Monday May 17, 2010

Retiring Austrian Bishop Wants Softer Church Stand on Gays, Divorce

By Peter J. Smith

EISENSTADT, Austria, May 17, 2010 ( – With his resignation already submitted to Pope Benedict XVI, an Austrian bishop is firing his last few shots at the Vatican’s maintenance of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, divorce, priestly celibacy, and women’s ordination, before his mandatory retirement takes effect.

Bishop Paul Iby of the Eisenstadt Diocese made his comments in an interview with the Austrian daily “Die Presse,” which addressed the 50th anniversary of the diocese and how the scandal of priestly pederasty had cast a pall over the celebration.

In the context of answering questions on the sex scandal and the need for reform, Iby said that he thought the Catholic Church was in a “big crisis.”

“There is an increasing number of people leaving the church, including Catholics to whom the church once played an important role in their life,” said Iby. “It will take a long time to get back their trust in the Catholic faith.”

Iby indicated to Die Presse that a “more welcoming church,” one that “is more free and open,” would relax its attitude toward homosexuality and give approval to divorced couples who have entered another relationship while their spouses are still living.

“It means to cease the discrimination of homosexuals and finding a solution for divorcees,” said Iby. “What we suggest is looking at the Orthodox church: after a time of penance, the blessing of a second relationship should be possible. Only nothing is moving in Rome!”

Iby also related how he had once had an hour-long meeting with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, over his proposal to ordain women to the diaconate.

He said Ratzinger had “beseeched for clarity regarding the possibility of women joining the diaconate.” The bishop then agreed with Die Presse that he was asked “to swing the Roman line.”

“The ordination of women is not an issue in our church,” Iby stated. “But in the medium term it must be thought about.”

He also said that Rome is “too timid in these things” to change its position.


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