I went into the chapel in the early afternoon to talk my way to my God about Bishop Casey. The chapel was almost empty. That is the way it often is nowadays.
I lit a candle for Eamon Casey whom I came to know quite well during the years when he was the colourfully charismatic Bishop of Galway and I was The Sunday Press man in Connacht, I grinned at the flickering reality that his candle instantly began to burn more brightly than the three dimly guttering ones dying in their holders alongside.
That, for sure, was the way he was always.
Anyway I knelt down and talked directly to Saint Peter about Eamon Casey. We are told that Peter is the keeper of the Golden Gates.
I said I hoped that Peter, when he encountered the old Kerryman on the doorstep last week, treated him with infinitely more compassion and understanding and love than his brother bishops of the Irish Hierarchy had treated him for the last 30 years here below.
“Give him a céad mile fáilte,” I said to Peter.
“He’s a good one, one of the best. He did more to humanise his church for the ordinary Irish down the years of his prime than about anybody else.”
After that kinda prayer — and a few more for my own clan — I got up out of my kneeling and sat in the chapel bench reflecting about just how cruelly unforgiving his own Church had been for the past 30 years to the charismatic bishop who fell from grace in a different Ireland than the one we know now by falling in love with a consenting adult woman despite his vow of celibacy.
And then, of course, dipping into diocesan funds in Galway to provide for the son of the union. I think the total sum involved was about £70,000.
He drove cars in his heyday which cost nearly as much as that. He also drove too fast. I was once a passenger for about a 10-mile trip outside Galway. He was lucky to survive long enough to carry a crozier. The pure truth yet again.
There were only four or five other people in the chapel as I sat there remembering Eamon Casey. That is the modern truth on Saturday or Sunday alike.
It is also true that it was not the fallout from the Casey scandal which impacted so much on the decline of the clout of the Catholic Church in this country.
Far more damage to the church’s standing and moral authority and domination of us all in the past was the impact of the activities of the paedophile priests and the manner in which their dreadful offences were dealt with by their Bishops.
Too often they were shuttled away from the scenes of their crimes to other parishes whose people were not informed of the dark realities. And too often for too long the gardaí were not informed of their crimes.
That is not the way in which his own peers dealt with Eamon Casey after his scandal broke.
Even though there were consenting adults involved rather than the little innocents the paedophile priests preyed upon, the cruel truth is that he had to serve a penance for the rest of his life and was never forgiven.
I lived for years close to the nursing home in Newmarket-on-Fergus in which he died and so I have a local knowledge of his last years.
Despite his “penance” in Ecuador, and later England, the truth is that he was never again permitted by his peers to celebrate his Mass in public.
He could do so only in controlled circumstances in the limbo land of the nursing home. There was never full forgiveness and that is very sad.
He was Kerry’s bishop before being appointed to take over from the autocratic Bishop Michael Browne in Galway.
They called him Cross Michael and about everybody feared him. About 10 days before Casey came up to Galway to take over I went down to Kerry to interview him in his palace there.
His priests were coming in from all over the diocese to say farewell to him and, truthfully, for the first time in my life, and the last, I saw some of them weeping as they said goodbye. I’ll never forgot that sight.
Priests’ tears are almost as scarce in this hard world as total forgiveness and absolution from our Bishops.
Leaving the chapel I noticed that his candle was still burning as bright as ever. Peter probably heard me.
n Footnote: I promised last week to deal with those called Sucker Farmers. I keep my promise as always.
Reader Eddie Thornton, a vet in Kanturk, informs me that when he was a student vet back in the 1980s he heard a first-year lecture from distinguished academic Wexford man Professor Jim Roche which he never forgot either.
Prof Roche told his students that the Irish beef industry was dependent upon the Irish Sucker Farmer, most of whom, claimed the Professor, “are middle-aged bachelors whose only ambition in life is to have a few pints at the weekend and attend Croke Park All-Ireland Day if their county is involved. As long as this is the case there will be no viable beef industry in Ireland.”
Have times changed?
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