Irish Catholic Church may tap parishes to pay for sexual abuse claims

September 22, 2011

(Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin speaks at a news conference in Dublin, Ireland November 26, 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

The Catholic Church in Ireland’s capital may have to tap parish funds to pay compensation to people sexually assaulted by priests as more victims come forward, the Archbishop of Dublin said on Thursday. The Archdiocese of Dublin has paid out 13.5 million euros ($18.2 mln) since the late 1990s in compensation and legal costs related to sexual abuse cases and it has asked parishes to contribute money to a fund partly used to meet those claims.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told Ireland’s state broadcaster that so far, no parish funds had been used to pay compensation but that could change. “It could happen, I would prefer that it didn’t,” he said. “I have no idea what the claims are going to be in the future, they could double. There are more and more claims coming in because unfortunately more and more people were abused by priests.”

The Catholic Church in Ireland is heavily reliant on parish donations but they have declined sharply in recent years as large numbers of people stopped attending Mass in protest against the sexual abuse of young people. On average, only 15 percent of pews are occupied during masses in Dublin. The recession has also hit donations. In the 2009/2010 financial year, the Dublin Archdiocese, where over 1 million Catholics live, raised 59 million euros in donations and asset sales compared to 66 million euros in the previous financial year.

Ireland’s government wants religious congregations, including the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy, which are separate to individual parishes, to pay half of an estimated final compensation bill of 1.36 billion euros to victims of rape and abuse. The congregations, which ran the now-defunct industrial schools where the abuse occurred, have offered around 480 million euros, several hundred million short of the amount the government wants.

Relations between the Irish government and the Vatican, once traditional allies, are at an all-time low over the Church’s handling of clerical sex abuse cases. The Vatican recalled its ambassador to Ireland in July after Prime Minister Enda Kenny accused the Holy See of obstructing investigations into sexual abuse by priests.

by Carmel Crimmins in Dublin

One comment

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Archbishop Martin of Dublin is quoted as saying: “I have no idea what the claims are going to be in the future, they could double. There are more and more claims coming in because unfortunately more and more people were abused by priests.”

It is so refreshing to hear a member of the hierarchy admitting that there are more and more claims coming in, because more and more people were abused by priests and are getting the courage to speak up about it.

I am a Catholic physician who has met many who have been abused by priests. I have heard many Catholics who could not, or would not, believe that priest sex abuse is a reality. These Catholics believe that more people are claiming to have been abused in order to get money by lawsuits. They do not realize that many never get the courage to speak up about the shame of being abused by a priest. Some even commit suicide.

Having been sexually assaulted myself by a Carmelite priest years ago when I was a young doctor in Dublin, I know priest sexual abuse is a reality. I am grateful to Archbishop Martin of Dublin for investigating my personal story, and having the Carmelite priest removed from active ministry.

In regard to the payment of priest sexual abuse claims, I believe that the worldwide scandal of priest sexual abuse has its source in poor policies in the Vatican for centuries, which have been continued by Pope Benedict XVI.

I believe that most of the priest sexual abuse claims are the responsibility of Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican.

In all my research, I find that all roads of responsibility lead to the Pope and to the Vatican in Rome. There has been a systematic cover-up of priest sexual abuse worldwide by Pope Benedict XVI and by popes before him. Pope Benedict has never yet admitted his role and responsibility for the worldwide cover-up, instead he blames the bishops in the different countries.

The bishops know that the culture of the Church has been secrecy for centuries in regard to priest sex abuse. They have just been following Church policy over the years and protecting abuser priests and ignoring, or re-victimizing, the victims of priest sexual abuse.

The truth will set us free. It is time for Pope Benedict XVI to stop hiding behind a claim to diplomatic immunity and time for him to open all records in the Vatican on worldwide priest sexual abuse to honest investigation by police and lawyers.

When this happens, I believe it will be more clear that the Vatican has to become accountable for payment of many of the claims coming in from around the world.

Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

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