March 24, 2005

Church cashes in again as taxpayers are penalised

Belfast Telegraph

by Eamonn McCann

24 March 2005

It's out of charity that the Roman Catholic Church pays compensation to victims of abuse. That's the implication of the fact that the Stewardship Trust has been granted charitable status in the south.

The trust is the body set up in 1996 to fund compensation claims arising from abuse cases.

Most Catholics only became aware of the trust last month when Bishop Seamus Hegarty confirmed to the BBC's Spotlight programme that the Derry diocese's contribution was being raised through a levy imposed on all parishes.

The levy was abandoned after parishioners reacted angrily to exposure of the plan. The scheme, which it had been planned to implement in all 26 Irish dioceses, is now in disarray, as the bishops cast around for another way to find an estimated 25m euros to meet liabilities over the next five years.

The fund's charitable status will mean that contributions the bishops may solicit from wealthy individuals will be tax free. They are likely also be exempted from capital acquisitions and gift tax .

Pat Rabbitte raised the commonsense point when he asked the Republic's Finance Minister, Brian Cowan, whether "making contributions towards the payments of awards of damages and the costs associated with such awards could ever be regarded as charitable?"

Posted by kshaw at March 24, 2005 08:12 AM