“Act only under public pressure”

Newspaper: Accusations against Bishop Charles Morerod of Western Switzerland © 271 EAK MOTO (shutterstock)

The "Tagesanzeiger" from Zurich accuses the bishop of western Switzerland Charles Morerod of not having cleared up a case of abuse. The bishop, they say, knew about it for years but didn't take the necessary steps.

Although the bishop of Fribourg (Fribourg) received files on an alleged sexual assault years ago, he apparently ignored the dossier and only now suspended the priest, the newspaper reported (Wednesday).

On Tuesday, the clergyman had been dismissed from service until further notice. The diocese said it had learned of an accusation made almost 20 years ago that needed clarification. The bishop had ordered the release.

Dossier reportedly known since 2011

According to the "Tagesanzeiger," Morerod has had the relevant dossier since 2011. But nothing happened, he said, until the newspaper confronted the bishop with its research findings earlier in the week.

In 1998, a 39-year-old man was allegedly sexually harassed by the then pastor in his apartment. The latter had been for him an "authority and father figure" and had severely abused his trust.

The priest had later written a letter to the victim asking for an apology. In 2001, a discussion between the parties involved and the then vicar general was requested in the bishop's house, in which the accused acknowledged the facts.

Bishop rejects accusations

Morerod made the clergyman a priest at the cathedral in 2012 and confirmed him as a co-director of priestly formation. At first press reports in December 2019, both the vicar general at the time and the accused would have denied an assault.

The newspaper accuses Morerod of acting "only under prere from the public". He said there was a reliable source that the then West Swiss victims' commission had handed over the dossier to Morerod in 2011, when he became bishop. According to the "Tagesanzeiger", he himself explained that he only found it at the end of December 2019 in the course of this research and handed it over to the police.

Otherwise, neither the bishop nor the accused wanted to comment on the case; they did not want to prejudge the ongoing preliminary ecclesiastical investigation.

Further allegation of harassment

According to the newspaper, there is another molestation allegation by a former African seminarian against the same clergyman. The bishop had instructed a lawyer to also pursue this accusation. Next Wednesday, Morerod plans to speak publicly in Lausanne about his role in addressing and preventing abuse, the newspaper adds.

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Christina Cherry
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