Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Vatican appoints replacement at Swiss abbey tainted by abuse allegations

Abbey :: Saint-Maurice Tourisme :: Valais :: Suisse

Pope Francis has appointed Jean-Michel Girard as the new head of the Abbey of Saint-Maurice in southern Switzerland. 

The prestigious Catholic institution has been embroiled in sexual abuse allegations involving priests.

Jean-Michel Girard, who was a senior cleric (provost) for Grand St Bernard, takes over from Abbot Jean Scarcella and the interim head Roland Jacquenoud.

Scarcella resigned in September, suspected of sexual abuse and its cover-up. He is being investigated as part of a Catholic Church abuse affair by the apostolic special investigator Joseph Bonnemain. 

Saint-Maurice is not under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Sion but reports directly to the Vatican.

His interim successor, Roland Jacquenoud, withdrew last week. He was accused of sexual abuse of an adult novice in a recent report by Swiss public television RTS. 

The Abbey of Saint-Maurice rejected this accusation last week.

In an interview with RTS on Tuesday, Jean-Michel Girard explained that he wants to be a “support” for the abbey, “which must continue to live. First for the members and then for all those who are linked to the life of the community of St-Maurice”.

He added: “We will have to assume the responsibilities linked to these abuses, first obviously towards the victims. We will have to shed light on what happened and finally take all measures essential so, if possible, that it does not happen again.”

Over a dozen people have reported “potential abuses linked to the Abbey of St-Maurice or the ecclesial environment”, the Office of the Attorney General of Valais announced on Wednesday. 

The cantonal police and prosecutors are investigating each declaration.

The office added that "those accused benefit from the presumption of innocence during the preliminary procedure". 

The aim of this procedure is to determine what acts took place and whether they can be prosecuted under Swiss law.