A shocking study of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and others in Switzerland has laid bare a staggering 1,000 cases since the mid-20th century.
The Swiss church has become the latest European country to reckon with a major abuse scandal after a year-long study commissioned by the Swiss Conference of Bishops.
It was led by two University of Zurich historians and takes a deep dive into the sexual abuse and harassment that has rocked the Catholic Church across the globe in recent decades.
The authors identified as many as 1,002 “situations of sexual abuse” in the Swiss church, including accusations against 510 people. The abuse reportedly affected 921 people.
But historians Monika Dommann and Marietta Meier said in a statement that “situations identified surely amount to only the tip of the iceberg”.
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Over half (56 percent) of the cases of sexual abuse involved men or boys.
Meanwhile, 39 percent of victims were women or girls. Sourcing failed to identify the remaining five percent by gender, according to the study.
The historians poured over thousands of pages of secret documents, assembled by church authorities since the mid-20th century. Many sources of information are still yet to be studied in full.
In some cases, documents had been destroyed to cover up any alleged wrongdoing. A large number were also “concealed, covered up or downplayed.”
More than half of the cases took place during pastoral care and around 30 percent happened in places like schools, homes and boarding schools.
Some incidents even occurred during confessions or consultations.
The researchers wrote: “Church officials routinely transferred accused and convicted clerics, sometimes even abroad, in an effort to avoid secular criminal prosecution and secure reassignment for clerics.
“In doing so, the interests of the Catholic Church and its leaders were placed before the well-being and protection of parishioners.”
The abuse scandal has rocked the religious communities across Europe, upending the lives of many victims and their families, and tarnishing the image of the institution.
The Swiss Conference of Bishop announced Sunday a Vatican-ordered investigation into claims of sexual abuse in Switzerland. Two other religious groups made a joint statement with the organisation, saying not enough was done to fight such abuse.
The statement read: “As ecclesiastical institutions, we carry a great share of responsibility in the fact that so many people in the heart of the Church were victims of crimes, and often suffered the consequences for their lives, for themselves, their relationships, their private and professional development, their confidence in God, in life>”
In 2021, France’s Catholic Church welcomed a historic turning point after a report estimated that 330,000 children in the country were sexually abused over the past seven decades.
The figure included abuses committed by some 3,000 priests and an unknown number of other people involved in the church.
Meanwhile, more than half a million people formally left the Catholic Church in Germany last year amid the long-running scandal over abuse by clergy.
In 2018, a church-commissioned report found that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014. More than half of the victims were 13 or younger, and nearly a third served as altar boys.
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