Bishop Denis Brennan’s diocese has paid £7.5 million, with 13 claims pending
Victims of clerical sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church have reacted angrily to an appeal by a bishop for parishioners to help to pay spiralling compensation claims.
Bishop Denis Brennan of the diocese of Ferns told parishioners that the diocese had so far paid €8 million (£7.5 million) to settle 48 civil actions arising from decades of sexual abuse by priests. He said another 13 actions against the diocese were pending.
Dr Brennan is the first bishop to give details on how much compensation has been paid to victims. He said that his official residence had been remortgaged to cover nearly €2 million in legal fees. A request for financial help from parishioners was not about sharing blame, he said, but about “asking for help to fulfil a God-given responsibility”.
Eugene Doyle, the chief financial officer of the diocese, said that the Church had no option but to ask its members to help to foot the bill. He estimated that the diocese’s 100,000 members in 80 parishes would be asked to collectively contribute €60,000 a year for the next 20 years. No money would be taken from normal weekly collections, he said.
Colm O’Gorman, a former altar boy, who forced the Church to confront the issue, leading the Government to investigate paedophile cover-ups, said it was obscene for the Church to be seeking funds from the faithful. “The Catholic Church is one of the wealthiest institutions on the planet,” he said. “Let it be accountable for its gross institutional failures, rather than looking to people who can ill afford to pay for those failures.” He said that his 1998 legal action against the Church, which forced Brendan Comiskey, then Bishop of Ferns, to resign, was intended to make the Church accountable for its sins, not to impose a bill “on people sitting in pews in Ferns”.
Abuse scandals in Ireland have plunged the Church into deep crisis. Last month the Pope called all Irish bishops to the Vatican to account for their actions. An Irish Government collapsed in 1994 over the failure to extradite a paedophile priest to face charges in Northern Ireland.
Since 2002 a government-appointed compensation board has paid out more than €800 million to 13,000 people who were abused in church-run residential institutions for children, and another €150 million in legal costs.