‘Redress victims before embassy reopens’

The embassy to the Vatican should not reopen until the Catholic Church has paid compensation to every Irish victim of clerical child sexual abuse, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Tom Barry said the ongoing fallout from the Church’s handling of the paedophile priest Brendan Smyth showed how “very, very poorly” it had dealt with the abuse issue as a whole.

Mr Barry said: “All that can be done at this stage is redress to the victims. Dealing with that, and sorting that situation out, would show a penance on behalf of the Church. The problem is, that has not occurred.”

He said the Church would “continue to be embroiled in controversy unless they wrap up each situation as they meet it”, with redress central to the process.

“The victims were absolutely treated horribly. We’ve seen it in the Cloyne report and others. The Church needs to pay those victims.”

Mr Barry, himself a weekly churchgoer, said the case could be made for re-opening the embassy if and when the Church had fully addressed the issue of compensation.

“But until that happens, I don’t see any need to open it again. The crimes that have been committed against children are absolutely horrible.”

His position appears noticeably different to some of his Fine Gael colleagues who have supported the reopening of the embassy without setting any preconditions.

Mr Barry said the Vatican was a “very wealthy state” and had the resources to pay compensation to victims of abuse.

“I don’t particularly mind where it comes from, as long as there isn’t a second collection in the churches to pay for it.

“The suggestion of a second collection in the churches, to me, would only re-victimise, if I could use that phrase, the victims.”

He acknowledged that the Vatican, like any state, needed significant revenues to function, but said there appeared to be too much of a focus on wealth.

“The Vatican has the resources to provide the monies to these victims... But the Church itself should not be concerned about wealth.

“Our Lord walked this world with hardly any worldly possessions on him. And it appears to me that there’s a huge concentration on wealth.”

The Church last year announced a €10m fund over five years for an expanded counselling service for survivors of abuse, on top of €20m already spent over previous years on such services.

Separately, the 18 religious orders involved in the State redress scheme for survivors of institutional abuse have committed to contributing cash and property with a combined value of €473.5m.

However, the State is seeking further contributions, as it wants to split the cost of the scheme, which is now set to exceed €1.36bn, on a 50-50 basis.

That would mean the orders agreeing to contribute over €200m more.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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