Ferdinand Kaineder, the former communications chief and spokesman of the diocese of Linz, Austria, has been sacked as part of an agreement reached between the diocese and a group of the faithful who have campaigned for reforms in the diocese. Kaineder has been the focus of criticism for some years as the spokesman for Linz, known internationally as the most liberal of the ultra-liberal European Catholic dioceses.
The “Church Faithful Prayer Initiative,” formed in October 2009, organized a boycott of funds, urging churchgoers to deposit their church tax contributions into a trust fund instead of putting them in collection baskets. Over a period of three years, about 350 parishioners placed 50,000 Euros (US $68,000) into an escrow account, while they demanded the resignation of Kaineder.
“The sacking of Mr. Kaineder was a minimal requirement that we have stated since the end of 2006,” said Gernot Steier, a spokesman for the group and an attorney in Neulengbach in Lower Austria. German media reports that the money has now been transferred to the diocese, with one third of 25,000 Euros reportedly donated to the pro-life movement, Human Life International, and Youth for Life.
In 2006 Kaineder brought down the ire of faithful Catholics when his communications office issued a CD for young people on sexuality, which included information on acquiring contraception and links to websites promoting abortion and the homosexualist agenda.
Kaineder was removed as spokesman for the diocese in July 2009, but was retained on the payroll as “emeritus” head of the communications department. Bishop Ludwig Schwarz was criticized for doing nothing about the Youth CD and for offering Kaineder other positions within the diocese.
Kaineder complained in the press of a “smear campaign” launched against him by “ultra-conservatives” in the diocese, including the internet group Kath.net, who he said has close ties to the Vatican.
“It was always known to me that they worked together,” Kaineder said. “It appeared to me that the information channels between Rome and kath.net functioned well. I believe also that these channels are responsible for my sacking.”
Now Bishop Schwarz is now being accused on the left of bowing to pressure from “ultra-conservatives” in the Church. The notoriously liberal international group We Are Church, said, “The Catholic Church is being held hostage by conservative forces.”
But the Church Faithful Prayer Initiative, the managers of the trust fund, defended their actions saying, “When the chief marketing officer of a company does not know his company’s own product, then he is not doing his duty. So too, if the head of communications of the diocese, which represents the teachings of the Catholic Church, is wrong.”