Since March 2011, affected persons have been able to apply to the Catholic Church in Germany for "material benefits in recognition of suffering". The procedure is explained in more detail below.
A. General information
All assistance provided by the Catholic Church aims to help the process of healing the consequences of sexual abuse. Through their offer of both immaterial and material assistance, the bishops and superiors of orders express their awareness of the victims’ suffering and their condemnation of the wrong done by the perpetrators. The starting point and the standard applied are the specific needs of those affected, whose traumatization is to be remedied as far as possible and the consequences of which are to be lessened.
The Catholic Church wishes to meet the victims with empathy, to advance the processing of cases of sexual abuse of minors, to help the victims overcome stressful circumstances through material benefits and to ensure optimum prevention.
The application form for material benefits deals exclusively with cases of sexual abuse of minors where damages for pain and suffering or compensation payments can no longer be enforced by legal means due to the statute of limitations.
B. Voluntary benefits
I. Payment of costs for psychotherapy or counselling for couples
1. Costs for psychotherapy or counselling for couples are met on a voluntary basis where there is an acute need for therapy, i.e. for directly acute and future therapies, if and to the degree that the health insurance funds or other institutions do not meet the costs.
2. On the basis of a treatment plan presented by an approved psychotherapist, treatment costs (max. 50 sessions) are reimbursed for up to the hourly rate paid for behavioural treatment in accordance with the Schedule of Fees for Psychotherapists (GOP) (currently 100.56 euros), provided that the health insurance fund or another institution does not meet these costs. A written assurance that the costs will be paid can be provided to the psychotherapists. The costs will be reimbursed upon presentation of the invoice signed by the psychotherapist and the patient.
3. On the basis of the treatment plan submitted by a couple counsellor, who must be a psychologist or psychotherapist, 25 sessions will be paid for at an hourly rate of max. 100 euros. A written assurance that the costs will be paid can be provided to the couple counsellor. The costs will be reimbursed upon presentation of the invoice signed by the couple counsellor and the client.
4. The costs of travelling to psychotherapy or couple counselling can be refunded in individual cases.
II. Material benefits in recognition of suffering
In cases where victims of sexual abuse wish to receive a material benefit in recognition of their suffering and where damages for pain and suffering or compensation can no longer be enforced due to the statute of limitations, a material benefit is to be granted.
The perpetrator is to provide such a benefit personally. Up to 5,000 euros will be paid by the church body on a subsidiary basis, if the perpetrator can no longer be prosecuted, does not pay voluntarily or is unable to pay.
The amount will be paid irrespective of the reimbursement of costs for psychotherapy or counselling for couples (see B. I).
III. Arrangement for particularly serious cases
In particularly serious cases, in which the material benefit (cf. B. II) appears to be inappropriate due to the seriousness of the offence or of the consequences for the victim, other or additional benefits are possible. The Central Coordination Unit (cf. C. III) will take this into account when making its recommendations.
C. Application procedure
I. Entitlement to apply
Persons are entitled to apply for a cost refund in accordance with B. I as well as for material benefits in accordance with B. II and III who claim to have been victims of sexual abuse as minors perpetrated by clergy, members of religious orders and other employees in the domain of the Church.
II. Form of application
1. Applications must be submitted in writing using the application form provided for this purpose. If necessary, the institutions concerned shall provide assistance in making the application.
2. The correctness of all information is to be declared in lieu of an oath. The application must - if possible - contain information on the perpetrator, the place, time and events of the offence and the institution concerned, as well as a statement as to whether and, if so, to what extent the applicant has already received any other payment or reimbursement from third parties (e.g. the perpetrator). A declaration in lieu of an oath is not necessary if a criminal court ruling has been handed down or the facts have been acknowledged by the diocese or the religious order concerned (e.g. on the basis of a confession on the part of the perpetrator).
3. If an application is made for reimbursement of the costs of psychotherapy or counselling for couples, the necessary documents should be submitted (see B. I).
III. Application submission office
1. Applicants should contact the commissioner(s) for sexual abuse of the diocese or religious order concerned which was responsible for the perpetrator at the time of the offence in terms of the Church’s regulations or to which he belonged. This body will confirm receipt of the application and forward the documents to the Central Coordination Unit at the “Office for Issues of Sexual Abuse of Minors in the domain of the Church" of the German Bishops' Conference.
2. As an exception, the application can also be submitted directly to the Central Coordination Unit if the responsible church institution has ceased to exist in the meantime and if there is no legal successor.
3. The Central Coordination Unit will examine whether the prerequisites designated in Sections C.I and II are met for material benefits in accordance with B.II and III and returns the documents containing the result of the examination along with a recommendation to the affected church body. Compliance with the prerequisites for a reimbursement of costs in accordance with B. I will be examined directly and independently by the church body concerned.
4. The reimbursement of costs and the payment of other material benefits will be effected by the church body in question.
IV. Legal action
All payments are voluntary, and are made without acknowledging any legal obligation. Legal action is excluded for voluntary benefits. These benefits may be deducted from other payments that might be made by third parties or in a compensation arrangement or similar arrangement decided on by the Federal Government's Round Table for "Child Sexual Abuse".
Below you will find the revised guidelines and the framework regulation for download in English, French and Italian.
GUIDELINES for dealing with sexual abuse of minors and of adult charges by clergy, religious and other staff within the domain of the German Bishops’ Conference (2013)
DIRECTIVES visant le traitement d'abus sexuels commis envers des mineurs et des adultes sous tutelle par des membres du clergé, de communautés religieuses et d'autres collaboratrices et collaborateurs dans le domaine de la Conférence épiscopale allemande (2013)
LINEE GUIDA per il trattamento dei casi di abuso sessuale su minori e su persone adulte sotto tutela da parte di ecclesiastici, membri di ordini religiosi e del personale laico della Chiesa nell'ambito della Conferenza Episcopale Tedesca (2013)
FRAMEWORK REGULATION Prevention of sexualised violence against minors and adult charges within the domain of the German Bishops’ Conference (2013)
RÈGLEMENT CADRE Prévention de la violence sexualisée envers les mineurs et les adultes sous tutelle dans le domaine de la Conférence épiscopale allemande (2013)