Bishop Eamonn Casey: A pastor and a man

He faithfully articulated Church teaching, including on sex, even if – with regards to the latter – he did so with lesser zeal than some contemporaries

Coverage of bishop Eamonn Casey's resignation begin in May, 1992. Photograph: The Irish Times

Coverage of bishop Eamonn Casey's resignation begin in May, 1992. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

There is no reason to believe that had Bishop Eamonn Casey remained a member of the Irish Episcopal Conference after 1992, he would have behaved differently to his former colleagues. He was a participant when the response of those bishops in the late 1980s was merely to take out insurance when alerted by events in the US to the probability of clerical child sexual abuse allegations emerging in Ireland.

A 2013 investigation of Galway diocese by the church’s own child protection watchdog, its National Board for Safeguarding Children, found that in the early 1980s he did not deal adequately with a credible abuse allegation against one of his priests.

He faithfully articulated Church teaching, including on sex, even if – with regards to the latter – he did so with lesser zeal than some contemporaries. In that context accusations of hypocrisy may be overdone.

The revelations of 1992 brought him down and were an early contributor – though much worse was to follow – to the collapse in Ireland of the church he so greatly loved

Bishop Eamonn Casey, clearly, believed in rendering to Rome those things he believed Roman. It allowed him freedom to pursue his true passion: he revelled in people, particularly in being able to help them.

This was consistent whether as a young priest securing accommodation for the homeless and immigrants in London or as a trail-blazing bishop in pursuit of social justice for the marginalised in Ireland, for development of the West of this island, or for those in need of help in Africa and Central and South America, through his work with Trócaire whose identity he defined. “Driving force” were words used accurately over recent days to describe him.

The revelations of 1992 brought him down and were an early contributor – though much worse was to follow – to the collapse in Ireland of the church he so greatly loved. They also freed him to develop a better relationship with his son Peter. His 14 year exile was a cruel imposition as was his permanent removal from public ministry on his eventual return to Ireland.

As priest and bishop Eamonn Casey may have fallen short of an ideal. But as pastor and man he made life so much better for very many. The good he did lives on through various agencies.

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