UPDATED: Scroll down for the latest addition to this story.
(LifeSiteNews) – Several Swiss priests and laity have openly defied their bishops’ directive to celebrate Holy Mass according to the rules of the Catholic Church.
Father Marcel von Holzen declared that he allows laypeople to say part of the eucharistic prayer while Father Mario Pinggera argued that it is more important to have a “lovingly designed” liturgy than to abide by the canonical rules. Monika Schmid and Charlotte Küng-Bless, two women whose attempts to concelebrate Mass have become widely known, also sneered at the bishops’ letter, the first suggesting that it was unjust to women and the second that it violated divine will. Others, both clerical and lay, sent letters of protest to the official news site of the Catholic Church in Switzerland.
The rebellion by the dissident priests and laity came as a response to a letter sent out by three Swiss bishops on January 5, the day of Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral.
In their letter, the bishops Joseph Maria Bonnemain, Markus Büchel, and Felix Gmür stressed that “the faithful have a right to worship services that follow the rules and forms of the Church.”
“We therefore emphatically remind you that the liturgical forms and rules also apply in our country according to the provisions of the bishops.”
“You all know that only the priest validly presides over the Eucharist, administers sacramental absolution, and anoints the sick,” the letter continued. “It is precisely for this purpose that he is ordained. This Roman Catholic rule of faith must also be fully respected in our dioceses.”
In an accompanying letter, Bishop Büchel explained that their letter was prompted by the liturgical abuses committed by Monika Schmid and Charlotte Küng-Bless. Both women attempted to “concelebrate” at Catholic Masses. Schmid’s attempted concelebration, together with a deacon and another woman, happened in August 2022 during the “farewell service” meant to celebrate her retirement.
However, according to a report by the Swiss Catholic Church’s official news site kath.ch, Schmid had been “concelebrating” at Catholic Masses for decades with the permission of Father Jakob Romer, the former parish priest of her diocese Effretikon, who died in 2005.
Küng-Bless also publicly admitted that she “concelebrated” multiple times when she was younger, allegedly at the behest of priests that told her that it was “common practice” in their parish. She also carried out a religious ceremony for a dying woman resembling the sacrament of Extreme Unction (Anointing of the sick).
The bishop’s corrective letter provoked multiple responses from dissident priests and laity, which were published by the official Catholic site kath.ch.
In an interview with kath.ch, Fr. Von Holzen criticized the bishops’ letter and said that he allows “pastoral employees” (laypeople) to say parts of the eucharistic prayers, specifically the prayers for the Church, the living, and the deceased. He claimed that the discussion about “who is allowed to do what” on the Altar is “unworthy of a Holy Mass.”
Another Swiss priest, Fr. Pinggera, also responded publicly to the bishop’s letter. He criticized the bishops for sending it and argued that Holy Masses which are “designed unlovingly” are worse than those that are not formally correct.
Schmid, whose liturgical abuse was caught on video in August 2022, reacted to the letter by castigating the bishops, saying that they once again were justifying “injustice against us women.”
Küng-Bless said in an interview after the bishop’s letter was published that “the Church needs an update so that the canon law also corresponds to the will of Jesus.”
The progressive organization “Equally Catholic” also criticized the bishops’ letter, saying that it exhibits “patriarchal clericalism.”
In their open letter, Equally Catholic made shocking statements, claiming that there are many more than the two women named by the bishops who commit liturgical abuse and that the Swiss bishops knew about them.
“You know as well as we do that it is not just two or three ministers who do not always follow the rules,” the open letter reads. “There are many — consecrated and non-consecrated.”
According to Equally Catholic, those ministers do not act “out of recklessness,” or “to take center stage;” rather, they “assume pastoral responsibility and are guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, the good of the people and the Kingdom of God in mind.”
The attempt to “concelebrate” a Catholic Mass when one is not a consecrated priest or bishop represents a blatant violation of liturgical law.
Canon 907 of the Church’s canon law expressly forbids anyone but the priest to utter the words of Consecration: “In the eucharistic celebration deacons and lay persons are not permitted to offer prayers, especially the eucharistic prayer, or to perform actions which are proper to the celebrating priest.”
Moreover, the Vatican instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, approved by Pope John Paul II in 2004, points out that anyone making up liturgies “injures the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved, and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today.”
Arbitrary actions, the document states, “are not conducive to true renewal, but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline.”
While the three Swiss bishops called for adherence to canon law, they are certainly not known for their orthodoxy and reportedly tolerated liturgical abuses for years in their dioceses.
Furthermore, the Swiss prelate has been accused by priests in his diocese of implementing “LGBT ideology” in the Church “under the guise of preventing sexual assault.”
After facing public pressure, Bonnemain did launch a liturgical investigation into the case of Schmid’s liturgical abuse in September 2022. However, Bonnemain has been accused by two groups of lay Catholics of having knowingly tolerated women “concelebrating” at Catholic Masses in his diocese for some time.
Bishops Büchel and Gmür of the diocese of St. Gallen have also for years expressed support for the blessing of same-sex unions.
Some have speculated that the bishops wrote their letter calling for liturgical discipline only after facing pressure from either orthodox Catholics or Rome after the liturgical abuses became widely known. In their letter, they wrote that “we bishops continue to receive concerned inquiries and feedback, especially about Church services.”
UPDATE, January 10:
A source close to the current events in the Church in Switzerland contacted LifeSiteNews to provide further evidence of the German-speaking Swiss bishops’ hypocrisy when it comes to liturgical abuse. The source told LifeSiteNews that he believes the bishops’ letter calling for liturgical discipline was sent only due to an order from the Vatican.
During Mass on September 24, 2022, after the liturgical abuse of Monika Schmid became public, Bishop Joseph Maria Bonnemain conducted a liturgical ceremony very similar to priestly ordination for a group of theologians, including women, in his diocese.
The liturgical ceremony could easily have been mistaken for the sacrament of Holy Orders being conferred on the lay theologians since it entailed vows of consecration, a consecration prayer, and the laying on of hands.
Paradoxically, in their letter, the Swiss bishops explicitly warned against making the liturgy “an experimental field for personal projects.”
Moreover, during a Mass last year in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the “Roman Catholic Central Conference of Switzerland,” at which bishops Markus Büchel and Felix Gmür were both present, a laywoman preached the homily, a blatant violation of the Code of Canon law.
According to Can. 767 of Canon law, giving the homily during a Catholic liturgy is “reserved to a priest or deacon.”
Given this evidence, the Catholic bishops seemingly do not abide by the rules that they wanted to enforce with their letter.