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Abuse: Switzerland, Bishops approve amendments to Guidelines. Stricter rules on compulsory reporting

The Swiss Bishops tighten up the guidelines on sex abuse by imposing a virtually unconditional obligation to report cases to justice, while suppressing the “right of veto” even if asked for by the victims themselves. This has been decided by the prelates during their plenary assembly, when they developed a new edition of the “Guidelines of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference and the Swiss Union of Superiors General about sex abuse within the Church”. The amendments coming into force on 1st March 2019 concern both additional prevention and a harsher reporting obligation. The guidelines laid down that adult victims could assert a sort of “right of veto”, by opposing to the decision of the bishops, vicars general and major superiors to report the case to justice. From now on, adult victims will no longer have such “right”, and the ecclesiastic organisations concerned will have to report any crime they become aware of to the public authorities concerned. So far, such rule had been adopted when recommended by therapists who had asked to give victims a “vetoing” option. “However – the final release of the Plenary Assembly states –, it was proved in practice that there was still the risk of covering up a case as well as endangering other potential victims in the future. What has not changed is the unconditional obligation to report any suspected paedophilic act on children”. In addition, the Bishops tighten up the provisions taken for prevention, which shall become “more and more systematic” by taking effective measures. The new procedures establish, for instance, “changes in the terms and conditions of the agreements” for staff working in the ecclesial offices.

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