BRUSSELS — The Catholic church in Belgium said yesterday it is willing to pay compensation to victims of sexual abuse by clergy to help those abused restore their dignity.
Belgium’s bishops and religious leaders said in a statement they are “deeply touched and distraught’’ by revelations over the past year, as more than 500 witnesses have come forward with accounts of molestation in the country by Catholic clergy spanning decades.
But the leader of a group of survivors said she would put her faith only in actions, not in anything the bishops said
“Whatever the bishops are saying is blah, blah,’’ said Lieve Halsberghe, the leader in Belgium of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We need to see action before we believe anything they say.’’
The decision follows months of wavering and deliberations within the church on how to deal with the crisis, which has shaken the institution to its core. The religious leaders said in a statement that the abuse had “given the victims great suffering and left traumas, which often lasted for many years.’’
Church officials agreed to enter arbitration to consider compensation in cases where the legal time limit for filing suit has expired. Compensation would be determined on a case-by-case basis.