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The Catholic Spring: Ferment in Switzerland

One of the disadvantages of English as a home language, is that too often it leaves us weak in other tongues, and as a result all too ignorant of developments in the wider world (outside, that is, the UK, the USA, and the British Commonwealth). A case in point is the matter of Catholic discussion around matters of ordination to the priesthood, which the Vatican insists must be restricted to celibate males. In the English – speaking world, the National Catholic Reporter caused a stir last week with an editorial proclaiming that contrary to directives from Rome, Catholics have not only a right but a duty to discuss women’s ordination, but in other regions, discussions have gone much further.  Fortunately for us linguistically challenged English speakers, Rebel Girl does a sterling job of bringing to our attention useful information from foreign language press, in English translation. From Brazil, for example, she reported recently how Archbishop Dom Jacinto Furtado de Brito Sobrinho of Teresina

told reporters last week that, regardless of any opinions Pope Benedict XVI may have expressed on the importance of celibacy, the pontiff’s words on this question are not infallible. He reiterated the Church teaching that the Pope is only considered infallible on matters of faith and morals and mandatory celibacy doesn’t fit in those categories. The bishop added that “the fact that to be a priest you also have to be celibate is a discipline that the Church can change.”

-Rebel Girl, at Rentapriest

But it’s in Switzerland that things are getting really interesting. In a fascinating pamphlet, a Swiss abbot, Martin Werlen, has gone way, way beyond simply urging us to discuss ordaining women priests – he has suggested among other notable innovations, that it is time for the Church to appoint women cardinals!

Continue reading

Swiss Bishop Calls for Radical Reform, Women Priests.

Hard on the heels of the controversy over the dismissal of Australian Bishop Morris over some very cautious remarks he made years ago, on the need to consider ordaining women priests, comes this report of a Swiss bishop, who has gone much further. Instead of simply call for consideration of the idea, he is explicit – Bishop Markus Büchel of St. Gallen is explicit in his support for the ordination of women. To him, the search is not over the principle, but over the immediate steps that will get us there (possibly beginning with a women’s diaconate).

Also interesting to me, is that this call appears to have been only part of a much wider appeal for wide-ranging reform. Sadly, this report, which seems to be just an English translation of the original German at Der Sonntag, does not give any detail of the wider reforms envisaged. My guess, though, is that this is likely to be similar to those spelled out by German speaking theologians of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.   Continue reading

Abuse: Germany, Netherlands, Austria – Switzerland

Swiss media: 60 people report abuses by priests

GENEVA — Around 60 people have reported being victims of abuse by Catholic priests in Switzerland, a Swiss abbot said in an interview published by a newspaper Saturday.

Abbot Martin Werlen of the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln said some of the allegations were reported to the Swiss Bishops Conference’s commission on abuses, according to Swiss daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung. Werlen indicated that others were reported to different dioceses.

Werlen, who is a member of the commission on abuses at the Bishops Conference, did not specify where the alleged cases occurred or when they might have happened.

Neue Zuercher Zeitung said on its Web site the 60 alleged cases happened over the last 15 years.

Werlen acknowledged in the interview that some of the alleged abuses may have happened at the school of the Einsiedeln abbey.

“I’ve tried to address the cases I knew of and tried to process them,” he was quoted as saying.

Werlen could not be reached for comment, but Father Urban of the Abbey of Einsiedeln confirmed the authenticity of the interview.

The Bishops Conference’s commission on abuses was set up in 2002 and has been looking into alleged abuses since, Werlen said, according to the interview.

Switzerland needs a central contact point coordinating different bodies dealing with such allegations, he was quoted as saying.

Werlen’s statement was the latest report of abuse by Catholic clergy or church employees in Europe, which has recently seen new allegations of sexual and physical abuse in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

(Associated Press)

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