Fr. Helmut Schüller, Austrian Reformer Banned in Boston, Begins U.S. Tour This Month

Fr. Helmut Schüller

Fr. Helmut Schüller, noted for his efforts at church reform in the Archdiocese of Vienna, has been banned by the Archdiocese of Boston from publicly speaking in a Catholic facility when begins a fifteen-city speaking tour next week to hold conversations about church reform with Catholics across the United States.

Fr. Schüller was scheduled to speak at St. Susanna Parish in Massachusetts, but National Catholic Reporter reports Cardinal Sean O’Malley prohibited him from using archdiocesan property because the priest raises controversial issues. The parish’s director of faith formation, Deacon Larry Bloom, said St. Susanna has a history of open dialogue and raising questions without a speaker being banned in the last eleven years.

The program, titled “Catholic Tipping Point,” extends the work Fr. Schüller currently carries out in Austria as the founder of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, whose 400-plus members released a 2012 document, “Appeal to Disobedience,” to begin conversations on pressing issues within the Church. National Catholic Reporter explains the document, and the larger initiative, as a product of the Austrian Church’s challenges:

“A main impetus of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, according to its manifesto, is the reduced number of priests available to serve established parish communities, which threatens the right of baptized Catholics to celebrate the sacraments, especially regular access to the Eucharist.

“The church hierarchy’s response to fewer priests has been to close and consolidate parishes, destroying existing communities and creating impersonal mega-parishes, the manifesto says.”

Other issues raised included married and women priests, healthier practices for Eucharistic liturgies, and expanding Communion to all the faithful. The Austrian priests have been criticized for raising these issues, but also responsible for aiding other priests’ associations find their voice globally. European Catholics’ experiences, and the responses of those like Fr. Schüller, instruct American Catholics grappling with new realities in the Church says Nicole Sotelo:

“Fr. Helmut…is organizing priests to resist exclusionary church policies and create churches where power is shared and Catholics participate equally, no matter one’s gender, marital status or sexual orientation.

“These Austrian priests are not alone. Priests are coming together in places like Ireland, India and Australia to look at critical issues facing the church and to work with local Catholics on solutions. In the United States, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests will convene next week…

“More and more, Catholic officials like Fr. Helmut are recognizing the church needs to engage everyone equally, not only because it is the right thing to do but because the church is suffering without the presence and contribution of those who have traditionally been excluded.”

LGBT people, their loved ones, and their allies are among those harmed by exclusionary church policies, and these issues will be part of his speaking agenda on the U.S. tour. Both New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA are among the sponsors of Fr. Schüller’s visit. Other sponsors include Call to Action, Catholics in Alliance for the Common GoodCORPUSFutureChurch, the National Coalition of American Nuns, Voice of the Faithful, the Quixote Center, and the Women’s Ordination Conference.

For a full listing of dates and locations, including the rescheduled event in Boston, visit the “Catholic Tipping Point” website here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

9 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    I would hope and expect that he would be welcomed to speak at Boston’s fabled “Arlington Street Church”, or at any of the main Episcopal churches in the city, which have been in the forefront of Ecumenical dialogue and outreach. I’m a bit surprised that Cardinal O’Malley has taken this extreme position, since he seems to be a very thoughtful and reasonable man. He’s also a Franciscan Friar. Hmmmm….strange irony there, given the way “Francis The Big Boss” has been opening doors of Ecumenical dialogue, and getting rave reviews, even from non-Catholics!

  2. Lydia Lombardo
    Lydia Lombardo says:

    I’m just sad. What happened to the right to question? I am 80 years old, but long ago when I was in Catholic elementary, high school,a d college, it was alright to quetion. Are we now a muzzled church?

  3. Joshua
    Joshua says:

    There are too many issues here. The question of married priests–yes, since in the early Church and in the Orthodox Church, married priests are the norm. Women priests, NO. Expanding Eucharistic Liturgies? What does that mean? More liturgical abuse, more Protestant style Masses? This priest is all over the map. There needs to be a more charitable attitude towards gay people, absolutely….unfortunately this priest is part of the mindset that destroyed Catholic liturgical practices.

    • Richard Novak
      Richard Novak says:

      “This priest is all over the map”?? Maybe this situation is a result of the institutional RC church failing to be a LISTENING church – in dialogue with all members of Christ’s Body, as described in Acts 15:1-22. When the hierarchy isolates itself from the rest of the body of the faithful – and becomes absorbed in the privilege, pomp and perks of clerical office – this contributes to their increasing lack of credibility in the eyes of the faithful. I can understand how priests like Fr, Schuller – and many other women religious and laity – feel an urgency to take a “prophetic stance” to challenge unjust situations in the church occasioned by apathetic or dismissive attitudes on the part of the hierarchy.

      Regarding “this priest is part of the mindset that destroyed Catholic liturgical practices” — Really? Is it possible that our liturgical practices were being seriously compromised in the decades following Vatican 2’s Liturgy Constitution, as Rome’s micro-management abrogated the responsibility of regional bishops’ conferences to initiate and implement liturgy reforms? Cases in point: the unilateral restructuring of ICEL and the subsequent development and mandating of the English translation of Roman Missal 3. Or the thwarting of requests from Asian bishops’ conferences for further enculturation of the liturgy (as far back as the 1970s). No – it’s not a “mindset” influencing this priest that’s destroying the liturgy – but rather a systematic regression from the vision of John 23 and Vatican 2 – prevalent among many of the hierarchy and resonating among some segments of the faithful.

      In reference to an earlier respondent – we need to feel free to QUESTION church beliefs, practices, structures (respectfully and when necessary) – and to VOICE our concerns to our leaders (see Canon Law). Consequently, I’m planning to attend one of Fr. Schuller’s sessions on his speaking tour.

      • Friends
        Friends says:

        Great post, Richard — and also well worth noting that Pope John has just been named Pope St. John XXIII by Pope Francis! Those conservatives who believe that Vatican II was all about “destroying the True Church” are welcome to attempt to square that particular circle!

  4. Lisa Burke
    Lisa Burke says:

    I am very concerned about the notion of not letting someone speak because they raise controversial issues. That’s a cover for we don’t like his point of view on the particular issues and that, from Cardinal O’Malley, is very troubling and disappointing. Quite frankly, I think it’s a priest’s job to raise issue and guide us in working through them.

    On Mon, Jul 8, 2013 at 10:03 PM, Bondings 2.0


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