Saturday, June 26, 2010

Austrian church prepares abuse compensation

Last updated June 25, 2010 9:29 a.m. PT

Austrian church prepares abuse compensation

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn speaks during a news conference in Mariazell, Austria, on Wednesday, June 23, 2010. Schoenborn has presented a set of measures to prevent abuse by clergy and help victims.The measures, set to take effect July 1, foresee the better coordination of church abuse complaint centers and create a foundation for victims to cover their therapy costs and possible compensation demands. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
VIENNA -- A panel set up by Austria's Roman Catholic Church to help victims of abuse by clergy or church officials on Friday presented a model that would award up to euro25,000 ($30,700) for those most seriously mistreated.

The compensation schedule foresees payments of euro5,000 ($6,150) for minor abuse cases, euro15,000 ($18,440) for more serious ones and euro25,000 ($30,700) for extremely grave instances of mistreatment.

Panel leader Waltraud Klasnic said she expects Austria's bishops to accept the recommendations once they review the issue.

"We know that this will be the case," the Austria Press Agency quoted her as saying - possibly indicating that Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Austria's Catholic leader, has already informally approved the model.

The panel of laypeople close to the church was set up in the wake of a series of revelations detailing sexual and physical abuse of minors and young adults by Roman Catholic Church employees in Europe and elsewhere.

Amid increasing calls for more openness and liberalism as a result of the scandals, Schoenborn - a papal confidant seen as a possible successor to Benedict XVI - has stepped into the fray in the past few months.

"The wall of silence has to be broken," he told reporters on Wednesday as he presented measures to prevent clerical abuse and help victims. "This is not allowed to happen and cannot be allowed to repeat itself."

Set to take effect July 1 and approved by all of the country's bishops, the measures foresee a unified approach by church abuse complaint centers to investigate and deal with allegations against priests, employees and volunteers of church-run institutions.

It also mandates the creation of a foundation for abuse victims to cover therapy costs and possible compensation demands.

Klasnic said that foundation would be the source of payments for the model she outlined.

Other panel members said acceptance of compensation as outlined would not prejudice a victim's right to go to court to press for additional payments or other forms of redress.

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