In the Vineyard :: July 25, 2013 :: Volume 13, Issue 14

News from National

Reformist Priest Fr. Helmut Schuller Addresses More than 650 Faithful in Boston
More than 650 people crowded into the un-air-conditioned First Church and Parish in Dedham, Massachusetts, and spilled onto the green in front of the Church on a 91-degree, sultry summer evening July 17. They gathered to hear Fr. Helmut Schuller’s views on Catholic Church reform.

Fr. Schuller is a founder of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, which issued an “Appeal to Disobedience” calling for several structural changes in the church aimed primarily at addressing the dramatic decrease in the number of priests and resulting closing of parishes.

The crowd listened, despite the heat, as Fr. Schuller spoke for about 40 minutes and answered dozens of questions for another hour. To date, equally enthusiastic crowds have met Fr. Schuller in New York City (230 people), Philadelphia (320 people), and Baltimore (250 people).

Fr. Schuller, seeking to increase awareness of how structural reform could benefit the Roman Catholic Church, is undergoing a 15-city U.S. speaking tour, July 15-Aug. 7, called The Catholic Tipping Point: Conversations with Helmut Schuller. Voice of the Faithful® and nine other Church reform organizations sponsor the tour, and VOTF was the major sponsor of the Dedham talk.
VOTF commends courageous priests like Fr. Schuller and supports particularly his calls for transparency in Church governance, a greater lay voice in running the Church, and the ordination of married Catholic men as priests.

For more information about the tour, including a list of dates and sites, information about the Austrian Priests' Initiative, and links to media coverage, check the Catholic Tipping Point site, especially the In the News link there. You also can follow Fr. Schuller’s activities on his blog.

Special thanks go to Ron DuBois, who spearheaded the VOTF participation in this tour and the Boston leg of it; to Deacon Larry Bloom of St. Susanna’s who did so much to prepare for the event, find a suitable alternative site, and publicize the tour; and to Sharon Harrington and Stan and Eileen Doherty, VOTF members who provided outdoor speakers and a mike so that the overflow crowd on the outdoor green could hear the speech.
Special thanks also go to the members of the First Church in Dedham, who not only provided a site but also did so much to make the event successful—and tolerable in the heat!

Equally successful was Fr. Schuller’s first stop, in New York City, and subsequent stops in Washington, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Following are a couple of reports from each of those the sites already visited by Father Schuller:

New York City—Huge success ... Very enthusiastic crowd ... he concluded his formal presentation [to] a great round of applause. All the clergy present were invited to stand, so that we could thank them, and that got a huge round of applause ... we then moved into the Q&A, which went very well and ran for 40 minutes. My sense was that the audience was thrilled to hear him, and his presentation was very authentic.

Philadelphia—the official count is 320: 230 chairs and 90 standees or on the floor. Carol Jean Vale [president of college site] attended and stayed after to visit people ... This is a beautiful facility and they did everything they could for us. We had 200 programs and ribbons. ... Helmut was inspiring; he spoke for about 50 minutes and answered questions for another half hour. Good stories, with a lot of laughter and approval. 20 priests came in the afternoon and talked with Helmut for the whole 2 hours. Most came back at night.

Baltimore—Helmut had lunch in Baltimore with 5 priests. ... People just jammed into the church on the sweltering afternoon. We scrambled to get all their information ... While we had only 85 pre-registered, we planned materials for 200. We ran out of programs and name tags! The church was full. ... We estimate we had at least 250 people, judging from the number of pews and people/pew, with people sitting on the floor and in the vestibule. We were grateful that Archbishop Lori had not publicly opposed the meeting, because managing 250 was a challenge. ... We were proud of Baltimore, because the Catholic population of Baltimore is much less than the previous cities Helmut visited, and we had an overflow crowd. ... People responded so enthusiastically to Helmut and his message--lots of applause and standing ovations (and lots of kudos at the reception afterwards). The people are hungry for a return of the spirit of Vatican II ... After dinner, Helmut met with another 7 priests.

For those who were unable to see Father Schuller speak, VOTF is working on putting together a DVD which will soon be available on our website. Stay tuned.

What’s Happening?

  • On Sunday, July 28, CBS News' 60 Minutes will rerun its segment on the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Check your local TV listings!

  • Evangelizing the Institutional Church: An Interview with Helmut Schuller, which National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson conducted just before Fr. Schuller's talk in New York City (The link takes you to VOTF's blog post on the interview, and you can sign up to receive emails about future postings.)

  •  ORF-TV Interviews Fr. Helmut Schuller -- A major Austrian television network is following Fr. Schuller during his U.S. speaking tour and interviewed him at his stops in New York City and Boston. The announcer is speaking German but the reporter interviews several VOTF members in English.


Highlighting issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church

Church Leaders Need to Re-Examine Response to Sex Abuse
Each time there is another disclosure of documents -- correspondence, transcripts of depositions, diocesan memos—the reality of an insular, secretive, Renaissance court culture aggressively protective of its clerical status and privilege becomes more apparent. Note: For VOTF’s assessment of the clerical culture, see our web page on Clericalism.

Catholic Church Lobbies to Avert Sex Abuse Lawsuits
At the height of the clergy sex-abuse scandal in 2002, Catholic leaders stayed silent as California lawmakers passed a landmark bill that gave hundreds of accusers extra time to file civil lawsuits. The consequences were costly. Now, state legislators are considering a bill that would give some alleged victims more time to sue. But this time, the church is waging a pitched battle in Sacramento to quash it.
-- Catholic Church Lobbies against California Abuse Bill

Australia Inquiry Hears of 50-Year Cover-Up
The Hunter Valley in New South Wales recently has become known as the epicenter of Catholic sex abuse in Australia. A special commission of inquiry in Newcastle has heard that leaders of the diocese knew of the numerous pedophiliac activities of one priest for 50 years, but did not notify police until 2003.

Pope Updates Vatican City State Law, Criminalizing Sex Abuse, Leaks
Pope Francis has overhauled the laws that govern the Vatican city-state, criminalizing leaks of Vatican information and specifically listing sexual violence, prostitution, and possession of child pornography as crimes against children that can be punished by up to 12 years in prison.
-- Pope Criminalizes Leaks, Sex Abuse in First Laws
-- Pope Francis Targets Child Abuse, Leaks in Vatican Legal Reform
-- Pope Francis Criminalizes Child Sex Abuse, Vatican Leaks in Motu Proprio

Catholic Church Needs Shift from Business as Usual
The recent release of documents by the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese involving sexual abuse of minors by priests not only represents another step in the long road toward healing for the victims and their families but also serves as further validation of an organizational culture steeped in denial and a clear preference for looking the other way.

Fr. Helmut Schuller Kicks Off ‘Catholic Tipping Point’ Tour
Fr. Helmut Schüller should be on summer vacation right now. Instead, the Austrian priest, who gained international attention in 2011 for his "Call to Disobedience," has chosen to spend his time off from parish ministry offering a presentation titled "The Catholic Tipping Point: Conversations" in 15 U.S. cities. The tour kicked off July 22 at Manhattan's Judson Memorial Church.
-- Fr. Helmut Schuller Makes Debut in NYC

Read the rest of this issue of Focus by clicking here ...

Vatican II Expert Remembered
“VOTF’s Carolyn Disco recognizes the work of Msgr. Wilfrid Henry Paradis, an expert adviser at the Second Vatican Council, in a moving tribute published in this week’s National Catholic Reporter. Disco also wrote an extensive piece on Msgr. Paradis for his Requiem Mass. It includes recollections of the journey to the priesthood Paradis traveled, the medals of honor he was awarded during WWII, a snapshot of his work on Vatican II and an article by Paradis himself.

Book Corner

Not Less Than Everything
Catholic Writers on Heroes of Conscience from Joan of Arc to Oscar Romero, edited by Catherine Wolff

Reviewed by Margaret Roylance

In the excellent introduction to this collection of essays by editor Catherine Wolff she clearly articulates the need for the book.  The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is increasingly isolated from those it claims to lead.  Where, then, do we find authentic moral guidelines in response to the legitimate demands of the society in which we live?   Where do we find the gospel preached and the practice of the faith lived out in authenticity, a close connection to companions who have lived through times like ours?  We yearn for such spiritual leadership.  She concludes that there is nowhere better to look than the communion of the saints.

Fr. Jim Martin, S.J., told her that compiling a collection of lives of heroes of conscience was a fine idea, but that her lifetime would not be long enough to write such a book.  In response she enlisted an impressive collection of writers and theologians for essays about individuals whose experience spoke to them, whose witness they valued.   The assembled collection is wide-ranging  - Joan of Arc to Oscar Romero, Martin Luther to Dorothy Day, Corita Kent to Michel Montaigne (the inventor of the essay!).   Their stories are told in many voices.

Since each of the essays is a sort of dialogue between the writer and subject, they reveal a great deal about both.  Some of the essays are straightforward stories of the lives and the times that tried the souls of these brave women and men.  Others focus on the perceived connection between the writer and subject to the extent that the story seems more about the author.  Since the authors are an interesting group, that may hold much of the attraction for some readers.  Some of the heroes of conscience are well known, and some lived and died without attracting great public notice for their bravery and the price they paid for it.

Many of their stories involve confrontations with ecclesiastical authority.  None of them submitted to authority easily or quickly.   Some, such as Edward Schillebeeckx, continued to write and teach despite being summoned to Rome for examination several times.  Mother Mary MacKillop was excommunicated by her bishop for gathering evidence that a priest serving at one of her schools had committed sexual abuse.   She and her sisters were cut adrift and found refuge with Protestant and Jewish friends until the bishop repented and lifted the excommunication on his deathbed.  Although this was not the last difficulty she would face during her ministry, she persevered through them all and was eventually canonized in October 2010, the first recognized Australian saint.

The stories in this collection that moved me most were those that were new to me. One wonderful example was that of Father Horace McKenna, S.J. , a Jesuit who was banned from the confessional by his bishop, Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle of the Archdiocese of Washington, after he and forty other area priests signed a dissenting “Statement of Conscience” in response to Humanae Vitae.  When Cardinal O’Boyle asked Fr. McKenna by what authority he had taken that action, he answered, “Forty years in the confessional.”  As author Alice McDermott says of him, he didn’t just hear confessions, he actually listened to them.  As a result of what he learned, he opposed the encyclical because he thought authority shouldn’t command the impossible.

His story and the others in this collection should help all of us do the right thing as we make our pilgrim way through life as faithful Christians.   In her introduction Catherine Wolff suggests that, if our religious leaders wish to reestablish their authority, they should lead exemplary lives, adopt simplicity in dress and language, cultivate humility.  I may be guilty of irrational exuberance, but I think we may have a Pope in Francis who is moving in that direction.  No matter what our leaders do, however, we will always need to look beyond the hierarchy for models of daily life.  There will always be situations where we will need to gather our courage to the sticking point and speak out against injustice and cruelty as our consciences lead us.  Catherine Wolff reminds us that noted theologians from Thomas Aquinas to Joseph Ratzinger have affirmed it is better to perish in excommunication than violate one’s conscience. 

Letters to the Editor

I welcome that VOTF is co-sponsoring Fr. Schuller’s US tour. I believe Fr. Schuller will be one major part of the long process of modernizing the self-perpetuating oligarchy currently running the Roman Catholic Church. I am encouraged that some of the sponsoring organizations have different views on who can be ordained. VOTF’s only official position calls for ordination of married men. Future Church advocates for women Deacons. Call to Action wants complete women’s ordination as part of priesthood of the faithful. 

The oligarchy will voluntarily cede nothing. The populace at all lower levels need to exert peaceful pressure to bring about desired change.

I personally pray for a Church council within one hundred years—warp speed for the Vatican—where women bishops, accompanied by their husbands of either gender, are full members. After all, God created all of us. Why does the oligarchy discriminate based on irrelevant criteria? How long will others tolerate it? 
Mike Magee

Great information. Good to see the action plans, with tools to use at the local level.
J. Merchant

Questions, Comments?

Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.


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