A 300-strong faction within the Catholic Church in Austria has declared open rebellion against the Church hierarchy, calling for policy changes such as allowing remarried divorcees to take communion and letting women become priests. The “Priests’ Initiative,” which is pushing for these, was started by the former Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Vienna and director of Caritas, Helmut Schüller. Their demands have been seen as refusing obedience to the Pope, a sin that merits excommunication. Sure enough, Vienna’s Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn has threatened them with (or informed them of the risk of) that penalty.
Even as a former Catholic, one of the traits about the Roman Catholic Church that I can at least admire is their tenacity and refusal to yield to societal pressure. Because, if indeed the Roman Catholic Church is the one organization God himself thought to start, then changing any core teaching of the Church would be against the will of God. And I think the Church hierarchy, from the pope down to the parish priests, agree with me on this. This is why it is simply unrealistic to expect the Church to budge on issues such as these, either in Vienna or in Manila. It is for this reason that I find it hard to sympathize with Schüller’s cause.
There is an easier and more intellectually honest solution for Schüller and his followers: leave the Church. Start a new religion or drop religion altogether. As much as I’d like to believe that the Church would be willing to consider the possibility of reform and acceptance of progress, changing their tenets simply surrenders too much and renders their Church impotent. It is either God commanded the Church to have these totalitarian dictates or he did not.
Look at what these “rebels” are fighting for: the acceptance of divorcees and women as equals in a congregation. It would almost be comical if it wasn’t so sad and infuriating that in this day and age some people aren’t treated as human beings in an institution that boasts 1 billion adherents. To challenge the Church hierarchy on anything as integral to its tenets such as misogyny and sexual repression is to challenge the very foundations of its claims to holiness. For if God, as revealed by the Church, is wrong in disallowing women from becoming priests, where else could their God be wrong? Unfortunately (or fortunately), it simply isn’t plausible that the Creator of the universe would create an institution as small-minded and as provincial as the Church. Without this premise of holy origin, the Church is simply a club of nerds fighting over rival interpretations of fan fiction.
Image credit: Internationaler Controller Verein