UPDATE: Carlisle Priest Suspended By Catholic Church, Fired By Simpson College After Text Messages Published on Social Media

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Indianola, Iowa — Simpson College says it has ‘cut ties’ with assistant track & field coach James Kirby, a priest at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carlisle, over “allegations of inappropriate conduct.”

The school announced its separation with Kirby with this message from President Marsha Kelliher:

“On the evening of July 9, 2020, Simpson College officials became aware of allegations of inappropriate conduct by part-time assistant cross country coach James Kirby.  The college takes allegations of this nature seriously, and the college has begun an investigation.

Effective July 10, 2020, the former assistant coach’s ties and interactions with the college have ended.  

Our number one priority has been, and will continue to be, our students. We do not condone any action that is in conflict with our mission and values. I thank those who elevated their concerns to the college.

Simpson President Marsha Kelliher

On Thursday evening a series of text messages reportedly from Kirby were shared in a thread on Twitter. The Twitter thread claims Kirby is a ‘regular’ at a bar where the Twitter user’s mother and 19-year-old sister both work. Text message screenshots shared on Twitter were reportedly sent from Kirby to ‘Michelle’, the mother.

In one message Kirby allegedly writes: “I think the little Ashley is adorable. I know I am older, but I am still a good person … I am not a creepy old man.” In another message Kirby allegedly writes: “I am counting on your discretion. Trying not to be creepy but I think the little Ashley is very pretty. Likely too young but I just thought I’d put it out there. I am a gentleman and rely on your discretion.”

James Kirby is the pastor at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carlisle. The Diocese of Des Moines announced on Friday afternoon that Kirby has been suspended by the church. Kirby is forbidden from contacting either women in the text messages, nor any women under age 30 who is not a family member. The church says Kirby will need to meet certain conditions before he is welcomed back as a priest.

The complete statement from the Diocese reads:

Bishop William Joensen suspended a priest of the Diocese of Des Moines, Father James Kirby, on Friday, July 10 following an allegation of inappropriate conduct.

While suspended, Father Kirby may not engage in public priestly ministry including celebrating Mass or other sacraments, and preaching.  In the meantime, he is not to initiate contact with any parish leadership of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, where he is pastor.

In addition to the ministerial aspects of his suspension, Bishop Joensen imposed the following additional restrictions: Father Kirby cannot contact the complainant or her family, nor any woman under age 30 unless she is a family member. He cannot enter any taverns or bars and must avoid bars in restaurants.

While Father Kirby remains a priest of the Diocese of Des Moines, he will be required to complete set conditions and exhibit significant reform in order to return to active ministry. 

The Diocese of Des Moines holds its clergy and ministers to the highest standards of ethical conduct.  It is important to receive notice of such abuses of power in order to address them immediately. 

Father Kirby was ordained in 1996. He served as associate pastor at St. Theresa Church 1996-1998, as campus minister at Dowling Catholic High School 1998-2008, and as parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Church 2008-2009. He has been serving as pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Carlisle since 2009.

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