Last fall, we reported on the Pfarrer-Initiative, a call for disobedience and Church reform by Catholic clergy in Austria. As of May 2012, 498 priests and deacons have signed on to the call.
Now Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has issued an ultimatum to the dissenting priests, saying that they cannot keep their names on the manifesto and hold administrative posts in the Church. A spokesman for Schönborn clarified that priests could remain members of Pfarrer-Initiative but that they were being asked to withdraw their names from the group's call to disobedience. No priest whose name is on the manifesto will be appointed to any administrative role and those who are already in such roles will be asked to choose when their appointments come up for renewal.
At least one priest, Fr. Peter Meidinger (photo), a founding member of Pfarrer-Initiative, chose to step down from his position as dean of one of the districts in the Archdiocese of Vienna rather than recant his support for the manifesto. He will continue to serve as a priest in two parishes south of Vienna. "During the interview, I was convinced that twenty years of service at the heart of the Catholic Church as dean, vicar and diocesan leader haven't been enough to keep the archbishop's trust," Meidinger said. "Faced with the dilemma of giving up my position or the priests' initiative, I have come out in favor of the initiative because this proposal seems to me immoral and incompatible with my conscience," he added.