The Catholic Church in the Canton of Zurich is organised into a dual system: Catholic Churches (Kirchgemeinden) are organisations based on relations between the state and the churches, while parishes are pastoral authorities.
The former party within this system is structured in accordance with the law of the Church; what is known as Canon Law. It is embodied by the bishop, the diocesan administration, the parishes and all ecclesiastical staff, including parish priests, curates, parish administrators, parish community lay leaders, parish representatives, and pastoral assistants serving the episcopal movement, known as Missio. Together, they are all responsible for matters of faith, the preaching of the Gospel, sacraments and pastoral care.
The latter party is structured in accordance with the ecclesiastical law of the state; what is known in German as the Staatskirchenrecht. On a local level, its bodies are the Catholic Churches (Kirchgemeinden). This is the main point at which the material requirements are created to ensure that a church life can develop in Winterthur.
What are the benefits of the dual system?
The current dual ecclesiastical structure in the Canton of Zurich is tried and tested. Citizens of Zurich voted in favour of an amendment to the Cantonal Constitution on 7 July 1963. This amendment concerned freedom of religion and worship and the recognition of the Roman Catholic Church as a public body in the Canton of Zurich. For the first time, the Roman Catholic public body with its Catholic Churches (Kirchgemeinden) was listed alongside the Evangelical Reformed Church as an officially recognised legal entity under public law.
The dual system represents democracy and tolerance: where the state recognises ecclesiastical entities under public law and confers on them the sovereign right to levy taxes, it does so on the condition that the organisation of this entity conforms to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and financial transparency. For example, the constitutional principle that taxes shall not be levied without the democratic joint decision-making power of the taxpayers also applies to the levying of church taxes. As mentioned, the Catholic Church convention determines the level of the church taxes.
The dual system allows decisions to be made on location: members of the local Catholic Churches (Kirchgemeinden) can themselves decide on how funds should be used and on other transactions that may affect their Catholic Church and parish. This participation fosters commitment to the Church, along with due consideration and endorsement of the decisions taken.