Reform groups accuse Switzerland's nuncio of publicly criticizing Pope Francis

by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

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Twelve Catholic reform groups have accused the papal nuncio in Switzerland, U.S. Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, of publicly criticizing Pope Francis and have called on the Swiss bishops' conference to proclaim that the Swiss church is fully committed to the Second Vatican Council.

The reform groups have formed an alliance entitled "Enough is Enough," and have warned the Swiss bishops that religious peace in Switzerland is endangered. "We are seriously concerned that the nuncio is splitting the Swiss church," the alliance says in its letter to the bishops.

Alliance member Markus Arnold, the head of the Religious Education Department at Lucerne University, has also written to Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann asking the president "not to allow Gullickson to have a long-term, poisonous effect on the climate in Switzerland. We have enough problems with religious fanaticism as it is. We do not need a nuncio who wants to revive this fanaticism in the Catholic church."

Arnold asked the president to ask the Swiss government to intervene with the Holy See.

Alliance member Erwin Koller, the president of the Herbert-Haag-Foundation for Freedom in the Church which awards the Herbert Hague Prize, told that "the way Gullickson is opposing Pope Francis is offensive. If a Swiss diplomat had said such things about the Swiss government, he would long since have been dismissed."

The Swiss Catholic Women's Association, which is also a member of the alliance, has appealed to member of Parliament Doris Leuthard in a letter pointing out that as it is highly unlikely that Gullickson will change, he should be moved.

Gullickson, 65, is a keen blogger and Twitter-user and is not shy about openly expressing his opinions in the social media. He calls himself an "ultramontanist -- and proud to be one" and makes no secret of the fact that he sympathizes with the schismatic Society of St. Pius X. In several tweets, he has praised the elitism of St. Pius X priests.

Related: Switzerland's new nuncio discusses Communion, same-sex marriage, divorced and remarried Catholics

Ordained in Sioux Falls, S.D., Gullickson previously served as nuncio to the Caribbean states as well as Ukraine, before he was appointed to Switzerland by Pope Francis in September 2015.

He clashed with the well-known former Abbot of Einsiedeln, Martin Werlen, on Twitter last October. Werlen had expressed his astonishment that "a nuncio disseminates blogs which accuse the German bishops' conference of being heretical and has a predilection for linking ultra-conservative texts in his blogspot."

Gullickson also operates a press review website on which he points to texts which demand the reintroduction of the Old Rite or in which Society of St. Pius X seminary dean, Franz Schmidberger, attacks the church hierarchy.

"The Second Vatican Council clearly condemned the anti-liberalism of the Pius popes and unambiguously committed itself to human rights," Koller told "If Gullickson is against the council, then he should join the SSPX, but he has no right to present such positions in the name of the church or the pope respectively."

[Christa Pongratz-Lippitt is the Austrian correspondent for the London-based weekly Catholic magazine The Tablet.]

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