Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby
The Bishop of Clonfert, Dr John Kirby, has been criticised after saying he previously regarded child sexual abuse as "a friendship that crossed a boundary line."
Bishop Kirby, a native of Baylough in Athlone, is head of a Diocese which incorporates areas such as Ballinasloe and Taughmaconnell.
His controversial remarks were made after the publication yesterday (Wednesday) of an audit on the Diocese by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI).
Bishop Kirby moved two priests at the centre of child sex abuse allegations to other parishes in the 1990s.
He said this week that he didn't have a proper understanding of paedophilia at that time.
"Whilst I did notify the civil authorities at the time, I profoundly regret moving the priests concerned to different parishes, thereby placing others at serious risk," the Bishop told Galway Bay FM.
"I saw it as a friendship that crossed a boundary line. I have learnt sadly since that it was a very different experience."
Some national media outlets have called for Bishop Kirby's resignation.
The Westmeath Independent contacted his office this afternoon to seek an interview, but we were told that the Bishop was not available.
The review of safeguarding practice in the Diocese of Clonfert was carried out last November and reveals that allegations were made against three priests of the diocese between January 1, 1975 and June 2011.
Nine allegations were reported to Gardaí and the HSE.
One priest of the diocese has been convicted of committing an offence or offences against a child or young person.
The review published this week includes eight recommendations and notes that Bishop Kirby was "naive" in moving priests against whom allegations were made to different parishes.
"He thought that by separating the priest and the young person he could remedy the situation," the review states.
"With increased awareness of how abusers work, he now realises how naive this perception was and that this was an inappropriate response and provided no protection for children.
"Bishop Kirby is fully aware that he should have managed these cases in a much more child-centred way. Bishop Kirby is now fully clear about his responsibilities in relation to the immediate removal of a priest against whom a credible allegation has been made, as well as the immediate reporting of such an allegation to both An Garda Síochána and the HSE."
The report, published on Wednesday last, also acknowledges Bishop Kirby's commitment to the review process and his co-operation, and both the HSE Childcare Manager and the local Garda Superintendent refer to their working relationship with him as positive.
Though at the time of the review which was conducted last November Clonfert had not met all criteria connected to seven standards, at time of publication the NBSCCCI was satisfied with the development of the new policy and procedure manual in January 2012 that all criteria are now fully met.