Pope Francis has opened up debate about his Church’s teachings on sex and the family. Helen Grady reports from Austria, where Catholics are pushing the boundaries of doctrine.
Pope Francis has opened up debate about his Church’s most controversial teachings - on sex and the family. He has raised hope among those who would like the Roman Catholic Church to change its stance on issues like homosexuality, divorce and birth control. But can he meet their expectations?
In the first of a three-part series, Helen Grady reports from Austria, where priests and ordinary Catholics are already pushing the boundaries of doctrine. In Vienna, she meets Clemens Moser and Charlotte Leeb, a young couple who, although devout Catholics, are breaking Church rules by living together as an unmarried couple. And Wolfgang, a gay man who spent six years training to be a Roman Catholic priest, tells Helen about his decision to leave the Church he loves because of its opposition to homosexual relationships.
In the village of Bad Mittendorf, deep in traditionally-conservative Alpine Austria, Helen meets parish priest Fr Michael Unger, who is proud of his most famous parishioner, the openly-gay performer Thomas Neuwirth - better known to millions as Conchita Wurst, who won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest sporting a glamorous evening gown - and a beard. And another of Fr Michael’s parishioners, Andrea Strimizer, explains how her decision to divorce and remarry means that she is officially barred from receiving Holy Communion, the central rite of the Catholic faith.
Back in Vienna, Helen visits the city’s seminary, where trainee priest Johannes Eibensteiner explains how he is preparing to minister to Austria’s largely liberal flock with gentleness and pragmatism. And she meets the city’s Archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn. A charismatic and influential figure, seen by many as a future Pope, Cardinal Schonborn has developed a special ministry for divorced and remarried Catholics. He says the Church must not lose faith in the traditional Catholic family, but meet people where they are and help them to inch gradually closer towards doctrinal ideals.
(Image: Cardinal Schonborn)
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