The Christian Brothers has been urged to mediate settlements with survivors of historic sexual abuse instead of fighting cases in the courts following a landmark deal in North America.
The call comes after details emerged of a $16.5m (€12.7m) settlement involving the Christian Brothers in the US and Canada and more than 400 adults who were sexually abused as children by members of the religious order.
The victims claimed abuse at schools and childcare facilities run by the Christian Brothers and the Christian Brothers of Ireland, Inc, in 17 US states and Canada from the late 1940s or early 1950s until the 1980s.
“Intense negotiations during the past three months have led to painful concessions in bringing about this mutually agreed upon settlement. This settlement will allow an opportunity to recommit ourselves to bringing the gospel of Jesus,” Brother Kevin Griffith of the Christian Brothers said in a statement.
James Stang, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said the settlement reached in a US bankruptcy court also enabled the victims to pursue more assets from the order, such as real estate or insurance claims.
A committee representing the victims, who claimed abuse mostly by brothers of the order, agreed to the settlement terms.
In 2011, the Christian Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection in response to the sexual abuse claims.
Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four, called on the Christian Brothers in Ireland to engage in a similar mediative process with survivors of child sexual abuse, namely those abused in day schools run by the order.
She said that, unlike survivors of the industrial school system, these survivors were not covered by the Redress Board. Instead, they have to engage with the order directly.
“Many of our clients find that when they engage with the Christian Brothers they are difficult to deal with.
“I would love to see the Christian Brothers enter into the mediation process and seek fair settlements.”
As part of the compensation deal between the State and religious orders in 2009, the Christian Brothers agreed to pay €30m and to transfer playing pitches then valued at €127m.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn last year urged all congregations to increase their contribution up from €1.36bn to €1.47bn.
The Christian Brothers said it could not up its offer as it risked going bankrupt. It also said it needed to keep money aside for anticipated claims from survivors of its day schools.
- Additional reporting by Reuters
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