Irish Bishop Eamonn Casey’s Romantic Affair Leads to His Resignation Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Bishop Eamonn Casey was an outspoken social and political reformist. In 1992, he admitted to having engaged in a romantic affair with a distant cousin in 1973 and that they had a child together. This revelation forced Casey’s resignation from his see and led to his exile. Years later, an Irish woman alleged that Casey had sexually abused her. However, police determined the charges were groundless.

Summary of Event

Bishop Eamonn Casey, by all appearances a fairly typical Irish Roman Catholic Church administrator—though one who had more liberal views than most—was born in 1927 in the village of Firies in County Kerry, Ireland. He was the sixth child in a family of ten children. Choosing a religious vocation, he was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1951. After some eighteen years in the priesthood, Casey was consecrated bishop of Kerry, serving from 1969 through 1976. He was then translated to the diocese of Galway and Kilmacduagh and held the position of bishop until May 5, 1992. [kw]Casey’s Romantic Affair Leads to His Resignation, Irish Bishop Eamonn (May 6, 1992) Casey, Eamonn Roman Catholic Church;and Eamonn Casey[Casey] Murphy, Annie Ireland Casey, Eamonn Roman Catholic Church;and Eamonn Casey[Casey] Murphy, Annie Ireland [g]Europe;May 6, 1992: Irish Bishop Eamonn Casey’s Romantic Affair Leads to His Resignation[02560] [g]Ireland;May 6, 1992: Irish Bishop Eamonn Casey’s Romantic Affair Leads to His Resignation[02560] [c]Public morals;May 6, 1992: Irish Bishop Eamonn Casey’s Romantic Affair Leads to His Resignation[02560] [c]Religion;May 6, 1992: Irish Bishop Eamonn Casey’s Romantic Affair Leads to His Resignation[02560] [c]Sex;May 6, 1992: Irish Bishop Eamonn Casey’s Romantic Affair Leads to His Resignation[02560] [c]Families and children;May 6, 1992: Irish Bishop Eamonn Casey’s Romantic Affair Leads to His Resignation[02560] Murphy, Peter

Annie Murphy was an American who was related to Bishop Casey. Her mother was the bishop’s distant cousin and her father, John Murphy, was a physician who practiced in New York. She had nearly been raped at the age of sixteen, had been sexually abused during a relationship, and was abused by her husband. She had suffered a miscarriage and was divorced at the age of twenty-three. Troubled and depressed, she traveled, at the behest of her immediate family, to Ireland in April, 1973, to stay at her cousin Casey’s residence in Inch, County Kerry. Shortly thereafter, Murphy and Casey embarked upon an intense love affair.

In November, Murphy discovered that she was pregnant. She and Casey disagreed about whether she should keep the child or put it up for adoption. Casey wanted her to have the baby at Coombe Maternity Hospital in Dublin, where unwed mothers routinely arranged for their children to be adopted. Instead, Murphy opted to stay at the Rotunda Hospital, also in Dublin, and to maintain custody. Their child, a boy who was christened Peter, was born on July 31, 1974. Continued disagreements over Peter’s welfare culminated in Murphy’s return to the United States with her son. It was agreed that the affair and their child would be kept secret and that the bishop would send monthly payments of $175 to Murphy and Peter—an amount that would eventually increase to $300 per month. Ultimately, Casey agreed to send a lump sum payment for Peter’s education through their attorneys. The total was about $115,000 and was paid in 1990, from diocesan funds.

Casey had gained notoriety for his pronouncedly anticonservative stance on many issues. From an international point of view, he took a prominent role in the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland and in opposing the role of the United States in Central America. He had been a friend and ardent admirer of the reform-minded archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and, after Romero’s assassination in 1980, represented the Irish episcopate and clergy at Romero’s funeral. He witnessed and reported on an ensuing riot, during which military forces loyal to the El Salvadoran government killed some fifty individuals.

In 1984, Casey pointedly refused to participate in the visit to Ireland of U.S. president Ronald Reagan because of his support of rightist regimes and of the counterrevolutionary guerrilla forces (the Reagan, Ronald [p]Reagan, Ronald;Iran-Contra[Iran Contra] Iran-Contra weapons scandal[Iran Contra weapons scandal] Contras) in Nicaragua. During the 1980’s, Casey’s opposition to apartheid in South Africa led him to openly support the strike and boycott campaign waged against the giant retailing chain Dunne’s Stores by some of its own employees. He is credited as a cofounder of two major charitable organizations—Trocaire, an Irish-based charity dedicated to developing world relief projects, which he chaired from 1973 to 1992, and Shelter, established in England to assist the homeless, particularly among the Irish immigrant community.

In the years that followed Murphy’s return to the United States, she continued to lead an unsettled life, becoming involved in two serious relationships. At one time she attempted suicide. The secret of her connection with Bishop Casey was suppressed for eighteen years. The situation began unraveling as Peter approached adulthood and expressed his desire for his father to publicly acknowledge him. Legal wrangling over a paternity declaration and a monetary settlement led to a breakdown in negotiations between Casey on one hand and Murphy, Peter, and Murphy’s boyfriend, Arthur Pennell on the other. Murphy, urged on by her son and Pennell, leaked the story of her liaison with Casey to the Irish Times, which, after conducting investigations, discovered evidence for the large monetary payment made from diocesan funds in 1990 and confronted Casey with its findings. Casey, who was in Malta at the time, arranged to meet with reporters upon his return. Instead, however, the bishop flew to Rome, where he tendered his resignation as bishop, directly to the pope. Casey never met with the reporters.

On May 6, 1992, Casey announced his resignation. The Irish Times reported the resignation on May 7, adding financial details to the story. Shortly thereafter, Casey issued a statement admitting to the affair, acknowledged his son, and mentioned the misappropriation of funds that had, he added, been repaid by anonymous donors.

Immediately after his resignation, Casey, soon to be given the title bishop emeritus, flew to the United States and then Latin America. He spent the next six years as a missionary in Ecuador under the auspices of the Society of St. James the Apostle. In 1998, he left for southern England and served as pastor for St. Paul’s Church in the village of Hayward’s Heath, which was part of the diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

In November of 2005, a former female parishioner accused him of sexually molesting her during the mid-1970’s while she was living in the Irish city of Limerick. The Irish woman’s identity was never revealed. In December, Casey suspended his ministry at St. Paul’s (he was never to return), while the Irish Gardai (police) investigated. By August of 2006, he was cleared of all charges. It was later revealed that the woman who made the accusations was a habitual accuser.


Rather than return to his parochial duties in England, Casey decided to retire. On February 5, 2006, before he was exonerated, he had returned to Ireland and taken up residence at the village of Shanaglish, County Galway. The bishop emeritus was granted permission to conduct his own private mass at his residence but, even though exonerated by civil authorities, he was denied authorization to celebrate mass at church pending completion of the Vatican’s own investigation. Also in 2006, Casey, Murphy, and Peter reconciled.

The shock waves that emanated from the disgrace and sudden removal of the person who had been regarded as the most visible face of the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland signaled the first of a series of scandals involving the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics around the Western world. Though these sex-abuse scandals have since made the Casey-Murphy affair (which was between consenting adults) seem mild in comparison, the revelations that led to Casey’s resignation initiated a decline in the Catholic Church’s prestige and political influence in the Republic of Ireland. Ireland Casey, Eamonn Roman Catholic Church;and Eamonn Casey[Casey] Murphy, Annie

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brady, Conor. Up with the Times. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2005. Provides background to Irish Times coverage of the Casey-Murphy scandal and its aftermath. Brady was editor of the Irish Times from 1986 to 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Broderick, Joe. Fall from Grace: The Life of Eamonn Casey. Dingle, Ireland: Brandon House Press, 1992. Somewhat one-sided in that the author derived much from Annie Murphy’s account of the affair, though lacking the florid detail of Murphy’s own later work.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Murphy, Annie, with Peter de Rosa. Forbidden Fruit: The True Story of My Secret Love Affair with Ireland’s Most Powerful Bishop. Boston: Little, Brown, 1993. A graphic and personalized account of the turbulent relationship. Murphy cites the controversy about whether or not to have Peter adopted as the major factor in her estrangement from Casey.

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Categories: History