Bishop Denis Brennan has made an appeal within the diocese of Ferns Diocese financial assistance in regard to the costs arising from clerical abuse cases and the Ferns Inquiry.

Appeal for financial assistance

An extract from Bishop Denis Brennan’s remarks at the Ferns Diocesan Finance AGM held at Riverside Park Hotel, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford on 1st March 2010.

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The diocese would like to record its deep gratitude to the other dioceses in Ireland for the very tangible support they have shown in their assistance in the funding of claims through the Stewardship Trust.

I would be grateful for whatever ways you might be able to help me and the diocese to complete a road on which it has been necessary to travel, a road that will hopefully go beyond the requirements of justice and grow in terms of the reconciliation with which we are currently engaged and may be further permitted, or invited, in the future.

The funding of claims associated with child abuse as perpetrated by some members of the clergy continues to impact on the diocese financially. The issue continues to receive priority attention and I am glad to report continued progress.

  • The number of settlements made to date is 48.
  • These have cost 8,120,7075, of which 2,138,692 were legal fees.
  • There are 13 civil actions pending.

The diocese has also paid 2,121,478 in legal fees, which arose from its co-operation with the Berminghman and Ferns Inquiries. 650,000 was recovered from a contribution made by the government. Treatment of offenders has amounted to 836,000, an investment in child protection in the long term. The diocese would like to record its deep gratitude to the other dioceses in Ireland for the very tangible support they have shown in their assistance in the funding of claims through the Stewardship Trust.

I would like to make a few observations on this matter:

This particular tragedy is not viewed by the diocese as a problem to be solved. More accurately, people who suffered abuse are not the cause of our problems: the actions of individual perpetrators, along with mismanagement, poor understanding and/or lack of resolve – are. In the light of the Gospel, what has emerged into the open is rightly seen as the calling of our time and those who have suffered are rightly seen as having first call on our attention. We are asked to address child sexual abuse as pastors and to respond in the manner of the Master, and nobody less.

Any road to healing and reconciliation is only possible to the degree that it is preceded by openness, justice and truthfulness. The settlements made to date are necessary and represent the dioceses desire to take responsibility for hurts caused, hurts which date back several generations as far back as the 1940s in cases. It is our duty to make good the bad, to recognize the enormity of what was stolen and to do it as Christ who reaches out.

The damage done in some cases to the persons believing relationship or his / her ability to trust and believe is often the most profound damage of all. This is something about which we hear more and more. Consideration of how we might be available to its repair, is something to which we must give grave and ongoing attention.

The diocese is at various points on the road with individual victims and survivors: some wish to have no further dealings with us and this we respect; some view us as representing or defensive of those who damaged them; some stay in contact; and some engage with us in the search for healing and reconciliation. It is our duty to respect that place where each survivor and victim finds himself and herself on that painful path, and to be present, as requested, on the terms and according to the wishes of people whose autonomy is paramount. Many have struggled hard to regain this autonomy, it is vital that this not be damaged any further. The continuation along a path where we have been the students for the most part not the teachers is something we need to complete with humility, openness and a desire for the genuine good of those hurt.

The diocese has a very open policy on this matter it shares all information with the Gardai, the HSE, its own advisory panel and with the Holy See. All recommendations or directives received from these groups has been accepted and implemented.

The Diocese of Ferns has been on a road involving the settlement of claims for 15 years now. It has been very much a team effort various administrations and personnel, local diocesan and national church funding and from the picture as it exists today, up to 80% of the road of justice has been traveled. As we look to complete this road, it will be necessary to invite the parishes to become part of the process financially. Funding sought is not about sharing the blame, it is about asking for help to fulfill a God given responsibility. That I did not cause the problem is not the response of the Christian, that I would like to help in the work of justice, healing, reconciliation, a safer environment for children in the future, proper financial stewardship and overall good economic health is.

I would be grateful for whatever ways you might be able to help me and the diocese to complete a road on which it has been necessary to travel, a road that will hopefully go beyond the requirements of justice and grow in terms of the reconciliation with which we are currently engaged and may be further permitted, or invited, in the future.