DUBLIN (ChurchMilitant.com) - Collections in the archdiocese of Dublin have plummeted by as much as 80%, resulting in "very serious consequences," with clergy forced to accept a 25% cut in personal stipends.
The "Common Fund" collection for priests and the "Support for Share" fund have dropped by 70% and 80% respectively between March and June, compared with the same period last year, the archdiocese told The Irish Times.
"Lay and clerical pay have been reduced across the country, with lay redundancies also in play. This reduced pay/wages is expected to continue into 2021," commented a spokesman for the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference.
The Dublin archdiocese, which currently employs 82 staff, said it could reduce employees by a third, depending on how many opt for the redundancy scheme.
As part of a restructuring strategy to address the "urgent situation," the archdiocese has extended its voluntary redundancy scheme to all staff members in the diocesan support services and to parish pastoral workers.
"Each staff member is being offered support and advice mechanisms to guide staff members at this time, paid for by the diocese. The process is ongoing. Diocesan staff are in receipt of the [government's] Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme," an archdiocesan spokesman revealed.
In England, Bp. Mark Davies of Shrewsbury acknowledged that "weeks of the national lockdown saw a dramatic fall of about a third in parish income," which "is having a serious impact on the operation of parishes."
Bishop Davies, one of England's few orthodox bishops, said that the loss of around £700,000 would have a long-term impact on the diocese's ability to maintain its buildings.
Mike Kane, Labour member of Parliament for Wythenshawe and Sale East, confirmed to the House of Commons that the Shrewsbury diocese has lost a third of its funding as a result of the lockdown.
Kane asked the government to consider an enhanced gift-aid scheme to "mitigate the damage."
Meanwhile, a number of clerics told Church Militant they were questioning if the drop in finances was caused by "laity punishing bishops for caving in to the government's coronavirus lockdown and depriving them of the sacraments."
"Physically handing over cash is the way most people support their parishes, and this just hasn't been possible. Only a small number donate via direct debit," Dcn. Nick Donnelly from Lancaster diocese told Church Militant, noting that the drop in giving was administrative, not punitive.
However, a traditionalist cleric told Church Militant that his community had actually seen an increase in giving because the priests made sure there was "regular pastoral care through careful visiting and regular phone calls as well as online services during the lockdown."
"Because the faithful couldn't come to church, they would drop envelopes of cash through the post-box [mail] or post checks," he said.
"We've been faithful in ministering to them all through the year and now they are faithful in continuing to support us financially," he added.
The liberalism of Dublin Abp. Diarmuid Martin has also resulted in a calamitous drop in attendance and giving, sources said.
Ireland's largest diocese continues to affirm same-sex relationships. Practicing homosexuals in the archdiocese of Dublin are encouraged to receive Holy Communion with the support of clergy and under Abp. Martin's purview, Church Militant reported.
In May 2015, Martin advocated the enhancement of homosexual civil unions as an alternative to same-sex marriage and said the Church must change with the times.
"We have to find ways in which gay and lesbian people can have their love fully recognized in an equal but different manner," he said.
"For the time being, it is recommended that Communion should not be given under both kinds [bread and wine], and [the Host] should be received in the hand," the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference has instructed.
The stringent regulations are also keeping some parishioners away from Mass. "The priest will be behind a Perspex™ screen. Extend your hands under the screen to receive the Blessed Sacrament," St. Finian's Church announced on its Facebook page.
Critics are also observing that Abp.. Martin could be using the crisis as a pretext to close down churches. A source pointed to the recent accounts for 2018, noting that there was no need for panic and the diocese was sitting on millions of euros.
Net income for the parishes of the diocese of Dublin, the registered Catholic charity that deals with a number of funds and income and payments made by the capital's Catholic parishes was €88,000. The archdiocese earned a further €3.2 million from the sale of buildings.
Stipends to 374 serving priests were €10.4 million, while 69 retired priests were paid €1.1 million, and €3 million was spent on nursing and home-care costs.
The Charities of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, a separate charitable trust, received donations of €842,000 in 2018, and legacies of €98,000.
Over a million euros was paid out of an unrestricted, general fund to clerical sex-abuse claimants.
A provision of €10.6 million is contained in the accounts for potential future claims arising from clerical sex abuse. The equivalent figure in 2017 was €12.3 million.
The balance in the general fund at year's end was €7.6 million.
The price for the sale of Holy Cross College, Drumcondra, which ceased to function as a seminary in 2000, was agreed at €95,157,500 and the sale was approved by the Vatican and the charities regulator.
The property will be sold in four separate tranches between 2019 and 2022.