Bishop Casey's 'good works' - as well as extraordinary 'infidelity' - remembered
Bishop Eamonn Casey did much good in life but the "irresponsibility and infidelity" he showed as a preacher of the Gospel were earth-shattering for many religious believers.
That was a key part of the frank assessment by Bishop Brendan Kelly, a former priest of the Galway diocese, who paid a warm tribute to the life and work of the controversial Bishop of Kerry and Galway.
President Michael D Higgins, a collaborator on many international civil rights projects, was prominent among the mourners at Galway Cathedral. The President was welcomed as a friend of the late bishop.
The congregation included local people, representatives from Eamonn Casey's former homes in Limerick, London, Kerry and Clare, as well as relatives and friends from all over Ireland.
During a solemn requiem mass, there were hymns, prayers and readings in Irish and English from the extended Casey clan and Galway Cathedral Choir. Then priests and family members took turns to carry his coffin on its short final journey to the cathedral crypt.
Bishop Casey's mortal remains now rest beneath the cathedral seat he was forced to abruptly abandon in 1992 when it was revealed he fathered a son, Peter, in 1974 after a love affair with the Irish-American woman, Annie Murphy.
Within seconds of the formal opening of the funeral ceremony, the chief celebrant of the requiem mass, Bishop John Kirby of Clonfert, extended his sympathy to Peter Murhpy and his mother, Annie. Bishop Casey's one surviving sister, Ita, and brother, Fr Michael Casey, who lives in Perth, Australia, were also mentioned as their illness and other circumstances prevented their attendance.
In a very frank funeral homily, Bishop Kelly of Achonry, recalled the energy and commitment Dr Casey had shown as a priest in Limerick and later in London, where he led campaigns against homelessness and provision of affordable homes.
Bishop Kelly recalled Dr Casey's appointment as Bishop of Kerry in 1969 and his transfer to head the Galway Diocese in 1976. In both these jobs he had shown energy and leadership.
"He was a doer. Not just within his dioceses, but on the national and international scene with the development, from 1973, of Trocáire, and as a defender of the rights of people who were oppressed and poor," Bishop Kelly said. He recalled also the physical courage displayed by Bishop Casey when the funeral mass of Archbishop Oscar Romero was machine-gunned by soldiers in 1980.
But Bishop Kelly frankly conceded that the emergence 25 years ago of "other hidden realities in his life" - including the fact that he had a son, Peter, had caused profound upset for the church and the people.
"Yes, we are all sinners, but irresponsibility, infidelity and sin are particularly shocking in the lives of those who preach the Gospel. In 1992 Bishop Eamonn resigned and left the country. He expressed his sorrow many times, apologised and asked for forgiveness," Bishop Kelly said.
"But people had been hurt and wounded…wounds that do not always heal easily or quickly. We remember these people too today. We acknowledge their suffering. We pray for continued healing and peace for them."
The attendance included a number of senior and former politicians including Ned O'Keeffe, Noel Treacy, Brendan Daly, and former cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Rory Kiely. Killarney Senator Paul Coghlan attended as did Senator Terry Leydon, and local Galway representatives.
In a bidding prayer for the repose of Bishop Eamonn Casey's soul, his niece Ita Furlong prayed: "Do not count his faults against him for in his heart he always desired to do your will."