Canton Zug, 13.06.2024

Payments to the Basel diocese seem out-of-date - but the situation is complicated

Should the canton of Zug help pay the salaries of church leaders? This question is the subject of a motion that was recently discussed in the Zug cantonal parliament. The initiators of the motion are calling for the Zug government to reconsider and, if necessary, end the payments.
Comment from Rahel Hug, Editor-in-chief of the Zuger Zeitung newspaper.

The salary of Bishop Felix Gmür, for example, and his senior canons is currently paid proportionately by the concordat cantons (Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Solothurn, Aargau, Thurgau, Schaffhausen and Zug), and represents a 6-figure sum for the canton of Zug.

The financial commitment in this matter is "increasingly anachronistic", as the majority of the population of the canton of Zug (57%) no longer belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, according to the petitioners from the SP (Socialist party), ALG (Alternative Green party) and GLP (Green Liberal party).

In doing so, they are sending a political signal. A sign that there is still a great need for reform in the Catholic Church, specifically in the diocese of Basel, and also with regard to the recent handling of cases of abuse within the Catholic church. The motion was referred to the cantonal government, which must now take a stand on the issue. In the best-case scenario, this will trigger a broad debate on the contributions paid to the diocese of Basel, which would be welcome.

After all, it does seem out-of-date that the bishop and canons (Domherren) are paid from state funds or (rather) taxpayers' money. Even in a canton that is characterised by Catholicism, this financial commitment needs to be questioned. The signs point to a complete separation between church and state - and this has been the case since the introduction of the Federal Constitution in 1848. The Bishopric Concordat dates back to 1828, and it goes without saying that a great deal has changed in society since then.

The bishop of Basel, Felix Gmür                  Photo: zvg

But the situation is complicated. As historian Urban Fink told the media portal, cancelling the payments would call into question the affiliation of the canton of Zug to the diocese of Basel. The financial obligations are linked to a number of rights and duties. An exit would therefore not be that simple.

Accordingly, the government should now clarify and explain exactly what effects a possible termination of the contribution payments would have. And also the effect on the work at the church base. After all, this is where very important, often voluntary work is carried out. With the money that currently goes to the ministers at the top, the people in the parishes - who make a major contribution to the community - would probably be far better served.

This commentary refers to a motion recently raised in the Zug Government council regarding the payments made by the canton of Zug to the Basel Roman Catholic diocese.
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