Diocese Borrows €700,000 to Pay for Sex Abuse
Bishop's House Goes up As Loan Security

By Sarah Murphy
Irish Independent [Ireland]
November 24, 2006

A Catholic diocese has been forced to borrow hundreds of thousands of euro to compensate victims of clerical sex abuse.

The Diocese of Ferns in Co Wexford is expected to pay up to €10m in settlements to those abused by priests over a number of past decades.

At the annual meeting of its Finance Committee this week, it was revealed €4.7m has bee paid out in 29 cases settled.

A further 20 cases which are believed to reach €5m to settle are now pending against the diocese. Some of the cases are at an advanced stage.

To date, the Stewardship Fund set up by the country's bishops several years ago has contributed a total of €3.2m towards the costs of settlements.

So far, the diocese has compensation borrowings of around €700,000 with the Bank of Ireland secured against the bishop's House in Summerhill with the money to be repaid when part or all of the assets held by the diocese are sold.

And the future sale of the bishop's house has not been ruled out.

Up to €760,000 has also been spent on treatment for offenders, assessments and monitoring.

Recently installed Bishop Denis Brennan said clerical sex compensation settlements are a victim's right and should be paid without grudge.

And he added there were enormous challenges facing the diocese in the days ahead.

Bishop Brennan pointed out that it was the church's responsibility to accept the failures to offer protection (to sex abuse victims) in the past, to help people damaged by priests to journey towards recovery and to do everything to communicate to people.

"Our gratitude goes to the people, priests and religious of other dioceses for their assistance from the (Stewardship Fund)," he added.

The diocese has substantial assets including the bishop's house at Summerhill, St Peter's campus which Carlow Institute of Technology wants to buy to enable it to expand its campus there, land at Coolcotts and 19 acres of agricultural land at Drinagh with an estimated value of around €1m, but that figure would rise if it was rezoned.

Former caretaker Bishop Dr Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Brennan have said that the retention of fixed assets will not get in the way of finding lasting solutions to the issues involved.

In a recent poll, conducted for Nuacht TG4 by TNS-MRBI, and carried out in the diocese it was found that dissatisfaction with Bishop Brendan Comiskey's handling of sex abuse claims in the 1980s and 1990s rose from 60pc pre-publicity to 76pc post-publicity during the poll following the State's first inquiry into clerical sex abuse in the form of the Ferns Report.

Bishop Walsh who dealt with the aftermath of Dr Comiskey's resignation fared better with Wexford voters with 69pc satisfied with his performance.

However, the level of dissatisfaction rose from 7pc before the Ferns report to 24pc after the publicity during the poll.


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