On the morning of September 10, 2023, the following news appeared on the website of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference: “Canonical Investigations into Suspected Concealment of Sexual Abuse by Members of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference.” This news was a prelude to the publication, two days later, of the Report on the Pilot Project for the History of Sexual Abuse in the Context of the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland since the Mid-20th Century. What consequences will result from these investigations and when these investigations will be continued cannot yet be predicted.
Such a situation, with so much of the background and details still unknown, is all too familiar to those who deal with the issue of abuse and its cover-up in the Catholic Church. It is almost predictable that much remains obscure; that because of the complexity of the issue, multiple responsibilities and historical processes, it is often not even clear where the original responsibility lies and who could and should bring light to this situation. In this regard, the Report on the Pilot Project and the news preview reflect what has happened many times on similar occasions in the past. Great agitation, growing nervousness and vague statements create the following picture: within the Catholic Church there is not only a substantial number of abuse victims and perpetrators. At best, the Church, hopelessly overwhelmed by the situation, fails to offer clarification, to deal with or publicly address the issues; at worst, a reluctant or even a downright destructive and defensive approach emerges.