German Jesuits to offer payouts to abuse victims: leader

16th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Jesuit orders in Germany are prepared to offer payouts to victims of sexual abuse by their priests without waiting for action by the Roman Catholic Church, their leader said Thursday.

The top representative of the Jesuits in Germany, Stefan Kiechle, told the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that they were ready to become the first German Catholic institution to compensate those molested by priests.

"This is not intended to go behind the backs of the Ecumenical Conference and especially not against the bishops," Kiechle told the newspaper, referring to the Church hierarchy in Germany.

"But we understand that we need to set an example in the interest of the victims. It is a question of honesty and our self-image."

In January it emerged that priests at several Jesuit schools in Germany had abused pupils in the 1980s, touching off a scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church to its foundations in the homeland of Pope Benedict XVI.

Until now at least 205 alleged victims of molestation and other physical abuse at German Jesuit schools have come forward.

Kiechle said the Jesuit orders were debating an offer of 5,000 euros (6,540 dollars) per victim but said "nothing has been decided" in terms of the amount.

He said neither donations nor financing already earmarked for Church projects would be used for the fund and that an independent commission would determine who was eligible for payment.

Kiechle rejected the notion of a sliding scale of compensation based on the severity of the case, a path taken notably by the Church in Austria.

The Catholic Church in Germany has faced accusations of foot-dragging on compensation for victims of sexual abuse at its institutions.

The Church late last month unveiled tougher guidelines on investigating and preventing child sex abuse that it hopes will stop a repeat of the hugely damaging scandals of this year.

© 2010 AFP

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