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FRIBOURG, Switzerland (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican has ordered a pro-LGBT bishop to investigate accusations of cover-up and sexual abuse against six Swiss bishops and several priests after a senior whistleblower priest reported the accused to the Holy See.
"I can no longer accept dissimulation. For a long time, I watched and saw that nothing was happening," said Fr. Nicolas Betticher, former vicar general of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, admitting he had "made mistakes" by not reporting the abuse earlier.
Four of the bishops are still in office, while two have retired. While all six prelates are accused of covering up clerical sex abuse, one of the bishops is accused of sexually abusing a young person.
"This morning, accusations against several members of the Swiss Bishops' Conference were made public," a press release from the conference of Swiss bishops confirmed on Sunday.
The statement revealed that the whistleblower priest had reported the cover-up and abuse to the apostolic nuncio, Martin Krebs, in a letter dated May 2023.
The statement noted allegations against "several emeriti and serving members of the Swiss Bishops' Conference as well as other members of the clergy in the management cases of sexual abuse."
"Some of them are accused of having committed sexual abuse themselves in the past," the bishops' statement added.
Swiss newspaper Blick, which obtained a copy of Fr. Betticher's complaint, named the accused prelates, including Bp. Jean-Marie Lovey (Sion), Bp. Charles Morerod (Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg) and Bp. Alain de Raemy (bishop for young people in Switzerland).
The newspaper also reported that three priests from the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg are accused of having sexually abused minors.
Even though, Bp. Alain de Raemy and a predator priest jointly owned a chalet in Valais, where a victim was sexually abused, the bishop denied having any knowledge of the act, asserting that the co-owner of the chalet "had a homosexual relationship" with an adult.
"Twenty years ago, we did not have a sufficient legal basis and, therefore, we made a lot of mistakes," Betticher told the Associated Press. "Today, we can no longer afford to simply say, 'Ah yes, I know, but I didn't do it quite right, but we'll do better next time.' That's over."
"It completely discredits the Church. And that's what disturbs me, because at the core, people tell us, 'We don't want to come anymore, we're leaving the Church.' And that, for me, is unacceptable," the whistleblower stressed.
Meanwhile, the Swiss Bishops' Conference confirmed that Joseph Bonnemain, bishop of Chur, will head the investigation into the accusations of cover-up and sex abuse.
The 73-year-old bishop, who's a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, is known as "the darling of the progressives" and insists "there is room for all opinions and trends in Opus Dei."
The progressive prelate is in favor of dropping mandatory celibacy for priests and is open to women's ordination. "I have quite a few friends, including priests, who are homosexual," he revealed, going on to explain how adoption rights for homosexual couples are "critical."
Days before the Swiss voted in favor of same-sex "marriage" in a referendum, Bonnemain said he did not object to same-sex unions but would support a semantic change in renaming the "Bible-based partnership between man and woman" as "'love forever' or 'organic marriage.'"
In April 2022, Bonnemain ordered his clergy to "refrain from sweeping negative assessments of allegedly unbiblical behavior based on sexual orientation."
In November 2022, the bishop abolished the office of exorcist in his diocese, insisting that "most people have emotional, psychological burdens and need support, prayer, blessings, appropriate church services but not necessarily a major exorcism."
On Tuesday, researchers from the University of Zurich presented their final report on 1,002 cases of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland.
In a press statement, Bp. Felix Gmür, president of the Swiss Bishops' Conference described the historic study, which was carried out from April 2022 to May 2023, as "frightening and disconcerting."
"The findings bring to light circumstances that not only document the illicit behavior of individual perpetrators of crimes, but at the same time reveal the systemic causes for which bishops, their predecessors and other people with positions of responsibility within the Church must answer," Bp. Gmür stated.
The study spotlights the case of "Adriana" who was sexually molested by a priest in the canton of Neuchâtel when she was 9 years old, and "Marie" who suffered sexual abuse for five years from her priest uncle in the 1960s in the canton of Fribourg.
"Priests are still human beings, with impulses," says Adriana. "But I wonder why they commit themselves to a path that doesn't suit them. Maybe they should be allowed to have sexual relationships and families."
While Adriana continues to practice her Catholic faith, Marie has left the Church.
"For a lot of my family, he [my uncle] was practically God himself. He had absolute authority and no one could confront him," she laments. "He said he was the right hand of God and that what he was doing was to save me."
According to the report, 56% of abuse cases involved boys and 39% involved girls. In 5% of cases, the sex was not specified. Additionally, 74% of abuses were committed against minors and 14% against adults. In the remaining 12%, the age is not known.
Moreover, 22% of abuses date back to the years 1950–59, 25% to the decade 1960–69, while 10% occurred between 1970 and 2000 and 12% occurred from 2000 to 2022. In 11% of cases, the facts are not dated or extend over long periods.
The report confirms that the unofficial standard procedure of the Church in response to the reporting of abuse was to move priests from one parish to another or from one diocese to another. In some cases, guilty priests were sent abroad to escape an investigation or trial.