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Les aumôneries dans les établissements publics autrichiens

In Austria, chaplaincies are established in prisons, hospitals, the army and the police.

I. Individual and collective aspects

Provisions regulating chaplaincies are included in general laws concerning the institutions in question, laws on certain religious communities’ external legal relations, or in agreements signed with these communities.
They take into consideration :
 the individual dimension, by granting believers the right to meet a chaplain ;
 the collective dimension, by granting religious communities the right to access institutions.

The individual dimension prevails in general legislation, as can be seen in paragraph 85 of the law on the prison system, which :
 guarantees prisoners the right to participate in collective religious activities in their institution ;
 entitles governors to allow meetings between inmates and chaplains of their own faith ;
 entitles chaplains to visit inmates and conduct pastoral activities with them ;
 ensures that conversations between inmates and chaplains are not monitored.

In light of Division 5a(1)5 of the Federal Hospital and Care Centres Act and the corresponding provincial regulations, hospital institutions must allow pastoral support to be provided to inpatients at their request.
Furthermore, the collective aspect relates to requirements concerning relations between recognised religious societies and the state, such as Article XVI of the Concordat, which grants the right to access to a chaplain who is not employed by the institution in order for him/her to minister freely. In this respect, the Concordat does not differentiate between hospitals, prisons or juvenile detention centres.
The provisions of paragraphs 17(1), 18(1) and 19(1) of the Protestant Church Act require the federal state to guarantee access to chaplaincy services for soldiers, inpatients and prisoners. Paragraph 7(1) of the Greek Orthodox Church Act and paragraph 3(1) of the Eastern Orthodox Church Act include similar provisions.
Paragraph 8(1) of the Jewish Religious Society Act and paragraphs 11(1) and 18(1) of the 2015 Islam Act illustrate the most recent legislative developments. They also regulate hospital chaplaincy, prison chaplaincy and military chaplaincy. The latter includes Catholic and Protestant chaplaincies whose professional chaplains are incorporated into the military hierarchy, and chaplaincies for the Orthodox (since 2011), Muslim (since 2015) and Alevi (since 2016) faiths whose chaplains are not incorporated.
The Catholic Church has run a police chaplaincy since 1996 and the Protestant Church has run one since 2006. Chaplains working within this system are not ministry officials. Unlike other chaplaincies, these were set up mainly due to specific burdens on police officers, the pervasive violence they face, and the impact these factors have on family life and social relations.
When cooperating with religious societies, the state maintains its religious neutrality, even if chaplains are directly employed by state institutions. Chaplains are always chosen in consultation with the religious authorities to which they are accountable for religious matters. For all other matters, they are accountable to the management of their institutions.

II. Funding

Comparing paragraphs 17 to 19 of the Protestant Church Act, it is evident that the federal government is obliged to bear the cost of overheads and wages solely for the military chaplaincy. According to paragraph 7(1) of the Greek Orthodox Church Act and paragraph 3(1) of the Eastern Orthodox Church Act, which refer to the Protestant Church Act, this obligation also applies to the Orthodox and Eastern Churches. The most recent relevant provisions, namely paragraph 8(3) of the Jewish Religious Society Act and paragraphs 11(3) and 18(3) of the Islam Act of 2015, are based on this model. The obligation does not relate to other chaplaincies. This differentiation does not exclude subsidies by the public authorities.
In fact, whereas Catholic and Protestant military chaplaincies are financed by the state, Orthodox, Muslim, and Alevi military chaplaincies are paid a relatively modest fixed sum.

III. Staff qualifications

There is little regulation regarding compulsory training and qualifications for chaplains. The most detailed requirements can be found in the 2015 Islam Act. Paragraph 11(2) requires chaplains for the Islamic community to undergo professional training and demonstrate personal suitability. Paragraph 18(2) stipulates similar requirements for chaplains for the Alevi community. These provisions apply to all categories of chaplains.
Some other communities specify provisions concerning the training of chaplains in their own internal regulations.

IV. Data protection

Religious beliefs fall within the category of sensitive data following the meaning of Article 8 of Directive 95/46/EC and Division 4-2 of the Austrian Data Protection Act. According to Clause 9-6 of this law, such data may only be processed by the appropriate institutions if data subjects give their explicit consent. Legislation on hospitals makes appropriate provision for this. The fundamental right to data protection is enshrined in paragraph 1 of this law.

Sources and further information :
 Kalb, Herbert / Potz, Richard / Schinkele, Brigitte, “Religionsrecht“, Wien, 2003, pp. 265-268.
 Schwarz, Karl W., "Polizeiseelsorge – berufsfeldbezogene Supervision vor dem Hintergrund der Religionsfreiheit, Kultusrechtliche Anmerkungen aus österreichischer Perpektive", in öarr 55, 2008, pp. 30-46.
 Körtner, Ulrich H. J. / Müller, Sigrid / Kletečka-Pulker, Maria / Inthorn, Julia (Hg.), “Spiritualität, Religion und Kultur am Krankenbett” (= Ethik und Recht in der Medizin 3), Wien / New York, 2009.
 Wessely, Wolfgang, "Die Militärdiözese - eine Grenzgängerin", in Spektrum der Rechtswissenschaft, 2012, pp. 79-111.
 Trauner, Karl-Reinhart, "Wandel von Staat und Kirche am Fallbeispiel Militärseelsorge", in öarr, 59, 2012, pp. 174-198.
 Unterberg Ursula, “Religion – die letzte Freiheit, Religion im Strafvollzug“ (= Anwendungsorientierte Religionswissenschaft 2), Marburg, 2013. -Verfassungsgerichtshof 6. 10. 1999, B 15/99, öarr 47 (2000) 260-266, commenté par Stefan Schima, ibidem, S. 266-268.
 Verfassungsgerichtshof 11. 10. 1999, B 1487/98, VfSlg. 15 614. Verwaltungsgerichtshof 23. 5. 2005, 2005/06/0030, öarr, n° 52 (2005), S. 144-148, commenté par Wolfgang Wieshaider, ibidem, S. 141-144.
 Pichler, Florian, “Seelsorge”, in Andreas Kowatsch / Florian Pichler / Daniel Tibi / Harald Tripp (Hg.), 111 Begriffe des österreichischen Religionsrechts, Erlangen, 2022, pp. 300-304.
 Reiss, Wolfram, “Religiöse Vielfalt als Herausforderung für die Gefängnisseelsorge in Österreich, in Seelsorge und Strafvollzug“, in Zur Praxis heutiger Gefängnisseelsorge 9, 2022, pp. 40-56.

D 4 septembre 2023    ARobert Wurzrainer AWolfgang Wieshaider

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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