A retired Swiss nun is campaigning for an end to compulsory priestly celibacy after the young priest at her parish was forced to leave the priesthood for love.

Driving the news

Florentina Camartin spoke to Swissinfo

The Swiss woman, who was an Ingenboden nun for 44 years, said her push began when the young priest in her parish of Brigels went public with his relationship and was forced to resign.

That was after seven years of service on his part in the parish.

“We were all sad and didn’t understand why our priest had to give up work because of a relationship with a woman”, Camartin lamented.

“It’s one of the most normal things in the world between young people”.


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Go deeper

“I’ve seen men that I could have liked. Very attractive ones. But I knew deep inside that that wasn’t the path for me”, the retired nun said of her own struggle with the single life.

“When I turned 65 I couldn’t just go and live in the nuns’ retirement home.

“I felt that I still had to do something for the common good”.

That desire to contribute to the Church and society led Camartin to draw up a petition against compulsory priestly celibacy.

“Celibacy is the decision to live without a partner or sexual relations”, the Swiss woman explained.

“Celibacy was created for a variety of reasons: so that clerical people cannot inherit goods and offices.

“But it also took on a spiritual meaning: a cleric had to be something special”.

Camartin said, however, that that special setting-apart of priests no longer has relevance for today’s world.

“God created people as men and women. Genesis 1:31 says: ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good'”, the retired nun explained.

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Why it matters

“When priests have to give up work we have parishes without a priest. And a parish without a priest is like a flock without a shepherd”, Camartin lamented of the tough six months the Brigels parish spent without a priest, until one arrived from India.

There are around 1,200 priests in Switzerland, but their average age is 65.

For Camartin, it’s clear drastic steps have to be taken to end the vocations drought.

“Instead of cursing, I thought about what people could do. Now’s the time to do something”, she explained.

I talked to other people in the church community.

“I was in favour of collecting signatures and submitting them to the Pope or the bishops. So that they know what we really think. What would they do with no followers!”, the former nun asked.

“Lots of people participated: 5,277 people signed the petition. 1,399 even wrote a comment too”, Camartin explained.

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What’s next

Camartin said that, contrary to earlier media reports, she hasn’t yet handed to the Pope her petition calling for an end to compulsory priestly celibacy.

“It must reach him; he must see it”, she said, though she acknowledged that “whether anything changes is another matter”.

The former nun said that whatever happens with her signatures it’s a “step in the right direction”.

“New steps are always needed: impetus. Step by step they’ll realise: we have to change”.