Further to journalist Conor Ryan’s story in this morning’s Irish Examiner – in which he revealed for the first time correspondence between religious orders and the State in relation to the indemnity deal and how the Sisters of Mercy transferred 66 schools, worth €412million to a religious trust called Ceist – law lecturer at Kent Law School Mairéad Enright, above, has written her thoughts on the matter.
In Human Rights in Ireland blog, she writes:
“The question of how church institutions maintain control of property which might otherwise be the subject of compensation paid on litigation, or which might come within the ambit of redress schemes, has taken on significant weight in other jurisdictions.
“In the United States, in July, District Judge Rudolph Randa held that clerical abuse victims – the primary creditors of the bankrupt Archdiocese of Milwaukee – could not access $55m which, in 2007, the then Archbishop had placed in a cemetery trust for the perpetual care of the deceased of the Archdiocese.
“The Judge held that any interference with the trust would compromise the constitutional protection for free expression of religion. The former Archbishop, now Cardinal Dolan, maintains that the transfer of this enormous sum was not an attempt to avoid compensation claims.
“In New South Wales and in Victoria [Australia] campaigners have advocated reform of the Roman Catholic Church Trust Property Act, which the Catholic Church has used to avoid paying compensation in sexual abuse claims. The church has successfully argued, using the so-called ‘Ellis defence‘ – that diocesan statutory property trusts cannot be sued except on property claims. Victims must rely on mediation with dioceses to obtain redress under the controversial ‘Towards Healing‘ scheme and this raises controversial issues of oversight and bargaining power, similar to those which arise on settlement of a lawsuit. (These are just the tactics than can be used to avoid paying out on successful claims. There are other means to avoid claims altogether – statutes of limitation, charitable immunity, and bishops’ invocation of the doctrine of corporation sole among them). To get the full story on redress, we may need to look far beyond the indemnity agreement and its successors.”
Abuse Redress, Property and the Catholic Church in Ireland (Mairéad Enright, Human Rights In Ireland)
Previously: Mercy, Mercy Me