A CATHOLIC bishop who described paedophilia as "a friendship that had crossed a boundary line" has apologised for his remarks.
In a special message read at Masses throughout the Clonfert diocese yesterday, Bishop John Kirby said he had never intended to minimise the gravity of the crime and apologised especially to survivors of child abuse.
Despite his apology, the bishop at no stage said he was considering his position.
Instead, he claimed that his comments had been taken out of context.
"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," he said.
"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," his statement read.
In a public letter sent to 24 parishes in east Galway and parts of Roscommon and Offaly, the bishop admitted he had made a mistake over the transfers of two abuser priests to new parishes and his subsequent paedophilia reference.
Bishop Kirby made the remarks earlier this month after the publishing of a report that criticised him for his role in moving two abuser priests in the mid-90s. He said that at the time he thought paedophilia was "a friendship that crossed a boundary line", adding that he believed he would solve the problem by separating the priest from the child.
Bishop Kirby's remarks had led to a storm of public outcry with a number of politicians, charity heads and even clergy calling for his resignation. The bishop reiterated that he accepted fully the findings of the report into the safeguarding practices in the Clonfert Diocese. It found that the bishop had dealt "inappropriately" with abuse allegations.
The transfer of the two priests was uncovered by the church's own watchdog, Ian Elliot, head of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.
Bishop Kirby added: "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."
He told parishioners that he took full responsibility for his actions, adding: "There is no question but I made serious mistakes in the early to mid-1990s by moving two priests who had abused into different parishes."