Hundreds Pack Unitarian Church To Hear Reformist Catholic Priest

(NPR) Hundreds of people, most of them Catholic, turned out Wednesday night in Dedham to hear a reformist Catholic priest from Austria.

The Rev. Helmut Schuller was scheduled to speak at Saint Susanna Parish in Dedham, but was barred by Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley due to his positions on several issues which run contrary to official Catholic Church doctrine. So the meeting was moved to a Unitarian church — First Church and Parish in Dedham.

People lined up in the suffocating heat outside First Church as early as 3 p.m. Wednesday. Shortly after 6 p.m., when the doors opened, a sizable crowd had gathered.

“The windows in a Protestant church open,” someone in the crowd said as people filed into the old church, some of its windows jarred open with electric fans. “Ours haven’t opened since John XXIII died.”

People nearly filled the pews, and another 200 opted to listen via loudspeakers outside on the cooler town green.

Schuller is among Austrian priests pushing for the ordination of women and married priests. He also wants lay Catholics to have more say in how the church is run. Schuller is touring the U.S. this summer. Wednesday night he spoke of the closing of Austrian churches. [more]