Tuesday 20 March 2018

Measure up and pay the victims of abuse, Taoiseach tells Catholic Church leaders

Health Minister Simon Harris Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Health Minister Simon Harris Picture: Colin O'Riordan

Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

Religious congregations need to "measure up" and take responsibility for the restitution owed to victims of abuse, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Speaking in Philadelphia, Mr Kenny said the Catholic Church had not lived up to expectations in terms of compensation.

He said the Church must "measure up in so far as accepting responsibility or agreements as far as restitution is concerned and get on with it".

Asked whether the Pope should intervene in order to put pressure on religious orders to pay more in compensation, Mr Kenny replied: "I would expect that the congregations and the Church would reflect on the seriousness of this and measure up to their requirements.

"I referred a number of matters to the Pope when I met with him last year and I would expect that the Vatican would respond to those."

Mr Kenny said that, given the sensitivities involved, the State wanted "to get this as right as we can" for the victims and the Church needed to "reflect on the years ahead".

Mr Kenny made his remarks just hours after Health Minister Simon Harris launched a stinging attack on the Church.

As the fallout from the Tuam baby scandal continues, Mr Harris warned that the Government would consider legal action against the Church to ensure it paid more of the €1.5bn compensation bill.

To date, orders have paid just 13pc of the bill.

Mr Harris said it was "indefensible" that Church leaders had failed to put pressure on religious orders to pay their share. He also called on the Vatican to intervene, adding that there was an agreement that the State and the Church would share the bill equally.

"I have heard a lot of religious leaders make comments in recent days about Tuam and some of them welcome. It is indefensible and extraordinarily disappointing that not one of those religious leaders in this country or abroad has called on the institutions to pay their contribution," Mr Harris told RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics'.

"The Church has not stepped up to the plate. Religious leaders in this country, I would like the next time they make a homily and contribute to public debate, they would call on all of the religious institutions to pay up and pay now and that call should go all the way to the Vatican as well.

"The Pope and religious leaders in this country need to actually intervene and say to [religious] institutions 'pay over and pay up'. It is not acceptable the current situation."

Meanwhile, in a homily in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral to mark the second Sunday of Lent, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the revelations surrounding the treatment of women and their children in Mother and Baby Homes could be "wallpapered" over.

Read More: John Walshe: Years of stalling indicates State will get nothing from religious orders

"The sad facts which are once again emerging into light around the way children and mothers were treated in Church-run institutions lead us once again to challenge the Church in Ireland to a deep self-examination and repentance. It is not something that can be wallpapered over or interpreted by clever spin doctors," Archbishop Martin said.

"Everything must be done to enable the truth to emerge. As believers, we must again turn to Jesus and profess that we have failed his teaching. We must confess the role of the Church in the building up of a culture which failed to recognise the presence of Jesus in the smallest and the weakest."

The senior cleric also dismissed the suggestion that such treatment "happened when times were different".

He told the Mass: "Yes, times were different; but the message of Jesus Christ is different in every time and it is different because it challenges us to rise above what things were like."

Irish Independent

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