Fritzl victims lawyer attacks Church over abuse claims

A top lawyer has accused the Catholic Church of focusing on damage limitation instead of trying to help the hundreds of victims of abuse at the Church’s institutions.Around 700 people got in touch with psychologists via new and existing hotlines to report their sex and violence abuse ordeals when serving as altar boys, choristers and in other functions.Family Issues State Secretary Christine Marek and Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner, both of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) invited well-known youth psychiatrist Max Friedrich and other experts to a round table yesterday (Tues) to discuss future strategies in preventing sexual abuse.But the group’s efforts have come in for criticism. Lawyer Eva Plaz, who specialises in handling sex abuse cases, said: “They focused mainly on prevention. This means they don’t look back and let the victims sort their problems out on their own.”Plaz – who made a name for herself by representing the victims of “incest beast” Josef Fritzl – called the summit a “PR stunt in which nothing was done for the victims”.Psychotherapist Manfred Deiser, co-initiator of an independent platform for victims of violence at clerical institutions called “Plattform Betroffener kirchlicher Gewalt” slammed the meeting organisers for failing to invite victims’ representatives.Deiser suggested a victims fund financially backed by the Church should be set up to finance victims’ psychotherapy sessions. He also said all offenders must resign without any exceptions.Plaz meanwhile claimed: “The Church focuses on damage limitation – for itself.”The lawyer warned Waltraud Klasnic – the former ÖVP Governor of Styria assigned by Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn to head a team investigating abuse cases – might be overburdened with her new task.”She [Klasnic] has said she wanted to speak with the victims. There is the risk of victims suffering re-traumatisation since Klasnic has no education in that field,” Plaz explained.Plaz said it was “interesting” to call the Klasnic-headed team “independent” since it was established and financed by the Church.Marek and Bandion-Ortner meanwhile said they plan to speak to Social Democratic (SPÖ) Education Minister Claudia Schmied about increasing the number of lessons pedagogues have in learning about how to recognise when a child was abused and how to react in such cases.Friedrich said there should be changes in the education system to prevent abuse towards children: “We live in a rich country, and the protection of children needs money, money and more money.”Earlier this week Greens juridical issues spokesman Albert Steinhauser called on the government to put 100 million Euros in a victims fund. He said this amount should be the first benchmark before discussing further action.Steinhauser hit out at the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition “keeping quiet in humbleness towards the Church in a scandalous way”.Meanwhile recent Karmasin research showed that 57 per cent of Austrians thought Pope Benedict XVI should resign were there a rule that enabled him to do so.