Sexual abuse of minors, severe beatings, an overtaxed church leadership – and cover-ups. Catholics in Switzerland are also horrified by a dark chapter in their church history. An abbot now calls for a sin registry in the Vatican.
Although most of the acts, such as that of Father Gregor Muller, took place a long time ago, they are still being investigated. Muller recently confessed to having abused altar boys and convent students in the 1970s. But the misdeeds of yesteryear outrage the Confederates more and more – especially because the perpetrators remained unchallenged for so long."The consequences of all the scandals for the reputation of the Catholic Church are devastating," judges the controversial Catholic theologian and Swiss Hans Kung. The Catholic Bishops' Conference said it was "ashamed and deeply dismayed" by the many abuses that have come to light in recent weeks. Many believers and politicians, however, believe the bishops have reacted too slowly, too awkwardly, too passively."The church must finally stop trying to settle the problem internally," demands Daniel Jositsch, a Zurich criminal lawyer and Social Democratic member of parliament. How the bishops want to proceed in concrete terms has not yet been determined. They will not meet for their next session until early June.
Plan of the sin map The abbot of Einsiedeln Monastery, Martin Werlen, does not want to wait that long. The head of the famous institution south of Lake Zurich urges a special session of the bishops' conference. "We can address the problems that clearly exist," he said in an interview. The abbot surprised the Swiss with a concrete plan: he wants to set up a central office at the Vatican – a registry of sinners.Church people who have been denounced are to be registered there. "In the case of a job change to another diocese wherever in the world, a bishop could inquire whether there is something serious," Werlen explains. Swiss politicians such as Federal President Doris Leuthard are also calling for a central register of wrongdoers.And criminal lawyer Jositsch goes even further: the Catholic Church must be obliged by law to file criminal charges in cases of sexual abuse. A registry of sinners already exists for Swiss schools: since 2004, the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Education Directors has kept a central list of all "teachers without teaching authorization" – for example, because they have been guilty of sexual assault.
List disputed among bishops Among bishops, however, such a blacklist is controversial. The bishop of St. Gallen, Markus Buchel, proposes to limit the register to the German-speaking area. A convicted Swiss priest is not allowed to work as a pastor in Germany or Austria. The president of the bishops' conference, on the other hand, Norbert Brunner, rejects a central capture of the perpetrators.After all: The diocese of Basel deals openly with crimes of the past – and on the Internet. Catholic theologians in the diocese who are the subject of sexual abuse cases can expect their cases to be described on the diocese's website. For example, there is "News about Father Gregor Muller. Critics, however, continue to complain that the church is merely practicing damage control.Wouldn't it be better to try to identify potential offenders at an early stage – and keep them away from the priestly profession? This seems almost impossible. "There are psychological aptitude tests, and in addition the seminarians are psychologically accompanied during the introductory year," explains Ernst Fuchs, the director of the seminary St. Luzi in Chur. But there is no guarantee that all "delicate candidates" will be filtered out.