Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley is banning Austrian priest Rev. Helmut Schuller from speaking at a Catholic Church in Boston as the Reverend’s preachings “promote positions that are contrary to Catholic teachings.”
The Boston Globe reports that when the reform-minded group Voices of the Faithful needed a locale for Rev. Schuller to bring his tour ‘The Catholic Tipping Point: Conversations with Helmut Schuller,’ St. Susanna’s Parish in Boston offered their space with the permission of the parish’s deacon and director of adult faith formation, Larry Bloom.
Cardinal O’Malley, however, has since blocked Rev. Schuller and his tour from making a stop at the Catholic St. Susanna Parish as the Reverend’s discussions go against present Church doctrine.
Reverend Schuller is the founder of Austrian Priests’ Initiative, which advocates allowing women and married people to become priests and greater lay participation as ways of addressing a priest shortage, reports The Boston Globe. The Initiative also calls for celibacy to be an option among the ordained.
Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said in a statement released to the Boston Globe: “It is the policy of the Archdiocese of Boston, and the generally accepted practice in dioceses across the country, not to permit individuals to conduct speaking engagements in Catholic parishes or at church events when those individuals promote positions that are contrary to Catholic teachings.”
Since being prevented from speaking at St. Susanna’s, Rev. Schuller’s speaking engagement has been moved to a nearby Unitarian Universalist Church.
Larry Bloom, a deacon and director of adult faith formation at St. Susanna, said his parish has a longstanding relationship with Voice of the Faithful, and when that group needed a venue for Schuller’s talk, he did some research.
“I found out he was a priest, I found out he had a parish, I found out that he was in good standing with the Archdiocese of Vienna, and then I called them back and said sure,” Bloom told the Boston Globe.
After Cardinal O’Malley blocked Rev. Schuller from speaking at St. Susanna’s, Bloom said “The archbishop has the right to have his own thoughts on the matter, and he has a lot more to think about than we do at our own parish.”
However, not everyone shared Bloom’s sentiments.
Sister Chris Schenk, executive director for Future Church, which advocates opening ordination to all baptized Catholics, said “Cardinal O’Malley is known to be a pastoral person and certainly as someone who is dealing with the ravages of the priest shortage in Boston, I would have hoped he would be more sympathetic.”
“Laypeople have to be able to have a voice and a venue to talk about their honest concerns and questions, and to just refuse any Catholic venue for this conversation to take place sends a very, very sad message.”
Two years ago, Rev. Schuller and his Austrian Priests’ Initiative issued a ‘Call to Disobedience’ which saw several hundred priests pledge to begin serving communion to any Christian of goodwill, including non-Catholics and the divorced and remarried; to advocate for ordination of women and married people; to let trained laity preach, including women; and to oppose closing parishes.
“We will advocate that every parish has a presiding leader, man or woman, married or unmarried, full time or part time,” the manifesto of the ‘Call to Disobedience’ says. “Rather than consolidating parishes, we call for a new image of the priest.”
Afterwards, in late 2012, the Vatican stripped Rev. Schuller of his monsignor title, though he does still remain an active priest.
Rev. Schuller’s plans to fight the growing priest shortage through the redefinition of priests in the Catholic Church differ from Cardinal O’Malley’s. O’Malley wants consolidate parishes in Boston by grouping the current 288 parishes into 135 collaboratives, each of which will share a single team of priests, staff, and lay leaders.