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Catholic Church asks for more time to set up abuse help centres

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"We are not making as much progress as would be desirable or necessary," Joseph Bonnemain, Bishop of Chur and head of the Bishops' Conference, admitted. KEYSTONE

More than six months after a study of abuse in the Catholic Church, officials on Monday announced the status of planned measures. There is nothing concrete yet – “there are still many unanswered questions,” they said. For those affected, progress is too slow.

“We are not making as much progress as would be desirable or necessary,” Joseph Bonnemain, Bishop of Chur and head of the Bishops’ Conference, admitted to the media in Zurich on Monday. “However, intensive work has been done over the past six months.”

Stefan Loppacher, the prevention officer for the diocese of Chur, added that it would take time to introduce measures nationwide. He cited federalism and differences in language and culture, as well as different church structures.

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In order to guarantee independent counselling for victims, church organisations are now in talks with the state-recognised victim counselling centres. For example, it needs to be clarified how their additional work will be compensated, Loppacher continued. The first decisions on the contact centre are to be made in June.

No response to reports of abuse

Vreni Peterer criticised the fact that nothing further has been done so far. The president of the interest group for people affected by abuse in the church (Miku) said during an interview that, for example, the group had still not received any support months after the study.

“Many of those affected are contacting the association to talk about their experiences for the first time,” said Peterer. “We have to bridge the gap until we finally have help centres.”

In addition, there are still people affected who do not receive a response to their report. “They don’t even get a confirmation that their email has been received.”

Bonnemain acknowledged that individual measures in a diocese could probably be implemented more quickly. But he was convinced that what was needed now were broad-based measures that would apply uniformly across the country.

Victim counselling, reporting offices, and case processing should be offered separately and done more professionally. The church’s internal reporting and intervention structures are inadequate in various respects.

Psychological assessments for priests

As announced, the Catholic Church also wants to introduce the requirement for priests, deacons, and members of religious orders to undergo psychological assessments as part of their training. In addition, the entire personnel department is to be professionally reorganised.

Furthermore, all church leaders leading dioceses, regional churches, and religious congregations have made a written commitment not to destroy any more files in connection with cases of abuse in future, contrary to the requirements of church law.

From shock to optimism

The Church must confront its misconduct seriously, stated Abbot Peter von Sury of the association of religious communities in Switzerland, KOVOS. This was in order to do justice to those affected and prevent future abuse.

The report from last September was shocking, added Roland Loos, President of the association of Roman-Catholic cantonal church organisations of central Switzerland, RKZ. However, he now feels optimistic. While it is understandable that those affected want to see more rapid progress, far-reaching changes are possible. However, these will take time.

Church announces planned measures

Last September, the University of Zurich published a study on the extent of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church since the middle of the 20th century. The study 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.

At the presentation of the report, the Church announced it would take measures against sexual abuse and its cover-up.

Adapted from German by DeepL/dkk/ac

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