2 Jan 2011

German Catholic Church asks government to limit compensation to sex abuse survivors

NewsObserver.com - September 30, 2010

Catholic Church seeks limit on sex abuse payouts in Germany


BERLIN -- The Catholic Church called Thursday for Germany to agree to a ceiling on compensation payouts by sports clubs, boarding schools and religious organizations to sex abuse victims.

The Catholic bishops did not disclose how high they thought the ceiling should be. They made the proposal at a government-headed meeting with other institutions and victim groups.

Abuse by pedophile German priests from the 1950s to 1990s came into the open this year, after similar scandals in Ireland and Belgium. Victims have alleged that the church covered up the abuse.

In Germany, the scandal quickly widened with similar disclosures by other churches, non-religious groups and sporting organizations of crimes against children, ranging from violence and exhibitionism to serial rape.

Berlin summoned the victims, who are now adult, and groups that employed the pedophiles to negotiate a broad settlement.

The church, with 26 million members among Germany's 80 million population, said compensation should be proportionate to each victim's present-day need for psychological counseling.

It should not be equal across all the cases, nor should it cover past counseling, said the proposal. The meeting, headed by three cabinet ministers, is discussing cases that are so old that the victims can no longer sue in the courts.

Victim representatives have said a sliding scale between 5,000 and 80,000 euros ($7,000 and $106,000) would be appropriate.

Germany's legal system does not provide for punitive damages such as the millions of dollars paid a decade ago by U.S. Catholic dioceses for sex abuse, or the big sums paid last year by Catholic bodies in Ireland.

Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the Catholic envoy on the issue, said before it met, "I can understand that many victims are getting impatient and that nobody wants this put off forever."

But it would torpedo the talks if amounts were named outside the meeting, he said. Small groups with modest finances, such as sports clubs, would simply walk out if they could not afford to pay, he said.

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