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Damages for Catholic abuse could cost millions

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Priests pray for the victims during a recent service in Berlin. Photo: DPA
11:02 CET+01:00
As more victims of sexual abuse by priests in the German Catholic church in the 1970s and 80s come forward, their lawyers said on Tuesday that compensation could reach into the millions.

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.

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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.

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