Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Shortfall in contribution to compensation scheme damages Catholic Church’s authority

Image result for residential institutions redress boardWhat is to be done?

The 18 religious congregations which managed residential institutions where children were abused into the 1970s refuse to pay a half of costs in resulting compensation. 

Successive Governments have held such costs should be shared 50:50, with support across the Dáil. 

The final bill is expected to be around €1.5 billion, involving €1.25 billion compensation paid by the Redress Board to more than 15,000 survivors. Contributions offered by the congregations to date, under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement and subsequent to the 2009 Ryan Report, amount to €480 million. 

The shortfall on the 50 per cent target is €245 million. 

One congregation says it has contributed its 50 per cent share; 15 have either declined to comment on, or disagree with the 50:50 principle; two are unable to pay beyond their share of the 2002 Indemnity Agreement. Four – the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Sisters of Charity – were also involved in running the 10 Magdalene Laundries. 

They have refused to make any contribution, either, to a State redress scheme for women who were in the laundries.

After publication of the Ryan report, a State-appointed panel assessed resources of the 18 congregations. These had a value of €3.743 billion, since depleted as property values collapsed. 

Involved were schools, hospitals, facilities for health and disability services, making it impossible for their value to be realised. Some are held in trust, making transfer problematic. 

In 2007, possibly anticipating Ryan report findings, five female congregations transferred more than 100 secondary schools to the new Catholic Education - An Irish Schools Trust (Ceist), while in 2008 the new Edmund Rice Trust assumed ownership of Christian Brothers and Presentation schools.

The congregations insist they never entered into any agreement to pay 50-50 of final compensation costs. When they signed up to the 2002 Indemnity Agreement the number of claimants anticipated by the State was 2,000, with expected costs of €256million. 

They agreed to pay €128 million, half the then anticipated costs, in a once-off deal. They feel the 50:50 contribution was levied on them retrospectively in 2009 while they had no say in the terms of the 2002 Redress Act with its relaxed compensation scheme. Nor were they consulted about Magdalene redress.

A consequence of this is frustration on the State’s part and ongoing damage to the Catholic Church’s moral authority among a public unaware of or indifferent to the independence of the religious congregations involved. Under church law they are not answerable to the bishops or any of the other approximately 120 religious congregations in Ireland. 

Yet all are tarnished by this impasse. 

Representatives of the State and the congregations must resolve this festering sore.

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