By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Annie Murphy, the former lover of Bishop Eamonn Casey, who is now living in England, said she feels sadness for the 72-year-old father of her son. She described Casey as “a man without a country.”
Murphy was back in Ireland last week for the first time in six years to appear on a late-night chat show on RTE with three other women who also claimed to have had relationships with clerics. They included Phyllis Hamilton, who says she had two sons by the late Fr. Michael Cleary.
Murphy said she had been “very excited” when Casey arrived in England last September after serving as a missionary with the Boston-based Society of St. James in self-imposed exile in Ecuador.
Casey fled Ireland without explanation when details of their affair and the fact that they had a son, Peter, became public in 1992.
The controversial prelate has remained in England after issuing a statement saying he was not seeking or accepting any “public pastoral ministry” and that he needed some time to himself.
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“Eamon must feel terribly alone,” Murphy said. “I hope that whatever way he wants to come back or can come back and whatever way people will support him . . . they will do that for him, because I can do nothing.”
During her visit with her partner, Arthur Pannell, Murphy retraced her steps in Kerry, visiting areas like Inch Strand, the holiday home of Red Cliff House and Killarney, which she knew from the time of her romance with Casey in 1973 when he was Bishop of Kerry.
Asked how she felt now about Casey — whom she referred to as Eamonn throughout — she replied, “I have denied myself many feelings.”
She said she has not liked herself since the matter became public and she wrote a book about their affair.
“I felt he had suffered because of me,” Murphy said. “My father was a doctor and he said, ‘You should do no harm,’ and there was harm done. But I felt dark and I felt desperate and in many ways guilty. I wish I hadn’t said so much. I wish I hadn’t fallen so far. I wish I could have done it more dignified.”
She said the last six years had been “difficult” and the matter was still not over because there were still a “lot of judgment calls.”
“Judgments are hard things,” Murphy said. “Judgments are harsh. They are depending on fear. So I think there is a lot of bantering back and forth in everybody’s mind — why is there judgment and how can there be judgment, why isn’t Eamonn coming over?”
There had been positive things about their relationship that, she said, she has only begun to recognize in the last year. The revelation about their affair had been like a finger being taken out of a dike and so much had gushed out as a result. “Out of that came a lot of positive things,” she said.
Love at first sight
Murphy said it had been love at first sight when she met the bishop at Shannon Airport when he was 46 and she was 26.
Casey was a friend of her family and had offered to look after her while she recovered from the trauma of a divorce. The bishop said that if Ireland had nothing else, it had serenity, she said.
“When I got off the plane, it wasn’t serenity I saw, it was delight,” Murphy said. “I don’t know how it happened. Maybe it didn’t happen for him, but it happened for me. I felt an intimate feeling almost instantly.”
She said she had been in darkness for much of her life until she came to Ireland. She had been wounded and she had sensed a great loneliness in Casey.
“It was glorious, it was fun, it was mad, it was dangerous. It was all of that,” she said of their affair.
Murphy said their son Peter was “pretty good.” He has taken film courses and is doing part-time work as a waiter and has lots of friends.
“He had some rough times,” she said. “He seems to be coming out of it quite well this past six months.”
Hamilton said when the story of Casey’s relationship with Murphy was revealed, she felt “this is the end for us all.” Fr. Cleary had been away on holidays but was “white” when he returned.
Murphy said she had not liked Cleary. He had visited her when she was pregnant and wanted to know who the father was, but she had not told him.
“He was very cruel to me,” Murphy said. “He told me I had to give up the baby — that it was a child of God. He roared at me.”
Casey became Ireland’s youngest bishop when he was appointed to the southwest diocese of Kerry in 1969. He had been director of the Catholic Housing Aid Scheme in Britain and was chairman of Trocaire, the Third World Aid charity.