A Colombian court orders the Catholic Church to pay $238,000 as compensation to the families of two victims of a pedophile priest, newspaper El Tiempo reported Tuesday.
The amount is significantly higher than previously reported by radio station Caracol, which said the church had to pay $165,000.
According to El Tiempo, the high court of Ibague in the central department of Tolima ruled that the diocese of Libano-Honda in Ibague must pay two families whose children were raped by a priest.
This is the first time the Colombian Catholic Church has been held financially liable for sexual abuse committed by its priest.
The priest sexually abused the children in June 2007 in Libano. The children, 7 and 9, were placed in the care of the priest due to their families’ economic difficulties.
The children’s complaints led to a long investigation and the priest was finally convicted of rape and sent to 18 years in prison.
However, the terms of his incarceration expired before the trial began and he was released. He returned to officiating masses in Ibague but in 2009, the police recaptured him and sent him to jail in Medellin.
Some of the money will go towards medical treatment for the children as the lawyer of the families said they continue to suffer health issues as a result of the rape. According to the lawyer, the fine “does justice because the Diocese never wanted to financially help this unprotected family.”
The diocese of Libano-Honda appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the church should not have to pay for the act of one of its members. And besides, the Bishop Juan Vincente Cordoba said, the priest was already in jail.
Cordoba added that the diocese is poor and that “they would have to sell the cathedral of Libano or other areas of the parishes,” to pay.
The judge initially ruled in favor of the diocese by imposing the fine on the priest and not the church, but the final ruling ordered the church to compensate the families. Worldwide, compensation for Catholic sex abuse cases have totaled billions of dollars. In 2007 alone, the Church paid $615 million to its victims.