Singing Priest Father Michael Cleary and Bishop Eamonn Casey were the top men to meet with Pope John Paul II but it was only after this that their own affairs were revealed. 

Pope Francis is a popular pope, and he deserves a proper reception. No doubt the church will choose the two men (and they will be men) very carefully.

It’s an issue that has form as they say in Ireland—in other words, a bad history.

The two warm-up acts for Pope John Paul, the last pontiff to visit Ireland in 1979, were later revealed as frauds and liars.

Both men had many pronouncements on the sacredness of marriage and the battle against those seeking a legal abortion and were seen as the most blessed among the Irish clergy on the pope’s visit.

All along they were breaking those same rules with utter abandon all the time, preaching about the evils of sex outside marriage, secret affairs, and secret lives.

Turns out Father Michael Cleary and Bishop Eamonn Casey had plenty to hide. Both were fathers, not the ecclesiastical kind either, and both covered up scandalous relationships that would blow the Catholic Church apart in Ireland when their stories were told.

Cleary was known as the Singing Priest who made a huge name for himself as an entertainer and a cleric seen as being in touch with young people. Just how much he was in touch came out later.

He also led from the front on the 1983 abortion referendum, promising fire and brimstone and hell against anyone who went against the church's wishes.

After all that he went home to his rectory where he had commenced an affair with the housekeeper, Phyllis Hamilton. She was just 17 years old (Cleary was 34) when the affair started.

She cooked for him, cared for him and slept with him, and bore him at least two children. (A third child, a woman now living in Florida who is Hamilton’s third child, claims Cleary was also her father but it has not been proven.)

So Cleary, the hypocrite, broke every canon law in the book yet thrived in a church where secrets and lies abounded. He was a top man, Number One, the big kahuna.

Towards the end, the church knew. A friend of Hamilton and Cleary said, “In October 1993 I met with Monsignor Alex Stenson at archbishop’s house, who agreed to meet in confidence. I told him about Michael, Phyllis and their two sons and their fears of public exposure. His view was that until Michael told the church directly, they could not offer him, or anyone else that may be involved, any support.”

Bishop Casey, the other half of the dynamic duo who welcomed John Paul, also had an eye for young ladies.

He courted Annie Murphy, a young American who visited him through family connections in Kerry. They had a torrid affair and a son.

Casey stole $100,000 in parish funds to pay for his son Peter Murphy’s education. He refused to acknowledge him until his mother broke her silence.

Father and son met in a lawyer's office in New York when Peter was 15. It did not go well.

“He didn’t want to talk to me. In hindsight, I was the representation of the end of everything he worked for,” Peter said.

“Of course, I took it incredibly personally. I ran down. Got the elevator. Came downstairs. Tried to keep a stoic face. Saw my mom and burst into tears…you’re 15, have questions. He didn’t want to answer them. I felt slighted.”

They eventually reconciled, but the dam burst of Irish clerical scandals broke first with Casey and then Cleary.

Those were the two men of all the clerics in Ireland handpicked to meet John Paul. It will be interesting to see who meets Francis.