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 Good, CORPUS, FutureChurch, 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