Dear Holy Father,
I am writing to you about the Catholic Swiss canton of Fribourg which has been sheltering fraudulent business activities since the 1960’s. Given your recent writings, I think you might be interested in my inquiry into this corruption.
Fribourg was an important Swiss center of the Counter-Reformation. At the end of his long and illustrious career, Peter Canisius founded le college St. Michel there in 1582. The Jesuit saint and Doctor of the Church is buried in the church next to the classroom where I used to teach English. Three centuries after Canisius arrived in Fribourg, Cardinal Gaspard Mermillod’s “Fribourg Union” met each autumn in the 1880’s to help prepare Pope Leo XIII’s groundbreaking encyclical Rerum Novarum.
Despite Fribourg’s long-standing connections to the social teachings of the Catholic Church, none of its leaders, secular or ecclesiastical, have ever commented on the “shell” companies which have been set up for corrupt foreigners by local lawyers and accountants. Over the past 28 years, I have repeatedly questioned these leaders—in person and by mail—about the nefarious activities of these shell companies. I felt that schemes such as laundering the money that kleptocrats had stolen from the treasuries of their impoverished countries, smuggling forbidden arms and technologies—such as poison gas and nuclear technologies—to rogue regimes, and conniving to transport toxic waste to third-world countries were flagrant violations of the Church’s Social MagIsterium.*
The esteemed leaders I contacted, which included the editor of la Liberté, the local newspaper (M. François Gross); a Fribourgeois who became Swiss president (M. Joseph Deiss); and the local bishop (the late Mgr. Pierre Mamie) always elected to remain silent when confronted with these sordid facts. I could not understand how Fribourg, the “pious and convent crowded city” which its inhabitants used to call “little Rome,” could turn its back on the spirit of the “common good” as set forth by “the Fribourg Union” and Rerum Novarum, and degenerate into a port of call for international fraudsters, money-launderers, and arms traffickers. (See The American Catholic Quarterly Review, 1901, vol. 26, p. 773) No one seemed to care. I often wondered what another immigrant to Fribourg, Pieter Kanis from Nijmegen in Holland, would have thought of all of this.