(I just hate to have to rely on CathCon for these translations! Isn't there anyone who works on this blog who speaks German and would be willing to follow what is going on in Austria for us? Please?)
Anyway, according to CathCon, here is the latest:
Statement from the Bishop of Linz:
Dean and Parish priest Josef Friedl has publicly and on his own initiative declared that he in the last few years did not keep his promises on priesthood to live in celibacy and he maintains his relationship. In our service as priests, we have both take on the sign of celibacy for the kingdom of heaven's sake.
This rule still applies today and is clearly underlined in its validity on the level of the universal church. Also discussions on this subject were part of the Bishops' Conference recent meeting and the chairman, Cardinal Schönborn has stated on the matter: "For a priest, as well as for all other people fidelity and promises of fidelity are carrying major values in society. Failure brings no blessing in the long term."
Specifically, we (the Vicar General as the personnel manager and I, the Bishop), have been in contact with Father Friedl in recent days and with today’s discussion.
Father Friedl has understood that as of today he retires from his post as dean. In this position, he was the direct representative of the bishop in his deanery.
The incompatibility with his now personally declared life form with the original promise requires now - as it turns out - a further clarification of what was meant by his “partnership for life”.
He himself has never outlined the circumstances further in any way to the general public. Further talks are necessary in the near future. In canon law, ongoing discussions for such situations are already foreseen.
I ask again for your understanding for these measures and also that this matter is not being dealt dealt with publicly.
Secret Meetings of Unfaithful Priests
More on the Father Friedl case.
In the talks besides Bishop Schwarz and Father Friedl, Vicar General Severin Lederhilger participated as the person responsible for diocesan personnel.
Friedl was confident prior to the meeting. "In a year I can retire, I do not think that I can still be sacked." He favours a "temporary celibacy" to combat the priest shortage in an effective manner. A coexistence of celibate and married priests would make the church more human and credible he believes. Finally, the conscience is always the last resort.
The parish priest of Ungenach was most recently a red rag for conservative groups, after his commitment to the Zogaj family. He was also a participant in the deans conference which in a majority rejected Gerhard Maria Wagner for Bishop , and thus triggered a unique situation in the Diocese. Meanwhile, Wagner's consecration is off the agenda.
The Ungenach priest Josef Friedl received prior support. On Saturday night, the networking group "Future Church" published letter online. The letter was published on the website of “We are Church” in which priests speak of their partners as a "gift from heaven".
The letters of support indicate that the priests who belong to this group give Friedl the highest levels of respect: "(...) As those who are in the same situation, we network in self-help groups in Austria and other adjoining German-speaking dioceses. According to our insight, the reality is that there are about one third of the Catholic priests in the same situation. We ask the church leadership to seek a path which liberates this priestly form of life in the Church. We are all aware of the service of the priest as vocation and fulfilment in life. Our partners are our gift from heaven and valuable assistance in our lives and service. (...)"
The networking group "Future Church" operates in several dioceses in Austria and Bavaria. Secret meetings of the priests take place regularly.
PS: CathCon is very conservative and they seem disappointed that the bishop did not just string Fr. Friedl up by his toes and they are now talking about the idea of removing the bishop as well. This is why I would like to find someone to cover this beat who can read straight from the Austrian news sources so I don't have to remove all of CathCon's little editorial asides.