A Catholic bishop has been accused of lying by the Irish Times over the case of a priest guilty of child sex abuse.
In a strongly worded story, the paper alleges that Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby was aware as far back as the mid-90s that a priest whom he moved following allegations of child sex abuse continued to abuse children in his parish.
This information, confirmed by the paper, is contrary to public statements from Bishop Kirby made just last month when he twice asserted that the priest in question did not abuse children in the parish to which he moved him.
The Irish Times reports that the priest, who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in 1994 for the sexual abuse of one child in Co Galway, told Bishop Kirby in the mid-1990s that he had abused 17 children in the diocese.
This confession was made, according to the paper, when Bishop Kirby visited the priest while he was serving his jail sentence at Arbour Hill between 1994 and 1998.
The priest, referred to as Priest A in a recent report by the Church’s child protection watchdog, admitted to Bishop Kirby in 1990 that he had abused the boy concerned.
He was then moved to another parish where he abused more children.
The paper says that Bishop Kirby declined to respond to questions from The Irish Times on whether this priest abused children in his new parish after he was moved in 1990.
The report states: “The Irish Times has independently verified that Bishop Kirby was aware of this information.
“This newspaper also asked whether the number of child abuse complaints he came to be aware of in the diocese overall was considerably higher than disclosed to a recent review or in recent statements.
“A review of child protection practices in Clonfert by the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, its National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), was published on September 5th last. It found nine child abuse allegations had been made against three priests in the diocese of Clonfert and another priest who provided holiday cover.
“Just one of the four priests has been convicted in the courts. He has since been laicised. The review also found that Bishop Kirby had dealt ‘inappropriately’ with abuse allegations.”
The Irish Times reports on quotes from a press conference in Galway on September 5th when Bishop Kirby acknowledged that he had moved two priests whom he knew had abused children to other parishes.
He said he ‘hadn’t a clue’ 20 years ago about how paedophiles operated, and thought it was a case of ‘a friendship that crossed a boundary line.’
Bishop Kirby said at that press conference: “I profoundly regret and apologise for moving the priests concerned to different parishes thereby placing others at serious risk. Whilst no further abuse has been reported, this act was a grave mistake on my part.”
In a ‘special message’ read at all Masses in Clonfert on the weekend of September 15th/16th, he repeated: “I am not aware of any abuse allegations from the parishes to which they [the two priests] were moved.”
The Irish Times reports that the man referred to as Priest A in the NBSC review of Clonfert abused a total of 17 victims in the diocese.
It says nine of these were in Kiltormer parish, from where he was removed by Bishop Kirby when it emerged in 1990 he had abused a child there. He was then moved to Creagh parish where, it is believed, he claimed to have abused five more children.
Priest A also said he abused a further two children in Portumna and one other in the diocese.
The Irish Times understands that Priest A disclosed all these details to Bishop Kirby, as well as to statutory authorities, while serving his prison sentence in Arbour Hill.
The paper says that in 1994, Priest A was sentenced to 10 years, with five suspended as he pleaded guilty. He was in prison until 1998.
It also reports that Priest A gave the 17 names to Bishop Kirby after the bishop had been approached by a mother in the diocese who was anxious to know whether her son had been abused by Priest A. Bishop Kirby visited Priest A at Arbour Hill to secure the list of victims. It did not include her son.