“There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”John Fitzgerald Kennedy
On Monday, I wrote Do You Think That the SBC Is Finally Going to Adequately Deal with Sex Abuse? Not So Fast, Says Christa Brown. For purposes of this post on what’s happening in Germany, I want to focus on what Christa Brown and David Clohessy said here:
Clohessy and Brown: Let’s involve the state and federal secular authorities.
Specifically, state attorneys general must launch thorough investigations into sexual abuse, institutional enablement and survivor maltreatment in the Southern Baptist Convention.
…Investigations like this already have been done, or are in progress, in roughly half the states in the U.S. with respect to the Catholic Church, and this is what must come next for the Southern Baptists as well.
…Also on the state level, legislators must relax or repeal archaic, predator-friendly statutes of limitations that prevent civil lawsuits.
…Ireland, Australia and other Western nations and set up well-funded totally independent inquiries into clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. Such inquiries must be focused on exposing wrongdoers and writing well-documented reports.
Why civil lawsuits are essential.
Civil lawsuits also are the most sure-fire way to prevent abuse and expose child molesters, because when civil suits are filed, the names of wrongdoers are nearly always made public, which allows parents to safeguard their kids.
It appears that there is movement in these areas in the country of Germany. Given that insurance companies are leading the charge, I bet it is only a matter of time until we see this in the US.
German insurers are upping the ante in church sex abuse cases.
Religion News Service posted: Insurers suddenly raise stakes on German churches’ sex abuse response.
VBG, a national association of accident insurance providers, recently complained to the two predominant church bodies in the country that they had not been notified of the thousands of sexual abuse cases that have been found in the church groups’ ranks.
According to German law, sexual abuse cases can fall under the rules governing the churches’ insurance policies. Policyholders must inform the company of known cases and help insurers determine how much compensation they should pay.
According to German law, policyholders must report all known abuse cases to the insurance companies. Those companies then decide how much compensation must be paid to the victims.
The insurance companies are claiming that volunteers molested during their volunteer work at the church are to be covered as if these were “work accidents.”
Church insurance policies, the VBG lawyers have determined, cover both paid employees and volunteers at church-run activities such as liturgies, youth groups or outings.
I am aware of an interesting case in the US involving a megachurch. I cannot give the specifics. However, a church activity was held at the volunteer’s home. There was a serious accident involving a child. The church, fearing repercussions from their insurance company, claimed that the “outing” was not an “official” outing of the church. This meant that the church insurance would not cover the accident. This was baloney and par for the course for this despicable church. The volunteer then had to report it to her insurance company in order to cover the accident. This was not the first rodeo for this church, and I wish I could name it. However, let all church members beware. Make sure you know if the church’s insurance will cover you if you put on a nice dinner for families and a kid gets injured.
Back to German churches. Now, if a volunteer is abused it will be treated as a work accident meaning there will be reimbursement from the church insurer to the victim.
How does the abuse investigation system work in Germany? For years, it allowed churches to investigate the claims of victims in secret.
Until recently, German law allowed the church to investigate what went down and suggest to the insurance companies what the victim should get paid. Of course, you know what happened. The church lowballed their estimate.
In the dozen years since the abuse scandal broke in a Berlin Catholic school, Germany has mostly left it to them to investigate the problem and indemnify the victims.
They have issued several headline-grabbing reports, apologized profusely and offered compensation up to 50,000 euros per person.
Victims complained that the compensation was too low, and the decision-making was kept a secret. The insurance companies agreed.
It is the insurance companies which is enforcing a change to help victims who have reportedly been compensated far too little for their abuse.
“No more,” says VBG.
Its letter, sent in late April, clearly outlined what those lawyers thought victims deserved. “The earlier the accidents are reported, the earlier we can care for victims and try to lessen their psychic pain through therapy,” it said.
In Germany, this new ruling could mean that churches will most likely pay higher premiums for coverage.
The almighty buck is the great leveler here. And you can be sure the churches know this. Not only is the Catholic church in contact with VBG but:
The Evangelical Church in Germany, a federation of 20 Lutheran, Reformed and United regional churches, indicated it was “in contact with the VBG about this.”
What does this mean to this observer? The church knows just how prevalent sexual abuse is in their churches and now fears it could come back to bite them in the nose in the form of much higher premiums
Even more concerning for the churches: disability settlements are coming.
Can you imagine the rates climbing for church insurance if victims could get a disability? This is something I could support.
If the damage done has long-term effects, the victim could get a disability pension.
Victims could force churches to open up their secret archives so they could contest their settlement.
It is amazing for me to see that insurance companies in Germany are behind this effort to bring light to lowball compensation.
When handled this way, all decisions could also be contested legally. And insurance companies could ask courts to force churches to open their archives, something no church has yet had to do.
Even the newly elected German government is jumping on the bandwagon to help victims of church abuse!
The government believes that the churches will not cooperate in this effort to help victims. I tend to agree with them.
(Enter) the new left-wing government of Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat who became chancellor in December.
Used to kinder treatment by Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat who was chancellor for 16 years, the church suddenly heard that Scholz was “appalled” by the Munich report.
“There is a consensus in the government that dealing with cases of structural child abuse cannot be left to institutions alone,” a Cabinet spokesman said.
The world is changing, and this means that victims of sex abuse will no longer be left out in the cold in Germany. I think churches will be in trouble in Germany. They had their chance to do right by victims, and, of course, they blew it. They were protecting the institution over the abused, and the time came when enough was enough. In Germany, the insurance companies have ensured that church insurance rates will rise as victims are fairly compensated. I will rejoice when I see some deserving victims get disability coverage. I would love to see this in the US and can think of a few victims who would deserve this.
The new government is stepping in, and it appears they will not kowtow to the church leaders. It will be a sad day when churches need to be held to account by a secular government. I wish the US government would get involved in looking at churches that have consistently covered up abuse. Unless churches begin to change, I predict that the coming years will see further actions against churches and denominations with a consistent history of hiding abuse. Instead of following the One who demanded we care for those who have been hurt and abused, churches will be increasingly responsible to insurance companies and the state which will do what churches should have done.