Faith-based welfare was the norm in Ireland up until only a few short years ago. The Catholic Church, in all its compassion, ran schools, orphanages, children’s homes, hospitals – just about everything.
The result? A catalogue of cruelty and abuse that has left the state with a compensation bill that could run into billions of euros – not to mention thousands of damaged and traumatised individuals who will never properly recover from the physical, mental and sexual torture they suffered at the hands of priests and nuns. In 2002, the Catholic Church agreed to pay over €128m in cash and property to the State as part of a deal to prevent bankruptcy – the actual total is more likely to be between €1bn and €1.3bn.
The congregations had managed orphanages and schools in which abuse took place. Under their 2002 deal, religious orders were granted indemnity against future legal actions by former residents at the residential institutions. To date, the average award has been €66,845. Some 23 victims received the maximum award of €300,000.
More than 14,500 compensation applications for sexual, emotional or physical abuse were received by the board by the 2005 deadline.