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Fresh Air from an Austrian Priest

Story ID:9116
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Cleveland Ohio USA
Person:Fr. Helmut Schuller
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I admired, respected, and loved Blessed Pope John XXIII.
He was my idea of a true leader of the Catholic Church.
He was famous for ushering in the Second Vatican II Council-
hoping to bring fresh air into a church which badly needed
it. Sadly, he didn't live to see his reforms instituted. And
I don't believe that the two Popes who followed him tried or
even wanted to institute them.

Pope Francis has declared him a saint based on his merits
of opening the Second Vatican Council -thereby bypassing the
traditionally required second miracle. Both he and John
Paul II are expected to be canonised by the end of 2013.

I believe that Pope Francis seems to be of the same ilk as
the roly poly John XXIII. For a certainty, his style is
winning many hearts. I can't tell you the surprise and
happiness I experienced when I found out that he had
chosen the name Francis. I only pray that he will try to
live up to the charisms and legacies of this beautiful and
compassionate saint.

It seems to me that the Franciscan Order has not embraced
Francis' love and concern for ALL God's creatures which includes
the animals. Whether Pope Francis will is yet to be seen, but
I have genuine hope that he will.


This past week I was delighted to learn that Father Helmut
Schuller of Austria had given a talk to 150 attentive but
basically subdued listeners at the Cleveland City Club. I so
admired him for doing this because, in my opinion, Cleveland
is basically conservative in their views. However, this was
his second talk in the area. The night before this- the 60-year
old priest had addressed 500 people in Independence, Ohio.

He was invited to a three week, 15-city tour in the United
States sponsored by 10 U.S. liberal Catholic reform groups
which included Lakewood-based FutureChurch. Sr. Chritine Schenk
is the executive director of FutureChurch and she said she
supports Schuller's message because it contains the same
issues her group and the other liberal organizations believe in.

Schuller's message is called "The Catholic Tipping Point." The
Austrian priest told the Cleveland City Club audience that while
female priests, married priests, and same-sex marriage tolerance
may not be compatible with the present Roman Catholic church's
teachings, these reformations to church doctrine are possible
solutions for the growing priest shortage.

He will not be visiting either Detroit or Boston because sadly
both have banned him from their Catholic churches. How disappointing
that Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley who was born in Lakewood, a
suburb of Cleveland, rejected Schuller because he said his beliefs
oppose the church's doctrines. In my opinion, he has so little
vision and concern for people becaue he fails to see the need to
incorporate new doctrines as the Spirit moves.

I am very happy that Schuller had not been banned in Cleveland.
I hope that he has sparked some serious thinking on the issues he has
raised here and in the other cities where he will speak.

Of his talk -Sr. Christine Schenk reflected: We have many men and
women called to priesthood, but they're denied because they're married,
they want to have a family, or they are women. There's no shortage
of vocations, but we have a shortage of vision."

At this juncture, I would have reminded the audience that the Byzantine
Catholics had married priests and also raised families. My sisters
and I were baptised by a married priest who had a daughter.

As for women priests - up until the 16th century there had been women
deaconesses. They should never have disbanded this beautiful calling.

The reporter of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did not give us a general
feeling of how the talk went- which in my opinion, was like a much
needed blast of fresh air. Were the attendees receptive and ready for
his call to reform?

I admired him for taken on this subject which should be embraced by
a church which claims to follow Jesus Christ. I think it all boils
down to how we perceive Jesus. Do we see Him embracing a male-dominated
church which refuses to budge an inch from their conservative views?

Do we see Him condoning the heavy hand of church leaders last year-
accusing the Sisters of trying to undermine the church with their
social concerns for the poor instead of helping them with their
conservative agenda. Strange. They give no positions of authority
to the Sisters who have dedicated their lives to Christ as have they,
but expect them to walk lock step with their agendas.

I wish Father Helmut Schuller much success in his compassionate
endeavors. We do need to here from people of faith like him
who are working to address the needs of the church which embraces
all the followers of Jesus Christ.