Protest against the cover-up of church abuse on Munich's Marienplatz (archive image)
Photo: Sven Hoppe / dpa
Civil proceedings are currently underway at the Traunstein District Court on questions of liability for the suffering suffered by victims of abuse.
On Wednesday it was announced that the Archdiocese of Munich will not plead the statute of limitations in this case.
A statement of defense had been filed in a timely manner, it said.
That means: The church faces the procedure.
The archdiocese is "ready to pay appropriate compensation for the suffering of the plaintiff and to find an appropriate solution for further claims for damages," said a spokesman for the diocese.
The archdiocese "deeply" regrets the suffering suffered by the plaintiff and other victims of abuse.
Until recently, it was unclear whether the Archdiocese would put the statute of limitations on the case.
It is about the pedophile priest Peter H., who was noticed as a sex offender in the dioceses of Essen and Munich and was still allowed to work with children and young people.
The allegations are time-barred.
The lawyer for a victim of the then priest wants to have the guilt of the church determined by means of a declaratory action in order to be able to derive claims for damages.
The allegations about Priest H. also relate to Pope Benedict XVI, who died on New Year's Eve and was bishop there at the time the priest moved from Essen to Munich.
Benedict, as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger at the time, is said to have accepted the priest into his diocese, although pedophile acts from the time in Essen were known.
Another person affected is also suing for damages in Cologne.
He claims to have been abused more than 300 times by a Catholic priest as an acolyte and is demanding more than 750,000 euros in compensation.
The Archdiocese of Cologne also refrained from invoking the statute of limitations.
Richard Kick, Chairman of the Advisory Board for Affected People in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, was pleased with the current decision in Bavaria.
He spoke of a big, important signal: "That's a clear statement."
"Pain and damages, that's a term that's never been used before," Kick said.
Although the Catholic Church has already paid money for victims of sexual violence, as a rule, voluntary recognition services have been spoken of.
Plaintiff attorney Andreas Schulz sees the Archdiocese's response to the lawsuit as a success: "The plaintiff's strategy of filing a declaratory action before a secular court was successful," he says.
From his point of view, "appropriate compensation" means more than what the church has so far paid as part of the church's internal recognition procedures.
The maximum amount is usually 50,000 euros.
Declaratory action against the perpetrator, the archdiocese and two former archbishops
The plaintiff is a man who claims to have been abused by the convicted repeat offender Priest H. in Garching an der Alz.
His civil action, a so-called declaratory action, is directed against four suspects: the alleged perpetrator, the archdiocese and the former archbishops Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Cardinal Friedrich Wetter.
The cleric was transferred to Bavaria from North Rhine-Westphalia in the 1980s, although there had previously been allegations of abuse.
Even when the man was convicted of sexual abuse after further crimes in Grafing near Munich, he was transferred again: to Garching an der Alz, where nobody knew of his crimes - and the pastor abused children again.
Who is Ratzinger's legal successor?
After the death of Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the proceedings against him are suspended until a legal successor has been determined.
The proceedings against the other three defendants continue unchanged.
According to court spokeswoman Andrea Titz, Priest H. and Cardinal Wetter also do not refer to a statute of limitations.
It is unclear how Ratzinger's legal successor intends to position himself.
The court proposed March 28 as the date for the oral hearing.
The sourdough initiative, which also supports the plaintiff financially, is "happy and relieved" about the way things have gone so far.
However, everything else for the Archdiocese might have been difficult to convey.
Just last week, the archbishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, presented in a large press conference what his diocese had learned and done a year after the presentation of the large report on abuse.
If the diocese had then blocked the Traunstein court proceedings by invoking a statute of limitations, it would probably have caused a lack of understanding, not only among those affected.
Church lawyer Schüller expects lawsuits
After the decisions of the two rich archbishoprics, the canon lawyer Thomas Schüller now sees a wave of lawsuits rolling towards the church: "Many victims of sexualized violence would now take state legal action," he said.
Should this happen, he sees poorer dioceses in particular in financial distress: A number of dioceses will “not be able for long to service the sums ordered by state courts, which can go up to 800,000 euros, as in Cologne having to sell substantial assets such as real estate.«