By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Former Bishop of Galway Eamonn Casey, whose fathering of a son with an American divorcee rocked the church, has announced that he is not seeking any "public pastoral ministry" and needs time for himself.
In a brief statement issued by the official church press office in Dublin on his behalf, Casey, who’s 71, said he was living in England with relatives.
Casey resigned as bishop of Galway when details of his affair became public in 1992. He joined the Boston-based Society of St. James and went into self-imposed exile in Ecuador, where he served as a missionary priest in the remote parish of San Miguel de Los Bancos for five years. Now, having completed his contract there, he says he has resigned from the society.
"I am not seeking or accepting any public pastoral ministry in the church in Ireland, England or elsewhere," Casey’s statement said. "I am living in England with relatives as a I need some time to myself.
"I do not intend to give any interviews and I would ask that my privacy is respected."
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The Catholic press office was unable to elaborate on his statement Monday when asked if it meant he had retired from public life as a priest for good or was he simply taking time our for a rest.
A high-profile cleric who had welcomed the pope to the west when he visited Galway, the disclosure that Casey had an affair with American divorcee Annie Murphy and fathered a son, Peter, in the mid-1970s caused a major scandal.
Casey left Ireland without giving an explanation for the matter.
In recent months there has been considerable discussion about his future among former colleagues in the Irish hierarchy, the papal nuncio in Dublin and the Congregations of Bishops in Rome.
A spokesman for the hierarchy said it would be "supportive" if Casey decided to return to Ireland but the final decision was a matter for Rome.
"They are sympathetic toward his situation," the spokesman said of the bishops. "They understand his desire to come home. The Irish bishops, for their part, are indicating very clearly they are supportive of his return, but it is Rome’s decision."
There had been speculation that a position as a hospital pastor was being sought for him in London, but the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, said it would be "inappropriate" for the errant Casey to work there.