Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bishop asks for forgiveness in paedophile cases

February 1, 2008 - 5:04 PM
Bishop asks for forgiveness in paedophile cases

Image caption: Bishop Genoud does not want every priest to be tarred with the same brush (Keystone)
The Catholic bishop for western Switzerland has asked forgiveness from victims of paedophile priests, after several cases of abuse came to light.
Bernard Genoud, who represents the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, said the Church had set up an independent commission of experts to gather information on abuse and strengthen prevention.
In the most widely publicised case, a Swiss priest was moved to France by superiors who knew he had already sexually abused at least one child.
At a news conference in Fribourg on Friday, Genoud said cases of paedophilia involving priests "quite rightly" attracted much media attention.
"I would also like to stress our obligation to ask for pardon from the victims, pardon for the lack of transparency, clarity, communication, and indeed of courage which unfortunately led to these offences."
He added that he did not exactly know how to ask forgiveness for the "unfair suffering" of the victims.
Genoud said that a priest was expected to be exemplary and almost a "Superman" but this was difficult.
"Only the recognition of our limits allows us to ask for pardon," he said.
Genoud added there were Church laws that he as a bishop had to respect.
"But I would also note the prime importance of the work done by civil authorities. We are not able to manage everything from within [the Church]."
He said victims who came forward to the Church were encouraged to go to judicial authorities for the "best guarantee of an adequate and efficient treatment".
At the same time, Genoud called for people not to stigmatise the Church as a whole as the crimes were committed by a few of its priests.
"I want to underline that our clergy in its large majority is healthy, that it works in an exemplary manner... There are, however, painful cases [in which] priests have made grave mistakes."
"This is unacceptable but people must not see every priest as a paedophile."
He also noted that paedophilia was a sexual deviation which had nothing to do with celibacy, arguing that celibacy did not lead to paedophilia any more than marriage.
The new commission's mandate is to collect all information that arrives via hotline, letters, emails and meetings about possible sexual abuse.
It will verify allegations and draw up a report for the authorities of the diocese, as well as try to improve prevention measures.
These will be aimed at priests and, in particular, future priests.
"In this area, more than elsewhere, education and prevention are indispensable," Genoud said.
swissinfo, Robert Brookes in Fribourg
The paedophile priest scandal first erupted in Boston in 2002 when many leaders of the archdiocese were found to have moved priests who abused minors to new parishes instead of defrocking them or reporting them to authorities.The scandal then spread to almost every US Catholic diocese. It led to dozens of lawsuits, millions of dollars in payments to victims and the defrocking, resignation and jailing of priests.In July the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million (SFr730 million) to 500 victims of sexual abuse dating back as far as the 1940s. Sexual abuse scandals have also hit Catholic Churches in Ireland and other countries.
Last Wednesday, it was reported the diocese had informed the authorities of two cases of suspected sexual abuse.
Judicial authorities in Fribourg and Geneva are investigating these cases.
In the Geneva case, there are said to be two victims. In the second case, little information has as yet been given.
The Swiss Bishops Conference has said it will review its directives for handling suspected cases of paedophile crimes by priests.
Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg (French and German) (
Swiss Bishops Conference (German, French and Italian) (
Association for the protection of children (German and French) (
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