Secular Reform in the Diocese of Fribourg

June 02, 2021
Msgr. Charles Morerod, Bishop of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg

Msgr. Charles Morerod has been bishop of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg since 2011. Coming from the Dominican order, he was a professor at the Catholic University of Fribourg, then at the Angelicum before becoming its rector. He has just launched a profound reform in the diocese of which he is the pastor.

This reform could be qualified by the term “secularization.” Indeed, the bishop of Fribourg has decided to abolish certain episcopal vicariates as well as the vicars who occupied them.

The episcopal vicar is an immediate collaborator of the bishop. He differs from the vicar general. This last assists or stands in for the bishop for the entire territory of the diocese. While the episcopal vicar is assigned a limited function: a portion of the diocese, a determined group of faithful - medical personnel for example - or even a specific apostolic function - vocations of the diocese for example.

The ousted vicars are being replaced by “representatives of the bishop” appointed for 5 years, who will take charge of a “diocesan region.” Thus, a pastoral agent will be appointed to head the French-speaking region of Fribourg; a pastoral agent will take charge of the diocesan region of Vaud; and a married deacon will lead the diocesan region of Neuchâtel.

A single episcopal vicar is kept in place, for Geneva, whose mandate will end in one year. But this region will undoubtedly follow the others, as German-speaking Freiburg has preceded them, since it has been ruled by a representative of the bishop since August 2020.

Bishop Morerod gave a long interview to to explain his motivations. He tries to justify his actions in particular by explaining that he wants to reserve his priests for a pastoral role, and to free them from organizational tasks.

In addition, he believes that the place of the laity must increase in pastoral responsibilities. He specifies that these lay representatives of the bishop “manage local issues” and “will also be responsible for representing the diocese before state bodies and ecclesiastical corporations, or even other churches and religions.”

Bishop Morerod’s reform is going with the prevails trends: in the direction of synodality-democracy, of the division of the exercise of the priesthood between clerics and laity, of the feminization of positions of responsibility in the Church, of the struggle against clericalism dear to Francis.

But at the same time, it goes in the direction of an ever more systematic demolition of Catholicism, of the revealed structure of the Church, of the hierarchy instituted by Jesus Christ Himself.

These reforms will produce the same bad fruits which were born of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar reforms: the ever greater disaffection of the faithful and the exhaustion of a seemingly inevitable  aging clerical force as well as a plummeting recruitment process.

The Bishop of Fribourg explains that “this change requires a leap in faith.” But of what faith does he speak? This reform is like a practical negation of the divinely instituted hierarchy: it is therefore difficult to think of it as divine faith.