We are in a time of increased tensions, uncertainties and changes in the Catholic Church . Particularly troubling is the loss of moral authority resulting from the continuing sexual abuse crisis and evidence of institutional coverup. The purpose of this site is to examine what is happening by linking to worldwide news stories, particularly from the English speaking church and the new breath of fresh air blowing through the church with the pontificate of Pope Francis.
Friday, July 26, 2013
Archbishop Allen Vigneron bans liberal priest speech from Westland church
Patricia Montemurri and Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press
July 26, 2013
Detroit Catholic Archbishop Allen Vigneron has banned an Austrian priest from speaking at a Westland Catholic parish today because the Rev. Helmut Schüller advocates allowing women and married men to be priests, in opposition to current church teaching.
Schüller was scheduled to speak at SS. Simon and Jude parish in Westland. But instead, his address, which is free and open to the public, will be held at Wayne Memorial High School. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. talk.
Schüller was also banned from speaking in Catholic churches in other areas of the U.S.
Speaking to the Free Press on Thursday, Schüller criticized Catholic leaders in Detroit and other cities for banning him from church property, saying that it reflects the very problem he’s trying to highlight — a leadership out of touch with the people.
“It reflects an old-fashioned system,” Schüller said by phone from Cleveland, where he was to speak Thursday night. “It’s behavior I cannot understand.”
Schüller said such actions show a “lack of respect for the ability of people to decide for themselves and make up their own mind.”
“It irritates me,” he said.
Last year, the Vatican stripped Schüller of the title “monsignor” because of his activism. Yet, he remains a working priest in Austria, where he teaches at a Catholic university.
The Austrian priest is touring 15 U.S. cities. Last week, he was banned from speaking at a Boston parish by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and he was banned in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia because his views contradict Catholic teachings, according to published reports. Before he arrives in Detroit, Schüller was scheduled to speak in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland at non-Catholic facilities. Schüller’s tour is being sponsored by several Catholic reform advocacy groups.
Archdiocese of Detroit spokesman Joe Kohn said Vigneron became aware of Schüller’s visit because of phone complaints the archdiocese received. Kohn said Vigneron’s decision was communicated in early July to SS. Simon and Jude pastor, the Rev. Gerry Bechard. Bechard did not return phone calls or e-mails for comment.
“What (Schüller) teaches is not in harmony with Catholic Church teachings in regard to women priests,” Kohn said. “We did receive a few calls when it was made known.”
Kohn said there are no prohibitions against Catholics discussing such issues, but “it was deemed that what he has preached on in the past is not in alliance with Catholic Church teaching.”
But Schüller said that the Catholic Church’s ban on women and married priests is a church order that can be lifted. It’s not an inherent part of the teachings of the Catholic Church, whose positions have varied over the centuries, he said. Church leaders “make a mistake” when they say these are “the teachings of the church.”
Regarding the new pope, Schüller said he is hopeful, but was disappointed that he has not spoken up in favor of nuns in the U.S. who have been accused by some Vatican officials of being too liberal.
“There were some signals of hope” from the new pope, but “also things which irritated us.”
Liberal American Catholics have warmly received Schüller.
Despite being barred from church property in Boston, more than 600 people packed a Unitarian church on July 17 to hear him speak, according to a report by the Religion News Service. The crowd was so big that it “spilled out onto the church lawn,” the story said.
On Monday night, Schüller drew an overflow crowd to a Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C., to hear him speak, said Will Donahue. And Wednesday night, about 500 heard Schüller’s message at a building in Chicago that used to be a Catholic high school.
The crowd was “very enthusiastic,” said Bob Heineman, a Catholic who helped coordinate the event.
Schüller’s message resonates with many Catholics, Heineman said, because “the time is right” for reform. He criticized leaders like Vigneron and others for banning Schüller from church property, and not allowing priests to interact with him.
“The priests are afraid” to meet with Schüller, Heineman said.
For his Detroit talk Schüller was scheduled to be welcomed by Sister Chris Schenk, a Catholic nun with Future Church, a reform group. Schenk, associate director of the group, said the prohibition against Schüller’s speaking at Catholic facilities “is very sad.”
“We shouldn’t be prohibited from speaking about the main problems in the church,” Schenk said.
Schüller said his message is that lay people should stand up and get active in their church to reform it.
He’s worried that Catholic leaders “are losing contact with the ground (reality) of the society.”
“Speak out clearly,” he urged lay Catholics. “We should take care of our church. ...We should be responsible for its future.”