Priest sorry for disclosing names of former Austrian Catholics

by Tom Gallagher

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As if on cue, a Belgian priest working in Austria has come out apologizing for publicly sharing the names of Catholics who have resigned from the church.

His apology sounds lame. The priest had to have known that at a minimum, there was a high risk of embarrassing the named individuals and their families. The priest claims he was trying to emphasize to the congregation that they need to focus on building up the parish. He could have done that by de-identifying the names, by talking in real numbers and in trends and so on. Naming names was bush-league, and he looks to be facing legal problems as a result.

According to the Austrian Times:

Father Nicolaas Janssens, 51, Originally from Belgium who then trained in Aachen in Germany before starting work as a parish priest in Austria has now said that he is sorry for the row that he caused.

He said: "I did not anticipate the massive negative reaction that this would create. I regret it and I didn't carry out the action in order to embarrass those named – I wanted to let the congregation know that we needed to work together to keep the congregation strong and to highlight the fact that numbers were shrinking. I didn't really think about the impact of using the names and I underestimated the response."

He revealed that one of the eight people named had already started a legal case and that he had been told by church officials that what he had done breached the country's strict data protection rules.

He said: "I guess I underestimated the sensitivity to the subject but despite the row I want to stay here. Austria is my home and I love it. I made a mistake but forgiveness is one of the key points of our faith."

"Gregor König from the data protection agency thinks that the issue is more serious than that however and said that the planned civil case could have serious consequences."

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