Religious order rejects calls to share redress costs with State

Oblates dismiss idea they were under ‘moral pressure’ to pay more to compensation bill

Religious “perceived a great injustice being done to them”. Their image of themselves “as committed Christians was shattered”. Photograph: Christian Hartmann

Religious “perceived a great injustice being done to them”. Their image of themselves “as committed Christians was shattered”. Photograph: Christian Hartmann

 

Pressure by politicians on religious congregations to pay half the €1.5 billion cost of compensating those abused in Catholic institutions “is immoral and should stop”, one of the congregations has said.

The Oblates (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate), who were severely criticised by the Ryan Commission report which investigated institutional abuse, dismissed the notion they were under “moral pressure” to pay more towards the compensation bill.

Nor do any of the 18 congregations involved “have a moral obligation to pay a share of the administration and ancillary costs of the Commission of Investigation and the redress board. Such a demand has never been made in all the history of the State,” it said.

Further, in a challenge to findings in the Ryan Commission report, it refers to “the huge gap between the way the congregations have understood their own history and the way it is presented in the report”.

According to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report last month, the Oblates had offered €20.7 million and paid over €20 million since publication of the Ryan report in 2009

The remarks are made in a lengthy statement on the Oblates website. The Irish Times understands all congregations are in agreement with it.

The Oblates were one of the 18 religious congregations which managed orphanages, industrial schools and rerformatories for children and investigated by the Ryan Commission.

Ryan report

According to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report last month, the Oblates had offered €20.7 million and paid over €20 million since publication of the Ryan report in 2009.

The Oblates said the redress bill “was incurred by the Dáil on its own legal and moral responsibility and is not a benchmark of anyone else’s responsibility. The high cost of the redress scheme is due to the way the Dáil designed it . . .

“Prior to the financial crisis, the Government was happy with this. The pressure to coerce them [religious congregations] into partnership now that economic circumstances have changed is immoral and should stop.”

A person who suffered even mild sexual abuse as a child in an institution could have had their lives destroyed. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto
After publication of the Ryan report in 2009, congregations offered additional cash and property of €353 million. File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The congregations “were adjuncts to the scheme, and certainly not partners” while “the Government was certainly not initially looking for the religious to pay a 50/50 share”.

Findings of the Ryan report indicated “the huge gap between the way the congregations have understood their own history and the way it is presented in the report”. The long-held understanding of the congregations about their past cannot be simply ‘rubbished’,” it continued.

Committed Christians

Religious “perceived a great injustice being done to them”. Their image of themselves “as committed Christians was shattered. They were held up in public as failures in the mission to which they had dedicated their whole lives. This was very painful, especially to surviving staff members of the institutions”.

After publication of the Ryan report in 2009, congregations offered additional cash and property of €353 million. In September 2015 this figure was revised downwards to €226 million when, according to the Department of Education, the Christian Brothers withdrew an offer of school playing fields and associated lands valued at €127 million.

In the six-year period to December 2015, according to the C&AG’s report last month, €85 million, or 38 per cent of the additional €226 million, had been received by the State.