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Grandmother of four will run part of diocese…

Swiss Diocese appoints Woman to succeed Vicar General

On May 19, 2020, the Swiss diocese of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg announced on its web site that its “bishop”, Charles Morerod, O.P., has made an appointment to replace the outgoing episcopal vicar (vicar general) for the German-speaking Fribourg region of the diocese. The post is currently held by “Fr.” Pascal Marquard, who will transition to a parish in his hometown of Zurich. Effective Aug. 1, the new man on the job will be — a woman.

Yes, you read that right. Morerod appointed 60-year-old married laywoman Marianne Pohl-Henzen to succeed his vicar general.

Since the role of the vicar general is tied to ordination, however, and Mrs. Pohl-Henzen cannot (yet) receive ordination even in the Vatican II Church, her job title is not going to be “vicar general” or “episcopal vicar” but “episcopal delegate”. The diocese released a communiqué which states:

Bp. Charles Morerod, bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, has appointed Mrs. Marianne Pohl-Henzen effective August 1, 2o20, as the episcopal delegate for the diocesan region of German-Fribourg. In this she will succeed Fr. Pascal Marquard, who has been the episcopal vicar since 2017.

(“Marianne Pohl-Henzen übernimmt die Leitung des deutschsprachigen Teils der Diözese”, diocese-lgf.ch, May 19, 2020; our translation.)

The statement notes furthermore that Mrs. Pohl-Henzen, who is a mother of three and grandmother of four, has already been working as an adjunct of the vicar general for the past eight years for the German-speaking Fribourg region (Fribourg also has a French-speaking part).

Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, incidentally, is the diocese in which the Lefebvrist Society of St. Pius X was founded with the approval of the local ordinary in 1970. Last year, the same “Bp.” Morerod who now appointed a female episcopal vicar delegate permitted the SSPX to celebrate its 50th anniversary using churches of his diocese. Keep that in mind next time the Lefebvrists try to tell you that Bp. So-and-So giving some concession to them is an indicator that he’s beginning to embrace Tradition or something along those lines.

To understand Pohl-Henzen’s new role, let’s have a look at what a vicar general or episcopal vicar is, the title of the man she’s replacing.

According to the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, the vicar general is “[t]he highest official of a diocese after the ordinary. He is a cleric legitimately deputed to exercise generally the episcopal jurisdiction in the name of the bishop, so that his acts are reputed the acts of the bishop himself” (s.v. “Vicar-General”). The Novus Ordo Catholic Dictionary (2002) by Rev. Peter Stravinskas confirms that the role of the vicar general hasn’t changed since Vatican II: “Priest or bishop appointed by the bishop of a diocese to serve as his deputy, with ordinary executive power, in the administration of the diocese” (s.v. “Vicar General”).

With regard to how the role of the episcopal vicar differs from that of the vicar general, Stravinskas’ Dictionary notes that the former is a “priest appointed by a bishop to exercise certain powers, similar to those of a vicar general but over a specific group of people or the people in a specific region” (s.v. “Episcopal Vicar”). In other words, an episcopal vicar does for part of a diocese what a vicar general would do for the entire diocese. The diocese of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg has a total of five episcopal vicars, each of whom is responsible for a specific region.

Come Aug. 1, one of them will be female and act under the slightly modified title of “episcopal delegate.” While Mrs. Pohl-Henzen won’t pretend to confer any sacraments, then, and “probably won’t install pastors either”, as she says in an interview with the Swiss Novus Ordo news site kath.ch, she definitely will be running the diocese for the region to which she’s assigned, and she will be doing so as the representative of the bishop: “I can do a lot in practice: I am in charge of managing the personnel, including priests. I lead various committees” she notes, adding that she will also be the diocesan contact for the canton (state) of Fribourg and will be part of the bishop’s council as well as the council of priests.

More information about Mrs. Pohl-Henzen’s promotion can be found in the following report:

Our latest podcast, TRADCAST EXPRESS 110, also includes a brief discussion of this:

By the way, would it surprise you to find out that Pohl-Henzen is in favor of women’s ordination, both to the diaconate and to the priesthood?

Although merely the delegate of “Bp.” Morerod beginning Aug. 1, Pohl-Henzen does have a slight advantage over her boss already:

Unlike him, she knows she’s not ordained.

Image source: diocese-lgf.ch
License: fair use

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