The late Bishop Eamonn Casey believed “he had done the church a great disservice”, Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby recalled on Tuesday.
“He used those words to me. He did realise the impact [on the church of revelations in 1992 that he had a son].”
Speaking to The Irish Times, Bishop Kirby could not say whether, feeling that way, Bishop Casey forgave himself. “I don’t know. He didn’t talk about it hugely.”
But Bishop Kirby didn’t feel it affected the late bishop’s self-esteem. He “had a reasonably good self-image despite what happened”.
Bishop Casey (89) died on Monday afternoon at Carrigoran House nursing home in Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare.
Bishop Kirby visited his late colleague “three or four times a year” at Shanaglish near Gort, where Bishop Casey was from 2006.
“I liked him. He was a different sort, but I did like him. We weren’t close but we were friendly. His dynamism was one element that appealed to me.”
He recalled how the late bishop “was disappointed he wasn’t allowed celebrate Mass publicly, but he had a private chapel. There was a good deal of religion in him. He had this sense of awe before God, no worries or doubts.”
It was during a visit to Shanaglish that Bishop Kirby first noticed the signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
“He mixed up some material between his work with Trócaire and what he had been doing in Slough” (in west London – the English parish where Bishop Casey was before Shanaglish).
There was a recent visit to Bishop Casey at the nursing home in Newmarket-on-Fergus with former Trócaire director Justin Kilcullen and Julian Filochowski, former director of Cafod, the UK-based Catholic Fund for Overseas Development.
In March 1980, Filochowski was in San Salvador’s cathedral for the funeral of Archbishop Óscar Romero, who had been assassinated by government forces. More than 50 people died during gunfire and a stampede near the cathedral.
“The cathedral was packed with huge crowds outside. Soldiers felt the crowd was unruly and fired over their heads. It created panic.
“Most of the dead were crushed. Eamonn Casey went around among the injured and dead helping and supporting in any way he could.
“That was primarily why Filochowski wanted to see him. He wanted to meet him,” said Bishop Kirby.
They went for a meal to Bunratty Castle. “We talked about the funeral but he [Bishop Casey] probably didn’t remember it five minutes later.”
Bishop Kirby’s dealings with the late bishop began in 1990.
Galway farmers wanted something done to help the west.
They approached him, then Bishop of Clonfert for two years.
But “I didn’t think I had a great voice [influence]”.
He went to Bishop Casey in Galway who “took some persuading” but then got to work.