CathVIENNA Mon Nov 7, 2011 1:59pm GMT
(Reuters) - "Dissident Austrian Catholics announced lay people will start celebrating Mass when a priest is unavailable, a clear call to disobedience just as the country's bishops hold their autumn conference.
A manifesto adopted by dozens of activists at the weekend said lay people will preach, consecrate and distribute communion in priestless parishes, said Hans Peter Hurka, head of the group We Are Church.
"Church law bans this. The question is, can Church law overrule the Bible? We are of the opinion, based on findings from the Second Vatican Council, that this (ban) is not possible," he said Monday...Schoenborn, a former student and close associate of Pope Benedict, has ruled out sweeping changes demanded by dissident priests led by his former deputy, Rev. Helmut Schueller...The group, which claims to represent about 10 percent of the Austrian clergy, has challenged Church teaching on taboo topics such as priestly celibacy and women's ordination..."
"...A record 87,000 Austrians left the Church in 2010, many in reaction to sexual abuse scandals."
(Reporting by Michael Shields and Tom Heneghan)