parish priests initiative) I met Fr. Helmüt Schueller, one of the leaders of the Initiative at midday and we proceeded to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the centre of the city. Over coffee Helmüt told me how the Initiative began in 2006. It arose because many priests felt that the Austrian Bishops and the Holy See are not addressing the serious crises which are affecting the Catholic Church right across the globe, but particularly in Austria. Furthermore, Helmüt argues that the Catholic Church shows little respect for the dignity of the baptized and refuses to allow priests and lay people to have any genuine involvement in the decision making processes of the Catholic Church.
In 2008, a number of priests associated with the movement went to Rome. They met with officials at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). One of the senior officials agreed that none of the positions taken by the movement were heretical. However, a younger official declared that almost everything the movement was looking for was heretical.
Membership of the Initiative is open to all priests, including those who have left active ministry. The number of members now stands at around 500 priests out of a total of 3,000 priests in Austria. As we sipped coffee, Helmüt told me that research conducted by Professor Paul Zulehner shows that more than 75 percent of the priests in Austria actually support the aims of the Initiative. They are often afraid to join, as it may affect their career paths in the Church. It seems that anyone associated with the Initiative will not be nominated as a dean in any of the Austrian dioceses
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