A Message for the people of Clonfert from Bishop John Kirby

16 Sep 2012

The following special message from Bishop Kirby was issued to the people of the Diocese of Clonfert this weekend and it is being circulated at Masses in all of the 24 parishes of the diocese for the benefit of parishioners:

A message for the People of Clonfert on the Report of Child Safeguarding Practice by Bishop John Kirby

I published a most important report relating to the Diocese of Clonfert on 5 September last.  This report is called the Review of Safeguarding Practice of the Diocese of Clonfert and the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland undertook it.  I accept in full the Review of Safeguarding and it is now available on www.clonfertdiocese.ie or in hard copy from the diocesan office in Loughrea.  I encourage you to read the Review for yourself.

I cannot apologise enough to survivors of abuse for the pain that you suffer.  I utterly condemn the actions of the two priests, referred to in the Review, who sexually abused in this diocese in the past.  They betrayed a sacred trust and their crimes are reprehensible.  Both were quickly reported to the civil authorities and both were taken out of ministry.

There is no question but that I made serious mistakes in the early to mid-1990s by moving two priests who had abused into different parishes.  As bishop, I take full responsibility for my actions.  Whilst I am not aware of any abuse allegations from the parishes to which they were moved, it is important for you to know that I operate very differently now and will continue to do so in the future.

In one media interview on 5 September last, 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.  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.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children has fully endorsed the Clonfert Diocesan Policy which we launched last January.  This endorsement is carried in the Review of Safeguarding report.  In terms of key resources and dedicated training the Diocese of Clonfert has in place:

  • an overall Safeguarding Co-ordinator;
  • a Safeguarding Committee;
  • a Training Team;
  • two Designated Officers for receiving reports of allegations and a full complement of Local Safeguarding Representatives (LSRs) in every parish;
  • all the priests of the diocese, all sacristans and choir directors and all the LSRs have completed basic training in relation to child safeguarding;
  • extended this training to our voluntary staff for the Lourdes pilgrimage.

In addition, I am committed to updating our training and to reviewing all diocesan safeguarding material at least once every three years.  Finally, while the past cannot by undone, I am confident that current procedures and practices throughout the Diocese of Clonfert meet best practice for safeguarding children.

I ask you to please keep the continued success of our vital pastoral work to safeguard children in your prayers.

Críost Linn,

Bishop John Kirby

15 & 16 September 2012


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678