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“Keep The Customer Satisfied”: Cardinal Schönborn and the Kirchensteuer

In order to try to understand what is happening in Austria, it is perhaps useful to inform the readers about a peculiarity of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. In these countries, you can pay a kind of voluntary tax, or more simply said a tithe, through your normal income tax. This is called Kirchensteuer in Germany and Switzerland, and Kirchenbeitrag in Austria.

This means that:

1) the taxman will do everything for you, and give the money to the relevant church;

2) Once you have registered for the tax, you’ll pay automatically in proportion to your income tax (Germany) or to your taxable income (Austria);

3) In Germany, the procedure to get out of the tax was considered, last time I looked, bureaucratic and unpleasant, so that there is a kind of psychological/administrative disincentive to the dreaded Kirchenaustritt, the getting out of the system.

In the countries where it is in place, the Kirchensteuer ensures vast sums of money to the relevant church organisations. This is why the German priests are probably the best off of the planet (the Swiss ones might beat them, though), and I can easily imagine that the Austrian ones are not left very far behind.

Now, in order to try to understand the (shameless) workings of Cardinal Schönborn’s mind, you must understand that in Germany and Austria, a lot of people pay the Kirchensteuer, who don’t go to Mass or even believe in God. This has cultural and historical reasons: in the traditionally Protestant Germany the belonging to a church is more strictly linked to the paying of the tithe; but even among Catholics, the paying of the Kirchensteuer is often seen as a kind of “doing one’s duty”: I don’t go to Mass, the reasoning goes, but I do my part financially so it’s all right. Don’t think that the German clergy does anything to persuade them that this is not true!  Various other elements traditionally concurred, like the scandal of the parents if one started to talk about Kirchenaustritt, the shame of telling one’s parent that one doesn’t even believe in God anymore, the fact that the Germans live in small(ish) villages in greater percentages than Brits or Italians, the clear Christian roots, the diffused moral conservatism, etc. A colleague of mine was once told in no uncertain terms that in case of Kirchenaustritt she would be disinherited. You understand from this that the grip of the Kirchensteuer-system on the country was, in the past, rather strong.

After V II we therefore had a very strange situation: millions and millions of people who have forgotten – or haven’t been taught – the very basics of Catholicism, but who are the one who pay for it. This creates, in my eyes, several distortions:

1) Many Catholics have started to believe, in their culpable ignorance, that their paying gives them the right to meddle in the way the shop is run from the theological point of view. Austria is an extreme example.

2) The Catholic Church in these countries has become a fat, satiated, overinflated, bureaucratic, ministerial apparatus providing a service to their non-churchgoing clients: the Church has lost them as solid Catholics, and she now panders to their wishes in order not to lose them as good spenders. We see this in Germany but, most clearly, in Austria.

3) There is no incentive for the local priests to have a vibrant, orthodox Catholic community. The priest knows that the shop lives largely out of those whom he never sees. He knows that the thread which keeps them linked to the Kirchensteuer-system is rather feeble, and becomes more so as the older generation dies. Therefore he tries, like Simon & Garfunkel, to keep the customer satisfied.

4) The dissatisfaction has become more virulent with the scandals; scandals which have hit Austria particularly hard and by which the late Pope Blessed John Paul II distinguished himself with his well-known talent for trusting the wrong people, then denying reality, then denying reality again, then doing nothing, then protecting his friends, then finally doing too little, and too late. This has caused permanent damage in a country where church attendance was already dwindling and respect for and obedience to the Church as an institution not taught at all.

Mind that this situation is different from, say, Italy. In Italy you pay a part of your taxes to either the Church or some other organisation of your choice, but you can’t choose whether to give or not. In Germany and Austria it is different: once you get out, your net pay increases.

This is, then, the situation Cardinal Schoenborn is facing: great dissatisfaction with church scandals from people who haven’t been properly instructed, and therefore think they can make the rules. At the same time – again, these people not being properly instructed – the hierarchy is afraid of telling things as they are, lest a mass exodus from the voluntary tax occurs.

The edifice is now trembling, the Kirchenaustritte fastly accelerating, and the Church in Austria reacts….. trying to keep the customer satisfied.

Now: if Cardinal Schoenborn believed in God, he would simply do what is right and trust that Providence will always give the Church the money it needs; he would strongly call his sheep to obedience, punish the rebels, instruct the others, and be an example of orthodoxy himself. In short, he would do his job and serve God instead of Mammon.

Instead, Cardinal Schoenborn authorises the exhibition in the Cathedral museum of a work of (degenerate) art showing the Last Supper as homosexual orgy, a feat possibly beyond Peter Tatchell. He authorises the strikingly sacrilegious Western Masses, and this for three years in a row and not caring for opposition. He flies to Medjugorje without consultation with the local bishop, further encouraging the very questionable – and censored by the local bishop – “nuChristianity”, “Madonna at teatime”, “ecumaniacal” practices going on there. He expresses himself more or less in favour of married priests (not a heretical position in itself) with reference to the (homosexual, but don’t tell him) pedophile scandal to please the angry liberals. He expresses himself in conciliatory ways towards sodomites living together.

This is not the behaviour of one who believes in God. This is the behaviour of one who, in plain language, doesn’t care a straw for anything else than his own popularity among the public and the proceeds from the  Kirchensteuer.This is the simony of modern times.

This explains, I think, his behaviour and the constant pandering for the favour of the angry Austrians sitting (or more often, not sitting) in the pews. He silently encourages rebellious behaviour in his priests so that they can give the angry spenders the motivation to stay in and continue to pay; when an open uprising erupts, he does as little as he absolutely must, at the same time sending a clear message that he is not the enemy of the heretics, Rome is; he authorises the above mentioned blasphemous exhibition initiative to pander to the atheists and show them that he really doesn’t care for God, so they have nothing to fear from him (but they can continue to pay to please their mother, bitte sehr); he makes a mockery of the mass (see also here for another mass after his liking) in order to please the ignorant crowds.

In doing all this, Cardinal Schönborn always pays attention not to stretch things too much: he is always ready to backpedal (blasphemous exhibition; western masses; Sodano criticism) when he must, but he always does things in a way which lets him appear the “good, sensitive, modern guy” even when he must cave in. You see how it works here: I’ll show to my customers that I am such a capital chap; and then I’ll backpedal if I have to, deflecting the criticism in Rome’s direction.

This is how Cardinal Schoenborn is presiding over the slow destruction of Catholicism in Austria. His example might find imitators in Germany and Switzerland, particularly if the “Call to Disobedience” is not stopped very soon; he will do the latter when the pressure becomes strong enough, and not one moment before; as always, paying attention to appear like the good guy; the one whose bills atheists, militant homos and rebellious Catholics can continue to pay in good conscience. I so wish the Cardinal would hear from Rome some words from the same song:

you’re in trouble boy,

and now you’re heading into more.

Don’t hold your breath.


How To Spread A Heresy: Cardinal Schoenborn Writes To The Rebels.

Fifth Column on the march: Cardinal Schoenborn

From, excerpts from a kind of “open letter” addressed from Cardinal Schoenborn to the Austrian rebels, headed by the heretical Helmut Schueller. I couldn’t find (yet) the letter online, so I’ll have to rely on the article. says that this is the first time that Cardinal Schoenborn takes a position about the “Priester-Initiative”. The open invitation to revolt is dated 19th June. I wouldn’t call this a prompt reaction, but at least he has acted.

The letter says that Cardinal Schoenborn was “appalled” or “devastated” (“erschuettert”) about the initiative; that it filled him with “anger and sorrow” (“Zorn und Trauer”), and that with this revolt “a new level” (of disobedience) has been reached. This means that the Cardinal admits that disobedience was, under his watch, happily going on; only not at this level.

Here it starts to get a bit strange:

“„Wie würden in unserem Land die Familien aussehen, wenn Ungehorsam zur Tugend erhoben würde?“
“How would families in our country look like, if disobedience were to be elevated to the rank of a virtue?”.

This strikes me as very odd, because there is no reference whatsoever to the position of the heretics being…. heretical. He doesn’t say “you are totally wrong in the matter”. He says “you are wrong in inciting to disobedience”.

It goes on.

Jeder müsse für sich entscheiden, ob er „den Weg mit dem Papst, dem Bischof und der Weltkirche“ gehen wolle oder nicht. Wer jedoch „das Prinzip des Gehorsams aufgibt, löst die Einheit auf“, so Schoenborn.

Everyone must decide, whether he goes “the way of the Pope, the Bishops and the Church” or not. Still, he who “gives away the principle of obedience, destroys the unity”, Schoenborn said.

Once again: no word about the theology. That male priesthood is matter of Ordinary and universal Magisterium which must not be put into question is simply ignored. This is a call to obedience, not to theological soundness. That so many priests seem to think that a woman can be priest is not recognised as a problem, at all; that they by so doing go against the union within the Church, is.

Als Priester habe man bei der Weihe „aus freien Stücken, von niemandem dazu gezwungen, dem Bischof ‚Ehrfurcht und Gehorsam‘ in die Hand versprochen“, erinnerte Schönborn weiter, um schließlich die Priester der Erzdiözese wie auch die Unterzeichner des Aufrufs zum Ungehorsam zu fragen: „Steht ihr dazu?“

As a priest, one has on occasion of his ordination “voluntarily, forced by no one, promised to the bishop ‘reverence and obedience’ “, remembered Schoenborn, in the end openly asking his own priests and the underwriters of the appeal: ‘Do you stand by your promise?’ “

This is eerie. He asks all of his priests, and the heretical priests with them, whether they stand by their promise. Again, there is no threat, no reference to their theological confusion. He never says that they are wrong in the matter. On the contrary, the point is always the same: obedience. You have promised obedience, are you still obedient? If you ask me, this isn’t the most intelligent question to pose to people who have openly called to disobedience.

It goes on, and here it gets really disquieting:

“Er selbst habe dem Papst ebenfalls Gehorsam versprochen – und er wolle „dazu stehen, auch wenn es Momente gegeben hat, wo das nicht leicht war“.

“He himself has in turn promised obedience to the Pope – and he wants ‘to stand by it, even if there have been moments, when it wasn’t easy’ “.

What we learn from this is that he was tempted to rebel to the Pope ( we are talking doctrinal matters here, remember! You don’t break any unity if you disagree with the Pope on some opinion of his), but he has decided not to do so, because of his promise of obedience. Here, the heroic self-portrait of a closeted heretical Cardinal is painted; one that at times would have so much liked to break the unity with the bishops and the church; but then decided not to, because of his promise of obedience. His every word seems to say to the rebels “I feel with you, bro”.

Even at this point, there is no word – at least in the article – about the matter in itself, that is: that these people are theologically wrong, big time, and in frontal rebellion to the Ordinary and universal Magisterium. It’s always, and exclusively, about obedience. You start to think that this Cardinal still has some huge problem with the Magisterium but hey, he is an obedient closet heretic.

It goes on:

Man müsse „nicht jeder kirchlichen Entscheidung“ eine „Herzenszustimmung“ erteilen, räumt Schönborn auch ein. Wenn der Papst jedoch – etwa in der Ämterfrage – klare Vorgaben mache, so stelle eine Aufforderung zum Ungehorsam letztlich „die kirchliche Gemeinschaft in Frage“

One doesn’t have to “agree with his own heart with every decision of the Church”, admits Schoenborn. But when the Pope – say: in the question of the offices – gives clear instructions, then an appeal to disobedience ‘puts the union of the church into question'”

This here is positively creepy. Among the requests of the rebels there are some which are clearly heretical and in obvious conflict with the Magisterium. The idea that a priest may feel authorised to disagree with those is appalling and gives all the measure of Schoenborn’s weakness or, worse, closet heresy. At the same time, it is the clearest explanation of how it could come to this in the first place: a Cardinal who thinks his own priests authorised to not accept Catholic doctrine in their heart can really not be surprised when they refuse to accept it openly.

Once again, please notice: not one word about the theological matter. Not one word saying that they are just plain wrong. His only, and constantly repeated, argument is that they should be good boys, swallow their disagreement and not revolt for the sake of the unity.

He even goes so far as to say that they must shut up merely because the Pope says so, and here the reference to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is very clear. Once again, that male priesthood is matter of infallible Sacred Magisterium is not mentioned, at all. He fully ignores the theological question. This isn’t a father who says to his children “you are wrong”. This is a father who says to his children in an understanding tone “I know you’re right, but be good for your mother’s sake”. 

The last pearl is the following one:

Schließlich bestätigte Schönborn in dem Brief, dass er in Kürze mit den Vertretern der Pfarrer-Initiative ein Gespräch führen wolle und darin auf verschiedene „Ungereimtheiten“ ihres Aufrufs hinweisen werde

In the end, Schoenborn confirmed in the letter that he wants to meet in the near future with the representatives of the “Priest Initiative”, and point out to them to some “inconsistencies” of their appeal

“Ungereimtheiten”. This means “inconsistencies”, “small contradictions”. That the rebels want to give away the Eucharist without priests – and make of this, let us not forget, a substitute for sunday mass obligation – is merely an “inconsistency”.

And so we are at the end of the article. From what it is possible to see from it, the entire question has been reduced to a question of obedience.

Theology doesn’t play any role; on the contrary, the man clearly feels with his priests; he doesn’t reproach their theological position with one word, not even on the most scandalous issues; he doesn’t threaten any consequence; he doesn’t suspend anyone, not even Father Schueller; he doesn’t even order to take the page down; he doesn’t do anything else than inviting them to be obedient, whilst at the same time giving them every reason to believe that he is not in disagreement with the way they think, merely with the way they act.

This is, be assured, the message that will go out among the Austrian faithful. That the priests are impulsive, but in the end they are right; that their superior can’t tell them they are wrong, so he tells them to be patient and well-behaved; that what is wrong is not what they think, but Rome’s position.

If I were in his shoes and were to be scheming on how to protect the uprising without incurring the ires of Rome but at the same time allowing it to grow and consolidate, I would do exactly as he did: make a formal appeal to obedience by at the same time never showing that I disagree with the theological argument; allow my priests to appear in front of the faithful as people who have their heart in the right place, but who are a bit impulsive in their desire to progress; downplay as “inconsistencies” those requests who are less hugely heretical than the call to women priests.

Well no, on second though, I think I’d be more prudent than that. I’d say a couple of words about the Magisterium, too. To just completely ignore the matter would seem to me too openly approving of their position.

I wonder how long the Church in Austria will have to cope with this man.

Pray for his immortal soul, and that the Church in Austria may soon have a new, worthy pastor.


Dum Romae Consulitur: Austrian Rebellion And Sheperds’ Inaction

Actively doing nothing: Cardinal Schoenborn

Dum Romae Consulitur, Saguntum Expugnatur, reports Titus Livius that the ambassadors from Saguntum said to the Romans. “Whilst in Rome they discuss, Saguntum is taken”. History tells us that the Roman hesitation in acting decisively in the defence of Saguntum led to the ultimate destruction of the latter without doing anything to avoid a confrontation that clearly had to come anyway.

Fast forward to AD 2011. Another Curia Romana is in power now, and a similar situation is presented to them. Whilst in Rome they discuss, Austria gathers supports for an open revolt to almost every conceivable Church rule (from male priesthood to male celibacy, and from apostolic succession to Church governance) without any noise coming from Rome, and the weakest of ex officio criticism from the Austrian clergy.

The blog post of E F Pastor Emeritus about the 313 priests and deacons signing the open appeal to rebellion is as recent as last week. If you visit the page, they today have 317, with the number of adhering priests increased from 250 to 255. This in merely one week, with the page warning that in summer the updates will be irregular. For the record, the huge title of the page means “Appeal To Disobedience”. The bishop sends his greetings.

Also worthy of notice is that the supposedly sharp meowing of Bishop Kapellari didn’t come from the number one of the Austrian bishops’ conference, but from its number two. Methinks, Cardinal Schoenborn is too intent on enjoying his holiday to deal with the matter of more than 300 priests and deacons (and counting) adhering to a public invitation to open heresy. Or perhaps he is not even on holiday, but he simply thinks that such a matter of small importance as the call to open rebellion from 250 of his priests (come on, folks: Austria has 8.5 million inhabitants, 250 priests in an awful lot by every conceivable standard) doesn’t deserve a word from the boss, the second in charge being fully sufficient for the widely expected “sharp” official meowing. Or perhaps Cardinal Schoenborn is simply doing what he can to help the rebels without openly compromising himself, helping their rebellion to grow by giving the obligatory criticism as low a profile as this is possible without attracting Rome’s lightnings.

I know that this is the country where the clergy authorises western masses, laser masses, and blasphemous representations of the Last Supper. But even so, one would expect the meowing to be more energetic, and from the top cat.

Not happening. The number of openly rebellious priests and deacons grows; they will take more courage as the weeks and months go by without any reaction going beyond the meowing. The absence of a strong reaction will consolidate in the minds of the simple and of the poorly instructed (in Austria, evidently, the vast majority) the impression that the Church has a weak reaction because she is wrong; that she doesn’t act decisively because she knows this would be an injustice. This will, of course, not appease the rebels, who will feel more and more encouraged to become bolder (though I can imagine with much difficulty how one can be bolder than that: by starting to “consecrate” wymyn priest perhaps? or by declaring that satanic rituals now fulfill sunday mass obligations?….).

At this point, it is difficult to imagine that the Austrian hierarchy will suddenly find the guts to put an end to this. Firstly, they don’t believe in God (if they did, they would never countenance blasphemous material in the diocesan dome museum in Vienna). Secondly they don’t care a straw for Catholic orthodoxy (if they did, there weren’t western masses, nor laser masses). Thirdly, they are evidently not displeased with the behaviour of their priests (if they were, they would have had in the past many ways to threaten the vast majority of them into submission, which is something they do rather well when they want to).

Decisive action is now, reasonably, only to be expected from Rome. Unless this action is exemplarily harsh the ferments of rebellion will remain, as you can’t expect to reeducate a priest in such a decisive opposition to everything Catholic with gentle words more than you could avert the attack of an angry rottweiler by telling him a joke about David Cameron.

Whilst in Rome they discuss, in Austria heresy spreads.


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