Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Church's bill to hit €20m after latest sex claims

Church's bill to hit €20m after latest sex claims

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Tuesday November 24 2009

THE compensation bill for victims of child abuse in the Dublin diocese is set to double to more than €20m, the Irish Independent has learned.

The total is likely to soar after shocking details of abuse by paedophile priests were made public over the weekend.

The report of the Commission of Investigation into child abuse -- which will be presented to the Cabinet today -- will detail further evidence of horrific abuse involving priests in the Dublin diocese.

It also criticises the failure of the Church to report the litany of cases to the gardai.

The archdiocese has so far identified up to 450 victims who were abused as children dating back as far as 1940. In all, 120 civil actions were taken against 35 Dublin priests or priests who held positions in the diocese.

The 94 cases they have settled to date cost the diocese €7.3m in compensation and a further €3.2 in legal fees.

However, sources close to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin last night said the final payout will be double this figure.

The report has found Dr Martin's predecessors -- John Charles McQuaid, Dermot Ryan, Kevin McNamara and Desmond Connell -- were all aware of the complaints of sexual abuse involving priests in the Dublin diocese, but failed to report it to gardai.

Shocked

The report says Dr Connell was shocked at the extent of the abuse within the diocese. But he was slow to recognise the seriousness of the situation and failed to realise that clerical sex abusers could not be dealt with in secret.

However, his reputation could be partially rehabilitated as he is credited with reintroducing internal Church tribunals designed to put abusing clerics on secret trial leading to their removal -- defrocking --from the priesthood.

Cardinal Connell maintained his silence yesterday after the leaked report criticised his handling of the abuses.

A housekeeper at his Dublin home re-directed all queries to the archbishop's residence.

The Dublin diocese also declined to answer queries about the report's findings.

Archbishop Martin yesterday met with other senior bishops in Maynooth to prepare the agenda for next month's meeting of the hierarchy.

However, a spokesperson for Dr Martin insisted the bishops did not discuss details of the leaked Commission of Investigation report.

Assets

Meanwhile, a separate report will reveal how religious orders will be able to use more of their assets to compensate victims of abuse by brothers and nuns.

The report, which is also due to be published shortly, was delivered to Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe two weeks ago.

However, further information has been sought from individual orders about their assets and how they can increase their contribution to compensation.

The report was compiled by a three-person panel, chaired by Frank Daly, former chairman of the Revenue Commissioners. They were asked to assess the resources of the religious orders after the public outcry following the publication of the Ryan report six months ago.

Former minister Dr Michael Woods had capped the liability of the religious orders and congregations at €128m, although the cost to the state is estimated at a massive €1.3bn.

But the delay in publishing the assets' report was criticised by Fine Gael last night.

"Legislation is urgently needed to address the making of additional financial contributions by religious orders and congregations for the benefit of victims of institutional child abuse," the party's children's spokesman Alan Shatter said.

The minister last night said he hoped to publish the report "soon".

"The Government will consider the matter, in consultation with representatives of the survivors and the congregations, in the light of an offer from the congregations and the report of the panel," he said.

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