'Appeal to Disobedience'

'Appeal to Disobedience'

Not welcome in Catholic churches, reformist priest to speak at Presbyterian church in Pasadena

By Christina Schweighofer 08/01/2013

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A reformist Roman Catholic priest from Austria who was barred from a Catholic parish in Boston in July will speak at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Friday.   

Helmut Schüller and a group he represents and cofounded, the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, advocate greater lay participation as well as the ordination of women and of married people as a solution to the priest shortage. They have also called for the church to rethink its position toward remarried and gay people.

A soft-spoken, charismatic man, Schüller runs the parish of Probstdorf, a small town 30 minutes from Vienna. In the 1990s he served as the Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s vicar general. In 2011, the Austrian Priests’ Initiative issued an “Appeal to Disobedience,” asking other priests to allow lay people of both sexes to preach. Seventy percent of Austrian Catholic priests and a vast majority of the Catholic faithful support the campaign, but the Vatican reacted by stripping Schüller of his formal title of monsignor.

In June, the initiative stated that it was hopeful Pope Francis will “lead the church in a new fashion.” But the Pope said in an unrelated press conference on Monday that his predecessor, Benedict XVI, had closed the door to female priests. He added that the church needed “a deeper theology of women” but did not specify.

Drawing crowds of up to 600 people, Schüller’s three-week US tour — it is called The Catholic Tipping Point and sponsored by 10 liberal Catholic groups — has included stops in New York, Boston and Washington, DC. In Boston, 

Cardinal Sean O’Malley forbade Schüller to speak in a Catholic parish, saying his “positions are contrary to Catholic teachings.”
A speaker for the group that organized this week’s event in Pasadena, Kevin Steen with Dignity Los Angeles, told the Weekly that because of the Boston experience his group did not try to find a Catholic parish to host the event. 

“Anyone who disagrees with current church policies is clearly not welcome on church property,” he said. Steen hopes that 200 to 300 people will turn out to hear Schüller speak in Pasadena. On Friday morning Schüller will meet privately with a handful of LA area priests who are sympathetic to his cause.

Helmut Schüller will speak at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Friday: 1757 N Lake Ave, 7:30 p.m. 

Christina Schweighofer is a freelance writer in Pasadena. Her Web site is christinaschweighofer.com.

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