Thousands of priests in Europe and the United States have united in a call to "disobedience" against the hierarchy which they don't see as heresy but as a warning: if Pope Francis doesn't undertake the modernization of the Church, Catholics, who are disappointed, will leave it en masse.
"Dissatisfaction has reached the core, including even the most loyal tiers who go to church every Sunday," Helmut Schüller, spokesman for the group of Austrian priests who in 2011 rebelled against the Vatican and began a movement which has been joined by 3,500 priests in Europe and the U.S, said in an interview with EFE.
In June 2011, the so-called "Pfarrer Intiative" published a manifesto that "in face of the rejection by Rome of long-needed reforms", they declared themselves forced to follow their own consciences and act independently of the dictates of the Vatican.
Supporting the ordination of women and married men, giving communion to all faithful of good will including divorced people, and allowing lay people to preach the word of God too, are some of the "acts of disobedience" to which a group of priests, which 430 -- or 14% of all priests in the country -- have joined so far today, have committed themselves.
The support of some 1,000 priests in Ireland and the United States, around 700 in Germany, more than 540 in Switzerland, contacts with Latin America, and especially with Brazil and Africa, have made these dissenters the main threat for the Vatican hierarchy.
Father Schüller, whose rebellion has been punished by the withdrawal of the title "monsignor", is hopeful that the election of Francis implies the beginning of an opening of the Church, although he warns that there are forces, headed by Opus Dei, that aren't going to make it easy.
Although he admits that it still isn't clear if the pope wants to initiate these reforms, the former director of Caritas Austria during the 1990s does think that Jorge Mario Bergoglio "is under great pressure due to expectations."
"We are waiting with interest. We don't want to be rudely impatient, but there will have to be signs soon," confides Schüller, because otherwise there may be a negative effect.
"If this hope remains disappointed, two things are going to happen: many will leave the Church and those who still want change will certainly become hardened," he asserts.
In any case, if Francis decides to make changes, Schüller thinks he'll have to seek help and confront the more conservative congregations like Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, and the Legionaries of Christ.
"It's clear that for Opus Dei (the election of Francis) was a defeat. But the system is still there. There's a lot of power and money, there are many interests. You almost have to be a bit scared for the pope; it's not without danger," he warns.
"The (Vatican) administration has been strongly controlled for decades by those movements," he explains.
"The greatest power of the apparatus is in not doing anything, like after Vatican II, when what was agreed upon was simply not implemented," he recalls.
According to Schüller, whoever tries to reform things at the Vatican Bank and what's happening under the rug there, is going to face hard people who aren't squeamish.
Schüller encourages the pope to seek the support of the bishops and change their synod into a body of co-government of the Church.
In this struggle of power and interest, the former Vicar General stresses that the communities are the essential pillar of the Church.
"Active parishes are the most important element of the Church" and they need support and available priests," he stresses.
"If that's the priority, can one allow only men to be priests? Expel talented men just because they aren't willing to not get married?," he asks, recalling that these are precisely the cornerstones of his call to disobedience.
Schüller compares the Church's distance from its parishioners with the closeness and accessibility that have made the evangelical denominations gain turf in Latin America.
The former advocate for victims of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Vienna denies that his initiative is schismatic and asserts that in fact this demonstration that one can be critical within the Church has made many faithful not abandon it.
Regarding the fact that the "disobedience" hasn't stalled even in Italy, Spain, and Eastern Europe, Schüller warns that this wave will come there and recalls that in Ireland "the Church and the people were one" and, nonetheless, now it's one of the axes of the rebel movement.
About the loss of trust in the Church due to the concealment in cases of abuse of minors, he states that "we will be amazed at what will come out of Poland, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe," where, he says, these scandals haven't yet been uncovered.