Diocese in crisis over abuse payouts and donations fall

 

DUBLIN’S CATHOLIC archdiocese is trying to avoid possible “financial collapse” due to falling donations and abuse payouts, an internal document has shown.

A consultation document from the archdiocese advisory body, the council of priests, discusses fundraising and cost-saving measures to tackle the crisis.

“We are in a precarious position in many parishes and in the diocese, close even to a state of financial collapse,” the document says.

A fall in lay contributions and the depletion of reserves due to some €13 million in abuse payouts are the reasons it gives for the financial problems.

“Collections in the diocese have been decreasing in recent years. In a time of economic downturn, as well as declining participation at Sunday Mass, this is not surprising,” the document, reported in the Irish Catholic, notes

The “reserves the diocese had built up over decades have been spent on seeking to compensate, somewhat, victims of child sexual abuse by priests.

“This means the diocese will have to go into debt for a considerable period and will not have resources for other projects unless we fundraise for them specifically,” it says.

A fall in lay contributions was the main reason for the financial problems rather than payments for abuse compensation, an archdiocesan spokeswoman said.

The archdiocese was “as much a victim of the economic crisis as anyone else,” she said. “We are funded by the contributions from lay people and they are way down.”

Confirming the existence of the document, she said the archdiocese was “facing a very serious financial situation” and was looking at ways to address it. There was a “root and branch” financial review, with various groups asked to discuss ways of raising and saving money, she said.

The document is to be discussed at a meeting of the council of priests next month. However, it is a “discussion document” rather than one containing proposals.

Among the money-saving suggestions it contains are a parish levy that could raise up to €3 million a year.

Cuts in the central administration of the archdiocese could also be up for discussion at the meeting. Any changes “must include an assessment of all central administration posts”, the document says.

The council of priests is an advisory body to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin. It comprises elected and nominated priests of the diocese.

The costs to the Dublin archdiocese for settlement of claims relating to clerical child sexual abuse has reached €13.5 million, according to figures released by the archdiocese in April.

This figure includes €9.3 million in settlements and €4.2 million in legal costs for both sides. In total, 172 civil actions have been taken against 44 priests of the archdiocese, with 117 concluded and 55 ongoing, the archdiocese said in April.