1-1A N Austrian Biehop, Mgr. Laelo, Administrator of Burgenland, has publicly approved the action of one of his priests, Fr. Freitag, parish priest in Oeblarn in Styria, for marrying a couple in defiance of the Austrian law.
The priest was condemned to a fine and a week in prison.
The couple in question had sought in vain for years for permission to contract legal marriage. The man's Slovene nationality prevented the issuing of the necessary papers. Normally, the Church only marries in conformity with the civil law, but in this rare and exceptional case it was held that the civil law had ceased to uphold the natural law, and consequently was unjust.
The Churches duty, without intention of suppressing the normal force of civil law, was to carry out the natural law, which is intrinsically superior to the civil law.
Austria's Catholic Action movement has asked thc government to repeal the legislation which made Fr. Freitag's conviction possible. Intro. duced by the Nazis, this law, Catholic Action says, "runs counter, to a rare degree, to the Austrian people's sense of justice and contradicts the constitutionally guaranteed right to the free practice of religion."
The Austrian Hierarchy has long sought the abolition of another law. dating back to the days of the German "Kulturkampf," requiring a civil marriage ceremony before a church wedding.