Victims who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic Church representatives in Switzerland can now access a special fund to claim compensation.
The idea was first launched a year ago by the Swiss Bishops Conference.At the moment, the newly created fund contains CHF500,000 ($495,500) to compensate abuse victims, who may receive a single payment of up to CHF10,000 ($9,966) according to last year’s plan for the fund.
Bishop Charles Morerod, the head of the Swiss Bishops Conference, said on Monday that the fund “only covers prescribed cases” while recalling the “particularly difficult” situation of abuse victims whose cases "were not heard or addressed for a long time by the Church's authorities".
Contributors to the new fund include the Swiss dioceses, the Union of Religious Superiors in Switzerland as well as ecclesiastical corporations.
An independent commission has been set up to decide on the amount each victim should receive in compensation.
In Swiss-German regions of Switzerland, unlike the French-speaking part, sexual abuse commissions have existed in dioceses for several years and supported victims.
But this is the first compensation fund that has been established.
Recent news reports indicate that around 20 criminal cases have been opened against priests and Catholic monks for sexual abuse in Switzerland since 2010, despite the church catching 172 alleged offenders.
Many of the recorded cases date back to the 1950s and some suspects have therefore died, while others simply could not be tracked down.
The low prosecution rate is also down to the fact that the dioceses provided “very sketchy” information, according to the report, especially for the period between 1950 and 1980.
In January 2014, the Swiss Catholic Church released the third edition of its own prevention guidelines titled “Sexual abuse in the religious context” for clerics and other officials.
The new directives aim to have a stronger prevention and training emphasis, and cast a wider net to include religious groups and activities not previously under the responsibility of the dioceses.
They should also ensure better transparency about information on priests moving around.
New employees now have to present a copy of their clean police record.