In a remarkable document published by the Swiss Bishops Conference, it is noted that in Switzerland, there is strong support for the recognition of same – sex relationships, including blessings of such partnerships.
Following a comprehensive national consultation with the nation’s Catholics, in which more than 6000 people participated, the Swiss Catholic bishops have reported that Swiss Catholics want to see blessings for same – sex partnerships, and also a change in the teaching on communion for divorced and remarried people.
The roundtable discussions addressed very specific requests to Rome: we must put an end to the exclusion from the sacraments of the divorced and remarried. The reasons for the breakup of a marriage are so diverse that it is no longer acceptable that the Church imposes the same penalty in all cases of remarriage.
Partnerships for gays and lesbians should have a place in the church, so this is a further request to the Church. Although the majority rejects full equality with religious marriage, there is strong support for blessing of these couples.
Source: Swiss Bishops’ Conference (emphasis added)
In addition to the obvious importance of the Swiss conclusions, is the process that was followed. Before last year’s synod, the Swiss conducted by far the most extensive and methodologically sound consultation of their people, commissioning from a team of academics a formal survey, in which 23 000 Catholics participated. The current report notes that these follow up discussions were with 6000 of the countries “most committed Catholics, in parishes, church associations (eg women’s and youth associations) and in other groups and faith communities”.
The Swiss know how to do these things. Ingrained in the national psyche is a strong tradition of direct democracy. At every level of public life, from neighbourhood to national government, there is hardly an important decision taken with public consultation, or even a formal referendum. It is no surprise that the Swiss bishops should have extended this familiar way of doing things, to church matters.
Catholic bishops elsewhere could do well to follow their example.
The full report can be read (in a choice of 3 languages) at the website of the Swiss bishops’ conference. The English translation is my own, based a comparison of all three Swiss language versions, with the help of Google translate.