The German Jesuit order is set to become the first branch of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany to provide financial compensation to the victims of sexual abuse by its priests.
The Jesuit Canisius school in Berlin is at the center of abuse allegations
The provincial superior of the Jesuit religious order in Germany, Stefan Kiechle, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Thursday that his order had decided to compensate sex abuse victims.
"We recognize that the Jesuits must set an example for the sake of the victims," he said, suggesting that the sum would be somewhere in "the vicinity of four figures." Kiechle said the Jesuits were discussing a one-time payment of 5,000 euros ($6,300), but that nothing had been decided yet.
He said that an independent commission would determine who was entitled to compensation.
Kiechle added that the money would not come from donations, nor would funding for ongoing projects be curbed. "We are going to have to confine our lifestyle," he said.
German Jesuits see compensation as a symbolic gesture
An investigation by the order itself cited 205 allegations of sexual abuse by Jesuit priests at schools in Germany going back as far as the 1950s. Many of them occured at the Jesuit's Canisius school in Berlin. The report was also critical of attempts to cover up the problem.
Compensation 'inadequate', victims say
A spokesman for the victims group, Eckiger Tisch, Matthias Katsch, welcomed the Jesuit's move forward on the issue, but stressed that the proposed sum of 5,000 euros was "in no way adequate." Instead, Katch suggested that a "one-off payment of 54,000 euros would not be exorbitant."
Kiechle said he was aware that some victims would be disappointed at what he called a more or less "symbolic sum." But he emphasized that no amount of money would redeem the Jesuits. "The gesture that we are offering is painful for us," he said. "It is small and rudimentary - and a symbol of our helplessness in the face of so much suffering."
Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa/AP/AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner