After three years, it has finally been possible to bring one of the most important voices of the Catholic Church to Upper Austria, announced former provincial governor Josef Pühringer (VP) today at a press conference of the PRO ORIENTE Foundation: The Czech theologian and sociologist Tomáš Halík, whom Pühringer called “courage and pick-me-up”, attests to Christianity’s tiredness: after numerous scandals, the church is in a deep crisis from which it cannot free itself with institutional reforms alone.
“It needs a new spirituality, a revival of faith,” says Halík. The church must find a middle ground between two extremes – total adaptation to modern society and the development of a counterculture. In doing so, they should not give in to nationalism or fundamentalism.
As far as the current synodal reform process – in which Catholic representatives from all countries are involved – is concerned, Halík has no great expectations: “I’m a bit afraid that nothing will come of it and that it will once again be just slogans”. He drew a comparison with the Second Vatican Council, which had only scratched the surface of modernization in many countries.
“It doesn’t work without women”
The church must open up, offer spiritual advice and accompany people in their search for meaning. Halík describes the shortage of priests as a “catastrophe”. The practice of getting priests from distant countries is usually not a good solution: “Priests have to know and understand the culture of the country”. The ecclesiastical offices should also be opened to women, because “without women it doesn’t work,” says the religious philosopher. In the rejection he locates a “psychological problem” that is covered up by “theological bogus arguments”. The church must also devote more attention to issues such as climate change and social justice. The goal is a “widely ecumenically open Christianity”.
An “honest discussion about the future of the Catholic Church” awaits visitors tonight at the Schloss Puchberg educational center in Wels. There the theologian will speak from 7 p.m. on the current challenges for Christians. Participation is also possible without registration. One wants to talk to people about how faith could work today, says Helmut Ausserwöger, director of the educational center.
About Tomáš Halík
The theologian and sociologist was born in Prague in 1948 and grew up under communism. In 1978 he was secretly ordained a priest and worked underground until the collapse of the regime. He was an advisor to Czech President Václav Havel, and former governor Pühringer describes him as the “moral conscience in the Czech Republic.”
Halík has published numerous books and has received the Templeton Prize, among others. He teaches at Charles University in Prague and has also been a visiting professor at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. He is also pastor of the Academic Parish in Prague.