Thursday, August 01, 2013

Archbishop Christoph Schonbörn of Vienna and Church reform in Austria

An Austrian Catholic priest, Fr. Helmut Schüller, is currently on a speaking tour in the US speaking about Church reform in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

Robert McClory quotes some of his observations observations on the current Archbishop of Vienna in Schüller: Popular support provides freedom to speak without condemnation National Catholic Reporter 07/26/2013:

[T]he reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) greatly encouraged Austrian Catholics, and they readily backed the council initiatives under the leadership of Cardinal Franz König, archbishop of Vienna and a powerful force at the council itself. Like the Netherlands under the leadership of Cardinal Bernard Alfrink, Austria moved forward on collegiality and lay leadership. The new age ended abruptly in 1986, when König resigned and was succeeded not by a like-minded prelate but by a staunch conservative, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër.

"The church was turned around," Schüller said. Groër's auxiliary bishop, Kurt Krenn, handled much of the scuttling of Vatican II initiatives. Groër was forced to resign in 1995 because of serious allegations of child abuse. Krenn, who moved on to head another Austrian diocese, was also forced to resign in 2004 when he was found in possession of thousands of pornographic photos and films.

The current Viennese archbishop, Christoph Schonbörn, has muted much of the heavy-handed repression of his predecessor but is no advocate of reform himself.

"I believe he is following the advice of Gamaliel," Schüller said. Gamaliel, the Pharisee mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, advised Jewish leaders to refrain from harsh measures, saying, "If this movement is merely human, it will collapse of its own accord. But if it should be from God, you cannot stop them."
Vienna Archbishop Christoph Schonbörn (2012)

Schonbörn was one of the major figures discussed at least in the public speculation as a possible candidate for Pope in the last election. He was generally seen as more receptive to reform than Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I.


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