The financial burden imposed by child abuse cases has left the future of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers in question, the order's head told the Catholic Herald this week.

Brother Philip Pinto said that the congregation of 1,200 members "just doesn’t have the money any longer." The majority of claims relate to the order’s schools in the Seattle area and Newfoundland in Canada.

Pinto said the order’s is seeking bankruptcy protection in New York to try to ensure that people who have been abused are the ones who get the money, not the lawyers, he told the Herald during a conference on religious life sponsored by the Conference of Religious of Ireland.

"In most of the developed world, we are paying for the sins of the past," he said. "Our brothers are aging, our reputation is in tatters, and the future looks bleak, even hopeless. So many of my brothers hide in their monasteries, afraid of drawing attention to themselves."

During the interview the Indian-born brother who has been congregational leader of the order since 2002 blamed what he called an institutional  culture in which "religious in Ireland were abused by the system."

Another conference speaker, Nuala O’Loan, the former police ombudsman in Northern Ireland, told attendees that it wasn’t just the religious congregations who were responsible for abuse in institutions and schools operated by religious congregations. O'Loan suggested that the "congregations have been made the scapegoats for the failures of all"

O'Loan also criticized "successive Irish governments" who "allowed the children under their care to be deprived of their safety and security and permitted children to be held in institutions in which terrible things happened."

A new poll says almost half of Ireland’s Catholics have an ‘unfavorable’ view of their churchRainey/Star Ledger