National Catholic Reporter

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Austrian priest to speak at Philly college despite archdiocesan ban

Despite resistance from several dioceses, Austrian priest Fr. Helmut Schüller still will visit the 15 cities originally scheduled for his first American speaking tour this summer.

After being inspired by Schüller's message of reform, 12 organizations are sponsoring his Catholic Tipping Point tour, which will begin Tuesday and end Aug. 7.

Schüller famously led more than 400 priests in an "Appeal to Disobedience" in 2011, recommending women and married priests be ordained in response to the ongoing priest shortage. The appeal, published by the Austrian Priests Initiative, also called for laypeople to take a larger role in church leadership.

Progressive Catholic organizations and parishes are welcoming the tour, but some diocesan officials are less supportive. Expressing concern that Schüller's message will "damage the unity" of the church, the Philadelphia archdiocese issued a statement prohibiting the Austrian priest from speaking at any parish or diocesan-related facility.

The tour's Philadelphia venue, however, will not change its plans.

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Chestnut Hill College, a Roman Catholic school with 2,318 students and fewer than 900 undergraduates, is not affiliated with the diocese, nor is it an official sponsor of the tour. Chestnut Hill is not turning Schüller away, even though Archbishop Charles Chaput communicated his concerns directly to the college.

While the college "fully respects" Chaput's decision, it still will welcome Schüller to the campus "as part of the College's continuing mission to encourage dialogue on issues of importance to society," Chestnut Hill said in an email to NCR.

The college "does not take any position with respect to the views expressed by Fr. Schüller," the email said.

Despite the college's autonomy, the archdiocese expressed disapproval of the decision to allow Schüller to speak on campus property.

"Allowing a campus venue to be used in this manner is regrettable and inevitably damages the unity of the local church," the archdiocese wrote in its statement.

While tour organizers did not have to relocate in Philadelphia, they did have to find a new venue in Boston after a similar proclamation by Cardinal Sean O'Malley banning Schüller from speaking on archdiocesan property.

MORE:
Austrian reform-minded priest to embark on US tour

Boston Cardinal O'Malley bans touring Austrian priest from parish

[Kate Simmons is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is ksimmons@ncronline.org.]

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