The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Bishop Bonnemain of Chur puts off abuse victims

Updated at 02 Mar 2024 4:00 pm

The Bishop of Chur, Joseph Maria Bonnemain, was unable to name a date on Saturday when a contact point for victims of abuse would be created. However, he understands the impatience very well, he told those affected. "It's going too slowly for me too."

"The result has to be one hundred percent right," said Bonnemain at a meeting of people affected by abuse in Zurich, which he attended online. However, creating such a contact point takes a lot of time and thought. "It's not as if we are idle," Bonnemain emphasized.

The church holds a working group on this topic almost every week. However, the consultations revealed a fundamental dilemma: either the contact point for victims of abuse is completely independent - or it is initiated by the church. "The two are not compatible at the same time."

"Rely on tried and tested facilities"

As a result, those involved have gradually become convinced that it would be better to "rely on tried and tested facilities that already exist in Switzerland", said Bonnemain.

Those responsible therefore want to meet with the Conference of Social Directors in April. The contact point for victims of abuse could therefore one day be run by state institutions.

Bonnemain was unable to specify a time frame. "I myself am impatient. But we mustn't let that drive us," he said. It is better to do the right thing step by step.

"It just takes us too long"

Vreni Peterer, President of IG Miku, the interest group for those affected by abuse in the church environment, was not satisfied after Bonnemain's postponement. "It's simply taking too long. Many of those affected need support now," she said.

She also criticized the fact that her union, for example, is never present at these consultations. "We know exactly what the needs of those affected are. But we don't have an exchange," she said. Trust is difficult.

Second study already in progress

The call for an independent contact point was triggered by a study from September last year. This showed that priests and members of religious orders in Switzerland had committed over 1,000 cases of sexual abuse since 1950, although the number of unreported cases is likely to be high. Most cases were concealed, covered up or trivialized by the church. The study triggered a veritable wave of resignations from the Catholic Church.

The researchers at the University of Zurich, who brought the extent of the abuse to light in September, have already begun a second study at the start of this year. This will also investigate sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. The results are to be presented in 2027.


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