Thursday, January 31, 2013

Let's Hear It For Those Swiss Abbots

Mariastein Abbey
A few weeks ago (see entry for January 15, 2013) I published an entry about Martin Werlen, the Abbot of the famous abbey of our Lady of Einsiedeln in Switzerland and his call for radical reform in the Church—echoing the same call of the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini shortly before his death last year (cf blog entries for September 2, 3, 4, and 12, 2012).  A reader sent me a link to an article about another Swiss Abbot, Peter von Sury, Abbot of Mariastein , a Benedictine community in Solothurn Canton.
Like Abbot Martin, Abbot Peter pulls no punches in his estimation of what the Church needs today.  Abbot Peter is trained in the canon law and he sees the problem is that the structures of authority in the Church are broken.  He calls for consistency and transparency in the way decisions are made in the Church.  He thinks that politics have replaced the action of the Holy Spirit in Church administration (ya think?) and that there is a need to return to the ancient system of choosing bishops by involving the local faithful and clergy along with the regional bishops.  The present system is nothing more than turning the local dioceses into “papal fiefs.” 
An article by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt in the National Catholic Reporter quotes the abbot:
Asked why episcopal nominations are so important, he replied: "The bishop has a pivotal position in the church. He is a 'pontifex,' that is, a bridge-builder, and must have a personality that integrates. Unfortunately, we have again and again experienced the opposite, as, for instance, at the moment in the diocese of Chur. There the bishop is obviously not a bridge-builder, but someone who sows discord, and that is disastrous.
"In my opinion, a bishop who sows discord is morally obliged to step down. The same applies to an abbot or a parish priest. If they sow discord, they destroy a part of the church. It is not a case of blame. There are simply situations when people sow discord -- perhaps even without meaning to do so, and then they must step down."
"Church institutions, including the papacy, should have an opposite number as it were. In economics or politics we speak of checks and balances," von Sury said. Parishes have parish councils, dioceses have priests' councils, which the bishops are supposed to listen to. "But for the bishops' conference level and the world church level there is nothing similar. This is a great mistake," he said.

Boy, this guy should visit the Church in the United States and see the damage that prelates such as Bishop Robert Finn (Kansas City), Bishop Robert Morlino (Madison WS), Bishop Thomas Olmsted, (Phoenix)  and Archbishop William Lori (Baltimore, formerly Bridgeport) have wreaked  in their climbs up the ecclesiastical caterpillar pillar.  On the other hand, Rome did get Cardinal Law and then-Archbishop (now Cardinal) Raymond Burke out of Boston and St. Louis respectively before they totally trashed those dioceses with the discord they had caused.    
The Bishops of Switzerland, with the exception of the aforementioned Bishop of Chur, Vitus Huonder, have shown themselves very willing to listen to the faithful in their dioceses and the move for more dialogue in the Church. 
My correspondent wondered what sort of water these Swiss Abbots are drinking and if we can bottle it.  O Please God, let such waters flow in your Church today. 

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