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Parishoners to be hit for even more money

MASS-goers in the country's biggest diocese are to be asked to give even more cash to the church in order to save it from financial collapse.

The most recent figures show the Dublin archdiocese had a deficit of €12.7m in 2010, thanks to growing costs and falling contributions.

The deficit was cut last year by a €8.23m contribution by the 199 parishes -- but more needs to be given this year in order to get the diocese out of the red.

Documents obtained by the Irish Independent show that while the parishes still had a combined €48.5m in the bank at the end of the year, the diocese itself is in serious financial trouble.

A slump in contributions to the church is partly to blame as it wrestles with plummeting congregations attending Mass each week.

Meanwhile there is continued deafening silence from the country's bishops on a stark survey earlier this week showing the vast majority of Catholics favour massive reform within the church. The only bishop to respond to queries yesterday was the Bishop of Kerry, who questioned the validity of the survey.

However, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin will this week ask churchgoers to dig deep to help prop up church finances.

He will ask Mass-goers for "continued generous giving" and "increased financial resources", according to a letter obtained by 'The Irish Catholic'.

This is in preparation for a fresh appeal in September by parish priests who are to ask from the altar for an increase in contributions. The issue, along with that of falling morale amongst priests, was discussed at a meeting on April 1 with the diocesan financial experts and senior clerics.

But Dublin priests' morale is set to take a further hammering as they were told to expect another 10pc pay cut in November, on top of a recent 15pc pay cut. Priests in Dublin are paid an average of €24,079, with additional allowances per year of service.

A spokeswoman said the archbishop would also take pay cuts in line with priests.

New documents breaking down the diocese's finances for the year show that contributions from all sectors fell in 2011, with the exception of 'other contributions' which includes bequests.

Responsible

In the year to June 2011 family offerings were €14.58m, down from €15.63m in the previous 12 months. Collections for the support of priests fell from €18.33m to €16.9m last year.

A total of €8.23m was also paid out last year for a "contribution by parishes to diocesan funds". This fund was not listed in the previous year's accounts and is largely responsible for the deficit at the end of the year.

Last night a spokeswoman for the Dublin Diocesan Office said that this money was given by the parishes to the archdiocese to pay down its debt.

Senior clerics have said that a number of senior priests are furious about the proposed pay cuts. The next cut -- expected in November -- will see their pay cut by 25pc in just two years.

Meanwhile the country's bishops are maintaining their silence on discussing the serious issues which arose in the Amarach survey of Catholics, carried out on behalf of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

Yesterday the Irish Independent contacted all of the bishops but most were on holidays.

When asked for his reaction the Bishop of Kerry, Bill Murphy, replied: "I am not fully aware of the validity of the survey as I have not had an opportunity to study it in full."

When asked if he believes that discussion is needed on the study's findings, Bishop Murphy said: "Listening is valued in our diocese and the findings will probably be discussed at our next Diocesan Pastoral Council Meeting."

Mark Nolan of Amarach said their research was "robust and accurate" and was carried out amongst 1,000 Catholics nationwide across age, gender and region. The survey was carried out online and in face-to-face interviews.

Irish Independent