Bishop: Idea that parishioners should pay for abuse claims upset people
An Irish bishop who sparked fury by suggesting parishioners might have to contribute to the cost of claims racked up from clerical sex abuse cases has admitted some people found the idea upsetting.
Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan yesterday said his diocese had to find ways of paying €1.2m in compensation bills. But he said Ferns parish assets could be sold to cover some of the costs.
"The selling of assets is on the table," he said.
Bishop Brennan, who is attending the three-day spring meeting of the Bishops' Conference at Maynooth, ruled out suggestions the Vatican could contribute or underwrite legal bills.
"It's my view that this is our responsibility to discharge. The things happened here and we want to rectify it," he said.
Asked if he had made a mistake by angering the public over his suggestion of financial assistance to pay the legal claims, he replied: "The victims remain the top priority here."
Bishop Brennan said his intention was to be open about the options available to him. But he admitted the suggestion of parishioners giving cash had angered and upset some people.
"For the last 10 years or so we have had a conversation with people, we put everything out there. We want to be as transparent as we can and sometimes that can be a bit upsetting," he added.
"At the moment we are having an ongoing conversation about how that can be furthered. Whatever decision will be made about that will be made by the priests and religious in Ferns. Timing is always difficult...but it's all about the victims. The thing here is how to go forward...where should we go from here?"
The bishop repeated his claim that parishioners had offered to help with the huge legal bills.
"We want to see what their views are because people have come forward and offered to help."
Plans by Bishop Brennan to invite help from parishes have drawn fierce criticism since they were revealed at a Dail finance committee.
It is estimated the diocese can afford to make half of the €120,000 annual payment on a 20-year mortgage taken out on the diocesan centre (bishop's residence), but will need help with the remaining €60,000.
The bishop said there were a number of options facing the authorities when it came to making up the shortfall.
These included the sale of one or more of the diocese's five fixed assets -- the bishop's house, St Peter's College, a house in Wexford, and two pieces of land.
The options will be considered over the next 12 months, Bishop Brennan said.