Has the Austrian hierarchy “had it”?

Although the undercurrents have been there for decades and similar ideas and conduct transpires beneath the radar, dissident U.S. Catholic priests had better observe what’s happening in Austria—where 10% of the clergy have formed a dissident group named “Call to Disobedience”—before signing documents espousing their heterodox ideas and conduct.

What does the Austrian group propose?

Similar to American dissident priests, Austrian dissident priests have for decades formed groups that publicly have advocated “reforms,” including the ordination of women and abolishing clerical celibacy.  More recently, they have publicly pledged to break Church rules by giving Holy Communion to Protestants and divorced Catholics who remarry.


The dissident priests’ policies are popular in Austria, with public opinion polls demonstrating broad support for them.

But, “the times…they are a’ changing.”

In May, the Archbishop of Vienna , Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, priests in May that dissidents would not be appointed to the post of dean and those who would be coming up for renewal would have to choose between Church teaching or their group’s “reform” campaign.

Clarifying matters, an archdiocesan spokesman Nikolaus Haselsteiner said:

You can easily remain a member of the Priests’ Initiative. You must only distance yourself from the “Call to Disobedience” in an appropriate way.

In an average company, a department head can’t say he doesn’t care what the CEO says.

According to a Reuters report, one priest has withdrawn his support for the reform campaign and kept his job.  Two or three more have yet to decide whether to withdraw their support from the manifesto.  But, the Reverend Peter Meidinger—a founding member of the group issuing the Manifesto—has stepped down from the post of dean rather than renounce the “Call to Disobedience” manifesto.  Meidinger said:

I spoke to the archbishop and perhaps you cannot say I had to choose, but I had the impression that there was no way out for me so I am stepping down and freeing up the spot.

For me what is important is the Priests’ Initiative and not the term “disobedience.”  The term civil disobedience is used when the leaders are simply not prepared to listen to people.

Yes, that’s what the problem has been: The hierarchy is “not prepared” to listen to the people.


The Motley Monk is wondering if the opposite is more likely the case.  Namely, might it be that the hierarchy has listened long and patiently and finally has decided “enough is enough”?

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn

Will Cardinal Schoenborn’s more confrontational approach to dealing with dissident priests be exported to the United States?

Time will tell.


 To read the Reuters report, click on the following link:

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The Motley Monk

The Motley Monk is Fr. Richard Jacobs, O.S.A., a Professor of Public Administration at Villanova University. His academic specialities include: organizational theory; leadership ethics; Catholic educational leadership; and, U.S. Catholic educational history. Check out Fr. Jacobs' daily blog at http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html.


  1. That is disturbing. I’m glad it doesn’t happen in my parish since I would be liable to give the dissenter, with all kindness and charity, a pop in the teeth.

  2. He’s a cool guy; wrote a lot of the Youcat I believe… Too bad there aint no hapsburg to set the dissenters straight

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