Parishes asked to contribute funds
Parishes in the Dublin archdiocese have been asked to contribute surplus monies to a church fund that may be used, amongst other things, to pay compensation to survivors of child sexual abuse.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin today denied a report in the Irish Catholic that the so-called general fund was already being used to pay such compensation claims.
He said this was "not true at the moment" but admitted "it could happen".
Dr Martin said he would prefer that it didn’t happen and he recognised that a lot of people would not want money to be used to settle these claims.
"On the other hand, I have a responsibility and the diocese has a responsibility to bring comfort to people who were abused within the church community," he said.
Dr Martin said money from parishes has been transferred to a fund which is used “for many purposes” and not exclusively for covering compensation for child sexual abuse.
He said he had “never authorised the use of any parish funds for covering child sexual abuse claims”.
“That has not happened. If it were to happen, I would make that abundantly clear,” he said.
Dr Martin said the church had to put aside funds each year for its “probable liabilities”.
“We do that from year to year. We look at it from year to year. I have no idea what the claims are going to be in the future. They could double.”
He said there were “more and more claims coming in, because unfortunately more and more people were abused by priests”. Some €13 million has already been paid out by the diocese in relation to such claims.
Dr Martin said he would not like to give the impression that there was “something wrong in supporting survivors of abuse”.
“I have a responsibility to see that people who were abused within the church community are comforted and supported and helped back.”
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Martin said there was a “much larger” crisis of finance in the diocese because most of its money came from the contributions of people.
“The number who are attending mass is fewer. The monies that have been transferred, don’t come from the [collection] plates," he said.
“We’ve asked parishes which have had, for various reasons, mainly through the sale of property or land have a surplus, to see is there a way in which we can use some of that money in a sense of solidarity for the overall needs of the diocese, not directly for child sexual abuse but that we will be able to have money to address the pastoral needs of the diocese we are facing.”
Dr Martin said that since he had become archbishop, information with regard to the number of victims of sex abuse and the number of claims against the church had been published on a six-monthly basis.
“I imagine that these claims and the hurt that they represent are going to increase if anything in the coming years.”
He said he had “an obligation in law” when preparing audited accounts to see that he had funds set aside for the probable liabilities he would face.
“I have an obligation to people who are abused. I have an obligation to parishes that they can work properly, I have an obligation to the diocese and I have an obligation to priests to strike the right balance.”
He said he could not touch parish funds but parishes could, in consultation with their finance committees, give money to the diocese. Many of the services provided by the diocese were there to support parishes, he said.
These included child protection training, information on Garda vetting and also a recently established human relations office.
Dr Martin said there had to be “a sense of solidarity”.
“But if money from parishes is being used for child sexual abuse claims, I will say that.
Managing editor of the Irish Catholic Garry O’Sullivan said that when asked many years ago how church money was being used in terms of compensation for victims, Cardinal Desmond Connell had said “not a penny would come from plates in the churches”.
The Dublin archdiocese is trying to avoid possible “financial collapse” due to falling donations and abuse payouts, an internal document uncovered last month revealed.
A consultation document from the archdiocese advisory body, the council of priests, discussed 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 said.
A fall in lay contributions and the depletion of reserves due to abuse payouts are the reasons it gives for the financial problems.