Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Reformist priests warn of an anti-Francis front
March 11, 2014
The "disobedient" Austrian priests, pioneers in the reformist trends in the Church, rated the first year of Pope Francis' papacy positively but indicated that the changes could fail because of opposition from the bishops and from what they call an "anti-Francis front" in Rome.
Helmut Schüller, founder and spokesman for this group, asserted in a press conference that there is a "well-organized anti-Francis front" in which he put groups such as Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, and the Legion of Christ.
"You can count on these groups, which have been very influential up to now, not giving up easily," the pastor and former vicar general of the Austrian Church opined in response to questions.
The Pfarrer Initiative, begun by Schüller in 2006 and imitated in other countries in Europe and in the United States, today took stock of feelings about Francis' performance.
"The pope is setting clear signals for a reformist breakthrough in the Church, but among the bishops waiting is predominant, with fatal consequences for the parishes," Schüller warned.
The Initiative, which has 3,500 priests internationally, praised Francis' initiatives as the first attempt to open the Church since the 1962 Vatican Council.
Unlike the previous pope, Benedict XVI, "we now have a pope who, suddenly, is finally participatory," said Father Peter Kaspar, another leader of the Initiative.
"A pope who seems to want to end the monarchy in the Church," this Austrian priest said.
Kaspar named five aspects in which the Pope is sending messages to transform the Church: from centralism to universality, from a dominating Church to a Church of the poor, from dogma to diversity, from moralizing severity to mercy, and from absolute right to openness.
However, this Initiative, considered one of the strongest in internal dissent from the Church, warned today that Francis has launched many ideas but that it remains to be seen whether he can carry them through or whether his successor will continue them or if another setback will occur.
Thus, this group of priests indicated that the issues of the grassroots Church are still the same, such as the lack of priests, the merging of parishes, and the remoteness from parishioners.
Schüller highlighted the need to end discrimination against women in the Church, to open it to the divorced, to discuss whether priests can get married and whether to give more responsibility to lay people in the parishes, among other matters.
All in all, he argued that there are reasons to keep the Call to Disobedience that they launched in 2011 in which, "faced with Rome's rejection of a reform that has been needed for some time," they declared themselves forced to follow their conscience and act independently of the Vatican's dictates.
According to what Schüller said today, Spain is one of the European countries where the disobedience initiative has received the least support among priests, a situation he attributes to fear.
Regarding the changes in the Spanish Bishops' Conference, with the departure of Antonio Cardinal Rouco Varela from the presidency, Schüller indicated that "when bishops come into office who free them from this fear and even value the pastors, the Catholics, speaking openly and expressing themselves, the pastors will be more daring."
"Over many countries there is still a cloak of silence. It can change with the entrance of new bishops," he concluded.