Friday 23 February 2018

Diocese faces financial crisis as coffers hit hard

Abuse payouts, dwindling Mass-goers behind cash fall

Mark Hilliard

COMPENSATION paid to clerical sex abuse victims, the recession, and falling Mass attendances have created a serious financial crisis in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

A catastrophic drop in Mass attendances -- with just 3pc of Catholics attending in some of Dublin's 199 parishes -- has aggravated the situation, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese said last night.

She was reacting to a leaked document from the Council of Priests, which was published in the 'Irish Catholic' newspaper and referred to a "state of financial collapse".

There is also strong suspicion that falling attendances and plummeting donations are due to people's disgust with the clerical sex abuse scandals.

To date, the Dublin archdiocese has paid out €13.5m in compensation to victims of abuse, while 570 victims have been identified.

The document suggests that Catholic families could now be asked to meet a parish-based levy in a bid to raise around €3m a year.

"There is a serious financial situation facing the archdiocese," said communications director Annette O'Donnell.

She added, however, that the document only confirmed what has already been established -- that the monetary problems facing the church must be addressed.

The material quoted by the 'Irish Catholic' yesterday was a discussion document due to be raised at a meeting of the Council of Priests next month.

It is one of a number of groups that have been asked to make recommendations on future funding options.


"There is a root-and-branch review ongoing," continued Ms O'Donnell.

"The archdiocese is funded by the voluntary contributions of the lay faithful and the number of people going to Mass is down combined with the fact that we are in the middle of an economic recession."

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had personally requested that the Council of Priests examine the problem, which is now likely to result in pay cuts amongst diocesan agencies and parish workers.

An average of 20pc of Catholics in the Dublin parishes attend weekly services, with some areas rising to 50pc and others dipping to as low as 3pc.

Headcounts carried out at services recently indicated the extent of the collapse and the diocese acknowledged that its figures were "significantly lower than in any other diocese in Ireland".

It was also dealt a financial blow last year due to the collapse in value of BoI shares.

Its 400,000 shares, valued at over €10m in 2007, had plummeted to a paltry €270,000 last year. It also lost money on AIB stock.

Irish Independent

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