Catholic bishop publicly apologizes for first time over 1992 scandal, secret son

Bishop Eamonn Casey, whose 1992 admission that he secretly fathered an American son shocked Catholic Ireland, publicly apologized for the scandal for the first time Thursday as he returned from a 14-year exile.

Casey, 78, spoke to reporters outside his new home in the County Galway village of Shanaglish, where locals welcomed him and even lit fireworks to celebrate his arrival. Since fleeing Ireland in May 1992 he had worked as an ordinary priest in Ecuador, Mexico and England.

"I regret that in the past I let a number of people down," said Casey, who stepped down as bishop of Galway in 1992 but retained the title of bishop. "It caused great hurt to some, and for that I am deeply regretful and sad."

Casey, who declined to answer reporters' questions, did not elaborate on who he might have hurt. He had an affair with a Connecticut woman, Annie Murphy, in the mid-1970s and fathered a son, Peter, who was 17 when news of his child became public in May 1992. Public anger focused, in particular, on church authorities' admission that Casey used more than 80,000 Irish pounds (Ђ100,000; US$120,000) in collection-plate funds for secret child-support payments, reports AP.

O.Ch.