Catholic Priests Criticize New Code of Conduct in Swiss Diocese as ‘Attempt to Implant LGBT Ideology’

Bishop Joseph Bonnemain of Chur signed the code of conduct himself in early April.

Bishop Joseph Bonnemain of Chur, Switzerland.
Bishop Joseph Bonnemain of Chur, Switzerland. (photo: Courtesy photo / Diocese of Chur)

CNA Staff/World/April 29, 2022

CHUR, Switzerland — A group of priests in the Swiss diocese of Chur has raised concerns over a new code of conduct for the prevention of assault, claiming that it violates “the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic Church” in several instances. 

The clerics described the diocesan code as an attempt to “implant LGBT ideology in the Church under the guise of assault prevention, thereby undermining the Church’s doctrine of faith,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Bishop Joseph Bonnemain of Chur signed the code of conduct himself in early April.

In a letter to all parishes seen by CNA Deutsch, the bishop said that the code would be “binding for all leaders and employees from the middle of 2022 onwards.” The declaration of commitment would then be kept in the personnel file.

The group of priests emphasized that “95% of what is contained in the code of conduct concerning prevention, we consider to be an expression of common sense and decency.”

They said that it was “absolutely necessary to do everything possible to ensure better prevention and to pursue this concern in the Church with determination. We too will do this to the best of our ability.”

The Chur Circle of Priests is responsible for organizing local opposition to the code. The clerics cited several passages that, they said, would “muzzle the doctrine of faith and morality.”

According to the code, priests must agree with the following sentence: “I refrain from sweeping negative assessments of allegedly unbiblical behavior based on sexual orientation.”

The Circle of Priests said: “Anyone who signs this sentence would no longer be allowed — even by invoking the overriding fundamental right of religious freedom — to proclaim the Church’s teaching on homosexuality as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” 

The Catechism says that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The new code of conduct also says: “In pastoral conversations, I do not actively take up topics related to sexuality. In any case, I refrain from offensive questioning about intimate life and relationship status. This also applies to conversations I have as a supervisor.”

Agreement on this point would prohibit priests and deacons from asking the obligatory questions in marriage preparation, the priests’ group claimed, such as whether the future spouses “agree to marriage as a ‘sacramental community of life and love between a man and a woman’ for their own lives.

Also, “explicit questions must be asked about the ‘relationship status’ with regard to previous marriages and divorces or concerning any children from previous relationships.”

The code would make it impossible to apply existing norms not only in matters of marriage but also in the formation of priests, the priests argued. Thus, it would no longer be possible to adequately ensure that men with homosexual tendencies are not ordained. 

Further, the Circle of Priests asked, “How could one still credibly require a candidate for the priesthood to commit himself ‘in the prescribed rite publicly before God and the Church’ to lifelong celibacy (canon 1037) if at the same time it is declared that his ‘relationship status’ is in fact taboo for Church leadership?”

Finally, it said, “If priests, deacons and lay employees who live in immoral heterosexual or homosexual relationships may no longer be called to account and, if there is no improvement, dismissed from Church ministry, a double standard is installed in two ways.” 

On the one hand, the clergy group said, the Church would continue to adhere to traditional teaching in its preaching, but on the other, it would not demand it of its clergy and its laity.

With the code of conduct, priests and others involved in pastoral care would declare that “I refrain from any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity” and “I recognize sexual rights as human rights, especially the right to sexual self-determination.”

The consistent application of the Church’s sexual morality is “perceived as discriminatory by parts of society,” wrote the Chur Circle of Priests. This is the case, for example, because the Church cannot bless homosexual relationships. The Church’s only concern is “to be able to act in accordance with its perennial doctrine, invoking the primary fundamental right of religious freedom recognized and guaranteed by the state.”

The code’s statement on human rights is “open to various interpretations” but ultimately to be rejected because, for example, abortion is often characterized as a human right and part of sexual self-determination, the priests explained.

Beyond Bishop Bonnemain’s comment that the code is binding, the text itself does not seem to rule out labor law consequences. Thus, he stated, “A refusal to sign shows massive quality deficits in the ability to reflect, since the person tends to make sweeping judgments or does not sufficiently share the concern for prevention. Further cooperation is not advisable.”

“In existing employment relationships, the code of conduct is signed at the latest at the annual [staff meeting],” the code continued.

Switzerland, officially known as the Swiss Confederation, is a landlocked Central European nation of around 8.6 million people, 37% of whom are Catholic. The country is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons.

In Switzerland, priests, as well as full-time Church employees, are generally employed by public law cantonal bodies financed by church taxes. The dioceses, as ecclesiastical structures, report directly to Rome but are financially responsible for only a few employees.

The Chur Circle of Priests said: “We asked the diocesan bishop in the run-up to the publication of the code of conduct not to sign it. Since he has published and signed it in the meantime, we now publicly ask him, on our part, to withdraw his signature from the code of conduct and thereby heal the conflict of conscience he has caused for many of his employees.”

Otherwise, the clerics said, they would themselves “draw up a code of conduct in the service of assault prevention that is in harmony with Church teaching and which we are prepared to sign.

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