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Profile: Eamon Casey: The Bishop Still Seeking Sanctuary From His Past

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Eamon Casey is the SIXTH Irish Bishop to be subjected to a false allegation of child abuse (or other false sexual allegation) since 1994. The attached article from The Sunday Times gives a good account of his life. Among other things he tackled inner city poverty and homelessness in parishes in Limerick and later in England. In England he set up a loan scheme for Irish immigrants in need of housing. He was also the inspiration behind Shelter, a British organisation that helps the homeless, and he established the Third World charity, Trocaire .

After fleeing Ireland because of the Annie Murphy scandal, he worked for five years as a curate in an impoverished parish in Ecuador where he had to master Spanish and travel wide distances to say Mass in tiny churches. He raised enough money to build a school and a medical centre for his parish.

In other words, like Nora Wall, Sister Stanislaus, Sister Conception, the late Brother Joseph O'Connor etc Bishop Casey is a great humanitarian. I suspect that he was targeted precisely for that reason. Our society is spewing on itself; it is subjecting its heroes to obscene assault while it doles out over a billion euros to liars and criminals. The former bank robber James (The Whale) Gantley has described the Redress Board as "The Good Ship Lollipop, lots of dosh for everyone". Well at least he has a sense of humour!!


Rory Connor
18 November 2006

Profile: Eamon Casey: The bishop still seeking sanctuary from his past
The Sunday Times December 04, 2005

"Young people of Ireland, I love you," called out Pope John Paul II to the hundreds of thousands who had gathered in Galway in October 1979. The crowd at Ballybrit racecourse responded effusively, singing and cheering. It was a glorious moment for the man who had made it all happen: Bishop Eamon Casey.

Standing in the rain for hours waiting for the Pope's helicopter to appear through the clouds, the young people had been entertained by two of the country's best-known clerics. The ebullient Casey, bishop of Galway, and Fr Michael Cleary, the singing priest, whipped the crowd up into an ecumenical frenzy with jubilant song and prayer.

On that October day, Casey and Cleary were only the support act, but in the early 1990s they would upstage and eclipse the entire Catholic Church in Ireland. The revelation that both had fathered children precipitated a crisis in the church from which it has never fully recovered.

In 1992, after Annie Murphy, an American divorcee, revealed the details of her affair with Casey and the existence of their son, Peter, the bishop resigned from his post and fled Ireland. Although he has returned intermittently, the church seems happier for him to stay away. It is his very ebullience, which proved so invaluable on that wet October day, that it fears.

"I don't know that he is capable of leading the quiet, retired life," said one bishop a few years ago. "If he walked into a place, he would be running it in no time. He's a great organiser. He's full of ideas."

Last week Casey, 78, was again thrust into the spotlight. He was forced to leave his post as curate in Staplefield, West Sussex, where he has served since 1998, after an allegation of sexual abuse was made against him.

Severe doubt has been cast on the allegation, which was made by a middle-aged woman who has known Casey for most of her life and has made similar and unproven allegations against others. But when claims of abuse are made against clerics now, certain steps have to be followed. The real question is whether the increasingly frail Casey will ever hold clerical office again.

Born on April 24, 1927, into a family of 10 in Firies, Co Kerry, he was brought up in neighbouring Adare, Co Limerick, where his father was a creamery manager. After attending school at St Munchin's College, he studied at the Maynooth seminary and was ordained a priest in 1951, along with Cardinal Desmond Connell.

In an interview with Veronica Guerin in 1993, Casey recalled an uneasiness with celibacy that he could trace back to his time in Maynooth and later in England. "Celibacy was unquestionably a factor," he said. "Two or three times in my seven years at Maynooth it became very much a factor and I had to engage in serious counselling sessions. There were no girls involved at the time.

"It wasn't that I was looking for female company or a sexual experience. But working outside pastoral work disorientated me for a while. I think that celibacy requires community in two senses. Firstly, as a community to serve, to live and to be loved by and, secondly, in the sense of companionship. In London I had neither."

Casey's reputation for action was established in the early years of his priesthood. He tackled poverty and homelessness in inner-city parishes in Limerick and later in England. Footage from RTE's archives shows the young priest in Slough in southeast England working to provide assistance to immigrant Irish families in need. In 1965, he raised money to prevent a young family being evicted from their apartment. Such incidents prompted Casey to set up a loan scheme for Irish immigrants in need of housing. He was also the inspiration behind Shelter, a British organisation that helps the homeless, and he established Trocaire, a Third World charity.

At the age of 42, Casey was appointed bishop of Kerry; seven years later he was transferred to Galway. He used his prominent position to lend support to political and social movements, including taking the side of Dunnes Stores' staff when they refused to sell fruit from apartheid South Africa.

In 1980, he witnessed the massacre at the funeral of Archbishop Oscar Romero, assassinated by El Salvador's military regime. He made his outrage known, lobbying the United Nations, the White House and international governments. During Ronald Reagan's visit to Ireland in 1984, Casey snubbed the US president in protest at America's supply of military aid to the Salvadorean army. The maverick was becoming increasingly irreverent.

The fall came in 1992. Murphy revealed to The Irish Times, which was loath to run the story, that she had been sent by her family to stay with Casey, a distant cousin, in the 1970s, following her divorce. She was 23; Casey was twice her age. A brief but passionate affair ensued.

When she became pregnant, however, Murphy says that Casey tried to convince her to give the child up for adoption. Their relationship crumbled and she returned to America where she had their son, Peter. Later it emerged that Casey had siphoned funds from the Galway diocese to support his family. Once exposed, he paid back more than IR70,000.

Murphy returned to Ireland to tell her story, bringing the teenage Peter on a tour of the locations where she and Casey had conducted their affair, including the Red Cliff House, an 18th century mansion overlooking the Dingle peninsula.

Casey was far from such palatial comfort. After fleeing Ireland, he signed up for a five-year contract with the St James Society, a Boston missionary order. Working as a curate in an impoverished parish in Ecuador, he had to master Spanish and travel wide distances to say Mass in tiny churches. He raised enough money to build a school and a medical centre for his parish.

When his five-year Ecuadorian contract was up, it was expected that Casey would want to return to Ireland. Most of his former colleagues believed he should come home. Casey himself claimed that his exile was self-imposed. "There is no question of a ban or exile," he said. "Nobody ever told me I could not come home."

But in what capacity could he possibly return? One senior cleric said: "The bishops discussed his situation in 1997 and the majority view was that he should come back as a retired bishop. But it depended on the extent to which he was prepared to be retired. There was a suggestion that he would be interested in being a confessor at Knock basilica, which is a very public, high-profile place."

Instead Casey accepted an offer to become a curate in Sussex. By 2000, he was telling people to stop calling him bishop. His parish know him as Fr Casey. In 2002, he attended a party at the house of his old classmate, Cardinal Connell. Celebrating their golden jubilee, the two clerics were also reunited in Limerick.

"He looked very well, and he is continuing his work in his parish," said Connell. "We were in the (Woodlands Adare) hotel for a reunion as members of the 1951 class, who graduated from Maynooth 50 years ago."

While the media was invited to most of Connell's functions in Limerick, there was no access to the reunion in Woodlands. "It would have been too embarrassing with pictures of Bishop Casey and the cardinal," one leading cleric told the Limerick Leader.

All too aware of his pariah status, Casey kept his head down in St Paul's parish in Haywards Heath. His low profile was only disturbed by a ban for drink-driving.

"I feel at peace at the moment," he said last year. "I am at peace with God and I can tell you when the chips are down that's all that counts. I have had a very genuinely contented time over the last five years.

"The parishioners know who I am and they know what happened in the past. I look after them and they look after me. I just want to get on with my life here and keep out of the public domain."

He seems destined not to be left in peace. Last week's allegation forced him into hiding in a diocesan house by the sea. He couldn't even return for the funeral of James McLoughlin, his successor as bishop of Galway.

Joe Duffy, who spoke to Casey earlier this year, said: "I think the reason the Pope engaged so much with the crowd in Galway was because the young people had a great affection for Eamon Casey. If anyone is wondering what he sounds like now, he's exactly the same as he was in Galway in 1979. He's as bubbly and effervescent and humane as he was back then."