Bishop Casey is a bigger man than his unforgiving clerical critics

OUR system of justice seems to be turned on its head these days. The High Court has ruled that Ian Bailey should be deported to France to face charges for a crime committed in this country. If our system is so flawed that we cannot dispense justice, surely the system should be changed.

To try to pass off the responsibility on the French is an aberration of justice and a naked admission of our own incompetence. If our authorities think Bailey is guilty, he should be tried in this country under our system. We should not be railroading him to France.

From the reaction to the report of the Moriarty Tribunal it would seem that our system is broken. It cost over a €100 million to expose a catalogue of political corruption but there are no indications that anyone will be charged.

It has taken over 15 years to call the gardaí on the matter.

Bishop Eamonn Casey was back in the news last week with reports that he is still barred from saying Mass publicly. The ban was introduced after he was accused of having interfered with a woman.

No evidence has been produced to suggest that Casey was guilty, but thanks to the craven hypocrisy of the Irish Catholic Hierarchy our judicial system has been turned upside down. He is considered guilty until he proves his innocence.

Twenty years ago, the then editor of The Kerryman, invited me to write a weekly column. I continued it in this newspaper four years later, when he became editor of what was then the Cork Examiner. In the 20 years I was only questioned in advance about one column, which was when I wrote about the “deep sense of betrayal” that some people felt over the disclosure that Bishop Eamonn Casey had fathered a son.

“For generations too many Irish people have shirked their responsibility to inform their own consciences and think for themselves, preferring instead to follow blindly the dictates of the clergy and the hierarchy with an unquestioning loyalty,” I wrote. “It has been as if the concept of infallibility were invested in the Irish Catholic Church.”

What Eamonn Casey did was very human and it was between consulting adults. “Why all the shock and horror now?” I asked. One Pope died in bed with his mistress, and another had the audacity to arrange for his own “illegitimate” son to succeed him.

In 1974 Jean Cardinal Danielou died in a Paris brothel, and eight years later John Cardinal Cody of Chicago died while under criminal indictment.

If Casey’s conduct undermined anyone’s faith, that person didn’t have much faith to begin with.

The bishop’s son, Peter Murphy, had every right to demand that his father explain his behaviour towards him over the years, but no one else had the right to demand such answers in this life.

If the hierarchy insisted a public confession from anyone, the media would be outraged, and justifiably so. Yet the media demanded such a confession from Casey.

If only chaste journalists were allowed to write, you could be sure little would have been written, but hypocrisy did not stop some of them acting as judge and jury.

My editor told me he disagreed strongly with the column but published it, because I stood over it. About two weeks later he stopped me. “By the way, ” he said, “you were right and I was wrong.”

A couple of years later Desmond Cardinal Connell, the Archbishop of Dublin, was publicly critical of Bishop Casey.

“There is,” he said, “an obligation to repair scandal because people have been deeply disturbed not by the initial revelation of say, the Bishop Casey scandal, when there was a wave of compassion, but by the subsequent behaviour of Bishop Casey.”

The bishop appeared at one of Ireland’s World Cup soccer games in the United States that year, and he also attended the funeral in Cork of his brother-in-law — a good, loving man who gave up his career to look after his invalid wife, the bishop’s sister.

“Every so often he seems to come back and tear open the wounds again,” the Cardinal complained.

“What worries me is that he doesn’t seem to have any conception of the damage, the injury which has been caused, particularly to the young people.”

“I know that people were utterly shocked when they saw him appear in Episcopal insignia in Cork,” the cardinal continued. “The scandal is there. He turns up at the World Cup and the scandal is reinforced.”

What was the cardinal saying — that Casey’s real sin was in not going into permanent exile, never to be seen again?

This was the same cardinal that we now know showed so little concern when perverted clergy were systematically abusing young people. He was more interested in protecting the institutional Church from the scandal of the truth. By comparison Bishop Casey’s sins were minor.

He is living proof that the princes of the church are not paragons. They are human. His actions probably did rock the superstitious complacency of those who liked to think that an Episcopal appointment was some kind of stamp of divine perfection.

He was such an embarrassment that the Bishop of Cork apparently went into hiding himself rather than run the risk that anyone might think that he would be contaminated by welcoming back that prodigal son of the Church to the funeral in Cork. He was not going to kill the fatted calf to welcome Casey home.

OF THE whole Hierarchy only Fr John Buckley, the Auxiliary Bishop of Cork, had the courage to do the Christian thing and proffer the hand of friendship to Bishop Casey.

Pseudo moralists keep telling us that Casey was a hypocrite, because he espoused standards that he did not live up to himself. We are all supposed to strive for perfection, but we know that — given human nature — true perfection is an unattainable aspiration for the Pope to humblest person.

One does not accuse a smoker of being a hypocrite when he advises people not to start smoking. So why should people condemn a bishop because he has not upheld all of the commandments?

The Christian Brothers taught us that love and forgiveness are fundamental pillars of Christianity. Some Christian Brothers certainly provided lousy example, but that did not mean that the actual message was any less worthy.

Bishop Casey asked for forgiveness. Surely it was not too much to ask that the Hierarchy have the moral courage to do the Christian thing and take a decent stand rather than pander to the hypocrisy of the fundamentalist fanatics and those phoney paragons of virtue.

Even if Eamonn Casey had never done magnificent work for the Irish emigrants in Britain, or for the poor of the Third World, I would still consider him a much bigger man than his unforgiving critics in the Hierarchy.

Members of the Hierarchy are not only treating Bishop Casey with contempt, there is also an undercurrent against Archbishop Dermot Martin, because he has obviously not been prepared to facilitate the cover up of the sordid catalogue of vile abuse against vulnerable children.

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