Thomas Ladner (in the photo) is a 36 year old Austrian priest, usually dressed in a cassock and collaborator in the parish of Stans, in Tyrol, a small town of 1500 souls, where he also teaches religion in the primary school. Before the end of the school year, he was informed of the withdrawal of his permit to teach by the diocese of Innsbruck. The priest’s fault, according to the diocesan school office, would be that he had spoken to his young students about The Four Last Things, among which he mentioned hell and purgatory; “lessons not suitable for children at their stage in life,” that he had dealt with themes on the family in “terms no longer up-to-date,” and of having used “rhetorical language,” or rather – too traditional.
The reaction this time came from the parishioners themselves, who appreciate Father Ladner’s humane manner and pastoral work, above all with the young. Parents launched a petition, while the mayor wrote a harsh letter to the curia complaining about the agitation in the town brought about by such an “unacceptable decision.”
The story was reported in the local newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung, but, despite the clamour, the diocese and the Bishop, Manfred Scheuer, until now, have not shown any signs of changing their mind.
[Source: Il Timone. Tip and translation: Contributor Francesca Romana. Also in German, with more details of the declarations of diocesan schools superintendent Josef Stock.]
[Update: find the full translation of the German text below - translation by Elliot Bougis]
A priest giving catechesis included emphasis on the Last Things (Heaven, Hell, etc.). The children were enthusiastic, the diocesan director less so. The priest’s suspension threatens to bring about a revolt from the parish and mayor.
Something is rotten in Innsbruck. The diocesan leadership has suspended Thomas Ladner, beloved assistant pastor of Stans, from giving religious instruction. His offense, apparently, is that in a catechesis class he discussed topics like Hell, Purgatory, and the Devil—themes, incidentally, which Pope Francis has discussed almost weekly. The Tyrol Daily reports that, according to Josef Stock, head of the diocesan office of education, Fr. Ladner did not provide age-appropriate, pedagogically-integral catechesis. The diocese, however, seems to have made this assessment without consulting the parishioners, who were thoroughly satisfied with Ladner’s instruction. The children even said the topics were their favorite, the mayor of Stans, Michael Huber, told the Tyrol Daily. The 36-year-old catechist and assistant pastor got the children excited about the faith again, always treating them humanely. In addition, the number of acolytes increased under Fr. Labner.
Of particular interest is the fact that shortly before the holidays began, Ladner was informed that he would be “relieved of duty” as a catechist in 2014-15. “As stakeholders in the school, we feel completely snubbed,” said an outraged Mayor Huber. “They completely went over the head of the parishioners.” Huber went on to tell the diocesan education office in writing: “The way you have handled this process has created unrest in our village. Your unilateral approach is completely unacceptable.” The head of diocesan education, Josef Stock, seems unruffled, calling Fr. Ladner’s catechism class “antediluvian,” though he has yet to provide any evidence for that description. He only points to an extremely atavistic [religious] stop-gap from the likes of the rural Maria Roggendorf pilgrimage center, where an outdated picture of the family still has some currency.