Des Moines Diocese Catholic priest is returned to ministry following suspension; SNAP has concerns
(For Immediate Release May, 16, 2022)
A recent news article disclosed that Fr. James Kirby will again be leading a congregation in Iowa. The priest was suspended by the Diocese of Des Moines and Simpson College for "inappropriate conduct" in 2020, after he texted comments about his attraction to a 19-year-old student. Two similar complaints were filed against Fr. Kirby in 2010 and 2019. The cleric worked as the pastor at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Carlisle from 2009 until his suspension.
Beginning in July, Fr. Kirby will be a pastor at St. Mary/Holy Cross parish in Elkhart, Iowa. According to an April, 28, 2022 statement from the Diocese, during his suspension Fr. Kirby "provided sacramental ministry and media-related work for the diocese as needed." We are unclear how a clergyman with at least three accusations of "inappropriate contact" can be returned to ministry at all, but to have him providing "sacramental ministry" before a public announcement seems completely wrong.
SNAP has grave concerns about the ability of Fr. Kirby to be safely involved in parish settings and the community. The Des Moines Diocese preferred to use the phrase "inappropriate conduct" to refer to the accusations. This innocuous terminology may well minimize the gravity of the Fr. Kirby's conduct, and to us demonstrates the desire of the Diocese to avoid the hard questions about the behavior of this priest and to simply move on as if nothing truly disturbing had occurred.
We call on Bishop William Joensen to adhere to the Church’s pledge of transparency and to provide specific details regarding all the accusations against Fr. Kirby, so that parishioners and the public can judge for themselves. In the meantime, we urge any person who has information regarding sexual abuse or misconduct by any Catholic bishop, priest, deacon, nun, religious brother, lay employee, or volunteer to contact law enforcement with their information first. Secular investigations produce the best results when it comes to dangerous behavior.
CONTACT: Paul Koeniguer, Iowa SNAP Leader, (striki[email protected], 515-865-9673) John Chamber, Iowa SNAP Leader, ([email protected], 515-277-8436) Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)