A Catholic bishop at the center of controversy over his remarks on pedophilia is refusing to resign. Dr. John Kirby said he used to think pedophilia was friendship “that had crossed a boundary line.”
Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert and also chairman of Third World relief charity Trocaire, has remained silent on calls for his resignation.
Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly, who used parliamentary privilege to name a priest accused of abuse, said Kirby was “not fit to be a bishop.”
While Kirby apologized for his role in moving two priests to new parishes after they had abused children in the 1990s, his claims that he was unaware of the true nature of pedophilia were met with outrage by many members of the public.
Kirby claimed he did not understand pedophilia in an attempt to explain why he adopted the standard church response of the time to transfer clerical child abusers.
He said, “I saw it as a friendship that crossed a boundary line. I have learnt sadly since that it was a very different experience.”
All queries on his remark were directed to the Catholic Communications Office, which insisted that he would not consider resignation.
Ian Elliot, head of the church’s child-protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCC), called into question the competency of Kirby over the remarks following his audit of the Diocese of Clonfert.
“Care needs to be taken when appointing a bishop that you do not appoint a bishop with these attitudes,” Elliott said.
“These are basic competencies that everyone should have in authority. I’m not calling for anyone to resign but, for me, that’s an absolute basic requirement.”
One of seven audits into four dioceses and three religious congregations issued last week by the NBSCC found that Kirby transferred two abusive priests from one parish to another in 1990 and 1994. Kirby said the abuse was reported to civil authorities.
Officers from the Garda (police) sexual crime-management unit are to study the outcome of the seven audits, which were set up after the Ryan and Murphy reports into clerical sexual abuse.
The audits dealt with more than 330 allegations of abuse against 146 priests and members of the congregations.
The authors discovered examples where offenders were able to continue abusing children for longer than they should have, because individuals who were known to be a risk were not properly managed.
They also uncovered allegations of abuse that had not been reported to Gardai, commenting that full compliance with child protection practices agreed three years ago is still some way off.