Wednesday 24 January 2018

Cash-strapped Catholic parishes on brink of going bust

Ed Carty

Ireland's largest Catholic Archdiocese has admitted it is facing serious economic reality, with parishes on the brink of going bust because of the recession and clerical abuse claims.

Among ideas being put forward by priests in Dublin to reverse feared financial collapse is a levy on families to plug a massive gap in donations and mass-goers.

Leaked papers from the Council of Priests in the Archdiocese reveal many parishes are in a precarious position after €13m was paid out in compensation.

However, the Archdiocese has said the biggest impact on Church funds has been falling donations at Mass.

A spokeswoman said the church has been hit by declining financial resources "like most people and organisations in the current economic climate".

"It is preparing measures to address that situation based on an analysis of pastoral needs and funding requirements into the future," she said.

"The Archdiocese has to face the current serious economic reality and review what it can and cannot support financially in the coming years.

"It is complex situation which will require a multi faceted, considered response."

The Archdiocese is in the middle of a root-and-branch financial review, with a number of bodies urged to prepare for an overhaul of funding, including the Council of Priests.

The idea for a levy on Catholic families in each of the 199 parishes in Dublin has targeted funds of €3m a year.

The proposals from the Council of Priests were contained in a discussion document leaked to the Irish Catholic newspaper.

The fundraising plan is expected to be tabled alongside calls for cuts to the cost of central administration.

The Dublin Archdiocese's latest update on the extent of clerical abuse claims issued in April showed a total compensation bill of €13.5m - €9.3m in settlements and €4.2m in legal costs.

Two years ago a damning report into clerical sex abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese found the cover-up of paedophilia was facilitated by both Church and State going back decades.

Based on a sample 46 priests, it found the Church was more concerned with protecting its reputation than children and acted outside the law.

The April clerical abuse update also noted that 10 Dublin priests, or former priests, have been convicted or have cases pending in the criminal courts.

Two non-diocesan priests, who served in the capital, have also been convicted in the criminal courts.

It reported 172 civil actions have been taken against 44 priests of the Diocese; 117 have been concluded and 55 are ongoing.

The Archdiocese said the ideas for a levy have yet to be formally discussed.

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