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Swiss bishop calls for a council on female priesthood, ‘otherwise we will experience a schism’

'The facts are on the table,” he stated, “the time is ripe. All bishops of the world should come together: yes or no'
Wed Sep 23, 2020 - 5:00 pm EST
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Bishop Denis Theurillat, Sept. 1, 2018. SCJP Service de Communication du Jura pastoral / Youtube

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September 23, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Denis Theurillat, the auxiliary bishop of Basel, Switzerland, has given an interview in which he argued that the Church should conduct a council in Rome in order to vote for or against female priests. 

“The facts are on the table,” he stated, “the time is ripe. All bishops of the world should come together: yes or no.”

Speaking with the official news website of the Swiss Bishops' Conference Kath.ch, the 70-year old prelate insisted that Pope Francis should not decide upon this question alone, adding that “otherwise we will experience a schism.” He himself would like to participate in such a council on the question of female priests, he continued, “and if I may not experience it anymore, I will watch it from heaven.”

Bishop Theurillat has been organizing a meeting of the Swiss bishops with Catholic women and found praise from the head of the women's association Frauenbund, Simone Curau-Aepli: “He alone made this meeting possible,” she stated.

The Swiss bishop plans to speak with Pope Francis personally about this project of meeting with Catholic women, during the ad limina visit of the Swiss bishops in January next year. Theurillat had been consecrated a bishop in 2000 under Pope John Paul II.

Theurillat is not the only bishop who has proposed such a council. It was Cardinal Christoph Schönborn who stated on April 1 2018 that “the question of the ordination [of women] is a question which clearly can only be clarified by a council.” Similar to Bishop Theurillat, the Austrian cardinal added that this question “cannot be decided upon by a pope alone. That is a question too big that it could be decided from the desk of a pope.”

As Bishop Theurillat had told Kath.ch: a “yes” concerning this question would offend the conservatives, a “no” would disappoint the women.

However, the Catholic Church has clarified this question already for a long time. The Church has always defended the all-male priesthood, and Pope John Paul II issued, in 1994, a document restating this doctrine. In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the pope had written:

Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

In response to these opinions, the pope then wrote: “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Therefore, these prelates proposing a council on the matter of female ordination – according to Schönborn even up to the ordination of female bishops – is an offense against Catholic doctrine. It is as if one were to propose a council to decide whether Jesus Christ was truly Man and truly God.

On 30 May 2018, not long after that original Schönborn interview, then-Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer – the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – published a statement in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano in which he restates the Church’s ban on the ordination of women to the priesthood. He insisted that this teaching is part of the Church’s infallible Magisterium. 

The topic of female priests is currently being discussed by the German bishops and their Synodal Path. The head of the German bishops, Bishop Georg Bätzing, stated on only in May of this year that the rejection of female priests by recent popes is not conclusive and that there needs to be more discussion “because the question is present, in the middle of the Church!” Other projects mentioned by him are Communion for Protestants and a blessing for those who cannot receive the Sacrament of Matrimony — homosexual couples and divorced and civilly “remarried” couples. He proposes to “transport” the conclusions of the “synodal path” currently taking place in Germany to Rome, “on the level of the Universal Church.”


  catholic, denis theurillat, female deacons, female priests, women's ordination

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