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Themes of the Dialogue

Twelve major themes were considered by delegates at the Dialogue for Austria. Following are translated excerpts from the propositions under each theme and the votes each proposition received. The total number of delegates voting varied slightly with each question. In general, any total of 199 or above represents three-quarters or more of the delegates.

Theme One: Seeking God -- Finding God

1. We must as individuals and as a church, in ecumenical company with the other Christian churches, seek union with God with greater love and truthfulness. In the search for God we unite ourselves with people of all times and religions. In all religions there are traces of the mystery of God. Votes in favor: 243

2. We see the following as ways to open the search for God: More intensive pastoral activity using the Bible, especially emphasizing the unity of the God of the Old and New Testaments; presenting God in images and symbols, especially the liturgy; emphasizing the presence of God in the everyday company of people; and seeing an opening to God in the various societies, orders and movements in the church. Votes in favor: 250

3. In view of the sick, the poor, the disabled and those in physical need, we support everything that leads to liberation and healing. ... The delegates commit themselves to discover the mystery of God in this service and witness. Votes in favor: 254

Theme Two: Spreading the Good News Today

1. The sacraments are gifts of God and signs of faith. Thus no one, if at all possible, should be turned away from the sacraments. Votes in favor: 233

2. Only a church that understands young people understands the signs of the times. The delegate assembly appeals to all in pastoral authority to put young people first in your spheres of life and cultures and to make room for them. Votes in favor: 250

3. We see in religious instruction in public schools and in Catholic schools and in catechism efforts very important teaching moments for the church. ... The church must go where the people are. Every diocese should have adult preparation for baptism, confirmation and further education. ... A critical challenge for proclamation lies in the social and ethical sphere. Discussions should focus on the see-judge-act method of working in society. Votes in favor: 231

Theme Three: The Responsibility of Love

1. In addition to the marriage concluded in church, we also respect other forms of living together in which love, responsibility and fidelity are realized. Since living together on a trial basis in a high percentage of cases ultimately leads to marriage, a positive pastoral approach is of special importance for these couples. Votes in favor: 202

2. It is up to the two partners after taking into consideration the directives of the church to choose in their conscience the method of contraception best suited for their specific situation. There must be a clear and distinct line drawn between contraception and abortion. Votes in favor: 201

3. Homosexuals like heterosexuals have the same moral obligation to fulfill the will of God in their lives, to affirm their sexual inclination and integrate it into the whole of their human behavior. They must not be excluded or treated as second-class citizens and should be encouraged to actively participate in church life. Votes in favor: 202

Theme Four: Obligation and Failure, Guilt and Forgiveness

1. Remarried divorcees shall know they have a home in the church community and are welcome at church services and church events. A personal decision according to their educated conscience to receive Communion, after careful self-examination and if possible after a talk with a pastor, must be respected. The bishops are asked to permit the cooperation of remarried divorcees in parish councils and not to discipline church employees after divorce. Votes in favor: 233

2. Pastoral charity from Rome should become more comprehensive, contemplating the practice of the Eastern churches. Votes in favor: 238

3. Laicized priests should have access to all services and church vocations which are open to lay people. The delegates ask their bishops to work in Rome for a quicker and more transparent procedure of laicization.Votes in favor: 225

Theme Five: The Church -- Our Common Vocation

1. Where lay people today are already governing church communities, the rules must be changed to permit some sort of official commissioning ceremony to recognize their office. Votes in favor: 216

2. The powers of parish councils should not be reduced but augmented. The same should be true of diocesan councils. Votes in favor: 225

3. The delegates assembly should meet again in three years time. Votes in favor: 210

Theme Six: Vocation, Service and Life of Priests

1. The delegates suggest that dioceses develop a more intensive program for improving the life of priests, including the possibility of more training on the job. Votes in favor: 227

2. The delegates are in favor of admitting appropriate and well-trained married men to ordination as priests and request the bishops to steadfastly support this in Rome. Votes in favor: 199

3. Where they do not yet exist, we recommend that in dioceses there be centers of vocation. Votes in favor: 217

Theme Seven: Women in the Church

1. The question of the dignity and vocation of women is central to our Christian message and thus an important criterion of church credibility. Votes in favor: 209

2. Cooperation and decision-making of women should be promoted on all levels of the church, including theological scholarship. All dioceses should establish women’s commissions and also the bishops’ conference should establish one for the whole of Austria. Votes in favor: 199

3. The delegates support the establishment of a steady diaconate for women and ask the bishops to steadfastly support this in Rome, even if it should be made possible only for parts of the church. Votes in favor: 212

Theme Eight: The Local Church and the Universal Church

1. The principles of Catholic social doctrine (personalism, subsidiarity, solidarity) should also apply within the church. All synodal forms of church should be enhanced on the parish, diocesan, continental and global levels. Votes in favor: 233

2. The delegates support the right of the pope to freely appoint bishops. We ask the bishops to work out models for a far-reaching and transparent inclusion of local churches in the process of finding candidates. Votes in favor: 237

Theme Nine: Culture of Life

1. The delegates oppose the legalization of active euthanasia. Votes in favor: 260

2. The delegates oppose any steps toward human genetic engineering and the cloning of human beings. Votes in favor: 252

3. The delegates demand greater efforts to assist women in need through counseling and assistance in conflicts of pregnancy. ... Unborn human life must receive public protection, and the killing of unborn children must not be trivialized. Votes in favor: 255

Theme Ten: Families

1. The church makes an option for the family which must become visible in our inner life and political engagement. After separation or divorce, a stable environment must be secured for children and youth. Votes in favor: 226

2. Loving couples must have room in the church for them to exchange experiences, deepen their faith and experience God as a companion on their way through life. This must be done through marriage preparation and working with families. Votes in favor: 219

3. Family must be a place where children grow up to become persons able to master life, thus the culture of families must be a domestic church. Votes in favor: 167

Theme Eleven: Social Responsibility in the Economy

1. The delegates ask the bishops to initiate a pastoral letter on social justice on an ecumenical basis. Votes in favor: 252

2. Sunday, the day of the Lord, must be retained as a day of rest and church services, a day of the family and a day of social gatherings. The possibility of entering a referendum to make this a public law should be examined. Votes in favor: 261 (unanimous)

3. The church thinks there is a human right to work. The notion of work should be extended beyond paid jobs. A basic entitlement for all members of society, irrespective of their contribution to work, should be provided. Votes in favor: 187

Theme Twelve: Solidarity Knows No Boundaries

1. The delegates demand a reduction of inhuman restrictions and practices in procedures for refugees. Foreigners living and working in Austria should consistently be integrated into society. Votes in favor: 223

2. Europe is indivisible. The delegates support the enlargement of the European Union and hope for more intensified meetings among peoples from the whole of Europe, especially with our neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe. Votes in favor: 245

3. The church must not forget the millions of the poor in the Southern Hemisphere, and also the growing number in the North. The church must credibly convey its vision of one world and support debt relief for the poorest of countries. Votes in favor: 221

Translation was performed by Hubert Feichtlbauer, a columnist for the Austrian papers Die Presse and Die Furche.

National Catholic Reporter, November 6, 1998