Diocese seeks funds for abuse bills

 

The Bishop of Ferns has asked parishioners to help pay compensation and legal bills emanating from clerical child sex abuse claims.

Addressing parish representatives last night in Enniscorthy, Dr Denis Brennan said a request of financial help from parishioners was not about sharing the blame, but about asking for help to fulfil a God-given responsibility.

He said that the diocese had to pay more than €8 million settling 48 civil actions, while a further 13 actions were pending.

His finance officer, Eugene Doyle, said insurance had paid one-seventh of the cost, but that the diocese had spent €3.5 million by running down its savings and raising a €1.8 million loan.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Doyle, who is chairman of the Ferns Diocesan Finance Committee, said money would be needed from parishioners to cover compensation settlements and legal bills as well as ancillary costs such as the cost of treatment for offenders and counselling.

"We have 100,000 parishioners throughout 80 parishes and we will need €60,000 a year from them over a period of 20 years," he said.

Mr Doyle said none of the money from weekly collections would go toward settlement costs. "We're concerned that when people give money they know exactly where it's going," he said.

"At the end of the day we have a responsibility to deal with the settlement claims. We'll get negative reaction and positive reaction from our request and we'll have to assess those".

Mr Doyle said the diocese had hoped to sell some of its property to help settle the bills, but the downturn in the property market had made this unlikely.

"We’re hoping that certain parishioners and individuals and groups come forward over the period both to offer their voluntary help but also to offer in terms of finance if they could help out," he added.