Sunday 25 June 2017

Disgraced bishop hid in monastery in the US before later fleeing to South America

Journalist Gordon Thomas confronts Eamonn Casey in Mexico in 1993. Photo: Collins
Journalist Gordon Thomas confronts Eamonn Casey in Mexico in 1993. Photo: Collins

Sarah MacDonald

The revelation in 1992 that the Bishop of Galway, Dr Eamonn Casey, had fathered a child while he was Bishop of Kerry caused him to flee the country and remain in exile for 14 years. In a statement after his resignation, Bishop Casey admitted he was Peter Murphy's father. "I have sinned grievously against God, his church and the clergy and people of the dioceses of Galway and Kerry," he said.

According to Fr Dermod McCarthy, the former head of Religious Broadcasting at RTÉ and a friend of Bishop Casey's, the revelation was "a big shock to the whole country, it was a bit like when Kennedy was shot - people remember where they were when news came out."

In an interview with Tralee broadcaster Maurice O'Keefe, broadcast in 2007 on RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland' programme, Bishop Casey revealed that when he offered his resignation to Pope John Paul II in May 1992, the Polish pontiff did not want him to resign. But the charismatic prelate knew that the media was ready to descend on him over his relationship with Annie Murphy at the bishop's house in Inch, Co Kerry, which resulted in the birth of his son Peter in 1974. There were questions too over Casey's use of £70,000 of diocesan funds to support his son.

As the plain people of Ireland grappled with the revelation of the first major sexual scandal of contemporary Irish Catholicism, the disgraced bishop was hiding out in a monastery in the US, where he remained for six months.

He later moved to Mexico to learn Spanish before moving on to Ecuador where he worked as a missionary priest with the Society of Saint James in Quito for six years until 1998.

According to Fr McCarthy, Bishop Casey worked hard in Ecuador and "built at least one church and three schools" while he was there.

It was while he was living in Ecuador that journalist Veronica Guerin tracked him down and interviewed him. He admitted he had "let down Annie, Peter, the people, my priests and my colleagues, and I am very, very sorry about this. I left a shadow over them all. I let them down, very much so."

Asked what he would say to Catholics who felt ashamed by what he did, he replied, "I'm sorry, please forgive me."

In 1998, the Irish hierarchy was still not ready to allow Casey return home and so the disgraced bishop quietly undertook parish ministry and worked as a hospital chaplain in Staplefield, Sussex in the diocese of Arundel and Brighton in England.

Then after 14 years of exile, he returned in February 2006 to live in Shanaglish, near Gort in Co Galway. He was 78 years old and his health was declining. At the time, he made a brief statement, expressing regret for letting a number of people down. "It caused great hurt to some and, for that, I am deeply regretful and sad," he said.

He was unable to say Mass publicly due to an accusation to which the DPP later ordered that no charges should be brought, following a Garda investigation.

In 2011, Dr Casey went to live at the Carrigoran Nursing Home in Co Clare. His son Peter travelled to meet him there in 2013, the first encounter between the two in almost a decade.

According to Fr McCarthy, who drove Peter to the meeting with his father and witnessed the rapprochement between them, they "had a happy hour together" and that the meeting had "a big impact" on both.

Bishop Casey was by this stage suffering from Alzheimers. According to Fr McCarthy, the authorities at the nursing home told him that the failing Bishop Casey "became a much more pliable patient" after that meeting.

Irish Independent

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