In the next 10 years, the Vienna archdiocese will go from 660 parishes to 150.
VIENNA, Austria -- The parish church of Amras, Austria, near Innsbruck in Tyrol, was chock-a-block full for the first-Communion Mass on April 22. Shortly before Communion, the parish priest, Norbertine Fr. Patrick Busskamp, announced that only Catholics who were in a state of grace should come forward to Communion. Catholics who are divorced and remarried and Catholics who do not attend Mass every week were not worthy to receive the Eucharist, he said.
When Communion time came, not a single adult came forward. The entire congregation demonstratively remained seated. Only the children received Communion.
In an interview with Austrian state radio in Tyrol, Busskamp confirmed that his words to the congregation had been accurately reported, but added, "I wouldn't have refused anyone Communion had they come forward."
Abbot Raimund Schreier of the Premonstratensian Monastery of Wilten, to which the parish belongs, said he regretted what had happened.
"It was most unwise of him to act like this at such a ceremony. I have told him that. Behaving like a policeman shows a lack of pastoral sensitivity," Schreier told the press.
Photo, left: Catholics attend Mass in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria, in 2010. (Dreamstime)
In January 2010, Jesuit Fr. Klaus Mertes, headmaster of the prestigious Jesuit-run Canisius College in Berlin, sent a letter to former students of the school informing them that two former priests had been accused of sexual misconduct with students. In the letter, he wrote that he was deeply shaken and ashamed because he had learned that “systematic abuse had taken place at the school over the years.”
Criticism of Pope Benedict XVI's decision to lift without conditions the excommunications of four Lefebvrite bishops who deny the authority of the Second Vatican Council has been strongest in German-speaking countries.
Now comes a bombshell of an article recently published by one of Germany's most eminent theologians. Writing in the March issue of Herder Korrespondenz, Peter Hünermann, professor of theology at the University of Tübingen, says the pope's move is "a grave mistake," one that will be very difficult to correct.
Hünermann emphasizes that any lifting of an excommunication first requires an act of contrition on the part of the excommunicated party. This first step of repentance is essential, he writes, quoting canon law (paragraphs 1371, 1358, 1347 and 1341). The excommunication, he notes, can only be lifted as a second step.