Mariazell (Austria): Austria`s cardinal
unveiled measures on Wednesday designed to prevent clerical abuse and
help victims in the wake of a sex scandal that has shaken the
country`s Catholic church.
The Alpine republic has been hit by a wave of abuse
claims against priests in recent months that has pushed droves
of disgusted believers to turn their backs on the church and
boosted calls for reform.
"The wall of silence has to be broken," Cardinal
Christoph Schoenborn told reporters in Mariazell, a famous
shrine to the Virgin Mary. "This is not allowed to happen and
cannot be allowed to repeat itself."
The measures - set to take effect July 1 and approved by
all of the country`s bishops - foresee a unified approach by
church abuse complaint centres to probe and deal with
allegations against priests and employees of church-run
Other steps include the creation of a foundation for
victims to cover their therapy costs and possible compensation
demands and the setting up of a special commission within each
diocese to advise the responsible bishop on consequences for a
priest alleged of abuse.
If there is significant evidence of abuse and victims
don`t object, the church will take the initiative to contact
prosecutors unless the alleged abuser does that personally,
according to a statement from the Austrian bishops conference.
"I think that this very painful process we are now living
through is also a purification," Schoenborn said, adding he
believed that much has changed within the church in the past
few months. "It is - if I may use this big word - a type of
When asked about a recent estimate that up to 80,000
people could leave the church this year due to the scandal,
Schoenborn said the number had increased significantly since
February but had started to taper off.