A vast majority of Austrian Roman Catholic priests want an end to mandatory celibacy, a new survey has shown.
Pollsters GfK Austria said today (Tues) 80 per cent of the 500 interviewed parish priests supported calls for an abandonment of the ruling.
Fifty-one per cent said women should be allowed to become Roman Catholic priests.
More than six in ten (64 per cent) of priests the agency spoke to said the Austrian Church should get up to date with the modern world.
GfK Austria revealed the new study showed that younger priests had more conservative mindsets than their elder colleagues.
A vast majority of 92 per cent complained of inadequate education in becoming a priest, while 48 per cent accused the institution’s leaders of "acting helpless and lacking vision".
The number of Austrian men deciding to become Catholic priests is meanwhile in decline.
Church officials said earlier this month that 24 men will be consecrated priests in 2010 by the end of June. They said 33 consecrations took place in the first six months of last year.
The reputation of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria suffered dramatically as hundreds of people came forward to report violent and sexual abuse at its institutions over the past few months.
The Church reacted by setting up a special commission to deal with the cases and provide victims with financial compensation and therapy.
The question of the amount of compensation is currently an issue of heated public discussion. Viennese Archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schönborn refused to comment on reports claiming that the Church tried to keep the overall sum lower than 100,000 Euros.
More than 30,000 Austrians left the Church in the first three months of this year, up by 42 per cent compared to the same time span of 2009 when more people than ever cancelled their membership.
Fears are increasing that up to 80,000 Austrians will leave throughout this year. Last year’s 53,216 people quitting their membership meant an all-time record high.