EAMON Casey’s name may be cleared of recent abuse allegations against him and a plane ticket booked for his long-awaited return home to Ireland.
But the last person to know about it yesterday was . . . the man himself.
As far as the 78-year-old former Bishop of Galway is concerned he’s staying in the UK and has yet to be told if his name has actually been cleared.
The decision is believed to have been made over the past week after a Catholic church enquiry into sex abuse claims against him by a UK-based woman with a history of mental problems.
As a result of the allegations – about an alleged incident that his accuser claimed took place more than 30 years ago – Dr Casey had to step down from his post as a parish priest while they were investigated.
That investigation is now over.
But last night, in his first interview in more than six years, he said: “The whole situation is very, very bizarre.”
Speaking from the small west Sussex parish church of Our Lady of Fatima in Staplefield – where he has been based for the past six years – he said: “That I have been cleared may be a headline in all the papers but I still have not been told myself.
“I can’t tell you how I feel or say anything about being cleared because I simply haven’t been told by anybody that the accusations against me are false, or that they have been withdrawn.
“The police haven’t spoken to me at all about this, and nobody has written or phoned to tell me I have been cleared. So I just don’t don’t know.
“That’s the gospel truth and to be honest – not that I was ever particularly good with them – I’m just lost for words on the subject.”
He added: “I am genuinely not avoiding anything here or running away from anything, I’m just telling you the facts.
“It’s bizarre and I feel very, very frustrated by this..”
And as far as returning to Ireland was concerned, he said: “I’m making no decision about it whatsoever until I hear formally that my name has been cleared.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m sticking and staying where I am until then. And I’ll only decide whether or not to go back to Ireland when I’m told.”
Asked how he’s coped over the past weeks, Dr Casey – who was trying to get hold of his lawyer last night in a bid to find out what was going on – said: “As the man says, ‘I’m surviving, thanks be to God.’
“My full ‘release’ won’t come to me until I get formal confirmation and I’ve absolutely no idea when that is likely to come or where it’s likely to come from.
“I’m currently in the process of writing letters to 56 people who wrote to me and have been very supportive to me throughout all this yet I’m writing these letters without actually knowing what’s going on.”
Pressed again on the issue of whether or not he will return to Ireland when he does get confirmation – as predicted by Ireland on Sunday last year – that his name has been cleared, he laughed as he repeated: “I’ll make that decision when I’m told.”
Earlier this week, reports claimed Dr Casey was to be cleared of all the allegations against him and that an announcement was due to be made about preparations for his home-coming.
Gardai – who, like the UK police, haven’t interviewed Dr Casey – are said to believe that there is no substance to the claims made against him.
The allegations last December were a massive blow to someone who has not only struggled with ill health because of a series of “mini strokes” in recent years but also someone who has worked tirelessly for charity and among parishioners of his remote country parish.
As well as holding church services, he was also a regular visitor to nearby Princess Royal Hospital local hospital in Haywards Heath, offering pastoral care to up to 150 patients-a-day virtually all year round.
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.
Just before the allegations against him came to light, Dr Casey had 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.
Friends told Ireland on Sunday last year how bitterly upset he had been not to have been able to thank all the parishioners he had grown close to over the years as he was effectively forced into hiding while the investigation was carried out.
He had been due to retire last this year anyway.
The woman behind the Dr Casey allegation could now herself face either a police investigation or a civil action for damages.
Her recollection of the alleged assault when she was a young girl growing up in Limerick is believed to have came about as a result of Recovered Memory Syndrome (RMS).
While attending intensive therapy sessions to help her find possible reasons behind behavioural problems she has been experiencing, she suddenly “remembered” the alleged assault.
Although mindful of the controversy associated with RMS in court cases, therapists immediately contacted Catholic Church authorities and Dr Casey volunteered to step down.
Last night a close friend said: “The past few weeks have been horrendous.
“He has known all along that he was innocent and yet even now, he is still having to put up with the weight of this whole business.
“It really is sad that nobody can just give the poor man a ring and put him out of his misery. Hasn’t he endured enough?”
Bishop of the Arundul and Brighton, Dr Kieran Conry said “We’d be happy to have him back.”
Rev Stuart Geary, the diocesan spokesperson, added of the news the claims against Dr Casey have been dismissed: “We recognised that that was going to be the likely outcome.”