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Thursday 30 March 2017

Second bishop backs plan for parishioners to pay abuse bill

Edel Kennedy, John Cooney and Grainne Cunningham

A SECOND bishop has raised the prospect of asking parishioners to help pay compensation and legal bills arising out of clerical child abuse.

The Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan provoked outrage among abuse victims yesterday by his appeal for parishioners to pay €60,000 a year between them for 20 years towards compensation bills.

Last night, a spokesman for Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh said he would consider following the controversial lead of Bishop Brennan, should it become necessary.

"Bishop Walsh would be prepared to consider such an option in the diocese in consultation with parish pastoral councils and finance committees if it became necessary," the spokesman said.

To date, the bill faced by the Diocese of Killaloe is just a fraction of that for Ferns, with the cost of compensating victims of past sexual abuse reaching €1.8m to the end of 2008.

Those costs were partly funded by €1.5m raised through the sale of six acres of land at the Bishop's Ennis residence in 2001.

Bishop Walsh -- who resigned on his 75th birthday but has yet to be replaced -- was the only bishop contacted yesterday by the Irish Independent who said he would consider asking ordinary parishioners to help foot the church's bills.

Meanwhile, abuse victims angrily lashed out at Bishop Brennan for asking parishioners to help meet compensation and legal bills.

Goldenbridge abuse victim Christine Buckley said she was "absolutely reeling" from the invitation made by Bishop Brennan for 100,000 parishioners in 80 parishes to pay €60,000 each year until 2030 to meet an outstanding debt of €1.2m. She also accused church patrons of acting "like Judas" towards victims.

Revelations

Colm O'Gorman, whose public revelations of how he was a victim of the notorious paedophile priest Fr Sean Fortune led to the Ferns Inquiry into abuse in the Wexford diocese, said he would discourage people from contributing to the bishop's appeal.

"I would encourage them to get the church to look to its own assets and wealth," said Mr O'Gorman, the founder and former director of the One in Four victims' support group.

Last night, Wexford-based Pat Jackman, who was also abused by Fr Fortune, branded the bishop's appeal to parishes as "ridiculous" and accused the church of trying to guilt-trip parishioners into contributing funds.

He told the Irish Independent that the Catholic Church authorities were refusing to take responsibility for the issue, and that the church would be "bankrupt" if all abuse victims came forward with compensation claims. "Some victims just don't want to re-visit the past," he said.

Bishop Brennan disclosed that the taxpayer contributed €650,000 towards the diocese's legal costs in the Ferns Inquiry after the State agreed to award this sum, with the diocese paying almost €1.5m in legal expenses.

Irish Independent

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