In the past week, a settlement scheme has been created for the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the Netherlands. As a matter of course, the bishops and the Conference of Dutch Religious agreed with the plan. The plan, which aims at speedy recompense and settlement, has five stages of financial compensation, based on the type of abuse that was committed.
- Sexual acts or expressions which damage the physical or mental integrity: €5,000
- Touching of private parts: €7,500
- Touching of private parts over a prolonged period: between €10,000 en €20,000 depending on frequency, gravity and additional circumstances
- Rape, once or several times: €25,000
- Excessive sexual abuse, with substantial and verifiable damage to the victim: a maximum of €100,000
Victim support groups, such as Mea Culpa and Klokk are carefully satisfied with the plan, although some details, and the speed with which the bishops responded are not entirely to their wishes. Klokk, oddly enough, wants to be involved in establishing a pan of compensation and bringing the victims into contact with the bishops and the religious. Something that, in my opinion, has already happened, partly by the above plan.
Wim Deetman, who led the committee which set all this in motion, gives the advice that the conferences of bishops and religious need to acknowledge the abuse and be sympathetic to the victims. I think they have at east partially done so already, although there is always room for improvement. Another suggestion by Deetman may speed this improvement along: he suggests the appointment of one bishop who can be the link between victims and conferences. I think Bishop Gerard de Korte (right) has done this for the most part already: he is at least the face of the bishops’ conference in these matters, having appeared in television and in other media to discuss it.
In the past year or so, they way that the Church deals with the abuse crisis has crystallised into a system which can get things done, although it is still plagued by that most Dutch of problems: bureaucracy. If that problem can be solved, I think we are on the right track, although much work still needs to be done, especially when it comes to the contacts with the victims.