Dissident Catholics challenge Austrian bishops with priestless Mass plan
Dissident Austrian Catholics announced lay people will start celebrating Mass when a priest is unavailable, a clear call to disobedience just as the country’s bishops hold their autumn conference.
A manifesto adopted by dozens of activists at the weekend said lay people will preach, consecrate and distribute communion in priestless parishes, said Hans Peter Hurka, head of the group We Are Church.
“Church law bans this. The question is, can Church law overrule the Bible? We are of the opinion, based on findings from the Second Vatican Council, that this (ban) is not possible,” he said Monday.
The Catholic Church only allows ordained priests to preside at Mass.
Hurka said dissidents had long planned the meeting but were happy it came just before a regular four-day session of the Catholic bishops’ conference starting Monday.
He said he wanted bishops, led by Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, to respond to the paper, the latest in a series of challenges by grass-roots Catholic reformers in Austria.
“We basically expect this because the demands for reform are not especially new,” he said. The bishops received a copy of the manifesto Saturday, he added.
Bishops planned to discuss proposed initiatives and reforms that have been put forward, according to their website, although the main topic of the session was preparing for parish council elections due in March.
Dominicans in the Netherlands proposed priestless Mass back in 2007 and were warned by their order not to slide into schism. See Dominicans warn Dutch brothers against Catholic schism.