VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has denounced priests who have questioned church teaching on celibacy and ordaining women, saying Thursday they were disobeying his authority to try to impose their own ideas on the church.
Benedict made the rare and explicit criticism from the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in his homily on Holy Thursday, when priests recall the promises they made when ordained.
In 2006, a group of Austrian priests launched the Pfarrer Initiative, or pastor initiative, a call to disobedience aimed at abolishing priestly celibacy and opening the clergy to women to relieve the shortages of priests.
Last June, the group’s members essentially threatened a schism, saying the Vatican’s refusal to hear their complaints left them no choice but to “follow our conscience and act independently.”
They issued a revised call to disobedience in which they said parishes would celebrate Eucharistic services without priests, that they would let women preach, and they pledged to speak out publicly and frequently for female and married priests.
So far, neither the Vatican nor the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, have imposed any canonical penalties on them.