Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Irish orders refuse to revisit child abuse deal

Monday May 25, 2009
Irish orders refuse to revisit child abuse deal
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish religious orders stood by their refusal to renegotiate a compensation deal for victims of abuse in Catholic-run schools on Monday despite increasing pressure from church leaders and politicians.
Irish police will investigate whether charges can be brought following the publication last week of a harrowing report into abuse at reform institutions that the orders ran on behalf of the state between the 1930s and the 1970s.
Cardinal Sean Brady, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, leaned on the religious congregations to echo comments by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, that more must be done for the victims.
The orders' contribution to a redress scheme for thousands of victims that is expected to top 1 billion euros was capped at 127 million euros ($178 million) under a 2002 agreement.
"It should be revisited and taken into consideration the potential of people to pay and above all the needs of the victims - we have to keep coming back to that," Brady told state broadcaster RTE.
But the 18 religious congregations that signed the deal with the Irish government stood firm.
"Rather than re-opening the terms of the agreement reached with government in 2002, we reiterate our commitment to working with those who suffered enormously while in our care," the 18 orders, that include the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy, said in a statement after meeting on Monday.
"We must find the best and most appropriate ways of directly assisting them."
The report, the result of a nine-year investigation, named none of the abusers after a successful legal challenge by the Christian Brothers but the Justice Minister has asked police to examine whether criminal charges can be brought.
"The garda (police) commissioner has designated the assistant commissioner to go through the report and see if there is anything further from a criminal justice point of view that can be done against these perpetrators," Dermot Ahern told RTE.
Sex abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church around the world. In 2007, the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million to 500 victims in the largest compensation of its kind.
Ireland's religious orders are not legally required to reopen the 2002 deal but many believe they have a moral responsibility to pay more.
"I do very much welcome the statement by Diarmuid Martin and other church leaders -- that is a new development, it's a sign of progress," John Gormley, the leader of junior government party, The Greens, told state radio.
"I think that if the contracting parties, as I understand it, both agree to reopen then we can make progress."
Martin said there would be more pain in store when a separate report into the sexual abuse of children in his diocese is published later this year.
"The fact that the mechanisms of fulfilling your side of that agreement have not yet been brought to completion is stunning," Martin wrote in an opinion piece The Irish Times.
"Whatever happens with regards to renegotiating that agreement, you cannot just leave things as they are."
Copyright © 2008 Reuters

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