On August 28, the parishioners wanted to thank the one who was responsible for the parish for many years and who was retiring. That day, Monika Schmid therefore presided over the liturgy, preached and concelebrated the Eucharist. “As a diocesan bishop, I have a duty to react to the events of recent weeks (…) in the parish of Saint-Martin in Illnau-Effretikon”, declared Msgr. Joseph Bonnemain, Bishop of Chur (German-speaking Switzerland), on September 2.
At the head of the procession, a stick in her hand as a symbol of the shepherd of the community, Monika Schmid was surrounded by two priests, a deacon and a theologian. At the moment of the Eucharistic prayer – the text of which had been profoundly reworked – the group found themselves around the altar. It was Monika Schmid who occupied the central place at the time of the consecration and who recited the Eucharistic prayer, even if she took the precaution of letting a priest carry the host and the cup. A few minutes earlier, the homily that the pastoral worker gave was on the gospel of the day: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14,1.7-14).
On social networks, the video of the celebration circulates. There reigns during this mass a certain joy, as evidenced by the radiant face of the celebrant. At the end of the farewell ceremony, the head of the parish passed on her pastor’s baton… to one of the two priests present, to whom she entrusted “her” parish. So many gestures that prompted the Bishop of Chur to open a preliminary canonical inquiry: “Due to the scope of these events, I deliberately chose not to act immediately. In such a situation, it is important to carefully evaluate an appropriate procedure.said Bishop Joseph Bonnemain. The complexity of the liturgical abuses that have taken place necessitates the opening of a preliminary canonical investigation,” he continues.
This affair comes at the very time that a symposium on “Sacramentality and the Church” is being held at the University of Friborg on Tuesday, September 6, organized by the Conference of Swiss Bishops and the Swiss League of Catholic Women. The theological and pastoral reflection that is at the heart of this meeting raises the question “of the dispensing of the sacraments by unconsecrated pastoral agents”, mainly women. Long work had already been undertaken in 2020, reflecting more particularly on “new forms of sacramental missions for lay pastoral workers, men and women, for example the celebration of baptisms or the anointing of the sick”.
There is no doubt that the mass celebrated in the diocese of Chur will agitate the debates of the symposium. The code of canon law is without appeal: “In the Eucharistic celebration, neither deacons nor lay people are permitted to recite the prayers, especially the Eucharistic prayer, or to perform the acts proper to the priest celebrant”, enacts canon 907. Beyond the validity of gestures made by a laywoman, does the presence of “concelebrating” priests validate the Eucharistic sacrament? The preliminary canonical inquiry could also place the responsibility for the transgression on ordained ministers: “The results of this first investigation will form the basis for possible further measures. They will also show whether these are offenses whose judgment is reserved for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and which must therefore be reported there”, concludes Bishop Bonnemain’s press release.