Schönborn shares Iby’s concern about celibacy

Vienna Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn said today (Mon) he shared the concern of Eisenstadt Bishop Paul Iby’s concern about mandatory celibacy for Roman Catholic priests.”The concern that Bishop Iby expressed is shared by all of us (Austrian bishops), and I am happy to be in a Church in which there is freedom of speech and opinion,” he said.Austrian bishops had been expected to discuss celibacy at last week’s parish council conference in Mariazell, Styria, that they all attended but there has been no public confirmation that they did.The cardinal added that the process of selecting Iby’s successor was proceeding “normally” and would be more transparent than in the past. Iby is to retire soon.Schönborn cited the conference’s approval of the drawing up of guidelines for the handling of sexual-abuse cases in the Church for consideration by bishops at June’s meeting of the Austrian Bishops Conference as a “concrete achievement.”Wolfgang Müller, a spokesman for parish councils in Salzburg diocese, said the conference had been “an instance of democracy in the Austrian Church.Austrian Roman Catholic bishops had said last week that they would refuse to comment on Iby’s controversial call for an end to mandatory celibacy for priests.A media survey of bishops’ press offices produced the same “no comment” response in each case. One spokesperson said that bishops had agreed not to comment publicly on each other’s statements.Roman Catholic lay organisations welcomed Iby’s call for an end to obligatory priestly celibacy.Peter Hurka, chairman of the platform “We are the Church,” said that Iby’s call would promote public discussion of celibacy. Both Herbert Kohlmaier from the “Lay Initiative” and he were sceptical, however, that change would occur.Hurka said that it was “clear that the Vatican controls bishops and a resignation is one way of escaping from such control.”Kohlmaier claimed that Iby’s suggestion was reasonable even if it had come “a little late” and added he might have spoken out because he wanted to retire.Kohlmaier added that he expected no change as long as Pope Benedict XVI was in office since the Vatican did not “take bishops’ opinions seriously.” It was positive, however, that more and more bishops were calling for an end to celibacy, he added.Helmut Schüller from the Pastors-Initiative called on bishops who agreed with Iby to speak out. He claimed the Vatican’s authority was “exaggerated. The entire absolutist system built on a spiral of silence will rapidly collapse if the bishops work together for change.”A politician also came out in support of Iby. Social Democrat (SPÖ) Defence Minister Norbert Darabos, who is from Burgenland, praised Iby’s “courageous suggestion, the first step on the way to a more humane Church.”