A study has found evidence of child abuse from the 1930s to 1950s at a Catholic educational institution in western Switzerland. At least 21 people are thought to have been affected.
The historical study led by Bishop Charles Morerod, found that 11 perpetrators were involved in the “mistreatment, and serious and repeated sexual abuse” of the children and young adults who were pupils at the Catholic Marini Institute in canton Fribourg between 1929 and 1955. The school was closed in 1979.
Researchers began to collect evidence and information a year ago after the bishop held a meeting with victims of abuse in Catholic institutions, where problems at the Marini Institute surfaced.
The study said it had so far managed to uncover 21 cases of abuse, and that the victims came from particularly precarious social backgrounds and difficult family situations. It added that the stigmatisation associated with poverty, and the ostracism of children born out of wedlock, contributed to the silence and disinterest of the public and the authorities.
Lack of justice
Among the 11 verifiable abusers were two successive directors of the institute who were priests, and two clergymen at the institute. There were only two cases that went before a court – one involving an institute clergyman and one a lay supervisor
The report, published on Tuesday, went on to say that “the will to prevent any publicity surrounding the perpetrators of sexual abuse” was absolute for the authorities of the diocese and the management of the institution. A few victims were intimidated into silence.
The church authorities had carried out their own internal investigations. In some instances a priest would be transferred, but not convicted or punished.
The report also found that many children of school age at the Marini Institute were working rather than studying during the same time period. There was a strict discipline system in place that bordered on abuse, according to the researchers.
Violence was common and children would be lashed with a whip.
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