Friday 21 July 2017

Deep resentment towards Murphy reflected in frosty reception on the 'Late Late'

Annie Murphy, mother of Bishop Eamonn Casey's son Peter, with Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show in 1993
Annie Murphy, mother of Bishop Eamonn Casey's son Peter, with Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show in 1993

Sarah MacDonald

A 2006 article in the 'Chicago Tribune', titled 'How Catholicism Fell From Grace in Ireland', points to the Bishop Eamonn Casey scandal as the beginning of the end for the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The revelation in May 1992 that one of the hierarchy's most high-profile prelates had fathered a son following an affair with an American woman when he was Bishop of Kerry in the 1970s was, up to that point, the worst scandal to hit the Irish Church. It shocked the Irish faithful and resulted in a storm of international media headlines.

When Annie Murphy went public, telling her story to newspapers and famously appearing on the 'Late Late Show' with Gay Byrne, there was deep resentment towards her among Catholics. The frosty reception she received from Mr Byrne mirrored the initial attitude of many, who refused to believe that the story was true - until Bishop Casey resigned and fled the country. She was then resented for her role in the downfall of a popular bishop.

Bishop Casey was known within clerical circles to be a disciplinarian where his young priests were concerned. So the revelation that he had been preaching one thing and doing another was the cause of his long 14-year exile - even when worse clerical crimes of child sexual abuse by others were revealed subsequently.

Though well liked for his commitment to the poor, the young unemployed, the aged and those whose human rights were infringed, Bishop Casey was also known to have a taste for fine wines, fast BMWs and exotic foreign holidays.

Read More: 'A passionate and energetic Church campaigner who fought for justice'

It was galling for many progressives in the Irish Church that Bishop Casey - who was present at the funeral of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador when the liturgy was interrupted by bombs and intense gunfire, leaving almost 50 mourners dead - was now seen as nothing more than a rank hypocrite for his sexual misdemeanours.

Bishop Casey, who had voiced strong objections to the visit of US President Ronald Regan to Galway in 1984 because of American foreign policy in Central America, was now silenced.

The bishop who had stood alongside Pope John Paul II in 1979, having helped organise the first ever papal visit to Ireland and galvanised an attendance of over 300,000 young people at the racecourse in Galway, had been forced to fall on his own sword and resign in disgrace.

Read More: Charismatic cleric's fall from grace was first crack that splintered edifice of the Church

As Canon Michael McLoughlin, Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, said following the news of the death of Bishop Casey yesterday, he brought "blessings to many people. But to be human is to be both blessed and to be flawed."

"Some of his actions caused great hurt and the circumstances giving rise to his resignation in 1992 have been the subject of ongoing analysis."

Those charting the history of the Catholic Church in Ireland in the future will no doubt point to May 1992 as pivotal in revealing that the Irish Church was peopled by prelates with feet of clay, and as a moment which ultimately emboldened the Irish laity to become less deferential and in awe of their clergy on pedestals.

Irish Independent

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