Catholic Church Asks Parishioners to Cover Costs of Sex Abuse Lawsuits
In a revolting move, an Irish bishop has asked congregants to cough up to pay sex abuse settlements.
Dennis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns (County Wexford, Ireland) has asked parishioners to pay up 60,000 Euros ($82,300) per year for 20 years to pay off legal fees and help compensate the victims of clerical sexual abuse. At issue are literally dozens of settlements and pending cases:
Bishop Brennan said the funding of claims associated with child abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy, continues to impact on the diocese financially.
A total of 48 settlements, costing €8,120,7075, have been made to date. Of this amount, €2,138,692 was paid in legal fees.
There are 13 civil actions pending against the diocese with a potential cost of over € 2 million, based on previous pay-outs.
The diocese has also paid €2,121,478 in legal fees for its co-operation with the Bermingham and Ferns Inquiries into the handling of sex assault allegations. It later recovered €650,000 of that from the Government.
The treatment of clerical offenders has amounted to €836,000, which Bishop Brennan described as ‘an investment in child protection in the long-term’.
Yes, you read that right. Let me repeat for emphasis:
It later recovered €650,000 of that from the Government.
Irish taxpayers were forced to contribute to legal fees to defend the Catholic church from lawsuits stemming from its criminal activities! As BusinessWeek reports:
The Roman Catholic Church is facing a mounting compensation bill for abuse victims after the Ryan Report, published last year, said child abuse in church-run homes in Ireland was “endemic.” The report into Ferns said authorities had evidence that priests were abusing children and failed to take steps to end it. A report on the diocese of Dublin published last year had similar findings, saying that church leaders routinely covered up abuse to avoid scandals.
The Ryan Report may be found in its entirety HERE, and an executive summary HERE. Fergus O’Donoghue recommends fast-forwarding to the conclusions, pages 19-26. (Yes, the executive summary is 30 pages.)
In short, the report found excessive physical and sexual abuse occurred at dozens of Catholic church-run homes for children over multiple decades, and was routinely covered up. Sexual abusers, when found out, were transferred to other institutions, still working with children, and free to abuse other children.
Sound familiar, Americans?
Parishioners asked to cough up the cash are appalled. Peggy Kenny says,
It is absolutely disgusting, an insult to the people . . . All the money they have and the buildings they own, Rome is the place that should pay for it.
An unnamed parishioner:
I’m a Mass-goer and I won’t give money to this. This is the biggest disaster that has ever happened. It’s absolutely crazy to ask people given the property they have and the state the town’s economy is in.
Paula Davis sums it up thus:
It’s disgraceful to expect the parish to pay for pedophile priests. They should sell off their assets to do this. It’s like getting into debt and asking the priest to pay for something you’d done wrong.
Wexford People asked parishioners for their comments; the responses, nearly universal in outrage and disgust, may be found HERE.
Abuse victims are equally disgusted.
Goldenbridge abuse victim Christine Buckley said she was “absolutely reeling” from the invitation made by Bishop Brennan for 100,000 parishioners in 80 parishes to pay €60,000 each year until 2030 to meet an outstanding debt of €1.2m. She also accused church patrons of acting “like Judas” towards victims.
Colm O’Gorman, whose public revelations of how he was a victim of the notorious paedophile priest Fr Sean Fortune led to the Ferns Inquiry into abuse in the Wexford diocese, said he would discourage people from contributing to the bishop’s appeal.
“I would encourage them to get the church to look to its own assets and wealth,” said Mr O’Gorman, the founder and former director of the One in Four victims’ support group.
Last night, Wexford-based Pat Jackman, who was also abused by Fr Fortune, branded the bishop’s appeal to parishes as “ridiculous” and accused the church of trying to guilt-trip parishioners into contributing funds.
He told the Irish Independent that the Catholic Church authorities were refusing to take responsibility for the issue, and that the church would be “bankrupt” if all abuse victims came forward with compensation claims. “Some victims just don’t want to re-visit the past,” he said.
Brennan isn’t the only Irish Catholic bishop who thinks people attending Catholic churches should pay for the crimes of its leaders. A spokesman for Willie Walsh, Bishop of Killaloe, chimed in:
Bishop Walsh would be prepared to consider such an option in the diocese in consultation with parish pastoral councils and finance committees if it became necessary.
Killaloe has had a much smaller bill for child sexual abuse; only 1.8M Euros, of which 1.5M have already been paid by selling 6 acres of the Bishop’s estate.
Update: The Independent has published a Letter to the Editor on the subject by singer Sinead O’Connor. In part:
[Brennan's] statement attempts to dictate to us — in the same way the Inquisition did — how Christians should behave. It says directly that it would be anti-Christian of us to feel that the church should pay its own bills for its own abuse with its own billions that it throttled from our grandparents, whom it also abused, physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually . . .
From the Pope on down, through the Vatican and therefore through the lower echelons, the whole organisation, in my belief, is utterly anti-Christian and evil, as proven by centuries of torture, bloodshed, burnings, terrorism, and coverings-up of “the worst crime” known to man . . .
If Christ was here, he would be burning down the Vatican. And I for one would be helping him.