The Swiss Bishops Conference recently published its “Report of the Catholic Church in Switzerland on the questions posed in the Lineamenta in preparation for the 2015 Ordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome.” This document reveals a profound crisis of faith in the Swiss Catholic Church. The bishops have, seemingly without recognizing it, produced a self-indictment.
The Report contains unmitigated hostility to Catholic doctrine and practice, drawn from consultations among the laity, pastoral care workers, and theologians – evidence of the catechetical disaster of past decades.
The Bishops Conference essentially endorses the aberrant opinions by publishing them. If a similar consultation on, say, the state of European society were somehow to surface anti-immigrant racist, or anti-Muslim opinions among the faithful, it is unimaginable that they would be forwarded to Rome without comment.
The report notes at the beginning that not all Swiss Catholics manifest this hostility to what is tendentiously labeled “the current teaching of the Church.” The Report briefly summarizes the suggestions of faithful Swiss Catholics thus:
“Pastoral care should essentially tend towards applying the current teaching. Along with a spiritual foundation (prayer, Mass attendance) there are also suggestions for supporting couples and families through models and witnessing (accompaniment by more experienced couples, the creation of groups of families who live according to doctrine), suggestions for a stricter program of preparation for marriage, encouragement of natural family planning and reminders of the laws of the Faith, of natural law and of the immutability of the doctrine of Jesus Christ and of the Church.”
But such ideas are completely absent from the rest of the report.
Instead we find numerous statements such as these:
- “we must see the distance between the faithful and the doctrine of the Church as a sign of the times and the point of departure for an evolution and a renewal of the tradition.”
- “the commandments of the doctrine [of the Church] are no longer acknowledged as obligatory directives and as undisputed normative precepts. The affirmations of doctrine are rather evaluated in the light of the life and faith experiences of people.”
- “The declarations according to which the Church describes herself as an expert in humanity or as a teacher and mother gave rise to a flat rejection. For many of the faithful, the Church, in respect to her doctrine, is on the contrary hardly close at all to the people, nor do they sense her role as mother in view of her lack of compassion, seen as total, regarding persons who do not correspond to the norms of the ‘mother’. And, above all, the role of the faithful as “children” is rejected in this context as being infantilizing.”
- “For most Catholics, men and women, a Divine pedagogy and its content can no longer be transmitted as unconditional directives on the conduct of one’s life. It is much more one’s personal experience that will determine the validity of life choices and decisions. This means for the Church the loss of her authority and power over the faithful. She can no longer make of God and his laws a menace as belief in a God seen as a severe master is almost entirely passé. . . .any attempt by the Church to interfere in questions of organizing one’s life, especially if is accompanied by the threat of sanctions, is considered an overstepping of limits and an intrusion into people’s private spheres and also a violation of, or a questioning of, their autonomy.”
- “A number of [the faithful] no longer consider fidelity to the bond of marriage as an absolute value, and they even see here. . .the danger of living in falsehood, hypocrisy and of remaining in a situation of an unsuitable life. Breaking one’s promise of fidelity is often considered as the lesser evil.”
- “Insistent appeals and calls to renunciation, altruism, to conjugal duties, to the observance of sexual norms, to being open to procreation and to dedicating oneself to the education of the children, etc. . . .no longer satisfy the expectations of the faithful regarding an ecclesial conception of marriage.”
- “The faithful thus rather often have problems in understanding ecclesial doctrine that gives the impression of still being able to define immutable ideals and norms. Forms of argumentation based on the natural law are clearly criticized in this context. It is thus necessary to charge the Synod with reflecting upon the means of attaining the ideal but also of redefining the ideal itself and of understanding it according to the life situations of people today.”
- “The most pressing desire of the faithful of Switzerland regarding concrete pastoral care is that the divorced and remarried cease to be excluded from the sacraments.”
- “The great majority. . .[are] irritated by the declarations in the Lineamenta on homosexual persons. . . .Most of the faithful consider that the desire that homosexual persons have for sexual relations and to live as couples is justified and they do not see why this desire cannot be lived out as a couple. The requirement placed upon homosexual persons to live in abstinence is rejected as unjust and inhumane.”
- “The history of the reception of Humanae Vitae has left profound marks. . . .Many responses indicate that the Church would do better to express herself with more restraint on questions of sexuality and to abstain from giving concrete norms and restrictions.”
Can we still speak about a unified profession of the Catholic Faith in Switzerland? The statements quoted above clearly do not permit a “yes” answer. How have we come to this point? It seems as if the last two pontificates have had very little influence in the land that sends her sons to Rome to guard the pope. Dissent and disobedience have done tremendous damage to the faith of many Swiss Catholics.
This anti-Roman, anti-Catholic mindset requires hierarchical action, lest more of the faithful be misled by false teaching masquerading as a “new” form of Catholicism.