Pope Benedict XVI has issued a blistering denunciation of priests who
have questioned church teaching on celibacy and ordaining women, saying
they were being selfish in disobeying his authority.
made the rare and explicit criticism from the altar of St Peter's
Basilica in his homily on Holy Thursday, when priests recall the
promises they made when ordained.
In 2006, a group of Austrian priests launched the Pfarrer Initiative,
a call to disobedience aimed at abolishing priestly celibacy and
opening up the clergy to women to relieve the shortages of priests.
Last June, the group's members essentially threatened a schism,
saying the Vatican's refusal to hear their complaints left them no
choice but to "follow our conscience and act independently".
They issued a revised call to disobedience in which they said
parishes would celebrate Eucharistic services without priests, that they
would let women preach, and they pledged to speak out publicly and
frequently for a female and a married priesthood.
The group now claims more than 300 Austrian priests and deacons as
well as supporters in other countries, and its influence has grown to
such an extent that top Austrian bishops met Vatican officials in
January to discuss how to handle them, Italian news reports said.
So far, neither the Vatican nor the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal
Christoph Schoenborn have publicly imposed any canonical penalties on
In his homily, Benedict said the dissidents claim to be motivated by
concern for the church. But he suggested that in reality they were just
making "a desperate push to do something to change the church in
accordance with (their) own preferences and ideas."
"We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are
motivated by concern for the church, that they are convinced that the
slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in
order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date," he said.
"But is disobedience really a way to do this?"
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