Friday, July 26, 2013

Archbishop Allen Vigneron bans liberal priest speech from Westland church

July 26, 2013

Fr. Helmut Schüller
Fr. Helmut Schüller 

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.”

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  1. He's been told by countless others that he's wrong, yet he insists that those that say these are teachings of the church are wrong? Just a bit of pride there it seems.

    1. The American Catholic bishops are intolerant of ideas and reject change that threatens their grip on power. Change will come from the faithful. The Church belongs to the laity. I agree with Al that renewal must come from an energized laity.

    2. Since the beginning of the church the teachings have been directed by the Bishops, read the church fathers and Acts, not the laity.

    3. What is the meaning of "Catholic"? Is this word defined by the Bishops alone? The Catholics I know are not followers of the Church on sexual ethics or on women as priests. There's a great divide now, very likely an unbridgeable one, between the Bishops and the laity on issues such as women priests and contraception and increasingly on gay marriage. Read the polls.

    4. I have know the pastor, Gerry Bechard for many many years. He was "okay" 30+ years ago. But over time he has gone off the edge... from the design of the current church (he did not want kneelers but may protests forced him to "give in"), to his active participation in the group Elephants in the Living Room... a group of "catholics" promoting women priests.

      I know there is a shortage of priests.... perhaps one reason is that our young men are wary of association with bad priests. Please Bishop, remove Fr Gerry.