Bishop Kirby apologises over sex abuse remarks
THE BISHOP of Clonfert, John Kirby, has apologised for describing instances of paedophilia as “friendship that crossed a boundary line”.
In a “special message” read at Masses in the diocese over the weekend, he said: “I may have given the general impression that I was somehow minimising the gravity of the criminal activity which we know to be child sexual abuse. This was never my intention and I wish to apologise, especially to all survivors, on this point.”
He continued: “The fact is that I reported the allegations to the civil authorities in the 1990s within days of becoming aware of the issue because I knew that crimes may have been committed.
“What I failed to appreciate sufficiently at that time was the addictive and repetitive compulsion of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, my words last week, separated from their context, came across negatively. I am very sorry for any anxiety or embarrassment that I may have caused to people in Clonfert or throughout the country.”
He “made serious mistakes in the early to mid-1990s by moving two priests who had abused into different parishes”.
He could not “apologise enough to survivors of abuse for the pain that you suffer”. While “the past cannot be undone, I am confident that current procedures and practices throughout the diocese of Clonfert meet best practice for safeguarding children,” he said.
Speaking on Galway Bay FM’s Keith Finnegan Show on September 5th last, Bishop Kirby explained why he moved two child-abusing priests to different parishes in 1990 and in 1994, after he discovered they had been abusing children.
He had no comprehension of paedophilia at the time, he said. “I saw it as a friendship that crossed a boundary line,” he said.
A review of child safeguarding practices in Clonfert by the church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) found that Bishop Kirby dealt “inappropriately” with abuse allegations there, and had not “a full written policy and procedures document in place at the time of the review – a significant shortcoming” which “had a knock-on effect on safeguarding structures and practices in the diocese”.
Nine allegations were made against three priests in Clonfert and one other who provided holiday cover there. One was convicted in the courts.
Launching the NBSC review on September 5th, Bishop Kirby said of child abuse by the two priests, “I literally thought, and you can put it down as gross innocence and naivety, that if I separated the priest and the youngster . . . that it was a friendship that crossed the boundary line.”