Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley is banning a dissident Austrian priest from speaking at a parish in Dedham, prompting a coalition of reform-minded Catholics who invited the priest to move their event to a nearby Unitarian Universalist church.
The Rev. Helmut Schuller was invited to speak at St. Susanna Parish on July 17 as part of a 15-city tour of the United States called “The Catholic Tipping Point,” sponsored by a coalition of progressive Catholic organizations, including the Needham-based Voice of the Faithful.
Schuller is the founder of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, which advocates for women’s ordination, optional celibacy for priests, and greater lay participation as ways of addressing a priest shortage in Western Europe. About 1 in 10 Austrian priests now belong to the group, the Austrian Independent newspaper reported this month. Similar groups have sprung up elsewhere, including the United States.
Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, said in a statement released to the 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.”
But leaders of the coalition that invited Schuller expressed disappointment with O’Malley’s decision.
“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” to Schuller’s message, said Sister Chris Schenk, executive director of Future Church, which advocates opening ordination to all baptized people. “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.”