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VIENNA (ChurchMilitant.com) - Austrian Catholics issued a "charter of fundamental rights of the Church" on Feb. 2 in Vienna, seeking to fundamentally transform the concept of Catholicism inside and outside of Austria.
The charter was drawn up by various individual clergy and laypeople, as well as groups such as We Are Church, a movement that advocates changing the teachings and the structures of authority of the Catholic Church, and Priests without Office, which advocates for female priests and the abolition of priestly celibacy.
The principal point of the charter is "to raise up the talents of individual, baptized Christians in the Church and to give the Church a greater influence in the world," according to European journalist Klaus Prömpers in a DomRadio interview.
The 15 "rights" put forth in the charter include freedom of Catholics to exercise a well-formed conscience; the right to be treated as true equals regardless of gender, nationality, race, language, origin, sexual orientation, marital status, age, wealth, political or theological beliefs; and the right of the faithful to belong to and participate in a Church community.
The charter also recognizes the priesthood of all the faithful in accordance with their personal gifts and charisms; the freedom to speak and to dissent; the right to transparency on the part of Church leaders; and the claim of all believers on the sacraments, on the marital status they desire and on participation in Church decisions.
Prömpers said the goal is to "gradually expand" the space the Church permits for people who belong to it not "to forcefully tear down all the walls that the Church has built up over the centuries."
"One at least wants to open the church doors in order to get more people back into the Church," he qualified.
The charter became public knowledge while national theologian Christian Bauer was calling for an Austrian "synodal path" based on the model of the recently-launched German synod.
The Austrian Catholic Church also needs a "synodal process that resolves internal reform blocks and resolutely follows a path of self-evangelization," Bauer wrote Feb. 4 on Feinschwartz.net shortly after the first German synodal assembly commenced in Frankfurt, Germany.
With the eventual retirement of Cdl. Christoph Schönborn in Vienna, "one does not want Rome and the hierarchy to simply make these changes happen, but one rather wants to have a say and to articulate what is expected of the future of the Church in Austria, also with a view to the German-speaking neighbor," Prömpers said.
German Cdl. Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Cologne and an outspoken critic of the German synodal way, has sounded alarms of a potential schism. The cardinal has expressed fears that this path "harbors great dangers — especially with a view to a split within the German Church," according to DomRadio.
"All my fears have come true," he told Die Tagespost recently, noting that, at the synod, the Church's ecclesiological foundations are "no longer relevant" while "a Protestant understanding of the Church is being implemented."
According to Woelki: "This makes it increasingly difficult to detect the elements which constitute the Catholic Church." For him, the Church's hierarchical structure is being undermined.
This is not the first time Austrian Catholics have called for "reform."
In 2011, hundreds of Catholic priests and laypeople issued a Declaration of Disobedience calling for the ordination of women, an end to celibacy and greater acceptance of divorce. The dissenters declared it would break ecclesiastical rules by giving Communion to Protestants and remarried, divorced Catholics. It would also allow laypeople — men and women — to preach and to lead parishes without a priest.
A main spokesman of the 2011 dissidents was Fr. Helmut Schüller, founder of Call to Disobedience, who claims a shortage of priests makes reform essential.
Austrian Alexander Tschugguel, who threw the Pachamama idols into the Tiber River during October's Amazon Synod, has cautioned the faithful to keep watch over the Austrian Bishops' Conference and the language they use in support of leftist causes.
Tschugguel was one of the participants at the Acies Ordinata prayer event in January in Munich, where faithful Catholics gathered in silent prayer to call for an end to the controversial German synod.
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