Church wants to pay abuse victims higher compensation for pain and suffering

Church wants to pay abuse victims higher compensation for pain and suffering

At the conclusion of their spring plenary session, the Catholic bishops passed a resolution of principle on the amount of compensation to be paid to victims of abuse. Other topics: Canon law, euthanasia, synodal journey and Syria war.

Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy can expect significantly higher compensation for pain and suffering in the future than before. In Mainz, the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) passed a resolution in principle to this effect, which was presented by its abuse commissioner, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, at a press conference this Thursday.

Orientation to civil law pain and suffering compensation table

Accordingly, in the future, the Catholic Church will be guided by the applicable civil law pain and suffering compensation table and corresponding court rulings. This means for sexual abuse currently sums between 5.000 and 50.000 euros per case. In doing so, the church will always pay the sums "at the upper end of the discretionary range," Ackermann emphasized. If the courts increase the sums, the church payments will also increase.

According to Ackermann, the procedure for application and payment should be made as unbureaucratic as possible. An independent commission of lawyers, psychologists and physicians is to assess the severity of each reported case and make recommendations.

Poorer dioceses are supported

The money is paid into a central account by the dioceses and religious congregations concerned according to their number of cases and their financial strength, from where it is also paid out. Each diocese can decide for itself whether to use church tax funds or other financial reserves. Dioceses and religious congregations that are financially overburdened by this should receive support from richer dioceses. Ackermann held out the prospect that the new regulations would be translated into a workable procedure before the end of this year. However, the composition of the commission and other procedural details would still have to be clarified.

With the new procedure, the Catholic Church is responding to criticism from victims and independent commissioners. They had declared the ecclesiastical procedure practiced since 2011 to be inadequate because it generally only paid a lump sum of 5.000 euros provided for "in recognition of the suffering suffered". The new procedure offers significantly higher sums as well as more transparency and uniformity. In addition, as Ackermann emphasized, it is "connectable" for other organizations such as the Protestant regional churches, sports clubs or boarding schools.

Model of the victim organization rejected

The victims' organization "Eckiger Tisch" had argued for a fundamentally different model and higher sums. Spokesman Matthias Katsch had called on the bishops to adopt a compensation model in which up to 400.000 euros should be paid.

This model had met with criticism in less wealthy dioceses and in the Protestant Church. Some voices had also warned that by paying compensation in this amount, the Catholic Church would create an exclusive special right that would be unattainable for abuse victims in other social contexts.

Bishops debate improved canon law

At the plenary meeting in Mainz, the Catholic bishops discussed, among other things, the introduction of ecclesiastical administrative courts and stricter criminal and disciplinary law for clerics. Bamberg Archbishop Ludwig Schick heads the responsible working group. One of the triggers for the search for an improved legal culture was the abuse scandal. The plenary assembly had before it three draft texts for the area of the German Bishops' Conference: "Ecclesiastical Code of Criminal Procedure," "Ecclesiastical Code of Administrative Procedure for the Dioceses in the Federal Republic of Germany" and "Disciplinary Code for Clerics".

According to conference chairman Georg Batzing, these drafts were discussed in Mainz and will now be discussed further. Clarifications with the responsible Roman authorities were also planned. Batzing stressed that church criminal and disciplinary law is not in competition with state law, but should complement it. Future church administrative law must strengthen the rights of the faithful and congregations in the face of administrative decisions by bishops and pastors.

Judgment on assisted suicide means turnaround

At their plenary meeting, the Catholic bishops once again strongly criticized the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court on assisted suicide. The ruling absolutizes self-determination and thus represents a departure from the court's previous jurisprudence, which was very much in favor of the protection of life, the DBK said at the end of its spring plenary assembly in Mainz.

The bishops further criticize that the legislator is left with little room for maneuver. "Politicians will have to examine whether there is still any meaningful room for maneuver after the ruling to put a regulatory stop to the normalization of suicide offers."

Assisted suicide could increase

Although the dangers to the self-determination of sick and elderly people are well recognized, they do not count in the court's consideration, the bishops continued. It is therefore to be feared that assisted suicide will now increase sharply, especially by the associations already operating in Germany. Normalization tendencies like in Switzerland, the Netherlands or Belgium are to be expected. "This weakens especially the offers of palliative and hospice care."

For the church, the bishops now see the task of providing even better support and help to people in difficult life situations. Just a few days ago, Caritas, Diakonie and the German Hospice and Palliative Association presented a handbook for inpatient hospice work, which is intended to ensure the high quality of care.

At the same time, the bishops see themselves as having a responsibility to provide even more information about the "often not even known diverse options for self-determination on the last path". They include living wills, the possible discontinuation of treatment, pain therapies and pastoral care services. "Experience teaches that suicidal wishes are often not pursued further when serious offers of accompaniment are made."

No common Lord's Supper at the Ecumenical Church Congress

The catholic bishops do not strive yet for confession-spreading communion celebrations with the ecumenical Kirchentag in Frankfurt 2021. This was stated by the DBK president, Bishop Georg Batzing, at the end of the spring plenary assembly. A much-noticed recommendation of the Ecumenical Working Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (oAK) from September 2019 merely aims to open up celebrations of the Eucharist and the Lord's Supper to individual Christians of the respective other tradition.

Batzing, who helped draft the paper, said, "The document wants to provide a theological framework for respecting the individual decision of conscience of individual believers to participate in the Eucharist or in the liturgy. to join in the Lord's Supper, but not to make possible a joint celebration of the Lord's Supper."

Different receptions of the Lord's Supper

In the run-up to the Ecumenical Church Congress planned for 2021, there had been isolated expectations that "ecumenical meal celebrations" could take place there. The Catholic Church and the Protestant regional churches have different theological understandings of what is essential in the Lord's Supper and the Eucharist. In the view of the oAK, however, these differences are not so serious that they make it impossible for individual Christians to participate in the respective other meal celebration.

For this the oAK refers to newer theological and in particular liturgy-scientific realizations and comes to the conclusion that there is agreement with regard to the meaning content of the celebration with different liturgical form and therefore a mutual participation is theologically well justified.

In search of a unity of the Church

As Batzing explained in Mainz, the oAK sees in the mutual participation a further intermediate step in the search for the shape of comprehensive visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ. After the German Bishops' Conference had only briefly informed itself about the text of the EAC at its autumn 2019 plenary meeting, there had now been "a more intensive discussion" in Mainz.

The text raises questions "that need to be considered in the further theological and pastoral liturgical debate," Batzing explained. They marked a "need for clarification on the Catholic side, but also on the Protestant side". Batzing announced that the DBK commissions for liturgy, ecumenism and faith will deal with the study in more detail before the Ecumenical Church Congress.

Batzing draws positive interim conclusion on Synodal Way

The new president of the German Bishops' Conference drew a positive interim conclusion on the Synodal Way. At the first synodal assembly at the end of January in Frankfurt, it was noticeable "with what seriousness and thoughtfulness the current topics were approached," said Limburg Bishop Georg Batzing at the end of the spring plenary assembly of the DBK in Mainz. "Our passionate appeal to make the Church alive has been taken up by lay people and priests and bishops alike."

The initiative launched by bishops and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) on the future of church life is scheduled to run for two years and is intended to regain trust lost after the abuse scandal. Batzing reiterated that he is fully behind the dialogue.

Good work on central ies

"Also after this plenary assembly of the German Bishops' Conference in Mainz, I wish that the Church of awakening, as Pope Francis calls for it, continues to be visible in our country."The Bishop of Limburg added that work had got off to a good start in two of the four working groups set up on the central themes of power, sexual morality, priestly life and the role of women.

Criticism of refugee policy

The Catholic bishops look with concern at the situation in Syria. Bishop Georg Batzing, at the end of the DBK's spring plenary session, called on the EU to be generous in accepting refugees. "Those who declare the admission of more civil war refugees in Germany and Europe a taboo are closing their eyes to reality, a terrible reality," Batzing said in Mainz.

The Bishop of Limburg added that it is regrettable that the EU member states have not used the past years to achieve a profound reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Now more than ever, they are challenged to find ways to a fair and solidary refugee policy. Above all, the states at the EU's external borders should not be left alone with the problem.

Do not exacerbate the suffering of the population in Syria

As for Syria, in the tenth year of war, poverty is greater than ever, DBK president said. Addressing the German government and the political leaders in the other EU member states, the conference chairman called for a critical review of the sanctions imposed on Syria and for them to be adjusted so that they do not exacerbate the suffering of the population.

Humanitarian aid from Catholic relief agencies

The bishops agree that the church in Germany must continue to do everything in its power to support the Syrian Christians in every respect and especially in their charitable work. In 2017/2018, the German dioceses and Catholic relief organizations provided more than 104 million euros for humanitarian aid and other projects in Syria and surrounding countries, according to Batzing.

During the plenary assembly, Cardinals Reinhard Marx and Rainer Maria Woelki had already denounced the handling of refugees at the Greek-Turkish border. The Bishops' Conference's refugee commissioner, Archbishop Stefan Hebe, said, "Europe must show that it has more to offer in terms of refugee policy than barbed wire and tear gas."

Next spring plenary meeting of the bishops in Dresden

The next spring plenary meeting of the German Catholic Bishops' Conference will take place in Dresden. The bishops will be guests in the diocese of Dresden-Meissen in 2021, the bishops' conference announced on Thursday after the end of this year's spring meeting in Mainz. The next meeting of the conference members will traditionally be in Fulda in the fall.

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Christina Cherry
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