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Vienna archdiocese to cut parishes by 75 per cent

By on Thursday, 18 October 2012

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (Photo: CNS)

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (Photo: CNS)

The Archdiocese of Vienna has said it will press ahead with a major reorganisation that will include closing most of its parishes over 10 years, despite objections from some local Catholics.

The archdiocese’s 660 parishes will be merged over the next decade into around 150 larger parishes, each served by three to five priests and offering regular Masses.

Michael Prüller, archdiocesan spokesman, said: “Our emphasis isn’t just on reorganising the Church, but on reinvigorating the missionary impulses of the entire Christian community.

“Although we can debate how best to achieve it, the plan’s main aim isn’t open to discussion.”

Mr Prüller told the American Catholic News Service that falling numbers of clergy and laity had made the changes necessary. He said smaller affiliated communities within the parishes will be run by lay volunteers authorised to conduct the Liturgy of the Word.

Prüller said archdiocesan bishops would draft the new parish boundaries and steps for implementing the reorganisation by January 1.

He added that experiences from Latin America, Africa and Asia suggested ordained priests were not needed “in every small town and village” and that larger parishes could be introduced “without losing the nearness of people to their church”.
“As society changes, the Church has to change its old-fashioned practices and structures, too,” he said.

“The Church’s mission of apostolate and evangelisation isn’t just the responsibility of parish priests, but of the whole community of baptised and confirmed. If this reorganisation creates more vibrant Christian communities, praying, celebrating Mass, conducting mission and helping the needy together, then it could offer a model for Church reforms throughout Europe.”

Speaking in September, after the reorganisation was announced, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said the reform would be the archdiocese’s biggest for two centuries and would mean “saying goodbye to much that has become dear to us”.
But he said the reorganisation would help pool resources, reduce administration and “leave more time for evangelisation”.

“This is about a new cooperation between priests and laity from their common Christian vocation,” the cardinal told the news conference, which was reported by Austria’s Kathpress news agency.

“We have to free ourselves of the traditional image that the Church is present only where there’s a priest and stress the common priesthood of all baptised,” he said.

Mr Prüller said the reorganisation had been preceded by a “long consultation phase”, but could not be “discussed endlessly”.

He added that it would not alter the ratio of priests to lay Catholics and said other dioceses in France and Germany had also made “groundbreaking structural changes” and re-trained their parish teams.

“It will be much more efficient and robust to have several priests working together, rather than priests left totally by themselves,” the spokesman said. “The local Christian communities will be counted on to take care of those needing help, such as the elderly, so that everyone can get to Mass.”

The reform was supported by several Austrian newspapers, including the mass-circulation Die Presse daily, which said in an editorial it was “not only understandable but imperative” to centralise parish work.

But a theologian and sociologist, Fr Paul Zulehner, said that in an online survey the reform had been opposed by most Catholic respondents.

  • Nat_ons

    The Turks did not do it, Luther could not do it, the Emperor Joseph may well have wanted it, and yet even Hitler did not seek it – but the chickens laid of the modernists eggs are coming home to roost .. even in Austria.

    No doubt this is the most ‘rational’ use of his resources, but (as with Boston, Liverpool, Down and Conor etc) it is far from what the reasonable Catholic expects .. in a highly developed country.

    Clearly the Neo-Evangelist cannot come swiftly enough, for the harvest is set to waste on the stalk; please God peace abides in the heart of the faithful, even as He reigns.

    “How beautiful upon the mountains
       are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
    who brings good news,
       who announces salvation,
       who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” Is 52 v 7.

  • neo-cat

    The problem being there are not many reasonable Catholics left in highly developed countries,  My son seriously thinks about being a Priest, but on visiting seminaries has announced they are all “weird”  “strange”, “odd”. As a “normal” person he would be out of place and going against the grain. So there’s not much hope for the future then. 
     Cyber Church with virtual hosts “click “like” to receive”. Now that what people do in highly developed countries nowadays.
    Nice use of key buzz words by the way, sitting on our hands and humming in Latin won’t solve the problems either, you just get cramp.

  • aearon43

    I’m not sure it’s totally accurate to say so many churches are “closing.” It was my understanding that they would remain open at certain times and not be sold off — they just wouldn’t have a priest assigned to them. Instead, they would have services of the word led by laity. I could be wrong.

  • Benedict Carter

    Proof positive of everything that I and other Traditionalists say here. Total collapse. And the Synod in Rome right now will no doubt be prescribing more of the same medicine. 

    May God forgive us all.

  • Benedict Carter

    Whichever way you cut it, it’s catastrophe.

  • aearon43

    It’s certainly less than optimal, yes, I’m not sure that the sky is in fact falling, though. 

  • Jeannine

    Cardinal Christoph Schönborn needs to read the official biography of St John Vianney. 

    The saint was the lone priest for many years in a dying parish. He single-handedly turned it around to create a thriving church with pious parishoners. It was about 5-10 years before Vianney died that he was given 1 or 2 priests to assist him only when it became noticeable that he was getting feeble. Prior to receiving assistance Vianney catechized the children & adults, started a school for girls, said daily Mass, listened to the 1000s of confessions per year, was physically abused during many, many nights by demons which left him too exhausted to hear confessions but heard them anyway, & gave a few parish retreats per year at other neighboring churches while managing to have an exemplary prayer life.

    The problem with these bishops is that they do not have enough faith in their priests & God.

  • Openmined

    Does it boil down to econmics and the number of praticing RCs?

  • Benedict Carter

    The trouble with collapse is that most people prefer to think it’s not happening. 

  • Midwester

     The sky has already fallen in Europe.  Modernism has borne it’s poisonous fruit.

  • Charles

    First, restore the priest as a strong and respected  authority rather
    than as an effeminate social worker. Second, when any closings are done,
    close the parish church that looks like an office or warehouse not the
    one that actually is a real church. Third, exorcise the Marxist spirit
    out of the church and understand that to truly help the poor is to
    educate them on how to become middle class and not to create a cycle of
    welfare dependency. Fourth, end the PC takeover of the church by
    refusing to attend a liberal parish; drive a little further and support a
    traditional one.

  • aearon43

    Again, I am sure Cardinal Schoenborn is aware of the situation of his diocese. That, of course, is the whole reason for the reorganization in the first place.

    The Church has gone through many crises and difficult times. There is no need to make the current situation worse by excessive negativity.

  • Benedict Carter

    Worse to close one’s eyes both to the reality and worse, to the causes.

  • Rosanne Santos

    It seems everything is being lost just to preserve an all male celibate priesthood.  Is it worth the loss of small community churches, close-knit parishes where people know one another and care for one another?  Is having mandatory celibacy worth the faithful no longer being able to witness consecration of Eucharist on weekly basis in a close interpersonal setting?  Jesus said “Do this in memory of me”  Jesus did not say “Priests must be celibate.”

  • aearon43

    Are you suggesting that is what Cardinal Schoenborn is doing? Would you consider yourself to be better acquainted with the Archdiocese of Vienna?

  • Benedict Carter

    Better acquainted with the Archbishop of Vienna than …?

  • Benedict Carter

    The two are not connected in any way. 

  • aearon43

    Cardinal Schoenborn.

  • Benedict Carter

    The situation in Switzerland can be (and is) well-known without personally knowing the clerics involved. To suggest otherwise is plain silly. 

  • aearon43

    I assume you’re referring to Vienna, Austria, not Switzerland. Yes, it can easily be known and thus I am sure that the archbishop is not “closing his eyes” as you accuse him of doing. After all, the decline in church attendance to which you refer is the basic motivation for this whole change. So don’t accuse him of ignoring the situation. His response is apparently not exactly what you’d like, which, I presume, is the total elimination of the Ordinary Form of the Mass. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Austria, Switzerland, Germany: fallen apart and on the edge of schism in all three places. 

  • aearon43

    We are all aware of the situation in Europe and have been for some time.

  • Romulus

     I am sure Cardinal Schoenborn is aware of the situation of his diocese.

    Balloon shortage?

  • Hello

    The freemasonic bishops are doing a great job of closing down Catholic schools and churches.

  • Josephlawtoniii

    Amen brother.

  • awkwardcustomer

    ‘It seems everything is being lost just to preserve an all male celibate priesthood.’

    No, everything is being lost because there has been a sustained attack on the priesthood for the last fifty years, turning priests into ‘presiders’ while the laity ‘gather around the altar to celebrate the Eucharist’; destroying the unique identity of the sacrificing priest; and confusing his role with all kinds of busybody lay ‘ministries’.  The ending of mandatory celibacy would be yet another nail in the coffin of the priesthood.  The ordination of women would be the last nail in the coffin. Thank goodness it will never happen.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Is it true that right up until its collapse, the Soviet Union’s propaganda machine was still proclaiming the triumph of the Communist experiment? 

  • 12Maria34

    Dear Rosanne,

    Please look at the protestant churches … they have eveything …priestess, gay priests and bishops, celibate and non-celibate … but their number is dwindling … “Jesus did not say “Priests must be celibate.”” – does His entire life speak to you?  It has to be written to be understood?  How about this (John20:29):  “… Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” 

    God’s blessings of peace & joy!

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    How about Jesus’ words about eunuchs?

    “And there are some who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven …”.

  • Parasum

    The Tablet published this story weeks ago – has the CH really only now picked up on this ? It seems so.

  • Priscilla

    When the laity were illiterate and only the upper classes received schooling, it made sense to expect ordained priests- better schooled and highly literate – to be priest, manager, church secretary, etc.  Today, in first world countries, the priests should concentrate on celebrating the Sacrifice of the Mass and administering the sacraments.  The laity are perfectly capable of managing, organizing and implementing those initiatives which bring the Gospel to the many.  The laity should carry more responsibility than they do now in most places.  When they do, perhaps once again, Masses will be celebrated every day because the priest isn’t busy running some event in the parish.  

  • Openmined

    Your son did correctly.

  • aearon43

    Do you have any evidence to support such allegations?

  • Jeannine

    Absolutely agree with you!!

    A good example of what you describe is taking place in the military ordinariates. There are many military personnel with their families sometimes stationed around the world away from their country & a parish. There are very few priests compared to a typical diocese who administers to these people. It is up to the families & those who volunteer to catechize the children & their parents, prepare a space for mass, comfort those who need comforting, prepare candidates for the sacraments & organize & lead Catholic prayer services when a priest is not available.

    KInd of reminds me of the early Christians.

  • JabbaPapa

    When the laity were illiterate and only the upper classes received schooling

    This generalisation is a myth ; and its source is French Revolutionary and Soviet propaganda.

    Most peasants were probably illiterate, right up until the invention of printing allowed for books to be put into their hands as well — but tradesmen and many craftsmen and artisans were both literate and educated, besides which most in the “upper classes” were members of “the laity” as well.

    The laity are perfectly capable of managing, organizing and implementing those initiatives which bring the Gospel to the many

    That’s a beautiful story, but the fact of the matter is that the laity tends to spontaneously organise itself into inward-looking talking shops and social clubs for their own benefit only.

  • neo-cat

    Yes , but its so, so sad isn’t it. He is a nice intelligent, personable young man, very popular, a born leader with a interest in modern culture. Yet he feels he would not fit in with the Priesthood, therefore the RC Church of tomorrow. I find it very worrying when a young Catholic like this sees young seminarians and instead of being encouraged wonder’s about his place in the R C Church. Its not a theological problem.

  • Rasixa

    In all truth I have living in Vienna most of the time, there are a number of RC churches offering various forms of masses it will be hard to find anywhere in the world in such a close space, be they traditional, armenian, various Syrians, various orthodox-all of whom offer grand solemn masses from time to time and special feasts. The faithful have gathered in them and the rest of parishes seemed to have become pointless, it is mere commercial common sense to bring them into form that is affordable. We were often told in Inner City masses one mass alone would cost about 8 Euro at a time, despite the fact that everybody pays his taxes to the RC Church. People here are therefore not concerned with any changes outside their chosen parishes, if driven away from a good one they seek out another one that is functioning well. That’s the way it is when you have enough churches to go to.

  • Teófilo de Jesús

    Great opportunity to get rid of all the dissident priests. Go for it!

  • Benedict Carter

    Military Ordinariates?

    Are the Hospitallers and Templars back? 

    When do we head for Jerusalem?

  • JabbaPapa

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard variants of this same story… :-(

    My godfather’s brother (both are younger than me BTW, and I’ve known each since adolescence) went through reams and reams of resistance and red tape before being finally accepted into a seminary — he’s a rather impressively old-style French beret-wearing and be-bearded young priest BTW :-)

  • Benedict Carter

    Historical knowledge is at an all-time low. People should read more. 

  • Neo-cat

    I am sure your old style French Beret wearing young man is a fine Priest in his own way, but can you see you have illustrated my point precisely ?

  • JabbaPapa

    can you see you have illustrated my point precisely ?

    Quite deliberate on my part, because I agree with it.

  • Benedict Carter

    It was!

  • Ronk

     Are you actually a Catholic? I don’t know any Catholic parish priest who also functions as his own parish secretary and parish manager. Every parish I know has scores of laity doing many roles to bring the Gospel to the laity.

  • Attit

    Oh well, the Universal Church reduced to a niche ghetto in one easy move. It’s not supposed to be like that, a niche that is.

  • Rich

    Nice one, on the nail!

  • Deesis

    Look in the mirror dear Cardinal. I have lived in Austria. The Church there has treasures they do not use. An immense patrimony that lies unused. Altars that never have Mass offered on them. Churches
    that are neglected, cummunities demoralised by weak leadership. Modern banallities  introduced into the liturgy> Vatican II has done it….all confidence it lost. The cultural pogram it initiated. Who could ever forget you bad example dear Cardinal party ballon!

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    “Although we can debate how best to achieve it, the plan’s main aim isn’t open to discussion.”



  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

     “My son seriously thinks about being a Priest, but on visiting seminaries
    has announced they are all “weird”  “strange”, “odd”. As a “normal”
    person he would be out of place and going against the grain.”