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Damages for Catholic abuse could cost millions

Published: 16 Feb 2010 11:02 GMT+01:00
Updated: 16 Feb 2010 17:45 GMT+01:00

Berlin lawyer Manuela Groll, who represents nine victims, told daily Die Welt that sums between €5,000 and €10,000 are under discussion.

“My clients are not happy with an apology, and instead expect compensation from the orders,” Groll told the paper. “An agreement out of court would be the right signal to the victims.”

Prosecutors have said that the alleged abuse probably happened too long ago for criminal charges to be an option.

Klaus Mertes, head of the elite Canisius Catholic secondary school in Berlin, where the scandal erupted in January, acknowledged that the church may compensate victims.

“But this question needs to be ruled upon by church leadership in Munich or even Rome,” Mertes told Die Welt.

Since Mertes sent a letter to some 600 former students at Canisius College who he believed may have been victims of at least two priests on staff in the 1970s and 80s, news of sexual abuse in other Catholic schools and organisations has spread throughout Germany.

Mertes told Die Welt that he believed the number of victims could be more than 100. Already more than 50 people have come forward.

“I have always said that it wasn’t about isolated cases, but that a certain system was behind this issue,” he said, adding that the church needs to recognize the terrible truth.

Meanwhile late on Tuesday one of Germany’s most senior Catholic bishops Walter Mixa told daily Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung that the sexual revolution was at fault for abuse by priests.

“The so-called sexual revolution, in which some especially progressive moral critics supported the legalisation of sexual contact between adults and children, is certainly not innocent,” he said, adding that the media was also at fault.

His comments came in response to calls for the Catholic church to open up discussion about sexuality to prevent further abuse.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

12:10 February 16, 2010 by pepsionice
Here's the curious thing about this....in Germany....the church tax is a mandatory thing if you claim a connection to any church. So if you were Catholic....you were listed on the government revenue database, and a certain percentage of your pay was deducted and handed to the Catholic Church. So in effect.....as folks come up and sue the Church.....they are more or less claiming tax-payer funding.

Based on the method that this percentage is drawn up.....the Church could say it needs a higher percentage of tax deducted.....to make up for its losses. I would seriously doubt that it'd pass through the Bundestag right now.....but there is this loop hole to allow it.
12:31 February 16, 2010 by michael4096
@pepsionice - this is a misleading comment. When you begin working for a company in germany you are asked if you wish to donate a proportion of your money to a registered religion automatically. Declining this, which nearly everybody I know does, has no downside. It certainly doesn't bar you from your religion or stop you giving money away manually. In many companies you can also choose to donate to a charity, automatically, out of before tax earnings.

I agree that there is far too much religion in german legislation, but don't make it appear worse than it is.
14:25 February 16, 2010 by Deutschguy
€5,-10,000? Peanuts!

These victims should be receiving €500,000 to €1,000,000 apiece.

They should get US lawyers to sue the Church in an American court. And, go after the Vatican Treasury (who can liquidate its "Art" and "Relics") for millions more.

€5,000 is a pittance and nothing but a slap on the wrist. German lawyers need to be more bloodthirsty and aggressive.
15:30 February 16, 2010 by Rittervon
This is sad..... Is this a common speeding ticket? I think not. These poor kids were basicly raped! They will forever be troubled by the memories of this. So that means it will affect every relationship they ever have, spouces, their children, and grandchildren.

This is not paying for sex. This is supposed to be a fine that makes everyone, not just the church, think twice about ever doing it again!

At this rate a person with the means could reason " hey if I get cought it will only cost me 5,000 to 10,000 Euros!"

I think the fines need to be greater.
16:09 February 16, 2010 by dbert4
Damages for, "catholic abuse"? I was forces to go to catholic schools as a child, do I qualify for payments?
17:27 February 16, 2010 by mixxim
Why should an organisation pay for unauthorised misdeeds by its members? If I were a Catholic I would object to paying for illegal fun enjoyed by a priest on some minor. Does the German government pay for bad behaviour of some of its members or the Judiciary for its bent lawyers?
18:51 February 16, 2010 by letgolet
The Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation is a newly formed nonprofit with a mission to help heal and support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse worldwide. We are actively seeking adult survivors who would be willing to post a childhood photo and caption, their story, or their creative expressions to our website www.letgoletpeacecomein.org. By uniting survivors from across the globe we can help provide a stronger and more powerful voice to those survivors who have not yet found the courage to speak out. Together we can; together we should; together we NEED to stand up and be counted. Please visit our site for more details on how you can send us your submissions.

Thank you for everything you do!

Gretchen Paules

Administrative Director

Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation

111 Presidential Blvd., Suite 212

Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
21:58 February 16, 2010 by Johnny Cash
The Catholic church is one of , if not the richest organisations in the world. If they paid reparations just from the money they reap each year from laundering mafia money, there would still be plenty in that pot. Of course a Pope couldn't say this and last more than 28 days.
11:37 February 18, 2010 by Prufrock2010
@Deutschguy --

You're right that the amount suggested is a pittance, and an obscene one at that. But don't count on this pope authorizing a penny in victims' compensation. He's still orchestrating the means by which pedophile priests avoid criminal and civil liability throughout the world.

Unfortunately, the catholic church cannot be sued in the U.S. courts for its conduct or that of its clergy which occurred outside the jurisdiction of the United States. It is simply a jurisdictional issue that is dictated by the United States Federal Rules of Civil Procedure - Jurisdiction and Venue.

@mixxim -- the organization should pay for the criminal conduct of its members because the catholic church is a top-down hierarchal organization that is legally responsible under the laws of agency for the conduct of its subordinate members, as well as its own willful negligence in allowing this conduct to occur and/or doing nothing to stop the conduct once it has knowledge that it was occurring.
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