Storm clouds are gathering in Austria right now. A few of you might have been following the case of former Bishop-Elect Wagner, an orthodox priest with a healthy parish who was recently appointed by Pope Benedict to become the auxiliary bishop of Linz, Austria. Linz is a pretty liberal diocese. He gave a fantastic interview:
In it Wagner states, "What unifies us, is our Catholic faith. Those who dissent should consider whether it is not really they who are being divisive. I fail to see why I should portrayed as divisive when I step up in defense of the Church and align myself with the Pope. Something is not right there."
Recently, the Austrian Bishops' Conference held an emergency meeting to discuss this "crisis" of an appointment, led by Cardinal Schonborn. They mailed petitions to parishes all over Austria to have Bishop-Elect Wagner resign, and to ask Bishop Schwarz, who was going to do the ordination, to refuse to ordain the Pope's man. Result: Bishop-Elect Wagner resigned.
Why is this relevant? The Austrian Bishops' Conference published an open letter to all parishes in the country, declaring war on the pope's ability to appoint bishops. Some excerpts follow:
"We bishops are convinced that the procedure provided for in canon law for the selection and the examination of candidates has proved its worth, if this procedure is really followed. Therefore, before the Holy Father takes the final decision, reliable and thoroughly tested basic information must be provided on which he can rely. In Austria in the next few years a number of bishops are to be appointed. The faithful are legitimately concerned that the process of candidate search, examination of the proposals and the final decisions should be carefully undertaken and with pastoral sensitivity are possible. This can ensure that bishops are appointed who are not 'against' but 'for' a local church. We bishops will make every possible effort to support the forthcoming episcopal appointments in the sense of monitoring these procedures in close cooperation with the relevant Vatican offices."
"The situation in the vast diocese of Linz makes the bishops worry - this even after the resignation of Father Gerhard Wagner. There is much good news from this diocese, which is often too little seen, even if some problems should be mentioned...It is not just about differences of opinion in terms of structures and methods, but ultimately the question of sacramental identity of the Catholic Church. This especially this concerns the ordination for priests and deacons in relation to the general priesthood of all the baptized. The pastoral path can only be followed which is in accordance with the worldwide church. For all differences, this path of the church persevering in prayer and in conversation with the universal Church should be undertaken on the basis of the Second Vatican Council."
The good news from the diocese to which they refer might be that of over 5,600,000 Catholics, fewer than 801,000 attend Mass on Sunday.
Though the language of the letter sounds friendly, remember that refusing to accept Rome's instructions when it comes to consecrating bishops is what sparked the largest schism, or more accurately the largest potential schism, of the past century in the situation of the SSPX. It is a very serious action--they are effectively stabbing the Holy Father in the back. In this very public letter, the Austrian Bishops' Conference is clearly throwing down the gauntlet to the pope and his attempt to keep the Church focused on Christ and His teachings. Their boldness might inspire other conferences to do the same.
Though this grave act is not yet a schismatic one, it certainly shows that the country may be on that trajectory.
They need prayers badly. I encourage everyone to continue in the novena for the Holy Father, ending on February 22nd, the Chair of Peter.
(say 1 Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, and 1 Gloria)
V: Let us pray for our Pope Benedict.
R: May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.
V. Thou art Peter,
R. And upon this Rock, I will build My Church.
Let us Pray,Almighty and everlasting God, have mercy upon your servant, Benedict, our Sovereign Pontiff, and guide him in your goodness on the way of eternal salvation; so that, with the prompting of your grace, he may desire what pleases you and accomplish it with all his strength. Through
Christ Our Lord.
V. Mother of the Church. R. Pray for us
V. St. Joseph. R. Pray for us
V. St. Peter. R. Pray for us
V. St. Paul. R. Pray for us
V. St. Benedict. R. Pray for us.