Statement of the Pastors’ Initiative Austria
on the “Instruction on the Pastoral Conversion of Parishes at the Service of missionary mission of the Church” of the Roman Dicastery for the clergy.
The Instruction offers only a rudimentary analysis of the changed social and church situation, in order then to demand canonical regulations, which already at the time of their adoption 40 years ago were no longer up to date and in part have lagged behind Vatican II. With missionary zeal it is underlined that parish councils only have an advisory function, that all unordained persons are forbidden to preach during the celebration of Mass and a collegial leadership of priests and laypersons is forbidden.
If we were to lead our parishes with this exhorted monarchical clericalism we would be losing those Christians who are jointly responsible and who are the salt and the light of a parish that is turned towards the people. The Instruction conjures up a situation in which bishops and priests, out of pastoral need, are driven to “insubordination”. So the letter is based on not taking the situation seriously and dividing the bishops, priests and parishes.
The great illusion of the Instruction is to think that the Church can speak of a missionary approach today, without, as church leadership themselves accepting the fundamental values of modern society and of the Gospel, such as participation and the equal dignity of every person to realise themselves. (cf. Letter to the Galatians 3:26: For all of you through faith are sons and daughters of God in Christ Jesus). We also see that through the exaltation of the priesthood that God, Jesus Christ and the work of the Spirit are pushed out of the centre of church life.
Pope Francis has called for a more synodal Church with more decentralized structures. This instruction from church headquarters should be hit on the head by the Austrian bishops and the diocesan bodies in their efforts to constructively address the shortage of priests. Therefore, our hope is that they will find suggestions and new regional regulations, as to how the ministry of the baptized and the ministry of the priest can better work together. This also includes courageous suggestions to Rome for a renewed ministry in the Church, which is open for women and men, married and celibate.
The Board of the Pastors’ Initiative Austria
Translated by Colm Holmes from the original in German