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  • March 2016 : Sexual abuse in the Church, annual report of the Interdiocesan Commission

Multiple sex abuse scandals within the Church came to light in 2010. At the time, a report containing hundreds of testimonials from people who had been victims of sexual abuse was published by the Commission for the Handling of Complaints of Sexual Abuse in Pastoral Relations. Most of the events had taken place in the 1960s-1970s and had tragic consequences. The report revealed, among other things, that at least thirteen victims had committed suicide. Following these scandals, in January 2012 the Church of Belgium published a brochure entitled "A Hidden Suffering. For a comprehensive approach to sexual abuse in the Church”, intended to help victims of sexual abuse. In this brochure, the Church asked the victims to make themselves known, so that redress measures could be found concerning the facts stipulated. Victims were thus offered two options : (1) they could submit an application to the Parliamentary Committee for the Handling of Sexual Abuse and Paedophilia in Relationships of Authority in particular within the Church (until 31 October 2012) so that arbitration could be organised, or (2) make contact with one of the "local contact points" created by dioceses and religious congregations. It should also be noted that on 14 December 2012, the Belgian legislator adopted a law aimed at improving “the approach to sexual abuse and paedophilia in a relationship of authority” (Moniteur belge, 22 April 2013), which in particular amended certain articles of the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Investigation.
On 1 July 2012, the Interdiocesan Commission for the Protection of Children and Young People was set up in Belgium. Since its creation in 2012, the Interdiocesan Commission for the Protection of Children has issued an annual report on the Church’s points of contact for sexual abuse of minors in a pastoral relationship.
On Monday, 22 February 2016, the Interdiocesan Commission issued its annual report (2014-2015), in which it was revealed that the establishment of contact points in the dioceses enabled 418 applications to be filed between 2012 and 2015 (286 files in 2012 ; 37 in 2013 and 95 in 2014-2015). 628 cases were furthermore submitted to the Arbitration Centre since its creation.
The report provides a range of information on the age and gender of victims and perpetrators, as well as the time and place of the events. A classification of the events and corresponding financial compensation are also included in the report.
Lastly, the report states that “in total for the years 2012-2015, on the order of the contact points and via Dignity, the sum of €1,218,201 was paid to the victims (€538,500 in 2012, €475,101 in 2013 and €204,600 in 2014-15). In addition, €2,693,751 were also paid by order of the Arbitration Centre. This brings the total financial compensation paid to €3,911,952)”. (Full report available online, p. 10).

For more information, see also the legal literature :
 CHRISTIANS L.-L., "L’expérience de dispositifs canoniques spécifiques face aux cas de délits sexuels du clergé", in Vingt-cinq ans après le Code. Le droit canon en Belgique (sous la dir. de J.-P. SCHOUPPE), Bruxelles, Bruyant, 2008, pp. 239-257.
 MARTENS K., “Over seksueel misbruik door clerici, strafrecht en kerkelijk recht”, Recht, Religie & Samenleving, 2010, pp. 55-70.
 MONTERO E., "Le Centre d’arbitrage en matière d’abus sexuels : une solution inespérée pour les victimes de faits prescrits", Recht, Religie & Samenleving, 2013, pp. 35-71.

D 19 octobre 2023    AStéphanie Wattier

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