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Some Irish history

The resignation of Eamon Casey, Bishop of Galway, 1992

Early 21st century —

Most Irish people seem to regard the resignation of Bishop Eamon Casey as the point at which the Irish Catholic church went into decline. The church's influence before that had been pretty much absolute.

The stories that adults can tell in the early 21st century are beyond the comprehension of their children. The power of the clergy over the laity was profound, and affected every factor of Irish life.

"I agree what Bishop Casey did was not bad but he did make Annie's life miserable trying every which way to take her baby from her."

— Ann, June 2008

Eamon Casey, Bishop of Galway, quit his post in May 1992 after confessing to his love affair with an American woman, and revealing that they had had a child together. At the time, it was a scandal that rumbled throughout the culture. It was a big thing.

These days, even folks from the old times appear to have accepted that it was a pretty silly kind of scandal. But, then, hindsight overlooking the past few years puts the word "scandal" into an entirely different perspective.

The fact that Eamon Casey's relationship with Annie Murphy was prohibited by church doctrine appears now as little cause for uproar — now, after years of true scandal. Scandal? "Atrocity" is nearer correct: The sexual abuse of children seems nearly to have been endemic in the system — aggressive pedophilia involving hundreds of clergy, and a heirarchy that worked to cover up evidence of such behavior....

Revelations of truly pathological behavior would make one reassess just how criminal it was for a man to have a love affair — not criminal at all.

Of course, Casey was a man whose duties included speaking against illicit sex. And sex between unmarried people was illicit, without exception. State, religion, culture — all agreed. And, of course, a bishop had long since vowed celibacy. So, yes, there was a hypocrisy between what Mr. Casey did and what Bishop Casey represented.

But, most Irish seem to acknowledge now, the misdeeds of Bishop Casey look to be small potatoes compared to events in the Irish Catholic church since then.

The affair was, however, the event which appears to have set in motion a turning-point when people began to suspect that the formerly all-powerful church was fallible.

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Eamon Casey was Bishop of County Kerry from 1969 until 1976; and of Galway from then until 1992.

Upon resignation of the latter post, he went on reassignment as a missionary in Ecuador.

He retired in February of 2006, and returned to Ireland.