Wednesday 20 March 2019

If archdiocese goes bankrupt, parishes may have to close

Analysis

David Quinn

THE news that the Dublin archdiocese is in severe financial difficulties should not come as a surprise.

Over €13m has been paid out in the last few years as a result of the abuse scandals.

The investments of the archdiocese have taken a huge hit as a result of the economic recession, and the recession has also badly hit the collection plate.

In addition, Mass attendance is in decline. Dublin is probably the most secularised part of the country. Weekly attendance in the capital appears to be around 20pc, which is far below the national average of roughly 30pc to 40pc.

This is one reason why most other dioceses in the country are not in the same dire straits as Dublin. They simply have more people, proportionately speaking, putting money into the collection plate each week.

Also, not every diocese has been as badly affected by the abuse scandals as Dublin and so haven't had to make the same huge payouts.

Should Rome step in to help? Even if it wanted to, it can't. The Vatican is reasonably asset-rich, but it is not cash-rich and often has difficulties making ends meet.

In any case, many dioceses around the world are in financial difficulties, or have been in the past, so why should it give Dublin special treatment?

The archdiocese of New York has been heavily in debt in its recent history.

The Boston archdiocese has been closing down many of its inner-city parishes, as has the Liverpool archdiocese.

If Dublin archdiocese goes bankrupt, what will happen to its parishes? A lot will still be able to make ends meet, because they are financially self-sustaining. Others that need help from central funds may have to close. This won't happen overnight though.

On the bright side, the recession will eventually come to an end and the payouts to victims will come to an end also. This will go a long way towards stabilising Dublin's finances.

Dublin has come through financial difficulties before. When Cardinal Desmond Connell took over in 1988, it was £10m in debt, but his financial controller, Msgr John Wilson, managed to clear it.

Even if it goes bankrupt, it will recover, although that will mean learning to live within its diminished means.

Irish Independent

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