VATICAN calls for investigation into sexual abuse perpetrated by Swiss Hierarchy

Editor’s Note: One correction, as this article ends with the claim that 500,000 Catholics have left the Church in Germany over allegations of sexual abuse there; but such statistics in Germany are highly correlated to the fact that many priests refuse the sacraments to those who do not pay the State Church Tax; thus they stop practicing for this reason, or because they disagree enough with something to avoid paying the tax.


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Swiss Bishops under investigation for abuse concealment

The conference of Swiss bishops confirmed on September 10, the opening of preliminary ecclesiastical surveys against several emeritus or in exercise Swiss bishops on suspicions of abuse and concealing sexual abuse. Bishop Joseph Bonnemain, bishop of Coire, was appointed as director of the investigation.

In a letter dated from the end of May 2023 addressed to the apostolic nuncio in Switzerland, Mgr Martin Krebs, allegations were formulated against several emeritus members and in exercise of the Conference of Swiss Bishops (CES) as well as other members clergy in the management of sexual abuse. To some of them, he is accused of having committed sexual abuses in the past, said the press release from the CES.

Mgr Bonnemain appointed Director of Survey
The president of the Conference of Bishops, Mgr Felix GMür, also learned of the letter. He immediately assured himself to the nuncio that she had already been sent to the competent authority for such accusations in Rome-the dicastery for the bishops. What the nuncio confirmed, continues the press release.
On June 23, 2023, the dicastery ordered a preliminary ecclesiastical investigation into this case and appointed Bishop Joseph Bonnemain as director of the investigation. From 1989 to 2021, he was the official of the bishopric of CEO, responsible for directing this type of investigations and criminal procedures. Bishop Bonnemain’s preliminary survey is underway, it should be completed at the end of the year.

Abuse concealation
The main object of this preliminary ecclesiastical investigation is the accusation of concealing cases of abuse. Investigations on alleged sexual crimes are primarily part of the competence of the police and the public prosecutor. The directives of these obliges those responsible to report to the public prosecutor with cases of suspicion of sexual crime on minors – in consultation with the person concerned. The competent public ministries were informed of the cases mentioned in the letter.

Since this is an in progress procedure, CES does not give additional information.

Accusations with the apostolic nuncio
The accusations were published by the Sonntagsblick. They were raised by Father Nicolas Betticher, former vicar general of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Friborg, and judge at the prohibited ecclesiastical court, in a letter addressed to the Apostolic Nonce Martin Krebs in May 2023.

The Sonntagsblick obtained the letter from Nicolas Betticher. Serious reproaches are formulated there. An active member of the conference of Swiss bishops and three priests of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Friborg (LGF) are accused of having sexually harassed young people.

To this are added accusations of concealment. According to the Sonntagsblick, these are aimed at Bishop Jean-Marie Lovey. The bishop of Sion would not have taken steps to elucidate a case of reported abuse. Bishop Charles Morerod, bishop of LGF is also faced with accusations. He would have been aware of a case of abuse in 2011. Instead of intervening, he would then have promoted the priest. His auxiliary, Mgr Alain de Raemy, would also have been aware of this case. (This case has been the subject of an independent survey commanded by Mgr Morerod editor’s note)

In addition, accusations of concealment also weigh on Mgr Pierre Bürcher, former auxiliary bishop of LGF, before being bishop of Reykjavik (Iceland) and apostolic administrator at CEO. According to the Sonntagsblick, the latter denies the accusations and threatens the newspaper with a defamation complaint.

Bishop Jean-Claude Périsset, bishop and former diplomat of the Vatican, is also accused of concealment. He is accused of having transferred an abuser to France in the late 1980s, when he was official of the diocese of LGF (in the Joël Allaz case documented by a specific investigation in 2018 editor’s note). Faced with Sonntagsblick, Mgr Périsset denied the accusations, saying that canon law was different at the time.

In an interview with the Sonntagsblick, Mgr Bonnemain says that he is not partial, but that he endeavors to “discover the truth in a complete and precise way”. “We have to highlight everything. The concealment must be put an end. This is an additional contribution so that our Church can become more honest. ”

Presentation of the preliminary study on the history of abuses in the Church in Switzerland
In addition, the report of the pilot project on the history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Switzerland will be presented on September 12, 2023 in Zurich. Neither the Conference of Swiss Bishops nor the Sonntagsblick make links with the preliminary investigation ordered by Rome. (

A compulsory report since 2019

The EC explains that in 2019, following the Pope Francis Proprio your Estis an additional ecclesiastical law on the sexual offenses committed by members of the clergy or religious against people under the age of 18 and people Vulnerable has entered into force, forcing to immediately report to the competent bishop any suspicion of concealment. He is in turn immediately informed of the competent Vatican authority. In addition, this law stipulates that hindering and influencing investigations or criminal proceedings (canonical and state) is an offense which must be reported and which – depending on the result of the ecclesiastical criminal procedure – is also sanctioned.
During such a report, the dicastery generally entrusts a local bishop with the preliminary ecclesiastical investigation. The objective of these ecclesiastical surveys is to determine whether there are enough elements to initiate criminal or disciplinary procedures within the Church. At the end of the preliminary investigation, the investigation report and the files are transmitted to the dicastery for the bishops. The dicastery decides to follow. MP

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