Former Bishop of Galway Eamon Casey dies…

Given all the scandals we have had in the Catholic Church since then, Bishop Eamon Casey fathering a child now seems a relatively minor indiscretion. But back then in 1992 it rocked the Irish Catholic Church and the State itself to the core. In fact you could argue that it was the turning point for the Catholic church – it was all downhill from there. Not long after in 1995 Fr Ted hits our screens and it was game over for the Church. If we have learned anything from history it’s that when we stop fearing oppressive regimes that’s when they lose their power. Strong words but given the hold the church had over every aspect of Irish society it is the only way to describe it.

A quick summary for younger readers. Eamon Casey was an extremely charismatic Bishop with an ability to connect to the man on the street that was sorely lacking in the rest of the overly pious Church hierarchy. He was possibly the most popular figure in the Irish Catholic Church at that time – think a Kerry version of Pope Francis. He was renowned for being very gregarious, he liked a drink and he liked fast cars. On more than one occasion he combined the drink and the fast driving. In Ireland the Garda let him off but in London he was not so lucky. He was caught drink driving in 1986. RTE news had an excellent obituary piece which gives you a great summary of his life:

In 1992 the scandal broke that he had fathered a child in 1974 with American divorcee Annie Murphy. I remember at the time a very common narrative in some of the media that this holy man was tempted into sin by a brazen yank hussy, and a divorcee none the less! It is laughable looking back on it, but this is really the way some people thought back then (and many still do). He was forced to resign and was packed off to the missions.

If the affair had happened these days the public would probably give a shrug of indifference. At the recent funeral of a priest in Derry his daughter actually read a poem as part of the service!

The tragedy is the scandal overshadowed Eamon Caseys achievements. He was renowned for being on the side of the poor and oppressed. in the 1960’s he worked closely with the Irish diaspora in London. He helps to set up the Irish Aid Agency Trocaire. He opposed the visit of Ronald Regan due to his proxy wars in South America. He was one of the good guys but sadly he will be forever linked with the scandal.  Kitty Holland hit the nail on the head with this tweet:


For a rather more tongue in cheek tribute, I will leave you with Christy Moores Casey song:

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  • The irony is that if he’d been a Protestant bishop he could have had his cake and eaten it. Could have been remembered for his good works without being scandalised for doing a perfectly normal thing – ie having a relationship with a woman and fathering a child. No one should be denied that right simply because they wear a clerical collar. Too many good priests have had to leave the ministry because of this – while far too many bad priests have been allowed to stay after having committed the most heinous crimes.

  • I hope in his later years he had time to reflect on how he treated his son and common-law wife.

  • MalikHills

    This is a fairly good summary of the life and times of Bishop Casey, with the exception of referring to the Catholic Church as an oppressive regime.

    This is one of the most tiresome get-out-of-jail-free claims by the Irish people that never seems to die. Somehow the caring, tolerant, secular Irish people were oppressed under the dead hand of an alien Catholic church that imposed its will on them.

    Can we be a bit more honest now? Can we admit the truth?

    Can we not accept that far from being oppressed the Irish people adored and revered the Catholic church, they willingly gave over control of their schools and hospitals and social services to the Catholic church because they absolutely wanted the church to run these institutions.

    There was no secrecy, the Irish people knew full well what the Catholic church’s attitude to social, educational and health issues was and they fully supported it.

    They knew that the Catholic church ran concentration camps for unmarried mothers, orphans and juvenile delinquents and fully approved of them. The hussies, bastards and hoor’s melts needed to be kept in their place and the Church was just the organisation to do it, if the brothers gave the little gobshites a good thrashing every now and again well good for them, somebody needed to do it.

    Only the protestants (and they wisely kept their heads down) and a miniscule number of Godless communists objected to the role of the Catholic church in Irish life. The remaining 98 percent of the Irish population, in a free and open democracy, approved fully and wholeheartedly of what the Catholic church did.

    Sure, we are all multi-culti liberals now, we all express shock and outrage at what happened, but let’s at least be honest and admit we were perfectly happy with the situation at the time.

  • Mike Garde

    First when Annie came to see him he was acting in a counselling capacity. She had just got a messy divorce and as a cousin he abused his power and his role as a mentor.
    Also his freely entered call to celibacy. He could have resigned but wanted his cake and eat it. He then treated her and Peter in a dreadful manner. Also as a trustee of Maynooth he was part of the humiliation of Fr Gerard McGinnity in regard to the issues associated with President Michael Ledwith. I note everyone is happy to forgive him. It is not about us forgiving him period.
    Michael O’Toole but…..The Bishop dies but Fr McGinnity is still living in the shadows. Bishop Casey was a total hypocrite in regard to dealing with sexuality and the issues around Michael Ledwith. The Catholic hierachy needs to reach out to this dedicated priest who is now himself totally under the influence of Christina Gallagher the scam artist at the House of Prayer.

  • Granni Trixie

    Thanks for this aide memoire link,Mike. The injustice by bishops including Casey towards Fr McGInnity ought not to be allowed to fall between the cracks of other horrible stories flowing from the past. He has certanly been vindicated.

    Its quite shocking that Casey had an affair with a vulnerable person he was supposed to be counselling. WAs there not something in the story also about the source of the money Casey used to make regular support payments to Annie Murphy and their son?

  • Tochais Siorai

    All pretty much on the button, Malik but it was a unique set of circumstances which led to the creation of the aberration that was the Catholic church in Ireland and allowed it to hold such a malign influence.

    The Penal Laws and all that went with it created a fierce solidarity between the people and the church at a time when to be a priest risked all. Then we had the famine which facilitated the creation of a strict disciplinary church led by the ultramontaine Paul Cullen supported by the growing and highly conservative Catholic merchant middle class of the time. This new grouping saw this conservative church as a bulwark against radicalism which might threaten their new status – the likes of the Fenian Brotherhood and elements of the Land League. Of course the British establishment quickly saw the benefits of now having the church as an ally as well. Thus the financial and political support of these two groups allowed the church to build a huge infrastructure within the country.

    In addition, the ‘kulak’ class created by the late 19th century land reforms further cemented the conservative hold. A few decades on we see the radical elements of the revolutionary period either defeated or cast aside and the sons of the merchants and farmers above who took power in the Free State allowed the church even more power and the hold on education which the church had got in the 19th century was consolidated further increasing their power.

    But of course, like all totalitarian type regimes the water eventually gets into the cracks and the whole shebang comes tumbling down.

  • MalikHills

    For a start I would question the radical, revolutionary nature of Ireland’s fight for independence. I don’t doubt that there were many revolutionaries among the Republicans but for the most part the fighters for independence were the very men you dismiss as sons of merchants and farmers.

    They wanted the Brits out, they didn’t seek radical change beyond that.

    They also, along with the vast and overwhelming majority of their fellow countrymen were devout Catholics who fully supported the Catholic position on social, sexual, educational and health matters.

    The church was not imposed on the Irish people, they warmly embraced the church as part of the very fibre of their being. Being Irish was synonymous with Catholicism, conservative and ultramontaine is how the Irish people liked their church.

    To imply Catholicism was simply a device used by the Irish middle classes to to steal the revolution and enforce control over the poor is simply historical nonsense.

    Like I say we are all rightly ashamed of what was done by the Catholic church, but it was done at the time with the full and enthusiastic endorsement and support of the Irish people of all classes.

  • James Henry

    A Roman Catholic priest having sex with an adult woman?
    Positively respectable, going by what we’ve learned since!

  • Christopher Mc Camley

    Think you’ve over-stated his popularity as a bishop. He was the sort of Fr Trendy Bishop that many Catholics could have seen far enough.

  • Tochais Siorai

    I never said the church was imposed on Irish people, rather I attempted to put forward some reasons why we as a society allowed such a conservative and repressive organisation to flourish.

    Nor did I dismiss the sons of the merchants and farmers. I just stated a fact that they were the ones who took control of the Free State. In radical nationalism of the early 20th century they probably always had that upper hand.

    If you want to create straw men arguments, go somewhere else.

  • MalikHills

    They took control of the Free State because they represented the majority of the people who fought in the War for Independence and indeed I would suggest the majority of people who fought on both sides of the Civil War.

    The “kulaks” as you call them, and the derided sons of merchants and farmers, were a very representative portion of the Irish people and their conservative views were shared by the vast majority of the Irish people.

    You may believe that there was some great mass of radical revolutionaries seething with righteous anger and Red Republican, anti-clericalist ardour against the old order but there wasn’t.

    The Irish people were, and I would contend still are, kulaks at heart.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Again you’re creating straw men arguments over things I never said. I derided nobody apart from the Catholic church. I’ll leave it at that.