VIENNA, Austria, April 4, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - After the Archdiocese of Vienna initially seemed to back a parish priest’s decision to block an open homosexual from serving on parish council, Cardinal Christoph Schöenborn has stepped in to overrule the priest.
Cardinal Schöenborn says he had at first planned to support the priest, but reconsidered after a lunch meeting with the man, Florian Stangl, and his homosexual partner, with whom Stangl lives in a registered domestic partnership.
“I always ask myself in these situations: How would Jesus have handled it? He first saw the person,” he said, according to ORF.at.
The prelate said he has made “a decision for the people,” noting that after the meeting, he understood “why the parish gave him the most votes, because he is really impressive.”
“I think this young man belongs there and so I have taken responsibility for this,” he added.
Stangl, 26, had received 96 out of 142 votes in a recent election for the parish in the small community of Stützenhofen, but parish priest Father Gerhard Swierzek reportedly told Stangl the night before the election that the young man’s candidacy was not possible according to Church Law since he was publicly living a life contrary to Biblical values.
Normally candidates for parish council in the Archdiocese of Vienna are required to sign statements affirming their commitment to Church teaching, but that did not happen in this instance.
Father Swierzek emphasized in an interview with Kurier that he personally had no negative feelings towards the young man, but that his candidacy was simply not possible according to Canon Law.
Though parishioners pledged a fight on behalf of Stangl, the Archdiocese had initially seemed to support the priest.
In a statement, they affirmed that the “the magisterium of the Church has spoken unambiguously against homosexual civil unions,” and that parish council members are obliged to maintain a “commitment to the doctrine and the order of the church.”
Michael Prüller, spokesman for the Archdiocese, told LifeSiteNews at the time that they were investigating the incident and would seek a fair solution.
Cardinal Schöenborn then issued a statement March 30th thanking the many candidates for parish council. “Their diversity reflects the diversity of modern ways of life and faith,” he said.
“Thus even among the parish council members there are many whose lifestyles are not in accordance with the Church’s ideals in every respect,” the prelate continued. “Considering their particular life witness and their effort to live a life of Faith, the Church is pleased with their commitment. This does not call the ideal into question.”
“In the personal conversation which I was able to have with Mr. Stangl, I was very impressed with his devout attitude, his modesty, and his lived readiness to serve,” the Cardinal wrote.
He goes on to report that the Bishop’s council had discussed the “complex case” and decided, first, that they make “no objection” to the election result, and second, that they will issue an instruction with a more precise explanation of the requirements for candidacy on parish council.
When the incident broke, Stangl told reporters that he made a point of living his homosexual relationship publicly in his small town. “After we closed our partnership before the authorities, we invited more than half the town to our home for a feast,” he explained.
Some parishioners told reporters that if their choice of Stangl was not honored, they were prepared to provoke an uprising.
Fr. Swierzek had also asked Stangl to refrain from receiving Communion, leading the young man to remark that he feels the priest has “discriminated against” him.
Cardinal Christoph Schöenborn
Archbishop of Vienna
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
His Eminence William Joseph Levada, Cardinal, Prefect
His Excellency Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Secretary
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11, 00193 Roma, Italy
Telephone: 06.69.88.33.57; 06.69.88.34.13
Congregation for Bishops
Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect
Palazzo della Congregazioni,
Piazza Pio XII, 10