Pope raps dissident priests in Chrism Mass homily
Pope Benedict XVI took the unusual step of criticizing a group of dissident Austrian priests explicitly in his homily as he celebrated the Chrism Mass with the priests of Rome on Holy Thursday, April 5.
On the day when the Church celebrates the institution of the priesthood, the Holy Father directed his homily toward his fellow priests, asking them to recall their ordination, when they were "consecrated in truth." Through ordination, he said, the Church "handed us over to God, so that we can offer men and women a service that comes from God and leads to him." Performing that priestly ministry, he added, requires "a renunciation of what is simply our own, of the much-vaunted self-fulfillment."
Pope Benedict then contrasted that approach, with its emphasis on service to the Church, with the approach taken by a group of Austrian priests, who have issued a "Call to Disobedience" in an attempt to force changes in Church teaching. Although the Pope did not mention the group's name, his intent was clear:
Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church's Magisterium, such as the question of women's ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one's own preferences and ideas?
(When contacted by AP to respond, the chief organizers of the Call to Disobedience indicated that he was unmoved by the Pope's homily. Msgr. Helmut Schüller said that he was "listening with interest" to the papal message, but saw it as a series of questions rather than a condemnation of his approach. "I cannot see it as a very sharp wording," he said.)
As he continued his homily, the Pope acknowledged that Jesus had defied conventions and prompted radical changes. But the Lord did so, he pointed out, in fulfillment of his Father's will:
He lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.
The vitality that has appeared in the Church since the days of Vatican II has always been characterized by the same spirit of service to the Church and to the will of God, the Pope said. He told his priests that "new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love."
Pope Benedict asked priests to reflect on two other characteristics that should define their ministry. First he reminded them that "we are charged with the ministry of teaching." So priests should be keenly concerned, he said, by "the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less." In all their work they should combat that trend and teach the fullness of the faith, he said. He mentioned his prayer that the Year of Faith will stimulate greater interest in Church doctrine.
Second, the Pope mentioned the need for "zeal for souls." Every priest should be passionate in his care for the spiritual welfare of his people and the spread of the Gospel, he said.
"A priest never belongs to himself," the Pope said as he concluded his homily. "People must sense our zeal, through which we bear which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."