Friday, April 13, 2007

Swiss Church criticized by leaders of traditionally Catholic party on celibacy

Apr. 9, 2007 ( - The leaders of a traditionally Catholic political party in Switzerland have voiced public opposition to Church teachings.

In an April 1 interview with the newspaper NZZ am Sontag, Christoph Darbellay, the president of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), rejected Church teaching on the priesthood. "Priestly celibacy and the male-only priesthood have no biblical basis," he claimed.

The PDC has no official ties to the Catholic Church, but has traditionally commanded the allegiance of Swiss Catholics. A week earlier, in the same newspaper, a former PDC president and current Senator, Carlo Schmid, had aired his own opposition to Church teachings on priestly celibacy, the male-only priesthood, and the Church’s refusal to allow divorced people to remarry. Speaking on the state of the Catholic Church in Switzerland, Schmid predicted, “It will make itself irrelevant in the period of one generation, simply because there will be no more priests.”

At the same time, in an interview for a Protestant newspaper, former PDC parliamentarian and scientist Jacques Neirynck stated that were it not for the rule on celibacy, he would have become a religious. On the question of the priestly celibacy and the male-only priesthood, Neirynck said, “We are battling against discrimination in every area of life. We must not tolerate this conduct.”

PDC vice president Dominique Buman distanced herself from the comments by her colleagues. “I do not feel capable of judging them," she said. "They are their personal positions." But she insisted: "When they speak about the Church, they do not do so in the name of the Party."

The spokesman for the Swiss bishops' conference, Walter Muller, told the press: “We have decided to not comment on the interviews given by these three people. We are discussing them in private with the PDC, not in public.” According to Muller, the CES are also pursuing relations with other political parties.

In 2004, the PDC debated removing the word “Christian” from its name. According to Buman, “In the end, we retained the word because it refers to moral values that even non-Christians can support.” The PDC states that its founding principles were inspired by a “Christian conception of the person and of society, without ties to a specific confession.”

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