At the plenary assembly of the German Bishops' Conference in Fulda, which begins this Monday, the subject of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church will be high on the agenda. Just in time for the annual meeting, an independent working group set up by the Episcopate, consisting of 28 experts, has compiled a catalog of 37 proposals aimed at improving and developing the current victim-compensation procedure.
The working group includes church and society representatives, including psychiatrists, lawyers and eight stakeholders. The recommendations that are available to SPIEGEL are considerable. Accordingly, the Expert Commission demands that victims of abuse in the future should receive a basic compensation in the amount of 10,000 euros. In addition, those affected should be entitled to an additional compensation, which amounts to up to € 400,000 - per person.
In view of the number of cases, this would result in billions in church compensation payments. In recent decades, a total of 3,677 children and adolescents were abused by 1670 Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the area of the German Bishops 'Conference, according to the bishops' study of abuse published in 2018. The number of unreported cases is likely to be high. Experts speak of up to 100,000 people affected.
"The Church must also take responsibility for the consequences of the abuse"
There has been a long-standing criticism of the compensation payments of up to 5,000 euros previously granted by the church. Many abuse victims have professional problems due to mental stress and illness. "It is not just about the recognition of the suffering of those affected, but the church must also take responsibility for the consequences of abuse," says Matthias Katsch, spokesman for the Affected Organization "Eckiger Tisch" and a member of the working group.
At the beginning of June, stakeholders had demanded a sum of 300,000 euros per victim at a meeting with the Episcopal Conference. Last week also called the Abuse Commissioner of the German episcopate, Bishop Stephan Ackermann, this sum compared to the "Trier Volksfreund" and thus provided higher compensation for the victims in view.
According to the wishes of the working group, the German Order's Supreme Conference should in future be involved in the reform plans. That is essential because "a significant part of the deeds were committed in institutions of orders". Furthermore, those concerned who have already received compensation must also be eligible. And relatives and surviving dependents of victims could claim in the future.
Because there are repeated complaints about the lack of transparency of the compensation procedure, an interdisciplinary commission of experts will decide on the granting of payments, according to the wishes of the working group. At the same time, an independent compensation fund is to be established, which unites all dioceses and orders under one roof and works "unassigned" to the church. The church influence "on the occupation, in particular the boards, which examine the plausibility of compensation", should be limited, so the experts.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, the independent working group will present its 37 proposals to the bishops at the Assembly. Only then would they comment on the recommendations, said a spokesman for the Episcopal Conference the SPIEGEL. Affected Representative Katsch demands: "The church must be responsible for its own systemic failure and negligence."