In late 2021, the catholic church in Switzerland instructed historians to investigate sexual abuse within the organisation following evidence of widespread sexual abuse in the church in France. In May 2022 researchers from the University of Zurich started their investigation. This week they presented some of their results, reported RTS.
The investigation marks the first time investigators from outside the church have been given access to documents that go back as far as the middle of the 20th century.
The results of the research so far were made public on 12 March 2023. The researchers have found 1,002 documented cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Switzerland, reported RTS. However, this number is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg. The majority of cases were probably not recorded and evidence was found of document destruction.
Thousands of secret documents have been investigated. 74% of the victims identified so far are minors, 14% adults and 12% of unknown age. 56% of them are male, 39% female, and in 5% cases the gender of the victim was unknown.
Most cases of abuse occurred in a church setting, in the context of providing welfare and support, in homes and schools, catholic boarding schools in particular. In most cases the perpetrators were male clergy. Evidence of systematic abuse lasting decades was found. In general, the church responded to cases of abuse with minimal or no sanctions. Those accused or found guilty of offences were systematically transferred to other parishes, sometimes abroad.
The research was difficult, said the investigators. In two dioceses documents had been destroyed. The results undoubtedly only represent the tip of the iceberg, they said.
Many documents have not yet been investigated. These include dioceses documents, catholic school records, religious boarding school archives, catholic shelters and state documents.
The University of Zurich team will continue to work on the investigation until the end of 2026.