Funkyzeit mit Christoph

If Sacha Baron Cohen ever fancies doing a satire on liberal Catholicism, he need only return to the source of his hit film Brüno, to the Republic of Austria. As you may know, Austria is to Germany what Canada is to the US or New Zealand to Australia – similar, but smaller and with an added layer of weirdness. You get some sense of this from listening to old Falco albums, which are replete with obscure references to Austrian political scandals of the 1980s.

In Catholic terms, Austria is a hotbed of heterodoxy bordering on heresy, particularly in the super-liberal Linz diocese. A recent poll of 500 priests carried out by the Austrian state broadcaster found 79% favouring the ending of celibacy – it is of course an open secret that the majority of Austrian priests keep mistresses – with 51% supporting the ordination of women and 52% indicating serious disagreements with the Magisterium. And that’s amongst the clergy – it should be no surprise that Austria is the heartland of the Wir sind Kirche movement, whose zeal for transforming the Catholic Church into some form of liberal Protestantism is such that they make Britain’s Tabletistas look like the Latin Mass Society.

Austria is also where you’ll find a favourite subject of this blog, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP, Archbishop of Vienna and President of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference. Schönborn has gained something of a reputation internationally for the magnetic attraction exerted on him by microphones, and by his propensity to go off message whenever he finds one – qualities that make him a religious journalist’s dream. The lazy assumption is that, since he’s a former student of Professor Ratzinger and the two remain personally close, he can be taken as an indicator of Vatican thinking, perhaps as someone licensed to fly controversial kites. Perhaps, but an equally plausible explanation is that Christoph has gone native. I proffer as a possible piece of evidence that the Suppository‘s Vienna-based correspondent, the inimitable Christa Pongratz, has finally found a prelate she likes and regularly bigs up Schönborn in the pages of Ma Pepsi’s organ.

Given all this, would you be surprised to learn that Austria is also a hotbed of liturgical malpractice calling to mind the worst excesses of the Paul VI period? You may perhaps recall the infamous Focaccia Incident, in the Linz diocese naturally, when a Corpus Christi procession was marked by priests waving around a focaccia on a monstrance. Then there was that godawful youth Mass Schönborn had with the tuneless guitars and laser beams. The Cardinal, it seems, is as eager as anyone to get down with da kidz.

But even so, when looking at the American Catholic this morning, I had to check it wasn’t the first of April. First, check out the congregation:

Yup, it’s Austria and there’s not an Alpine hat or pair of lederhosen in sight. In fact, there seems to be something of a Wild West theme.

I do love the Confederate flag there, nicely juxtaposed with a teepee. It really beggars belief, even in Austria.

And while I’ve heard of coffee after Mass, tucking into sauerkraut during proceedings… no, that ain’t licit either. And, of course, guitars!

Necessary caveat here, since there’s already some argument over the provenance of these pictures. The context of this would appear to be the annual Vienna country and western festival, and a priest going along to the festival to say Mass on the Sunday, rather than some wingnut priest in the diocese of Vienna deciding off his own bat to hold a cowboy-themed Mass. All the same, you have to ask whether a C&W festival is the ideal place for a Mass, even a Novus Ordo one, which is supposed to be held in a reverent atmosphere. And it’s indicative of something that your first reaction to this is to say “Jeepers! Is this evidence of Schönborn losing the plot completely? What in the wide world of sports is going on in his patch?”

You would hope this doesn’t make its way to the Congregation for Divine Worship. There are some elderly men there whose hearts aren’t in the best condition. Father Z and his army of readers are already spitting blood.


  1. Tom said,

    July 6, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    I remember the Linz incident only too well. Schoenborn is only just back from Rome. Is he crazy or is he begging for reassignment?

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      July 6, 2010 at 11:38 pm

      If he keeps on like this, he’ll be bishop of French Guiana by the end of the year.

      • Mark P said,

        July 7, 2010 at 1:51 am

        French Guiana sounds like a fairly nice place to a retire to a Bishop’s Palace in.

  2. ejh said,

    July 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Does anybody else remember the last series of Roseanne?

  3. shane said,

    July 6, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Linz is indeed a liturgical disgrace (some of the photos are very amusing)

  4. Garibaldy said,

    July 6, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Where’s the Spanish Inquisition when you need it?

    • shane said,

      July 6, 2010 at 11:57 pm

      Linz has gone so far that I doubt even Torquemada would be up to the job.

      • Garibaldy said,

        July 7, 2010 at 12:06 am

        A Leninist, sorry anti-heresy, purge is needed.

  5. shane said,

    July 7, 2010 at 12:53 am

    “Then there was that godawful youth Mass Schönborn had with the tuneless guitars and laser beams.”

    Not to mention balloons

    • De Northside Socialist said,

      July 7, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      “Then there was that godawful youth Mass”

      For Jaysus sake, is there any other form of Yoof Mass?

      Please spare us all, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter from Fr. Trendys (tm. Dermot Morgan).

      ## He is very much missed.

  6. shane said,

    July 7, 2010 at 12:55 am

    Check out what the Augustinians did in Galway:

    • Mark P said,

      July 7, 2010 at 1:53 am

      Looks like a big improvement from the tat they had before.

      • shane said,

        July 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm

        Are you serious? It’s pure vandalism.

        As this Anglican commentator at said:“Given the Catholic Church’s appalling record in terms of treatment of historic churches (remember Killarney Cathedral, Monaghan Cathedral, and its gutting of a perfectly preserved 18th century church in Cork, I hope the C of I keep the Catholics away from anything to do with the Cathedral’s furnishings. Thankfully neither Christchurch nor St Patrick’s was handed back to the Catholic Church. Can you imagine what they would do to the interior, given their behaviour in their own churches.
        Only the Irish Catholic Church could do as happened in Killarney: rip out a spectacular Victorian interior designed by the world famous Pugin (of Westminster fame), dump it in a skip, and replace it with substandard 1970s crap. All over Ireland historic interiors in Catholic churches have been raped. In Galway recently, while they (reluctantly) let a spectacularly beautiful reredos survive, they hit it behind a screen that looks like it was bought in Ikea!!!”

      • Mark P said,

        July 7, 2010 at 3:30 pm

        I’m entirely serious. Christ that tatty, overdecorated, marble, plaster and gilt kitsch makes me feel slightly ill. I’d have my criticisms of the new set up, but at least it’s not as fussily tacky.

        One of the few good things about the Irish Catholic Church has been its relative willingness to act as a patron f 20th Century architecture. Compare for instance Ballally Parish Church out by Sandyford and the crass bloated pastiche that is Galway Cathedral, one of the buildings philistine architectural traditionalists probably approve of. The latter really is a monstrous carbunkle.

      • neilcaff said,

        July 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

        Ah good old Galway Cathedral, it really is hideous isn’t it? I used to get dragged there on regular occasions when I was a youth.
        Built when creepy Bishop Brown was ruling the roost on Tailors Hill leading some Galwegians to christen it Bishop Browns Erection.

      • shane said,

        July 7, 2010 at 8:18 pm

        Mark, I’d agree with you on Galway Cathedral. It actually looks like something out of Star Trek. Then again it was designed in the 50s – just before le deluge – that TCD lad (Treviskias or something) who famously denounced the bishop of Galway on the Late Late also referred to the ugliness of the cathedral.

        One of the most impressive churches I have ever been to was the Basilica of Notre Dame in Montreal (it was actually designed by an Irishman)

        Basilique Notre-Dame, Montreal (QC), Canada

        [note to splintered: if you get another comment like this in your filter, will you please delete it]

  7. Martha Bux said,

    July 7, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Not to mitigate it, but this Western Mass seems to be an annual thing.

  8. GOR said,

    July 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    ”All the same, you have to ask whether a C&W festival is the ideal place for a Mass, even a Novus Ordo one, which is supposed to be held in a reverent atmosphere.”

    Well yes, Father, but it is still possible to mix the sacred with the profane if done tastefully. Here in Milwaukee we are known for our Summer ethnic festivals – Irishfest, Festa Italiana, Polishfest, Germanfest, Mexican Fiesta, etc. At the Irish, Polish, Mexican and Italian festivals there is always an outdoor Mass on Sunday on the festival grounds. And other than Ab. Dolan donning a Packer Cheesehead hat during the sermon his first time there, the Masses are reverent and well-attended (perhaps one of the few times certain ethnic people – who will remain incognito – are at Mass…).

    Of late we also have a PrideFest as well. Not being an adherent, I can’t say if they have any liturgical happenings…

  9. July 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Not quite on topic, but this allows me to adapt an old joke, which Les Dawson used to tell on an Abu Ben Adham theme;

    The +Lone Ranger and Tonto went camping in the Alps. After they got their tent all set up, both men fell sound asleep.

    Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says, “Kemo Sabe, look towards sky, what do you see?”

    The Lone Ranger replies, “I see millions of stars.”

    “What does that tell you?” asked Tonto.

    The+ Lone Ranger ponders for a minute then says, “Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, the Lord is all powerful and we are small and insignificant, as the Vatican Observatory will confirm. Meteorologically, it seems that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What’s it tell YOU, Tonto?”

    “You dumber than a buffalo”, replies Tonto. Someone stole tent.”

  10. Warren said,

    July 8, 2010 at 8:29 am

    “As you may know, Austria is to Germany what Canada is to the US or New Zealand to Australia – similar, but smaller and with an added layer of weirdness.”

    I am so hurt.

    To clarify: geographically speaking, Canada (9,984,670 sq km) is larger than the United States (9,826,675 sq km). With respect to population, we are not merely smaller by comparison, we are utterly minuscule (approximately 34 million compared to 310 million).

    If you knew anything about Canadian humour, you would then realize that we Canadians enjoy poking fun at ourselves. Such limp humour as found at this blog will hardly give a “true-north-strong-and-free” Canadian any cause for concern. Ridicule, mockery and parody to a Canadian are like fibre. One wonders why the constipated world in which we live doesn’t enjoy a similar diet.

    Furthermore, responsibility for any weirdnesses one might identify about Canada and Canadians can be laid at the feet of the British and the French from whom we have inherited most of our eccentricities. Don’t blame us for being faithful to our roots.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: