||DUBLIN, Ireland - The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Dublin said Wednesday that 102 of its priests are suspected of sexually or physically abusing at least 350 children since 1940 the biggest such admission to date in Ireland.
The office of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said it was publishing its findings ahead of this month's expected formation of a government-appointed commission to investigate the history and handling of such abuse in Ireland.
This predominantly Catholic nation has been rocked by waves of church sex-abuse scandals since 1994.
The archdiocese said it conducted a two-year review of the personnel files of more than 2,800 priests who have worked in the Dublin archdiocese, either as parish priests or in religious orders, during the past 66 years.
It found that eight priests in Dublin were convicted of abuse, while 32 priests have been sued for damages by 105 victims at a cost to the archdiocese of $7 million. That figure includes about $2 million in legal bills for both sides.
But the report said costs were expected to increase significantly because 40 cases remained unsettled, while church authorities had positively identified at least 350 abuse victims and "a possible further 40 persons who may have been abused but who it is not yet possible to identify or trace."
Martin, a veteran Vatican diplomat appointed here in 2003, said he believed the archdiocese would have to sell off some of its properties to cover the mounting compensation bill. He called that a necessary sacrifice to right past wrongs, as much as was possible.
"It's very frightening for me to see that in some of these cases, so many children were abused. It's very hard to weigh that up against anything," Martin said.
"On the other hand, I know that the vast majority of priests don't abuse, that they do good work, that they're extremely upset and offended by what's happened."