Austrian reformist priest Fr. Helmut Schuller started his 15-city U.S. speaking tour, Catholic Tipping Point: Conversations with Helmut Schuller, in New York City July 16. He concluded his tour there Aug. 8 in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He brought his Roman Catholic Church reform message to more than 5,000 people during his tour and received a good deal of media coverage in the U.S. and Europe. After speaking to supporters in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fr. Schuller delivered thousands of actual and virtual red ribbons symbolizing the Holy Spirit and support for reform goals to the office of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also delivered the following letter to Cardinal Dolan:
August 8, 2013
Dear Cardinal Dolan:
Over the past three weeks, I have met with thousands of Catholics – laity and clergy – in 15 cities across the U.S. to share experiences and to learn from one another. At each place I visited, participants in our conversations wore red ribbons, signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit given to all the faithful. These ribbons as well as nearly 2,000 online signatures have been collected, and we offer them to you as a sign of our commitment to our church, a community where the People of God should be represented at every level of leadership and decision-making.
I learned much during my conversations with American Catholics. I discovered very many who are working hard to meet the challenges facing us all and to give voice to their needs, as is their right and obligation under Canon 212. I also heard from many priests who are concerned about the future of their parishes and their ministries. Sadly, many do not feel free to speak openly about their concerns. This must be a matter of concern to you as president of the USCCB. I do not believe that there is any place for fear or intimidation in our Church, and yet I found it time and again in my talks with fellow priests. I also found this same intimidation in the attempts to prevent Catholics from hearing me in Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit.
My hope is that my visit contributed to an authentic Christian conversation that must take place across our Church in every country. As we all are inspired by the example of Pope Francis, we should engage in an honest dialogue about the challenges we must overcome in making our Church a sign of the Kingdom and a sacrament to the world of the 21st century. As you know, I and my fellow priests have been working in Austria and in other parts of Europe to cultivate this dialogue. We stand ready to assist you here in the U.S. in any way we can to encourage the same honest and fearless exchange of views.
In the peace of Jesus Christ,
Rev. Helmut Schüller