'Childish, puerile, infantile': Finlay dismisses Bishop's apology

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay has described as "a childish excuse" comments from Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby that he previously regarded paedophilia as a "friendship that crossed a boundary line".

Seven audits into child safeguarding practices in the Catholic Church and religious orders were published today.

The reviews found a higher incidence of allegations of abuse within the three orders than in the four dioceses - and that there is still a failure to fully comply with child protection guidelines.

NBSCCC Chief Executive Ian Elliott has said the audits found some instances of very bad practice and described his shock and disappointment at some of the findings against the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in particular.

The reviews by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) examined the dioceses of Clonfert in Galway, Cork and Ross, Kildare and Leighlin and Limerick.

Three religious orders were also examined - the Dominicans, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Spiritans.

This, the second tranche of audits published by the NBSCCC, found good practice in places, contrasting with very poor practice elsewhere.

In Cork and Ross, 26 priests have had allegations of abuse made against them since 1975. Three of the priests remain in ministry while seven have retired.

In Limerick, allegations of abuse were made against 18 priests. Thirty-four claims were reported to gardaí, while 41 were brought to the attention of health boards.

In Kildare and Leighlin, 18 allegations of sexual abuse were made against 10 priests from the diocese since 1975. Eight of those priests are deceased while the remaining two are out of ministry. Only one of the 10 priests was convicted.

Following the review of Clonfert in east Galway, Bishop John Kirby personally apologised for moving two priests to different parishes in the 1990s, describing the decision as a grave mistake, and saying he would act very differently now.

The Bishop has also admitted that he believed paedophilia was “a friendship that crossed a boundary line” and knew nothing about how paedophiles operated.

Barnardos boss Fergus Finlay has dismissed the Bishop's reasoning.

"To say that people, and in particular Bishops, could be innocent of the recidivist and insidious nature of paedophilia strikes me as childish, puerile, infantile," said Mr Finlay.

"To offer it as an excuse for the abuse of children… I don't know how the man can still be in office, I just don't."

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