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Saint-Maurice College to no longer have a spiritual rector

Updated at 13 Mar 2024 4:50 pm

Saint-Maurice College is to be run by a secular principal or principal in future. The canton of Valais has signed an agreement with Saint-Maurice Abbey, which has been confronted with allegations of abuse, in order to initiate the secularization of the high school.

From the coming school year, the secondary school at Saint-Maurice Abbey will be called Lycée-collège de Saint-Maurice, while the canons will have to take off their cassocks and teach in secular dress, as State Councillor Christophe Darbellay (center) explained at a press conference on Wednesday. However, he added: "We are not moving towards laicization along the lines of the French model. We will not banish religion from the institution."

The rector, who comes from the Brotherhood of Augustinian Canons and "had withdrawn to protect the institution at the time of the revelations", will resume his work on Monday. Rector Alexandre Ineichen is not guilty of anything, explained Darbellay. However, his successor will be secular. He or she will be recruited via an advertisement and no longer on the recommendation of the abbey.

Religious activities voluntary

In future, religious activities will take place outside of the timetable and participation is voluntary. Other religious activities, such as days of reflection or camps, will be organized by lay people. They can take place at religious locations such as the hospices on the Great St. Bernard or the Simplon.

Pastoral care at the college will continue. However, its activities are voluntary and take place outside of the timetable.

Clear demarcation from the abbey

Darbellay recalled that the cantonal government had set up a working group in November 2023 after the press uncovered cases of sexual abuse at Saint Maurice Abbey.

In its conclusions, the working group writes that "while respecting the prestigious past of this historically recognized place of education, the College of Saint-Maurice, it wanted to put forward measures that would allow a further step towards the secularization of the institution that has been emerging since the 1970s".

The proposed measures are also intended to complete the process of the college being taken over by the canton by "marking a clearer separation between the educational institution and the abbey". In addition to the new name, the school will also revise its visual appearance.

Extent unknown

The extent of the abuse scandal that has rocked the abbey of the Augustinian canons in Saint-Maurice in recent months is unclear. According to a report broadcast by French-speaking Swiss television station RTS in the fall, around ten canons are said to be involved in cases of sexual abuse within Saint-Maurice Abbey.

At a media conference held by the abbey following these revelations, it was stated that some of these cases date back more than 60 years and that most of the perpetrators had died. Other cases had ended with pre-trial detention and suspended sentences or the proceedings had been discontinued.

©Keystone/SDA

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