A Swiss bishop is calling for a Church Council on the ordination of women.

– “All the bishops in the world should come together and decide: yes or no”

“The facts are on the table; the time is ripe. All the bishops in the world should come together and decide: yes or no”, Auxiliary Bishop of Basel Denis Theurillat told Swiss Bishops’ news service kath.ch in an interview for his 70th birthday September 21.

The prelate acknowledged that the question of whether women should be deacons, priests and bishops is a minefield, since a ‘yes’, he said, would enrage conservative Catholics, and an ongoing ‘no’ would disappoint women themselves.

That’s why Theurillat encouraged the Pope not to rule on the “women’s question” alone, but instead to consult with bishops from around the world in a formal assembly in the Vatican. “Otherwise we will experience a schism”, the bishop warned.

The Basel auxiliary bishop said he personally would like to attend such a Council on the place of women in the Church. But if he dies before one is convoked, “I’ll just watch from the heavens”, he said.

– Swiss female lay leader wants “action” on opportunities for women: “Friendly declarations of intent are no longer enough”

Despite the ongoing attempts of some in the Church to shut down debate on the ordination of women by appealing to John Paul II’s apparently infallible veto of women priests in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, support is growing for a re-examination of the question.

Just last week, in fact, chair of the German Bishops’ Conference Bishop Georg Bätzing said that the diaconate of women is “very legitimate”, not only because in the Church “we have too few women involved in decision-making processes”, but also due to the fact that “a lot of women simply feel that they have lost their Church ties or are losing them”, and without women “the existence of the Church is in danger”.

Women themselves, too, are refusing to let up with their pushes for change in the Church.

Catholic women throughout Germany, for example, have organised for this week various activities for equal rights, while in France women have sent in applications to the nuncio in Paris for traditionally male-only roles such as deacon, priest or bishop.

Perhaps the most positive sign for women’s equality in the Church, however, is the networking taking place between Catholic women’s rights groups in different countries.

An example of that collaboration came out of Cologne in Germany last week, where president of the Synodal Council in the Swiss Canton of Zurich Franziska Driessen-Reding met with representatives from the Catholic Women’s Council and German Catholic women’s group Maria 2.0, along with Anne Soupa, a candidate to become the next Archbishop of Lyon, in France.

“We have so many women in the Church with great abilities. But I notice that some of them do not even apply for leadership positions that are not tied to ordination. This is a pity, because it is an opportunity when women are active in various leadership positions in the Church”, Driessen-Reding told kath.ch after last week’s meeting.

Lamenting that many women don’t apply for leadership roles in the Church because they “probably no longer have the strength and have been too disappointed”, or else “see no prospects with the current structures” in the Church, Driessen-Reding urged the Swiss Bishops that “action must now follow” on women’s inclusion, particularly after their meeting last week with women from the Swiss Catholic Women’s Association.

“Friendly declarations of intent are no longer enough”, Driessen-Reding warned the prelates, adding that Church leaders must “approach women more actively” with the goal of incorporating them into positions of responsibility in the hierarchy.

On Novena, more calls for the ordination of women:

German Bishops’ chair says female diaconate “very legitimate”, warns if women leave “the existence of the Church is in danger”

Cardinal Hollerich says he is “open” to ordination of women

German women are already studying to be deacons: “Gender equality and diaconality are indispensable for the future of the Church”

German, Austrian, Swiss and Italian youth call for ordination of women: “Only in this way can the Church be a strong voice for freedom”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.