THE BISHOP of Ferns has insisted that no parish collection money will be used to fund compensation claims made by victims of clerical sex abuse.
Bishop Denis Brennan yesterday said he wanted to "listen to the response of the people" when it came to funding the claims.
He made his comments in a letter read out at all Masses in the Diocese of Ferns, after a week that saw the cash-poor diocese rocked by criticism of a plan to involve the parishes in helping with up to €1.2m in compensation.
"No monies from parish collections have been used to date to fund the payment of compensation claims as have been agreed," he said in his letter, "and no plans are either in place -- or envisaged -- where future claims would be funded from these sources."
Plans by Bishop Brennan to invite help from parishes when it came to meeting the diocese's shortfall were revealed at a finance committee and have drawn heavy criticism. It is estimated that the diocese can afford to make half of the €120,000 annual payment on a 20-year mortgage taken out on the diocesan centre (bishop's palace), but will need help with the remaining €60,000.
The bishop said in his letter that there were a number of options facing the authorities when it came to making up the shortfall.
These included the sale of one or more of the diocese's five fixed assets -- the bishop's palace, St Peter's College, a house in Wexford, and two pieces of land -- as well as funding by the parishes of child protection infrastructure and staffing and suggestions from parish finance committees and parishioners.
There may be a desire, he said, "that diocesan assets not be sold at all, or only in part, and a consideration as to how this might be achieved and whether it would then necessitate the involvement of the parishes themselves".
The options will be considered over the next 12 months, according to Bishop Brennan.
"We have not shied away from ensuring that every victim who presents themselves are helped and cared for in a just manner," he said.
"Let me be clear, those who abused children need to accept responsibility and their guilt is theirs alone.
"Many of us priests are shamed by their actions and by the often inaction of church management to deal with this. We can never change the past."
He said the diocese pursued an "open-policy approach" in all aspects of its dealings with the issue of abuse "involving some of its priests", and was grateful for advice and support received from within the diocese and beyond.