The Catholic Church in Switzerland is planning a “renewal process” to tackle issues arising out of the clerical sex abuse crisis and to win back “credibility”, the President of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference has announced.
Driving the news
Swiss Bishops’ President Felix Gmür announced last Wednesday that he and his fellow bishops had voted for the “renewal process” last week in an episcopal assembly in Saint-Maurice.
Gmür, the Bishop of Basel, said the process would address issues such as sex abuse, the abuse of power, priestly celibacy and the possible ordination of married men, the role of women in the Church, and faith and evangelisation.
Though the Swiss process will deal with much the same issues, Gmür played down comparisons with the “binding synodal path” of the German Church, which has in recent days come in for heavy criticism from Rome.
“We avoid the terms ‘synodal’ or ‘synod'”, Gmür said, explaining that these terms have particular meanings in Church law which won’t be met in the Swiss case.
Why it matters
Referring to a recurrent criticism of the German synodal path, Gmür dismissed the suggestion that the “renewal process” amounts to a Swiss “special way”.
The Bishop of Basel emphasised that maintaing unity with the universal Church is a priority.
But he said that something must be done to put out the “fire” of the Church’s credibility crisis.
“Church deserters are increasing; in some places, the frustration is huge”, warned Gmür.
Gmür said the preliminary idea for the renewal process is first to name a lay-led steering committee of two or three people – men and women from around the country – to draw up a timetable.
Five panels with ten to twelve people each could then be convened to debate the abuse, power, celibacy, women and evangelisation issues.
But the Bishop of Basel warned the process will take time: perhaps two or three years.
“All good things are worth waiting for”, Gmür explained.
The upshot of the extended length of time could be that the Swiss Bishops have enough material to write the Pope a letter on the renewal process deliberations, the bishop added.
Not to mention that the dynamic between laity and hierarchy would be improved, Gmür also said.