More than 250 Catholic priests in Austria are ready to disobey the pope and allow women to preach, the head of a progressive clergy platform confirmed on Wednesday.
Helmut Schueller said the Priests’ Initiative he leads has been pushing for admitting women and married men into the clergy for years, without results.
The movement published a manifesto earlier this month, and its members have let trained laymen and female religion teachers preach.
They have also defied the Vatican by administering the sacrament of Holy Communion to divorcees and to people who have left the church.
“I think we will create a forward thrust in the Church by making these practices visible,” Schueller said.
The platform’s views are shared by a majority of the clergy, according to a poll conducted one year ago. It showed that 80% of Austria’s priests would like to end the marriage ban for their profession, and 51% would like to admit women in their ranks.
The Catholic Church, however, has reacted sharply to the priests’ initiative.
The Vatican is aware that there are not enough priests and it is legitimate to voice concerns, said Bishop Egon Kapellari, the deputy head of the conference of Austrian bishops.
“But it is something else entirely to call for disobedience, to threaten the unity of the global Church and to revoke common obligations,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.