Agence France Presse [Paris, France]
June 13, 2023
[Via News 24]
- The archdiocese of Cologne has been ordered by a German court to pay 300 000 euros in damages to a victim of abuse by a priest.
- The 62-year-old had been raped more than 300 times as a teenager in the 1970s by a Roman Catholic priest.
- The court also ordered that the plaintiff be compensated for any future costs relating to the abuse including therapy fees.
A German court ordered the archdiocese of Cologne on Tuesday to pay 300 000 euros in damages to a victim of repeated sexual abuse by a priest in what was called a potentially landmark case.
A spokesperson for the Cologne regional court told AFP the 62-year-old plaintiff, who said he was raped more than 300 times as a teenager in the 1970s by a Roman Catholic priest, had demanded some 750 000 euros ($809,000).
The court ordered the archdiocese “to pay 300 000 euros for pain and suffering to the victim, minus a previous payment of 25 000 euros” made by the archdiocese as part of a larger settlement, the spokesperson, Diana Renk, said.
Renk said the archdiocese did not dispute the abuse in court, meaning the judges ruled on the basis that the allegations were true. The clergyman has since died without facing criminal proceedings.
Church authorities also opted not to apply a statute of limitations in the case, which she said could set a new precedent for clergy abuse victims.
In addition, the court ordered the plaintiff to be compensated for any future costs relating to the abuse including therapy fees to treat the resulting psychological scars.
The victim, former church acolyte Georg Menne, told public broadcaster ZDF as he emerged from the courtroom that he was satisfied with the ruling.
He said: I’m happy to experience a bit of justice. I’m happy that I endured the hearings and did not break down.
Menne said he suffered from a range of health problems including severe neurodermatitis and migraines linked to the abuse.
Renk said the court had stopped short of meeting Menne’s full compensation demand because his life had not been completely destroyed by the ordeal.
“He has led an independent life, got married and had a career,” she said.
Germany’s Catholic Church has been rocked by a deluge of reports in recent years that have exposed widespread abuse of children and youths by clergymen.
A study commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference in 2018 concluded that 1 670 clergymen in the country had committed some form of sexual attack against 3 677 minors between 1946 and 2014.
However, the real number of victims is thought to be much higher.
An 800-page report on the Cologne diocese alone released in 2021 found 202 alleged perpetrators of sexual assault and 314 victims between 1975 and 2018. More than half of the victims were under 14.
Until now the Catholic Church in Germany has made “voluntary” payments to victims totalling some 40 million euros, as an acknowledgement of their suffering.
Church payouts for victims of abuse in Germany were increased in 2020 to up to 50 000 euros, from around 5 000 euros previously, but campaigners say the sum is still inadequate.
Last year alone, around 28 million euros in payments were approved.