An alleged case of sexual harassment is rocking a Swiss diocese, hurting an auxiliary bishop tipped for promotion to another diocese of his own.
Driving the news
German media revealed December 28 that the auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, Alain de Raemy, has been implicated in the case of a diocesan priest accused of sexual intimidation and inappropriate relationships.
The allegations against the priest – one Paul Frochaux, of the parish of Vevey – are contained in a fourteen-page dossier sent by a priest of African origin, ‘Malik Alieu’ (an assumed name), to the Swiss and Vatican hierarchies.
In his complaint, Alieu alleges Frochaux subjected him to sexual pressure and a “homoerotic climate” in the Vevey parish when Alieu was a seminarian between 2008 and 2011.
During that time, Alieu also says he witnessed relationships between Frochaux and addicts, other seminarians and even a young junkie who stayed in Frochaux’s presbytery.
The crux of Alieu’s complaint against auxiliary bishop de Raemy is that the prelate – then chaplain of the Swiss Guards in the Vatican – knew about Frochaux’s activities from visiting him on occasion and yet never denounced any improprieties.
Alieu’s allegations predate Frochaux’s appointment as priest of the diocesan cathedral in 2012 and de Raemy’s appointment as auxiliary bishop in 2014.
Why it matters
While Frochaux is denying all Alieu’s allegations, Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg Bishop Charles Morerod is defending his auxiliary.
That support of Morerod’s of de Raemy could be important, in the context of de Raemy’s being the favourite to succeed Bishop Vitus Huonder in the diocese of Chur.
That’s a see that’s been vacant since Huonder’s age-related resignation in May, and an appointment that is thought to be being held up because of the suspicions surrounding de Raemy.
For the record
In an interview December 28, Morerod expressed his confidence in de Raemy and hinted that Alieu’s allegations could come down to an attempt at “blackmail”.
“There is a canonical procedure against the accusing priest [Alieu] because of the great dissatisfaction of his parishioners who have complained to me for a long time; he knows that he has a procedure against him”, Morerod said, reiterating that Alieu’s claims could be a form of extortion.
However, Morerod continued, “I am obliged to take seriously what I am told”.
“Consequently, I advised him [Alieu] to contact the police, which he did not do. I therefore went to the Vaud police myself on November 22. After an investigation, the police concluded that there were no grounds to prosecute”.
Even if the police declined to act on Alieu’s allegations against de Raemy, ” I have the duty to open an internal investigation”, Morerod further explained.
“I want it to be independent, so I did not entrust it to people from the church but to a non-Catholic lawyer from Geneva”.
“There are two completely different versions in this case; I believe there is a conflict between people”, Morerod concluded.
“In one way or another, there is harassment, but I do not know which way it is being exercised”, the bishop affirmed, adding that all parties involved have contracted the services of lawyers.