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THE POPE’S IMPRIMATUR FOR LIES AND COVER-UPS
When the Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby failed to tell the truth about sex abuse cover-ups, he did so with the benediction of Pope Benedict...
Eamonn McCann, 24 Oct 2012
I suspect that the most common reaction to the story, in the Irish Times on October 8, was a sigh of weariness rather than a shout of anger. Nothing new to see here. Apart from the role of the Pope.
Religious Affairs correspondent Patsy McGarry reported that Kirby had not told the whole truth: he’d acknowledged knowing of two priest abusers in his diocese when, in fact, he’d known of four.
Kirby confessed that he’d shifted the two abusers, whom he’d admitted being aware of, to new parishes, but insisted there was no evidence either had continued to abuse. But according to McGarry, on the contrary, one of the priests had himself told Kirby that he had gone on to abuse other children.
Information from the Clonfert authorities published in September by the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children suggested that a total of nine victims had been identified in the diocese. But sources regarded by the Times as reliable maintain that Kirby had been aware of at least 22 cases, including 17 children assaulted by just one of his priests.
While seeming to accept responsibility for at least some of what had happened, Kirby explained that, “I literally thought that… it was a friendship that crossed the boundary line.” He had displayed “gross innocence and naïvety” and now wanted to apologise for “my own previous lack of understanding.”
The most egregious of the Clonfert cases was that of Priest A, jailed for four years in 1994. Kirby visited A in Arbour Hill prison after being approached by a woman who needed to know whether her son had been among his victims. It is claimed that it was in the prison visiting room that A admitted to Kirby that he’d continued to abuse after moving parish and that he had abused 17 children in all.
In the same year that A was sentenced, a scandal erupted over the handling by the authorities in the Republic of a warrant for the extradition to the North of Fr. Brendan Smyth, accused of a series of assaults on four children of a Falls Road family. After a period of high political drama, the Fianna Fáil-Labour government led by Albert Reynolds collapsed – preparing the way for the emergence of Bertie Ahern as FF leader.