WARSAW: A Polish appeal court on Tuesday upheld a verdict ordering a Catholic priests' society to pay out record damages to a former child victim of a paedophile priest.
The ruling is the first of its kind in the heavily Catholic country where the church still wields considerable influence and where relatively few cases of child sex abuse by clergy have come to light.
The court in Poznan, western Poland, ordered the brotherhood of the priest, identified only as Roman B for legal reasons, to pay 1,000,000 zloty (233,000 euros, USD 272,000) to the female victim who is now 24 years old.
The amount is the highest ever court-ordered compensation to be paid by a religious institution in Poland.
The court also ordered the brotherhood, identified as The Society for Christ Fathers for Poles Living Abroad (SChr) based in Poznan, to pay the victim an 800-zloty lifetime monthly pension.
The brotherhood had appealed against an earlier court verdict ordering the payment arguing that it could not be held responsible for the actions of one of its members.
The priest sexually abused the victim for over a year when she was 13 years old.
The priest was arrested in 2008 after the girl confided in a counsellor, and he was sentenced to a total four years behind bars.
After serving his sentence, Roman B was placed in a retirement home for priests where he continued to celebrate mass and maintain contact with children on Facebook, according to a report in the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
The woman survived four suicide attempts and was placed in a psychiatric hospital, before deciding to take legal action against the priest and his brotherhood.
In December 2017, the priest was defrocked and expelled from the religious brotherhood.
There are no official statistics on the number of Polish priests convicted of child sex abuse, but Polish association that helps victims estimates there were around 56 over nearly two decades, including clergy convicted of possessing child pornography.
The Catholic Church is under increasing scrutiny because of the escalating worldwide sex abuse crisis.
Scandals in Australia, Europe, and North and South America have involved widespread claims of abuse - and cover-ups - by clergymen and lay members with one archbishop describing it as the church's "own 9/11".
Pope Francis has called for a meeting of all the heads of Catholic bishops' conferences worldwide at the Vatican next February to discuss the issue of the "protection of minors".