Criminal court for the church – Bishop Bonnemain: “I do believe that the court has a chance” – News

In response to numerous cases of abuse becoming known, the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland is to have its own ecclesiastical criminal and disciplinary court. That’s what the Swiss Bishops’ Conference wants. The Chur Bishop Joseph Maria Bonnemain on the aim, conditions and possibilities of such a court.

Joseph Maria Bonnemain

Bishop of Chur

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Joseph Maria Bonnemain has been Bishop of Chur since February 15, 2021. He was born on July 26, 1948 in Barcelona/ESP and ordained a priest on August 15, 1978. He grew up in Spain as a Swiss expatriate and later came to Switzerland to study medicine. In 1975 he studied philosophy and theology in Rome.
Since 2002, Bonnemain has also been the secretary of the expert committee “Sexual Assaults in Pastoral Care”, which was founded at the time by the Swiss Bishops’ Conference. He is committed to addressing these issues.

SRF News: What is the goal of the planned court?

Joseph Maria Bonnemain: Courts that have experience in this area, because they are often involved in such proceedings in which experts in criminal law are also involved, should be able to deal with such cases for the whole of Switzerland and decide on them.

What does such a dish do?

It is about assessing purely ecclesiastical offenses or crimes and making a judgment about them. If, for example, a cleric, a priest, for example, has become abusive and has also been convicted by a secular criminal court in the secular area and has perhaps already been in prison, measures must also be taken in the church. For example, whether he will be excluded from the church; what lies within the decision-making power of the church.

To establish an interdiocesan court for an entire country, one needs approval from the highest judicial department in the Vatican.

They want to talk to those responsible at the Vatican. How is the process? Does the Vatican have to give its consent?

Yes, it is envisaged that each bishopric, each diocese, will have its own diocesan court. But to set up an interdiocesan court for an entire country, you need approval from the Vatican’s highest judicial department, the Signatura Apostolica. We want to talk to these authorities.

Do you think it has a chance?

I think so, yes.

Who should serve as judge in this court?

We need people who are experts in criminal law and procedural law and also have the necessary practice.

In this Synod of Bishops, as the Pope has also said, people are prepared to talk about everything.

As the Swiss Bishops’ Conference announced, it would like to work to change sexual morality in Rome.

This is happening within the framework of the world synod that is currently taking place. A synod of the entire Church with representatives from Switzerland will begin in Rome in ten days. This Swiss representation will comment accordingly.

What does it mean in practice to change sexual morals?

Humans have many aspects. You cannot reduce a person to their sexuality. A person is a multitude of qualities, of abilities, of feelings, of thoughts, of the heart and of the mind. People must be assessed as a whole, with all their strengths and weaknesses. And just: You shouldn’t put sexuality at the center.

Will topics like celibacy or sex before marriage be discussed?

In this Synod of Bishops, as the Pope has also said, people are prepared to talk about everything.

Does such a dish already exist in other countries, or would it be a novelty?

National dishes already exist in other countries. If I am correctly informed, there are such in France.

The interview was conducted by Corinna Heinzmann.

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