Yes, it’s true. Bishop Eamon Casey was a hypocrite. And it’s true he represented everything that was wrong about the Ireland he inhabited, from his self-important speeches to his personal ego-trips on the Late Late Show where he found himself fawned upon by Ireland’s half-squire of smugness, Gay Byrne.
It’s true that Casey was a true Father Ted stereotype, long before the series hit the screens, with his love for strong drink, fast open-top sports-cars and a combination of the two, leading to his multiple convictions in Britain for drunk driving. In many ways, Casey was Father Noel Furlong.
Of course, if he had been stopped in his own country with a strong smell of alcohol, things would have been different in those days, because that was the Ireland Casey and his confreres inhabited. A land of abject deference to the collar. A land that still has not fully disappeared.
It would be unfair to ignore the fact that Casey took a strong stand against American foreign policy in Central America on purely moral grounds. Indeed, he was one of those who stood in the hail of bullets that killed Archbishop Romero in San Salvador, fired by supporters of the savage right-wing Arena party backed by the CIA. Casey was one of those who opposed Ronald Reagan’s visit to Ireland in 1984. But somehow, Casey’s outrage never extended to his home country, where women were illegally imprisoned and enslaved by his church. Indeed, Casey continued to condemn women who had children outside of marriage, long after he himself had produced a child with Annie Murphy.
In so many ways, that makes him an even worse hypocrite, since he knew full well how wrong it was to oppress these women, and yet he knowingly ignored their plight.
He knew this was going on and he failed to intervene, preferring the rock-star notoriety of his campaigns against Reagan and the CIA.
Casey abandoned the slaves of the laundries because he did not care about them. Casey preferred singing on the Late Late Show before a grovelling, uncritical, unquestioning host. The same host who prostrated himself in front of Bono many years later.
Furthermore, Casey took emotional advantage of a vulnerable young woman, even though it’s true that Annie Murphy was 24 years old and therefore a grown adult. But Casey was at the very same time using his public profile to lecture the Irish people on their sexual mores. He and his colleague, Michael Cleary, both of whom had fathered children, had the utter cheek to talk down to Irish people as if they were infants.
And that was when the authority of the Catholic clergy in Ireland finally collapsed.
That was when the Irish people, who had for a century and a half been treated like children, finally realised how they had been duped by a bunch of hypocritical charlatans. How they had been deprived of love and intimacy by sexually-inadequate old men. How they had been cheated by a bunch of witch-doctors.
It wasn’t the shocking revelations of child abuse that alienated Ireland from the Catholic hierarchy, though of course, those exposures deepened the hurt.
It was Bishop Eamon Casey. We were the innocent spouse and he was the cheater. We’d been lied to, and there’s no forgiving a lie.
Ireland, Casey’s loyal Catholic spouse, had lived a chaste, joyless life for 150 years and now we learned that he and his crusty old friends had been fucking all around them. Is it any wonder the Irish people wanted to string them all up?
As for Brendan Smyth and all the other child abusers, that was just piling insult on insult.
After Bishop Eamon Casey cheated on Ireland, the details of the clergy’s disgrace hardly mattered.
A lover scorned is a hard enemy.