DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish religious orders said on Wednesday they would address government demands to pay more compensation to people who were raped and beaten while attending Catholic-run schools.
Prime Minister Brian Cowen had said the orders had a “moral responsibility” to provide more funds to thousands of victims after a harrowing report which revealed endemic abuse in the nation’s defunct network of industrial and reformatory schools.
“We recognize the vital need to find new ways of addressing the extreme hurt being felt by so many people and we will do our utmost to this end,” the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity said in a statement. Other orders also agreed to respond.
In a 2002 deal, Irish religious orders’ total contribution to a victims’ redress scheme was capped at 127 million euros ($177.1 million). The total bill is now expected to top 1 billion euros.
The 18 orders at first refused calls to reopen the deal but there has been pressure from the public, politicians and church leaders, including the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady.
The systemic abuse described by the report into abuse at institutions the orders ran between the 1930s and the 1970s has rattled Ireland.
The disclosures, including a string of scandals involving priests molesting young boys, have eroded the Catholic Church’s moral authority in Ireland, once one of the most devout countries in the world.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate also said they would respond positively to Cowen’s proposals.
The Oblates ran the Daingean Reformatory in central Ireland, which last week’s report described as an anarchic institution, where “ritualized beatings” were inflicted.
Sex abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church around the world. In 2007, the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million to 500 victims in the largest compensation of its kind.
The Christian Brothers in Ireland were the first to move this week, saying on Tuesday that they would review how much more they could pay.
Two other orders, the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, on Wednesday agreed to talks on the report, which did not name any of the abusers following a successful legal action by the Christian Brothers.
“I am encouraged by the response so far from the Christian Brothers, by the soundings we are hearing from other religious orders,” Minister for Defense Willie O’Dea said on Wednesday.
“We are adamant that they will meet their obligations,” O’Dea told public broadcaster RTE.
Reporting by Andras Gergely; Editing by Carmel Crimmins