Eamon Casey tells friends “conscience is clear”

NOTHING will come of the recent abuse allegation made against Eamon Casey, the former Bishop assured close friends days before it was made public.
In a series of private meetings before he went into hiding, the 78-year-old told them: “I have done absolutely nothing wrong.
“My conscience is clear.”
The 78-year-old told them that while any investigation into the claim could attract the “wrong kind” of publicity to the church, he would welcome one.
Gardai have yet to interview the former Bishop of Galway about the allegation – which was made by a UK-based woman in her fifties with a history of mental problems and who has made similar and unsubstantiated claims against other priests in the past.
Her latest claim came to light two weeks ago, after Dr Casey’s parish priest informed parishioners during Sunday Mass.
He had just a few days to tell a small number of people himself before news of the allegation was made public.
This has come as a massive blow to someone who has not only struggled with ill health – because of what friends describe as a series of “mini strokes” – in recent years but also someone who has worked tirelessly for charity and among parishioners of a remote country parish.
His work and the years that have passed since he resigned as Bishop of Galway in 1992 over his relationship with Annie Murphy have done much to rehabilitate the colourful cleric.
His affair with the American divorcee, which started in 1973, resulted in the birth of a son – who is now 30 – and for whom Dr Casey is believed to have paid out around €100,000 in maintenance.
Reeling from this latest blow to his reputation, he told friends: “There is nothing on my conscience whatsoever about this claim and I am very much at peace and ease with myself.
“I have done nothing wrong.
“I sleep easy in my bed, I get up in the morning and say my prayers and I go about my daily business.”
When each of his friends – including his Bishop Kieran Conry and his close friend Fr Martin Jakabus – asked what he intended doing, he said: “Even though I know it won’t come to anything, I’ll step down straight away and let an investigation take place.
“It is deeply unfortunate both because the claim against me is just not true and because I have to stop working in a parish I have been so happy in.”
And he even apologized for “any inconvenience” the allegation caused the church.
Bishop Kieran Conly, the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, said: “This is all very unfortunate.
“Eamon has been extremely popular here and he brought with him a wealth of experience.
“I met him on the Friday before news of the allegation was made public and he really was at peace with himself.
“He told me he had a clear conscience.
“I could tell however, that this has really knocked him back.”
For the past six years, he has served and lived at Our Lady of Fatima’s Church in Staplefield – a very small West Sussex church that is a far cry from his previous postings.
Most of his possessions remain in the small priest’s house attached to the church – his radio still sits on top of the fridge in the kitchen at the back of the house, his black jackets hang on the backs of two chairs and a pair of black suit trousers hangs from the back of the kitchen door.
A solitary coffee cup sits in the kitchen sink, while two plates, a saucer and a glass dry on the side.
Although he was nowhere to be seen, deliveries to the house carry on as normal – a DHL courier knocking at the chipped wooden front door with a small envelope of “Urgent Documents” one minute and an oil delivery the next.
Attached to the one-bedroom priest’s house, the small faded white church building is usually host to twice-weekly services for around 140 parishioners.
Those who would speak to us were shocked at news of any claim being made against Dr Casey.
One couple said: “We heard something but don’t believe a word of it.
“He is a thoroughly decent man who has always struck us as utterly devoted to his work both in the parish and at the hospital where he was a chaplain.”
A local pub landlord said he used to see Dr Casey regularly strolling around in the village’s vast green early most mornings.
He said: “I haven’t seen him around for about two weeks but I used to bump into him when I’d walk my dogs.
“He generally seemed to be preoccupied in thought but he was always very friendly and would always say hello.”
Builders at a next door property said they regularly saw him walking around in circles at the front of his church, his head bowed in prayer and clutching an open bible in his hands.
Another neighbour added: “I don’t know anything about what has happened but what I will say about Dr Casey is that he has always ever been a very pleasant and decent person.
“His church services are very popular locally and he is very well respected and liked.”
Dr Casey lost his driving license following a recent drink-drive conviction and has had to rely on a friend to drive him around the parish and to a nearby hospital, where he served as chaplain.
For virtually every day of the past six years, he has visited up to 150 patients-a-day at The Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.
There he consoled relatives of people who had died or counseling the sick in the wards.
According to a close friend, he never once missed a visit and regardless of what he was doing – would always be prepared to visit someone at home or in hospital.
Not wanting to be named because they had been told not to talk to the press, the friend said: “He is not bothered about the claim as such because he knows it’s absolute nonsense.
“He believes it all stems back to the unfortunate notoriety he acquired years ago because of his relationship with Annie Murphy.
“But the one thing that upsets him most about all this is that he hasn’t had a chance to say thank-you and goodbye to all the people he has worked with and met over the last six years.”
Fr Martin Jakabus, head of St Paul’s Haywards Heath Parish, said: “Given the standards under which we now operate it is enough that an allegation has been made to remove a priest from public ministry whether the allegation is true or false.
“The particular and peculiar circumstances surrounding the said allegation make it very unlikely that it is in any way true.
“Fr Eamon is very saddened to end his time with us under these circumstances.
“He is also saddened that he has been unable to say goodbye properly.”

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