Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Eugene Kennedy, a friend of WEORC, composed the following article and offered a treasured photo of himself and Hans Kung.


           Austria’s Father Helmut Schuller’s current Tipping Point Tour on which he is calling Catholicism’s leaders and people back to the documents and spirit of renewal of Vatican II follows by half a century Swiss theologian Hans Kung’s tour of America, speaking on what then seemed a revolutionary idea, “The Church and Freedom.”

            Anyone who was in the crowd that packed McCormack Place to hear Kung, whose book on the Church and Reform, had ignited the imagination of Catholics as it revealed the possibilities of the Council that was then in session, will recall the electrical charge that exploded like a flash bulb in the crowd’s response to his presentation.  Prominent layman Dan Herr had introduced him and said later that the wave of enthusiasm that swept up from the crowd convinced him that the Church was really ready for change.

            Kung received at least half of the back of the ecclesiastical hand that has slapped Father Schuller for his prophet’s call to re-invigorate the Church by returning to the work of the Council in which Kung had played such an important role.  Kung received an interdict from the Catholic University of America but an honorary degree from St. Louis University.  One of the first actions taken by Pope John Paul II was to decree that Kung could no longer be regarded as a Catholic theologian at the University of Tubingen where, even stripped of that credential, he has continued to be a leader in Church reform and renewal.

            Father Schuller has been denied permission to speak in Catholic Churches or schools by bishops who, much as in Kung’s day, do not want to fail to ban a speaker or silence a theologian if that looks like the pope’s wishes.  Father Schuller enters the New Inquisition Sweepstakes not riding a sleek thoroughbred bearing theological colors but on the clerical Budweiser workhorse of hierarchical indenture,  He has worked as a Church official and knows that its stable of swayback horses desperately needs to be cleaned out or burned down so that the Church can enter fully into the only race that counts, the human race.

            You won’t find irony as rich as that associated with the punishment he received from the Austrian hierarchy.  They told him that he was no longer a monsignor, a title out of medieval court life, the loss of which turns out to be a tribute to Schuller who is committed to bringing the Church as a Servant to humanity in the 21st century.  Schuller is traveling on the energy generated by Kung and the reformers of Vatican II, urging people and bishops to commit themselves to the evangelization urged by that Council rather than the evangelization, a return to the middle ages and monsignors, urged as a new “interpretation” of Vatican II by those partners in retro-theology and Church discipline, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

            If Schuller and Kung, following the same knight’s calling to retrieve the Holy Grail, might, in a sense, have been separated at birth, so, too, the Popes, John XXIII and Francis, separated by the same half century, nonetheless possess the same master pastoral gene.  John XXIII expressed it in his bringing his country roots with him into the Vatican, breaking centuries of traditions, such as the pope’s eating alone, and, when told that the workers would not come near him when he walked in the papal gardens, asked, “Why not, I won’t harm them?”  He disdained the official papal footwear and had a pair of familiar farmer’s boots modified for his many ambles around the Vatican and occasionally into Rome itself.  He laughed when he was told that the English journalists called him “Johnny Walker.”

            Pope Francis seems to many nervous Catholics too good to be true and they worry that this man who, in his large-hearted simplicity and common sense, may somehow turn out to be different than he has seemed, less like John in the long run and more like Benedict.  Any pope who can say that having the previous pope around is like having grandpa nearby does not seem likely to lose the humanity that makes him so attractive. 

            When John XXIII was pope and had broken down barriers by the kind of embrace that he gave the delegation of Jewish officials, saying, “I am Joseph and you are my brothers,” prompted philosopher Hannah Arendt, who had noted his work to save Jews during the war, to write, :We have a Christian sitting on the throne of Peter.”

            She would write the same thing if she heard of Pope Francis’s pastoral response when, on his plane returning from World Youth Day in Rio, he was asked about homosexuals and he answered, obviously from his heart, of their human goodness, of our need to support rather than censure them, and, who was he to judge them is they were seeking God in their own way? 

            The wonderful thing about these words about homosexuals is that nobody – no speechwriter, advisor, or P.R. expert, much less a curial official or a screenwriter – could have imagined the saving simplicity of Francis’s profoundly Christian words.  He speaks as John XXIII did when aked why he called Vatican II into session.  He did not respond by saying that the Church had to tighten up but that it had to open up, and his purpose was not to save monsignors or other trappings of the past, but that he did it for the people, “so that the human sojourn on earth might be less sad.”   That, of course, is why Francis urges bishops and priests to get out of the institution and into the midst of their people.  The Church is indeed to make the journey of all people less sad.

            So blessed are we that we have in Father Schuller a priest who calls us back to Vatican II much as Hans Kung had called us to it half a century ago.   Francis stands as unself-consciously as a pastoral pope as John XXIII did in that same era.  Father Schuller is not just calling for healthy reforms, he is bringing back, as is Pope Francis, the excitement that filled the Church at the time of Vatican II.  While Benedict XVI worked hard to bring us back to the 19th century of Vatican I, Francis is gently bidding us to rediscover the riches of that Council so that we may serve the world better, so that, in fact, we may join in making the “human sojourn on earth less sad.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Catholic Tipping Point: Conversations with Helmut Schüller

Internationally acclaimed Austrian priest activist,

Fr. Helmut Schüller to tour 15 US cities - July 16-August 7

Fr. Helmut Schuller is the charismatic founder of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, (Pfarrer-Initiative) organized in 2006 to address a deepening shortage of priests forcing many Austrian parishes to close. His work inspired the establishment of similar priest groups in Germany, Ireland, France, the United States and Australia.

Schüller’s U.S. Tour comes in the midst of a steadily worsening priest shortage. A 2009 study from the National Federation of Priests’ Councils found that for every 100 U.S. priests who retire, only 30 are available to replace them.

In June 2011, the Pfarrer-Initiative issued a “Call to Disobedience” calling for lay leadership and preaching in parishes without a priest, permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive sacraments and support for the ordination of women and married men.

Fr. Schuller’s 15-city tour of the US is a result of an invitation by FutureChurch and the work of a coalition of nine church reform organizations*.

His visit is being called Catholic Tipping Point because priests and people worldwide are creating a critical mass transforming the Church from the bottom up.


Wed 7/24, Chicago Hosted by Call To Action, Theatre Building of UNO Rogers Park
7400 Ridge Ave, Chicago (immediately south of St Scholastica Monastery
Registration and Networking 6 pm - 7 pm

Bob Heineman - - 847.682.1056