Whip-round for ex-bishop shows urge to forgive

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'PETER'S Pence', the regular whip-round for the Pope and his celibate Catholic Church legions could soon be superseded by 'Casey's Cash' in aid of the impecunious, if less than celibate ex-Bishop of Galway.

His whereabouts have been a mystery since his sudden resignation in May, following the revelation of his affair with an American divorcee and subsequent confession that he was the father of her son.

Irish priests have begun collecting sums of 'up to but not over' IR pounds 100 ( pounds 95) for the absent prelate, an action strikingly eloquent in its Christian forgiveness, given that Dr Eamonn Casey 'borrowed' some IR pounds 70,000 ( pounds 66,500) of Church funds without permission from his Galway diocese. He claimed in 1990 it was for a loan to a third party. It was repaid in May this year.

Where once Irish priests denounced from the pulpit people who were having affairs, now all is forgiveable. Collections for Bishop Casey have been going on in recent weeks in his former dioceses of Kerry and Galway and in Kilmore, which covers Sligo and Cavan.

A spokesman for the hierarchy yesterday described the fund-raising as 'a private collection'. A letter distributed to priests in these areas says the cash is needed for 'legal and other expenses'. It emphasises that these bills are not connected in any way with the 'borrowed' funds.

The rumour machine has the errant Bishop Casey in more locations than Lord Lucan. Ireland's favorite comedian Dermot Morgan, back from holidays in Rome, saw 'something strangely familiar about a well-built figure scrubbing the floors in the Vatican.