Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas

The cliches and platitudes come a-rolling these days. But behind all that there is something extraordinary about next Tuesday. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and for us Christians that's the link or key that propels us into a new orbit. There is somehow or other more to this mortal coil than we realise. That can be difficult to comprehend or understand. Once we try giving it names and shapes it is so easy to create our own gods. The smugness of what follows that type of thinking is difficult to take - at least for me.
I called to see an elderly Dominican in a nursing home last evening. We prayed Compline together. It was a great moment of grace and a fitting way to celebrate the upcoming feast.
On December 30 we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. We don't choose our parents or our siblings. Everyone has his or own story. There is no fammily template.
The lines from Ecclesiasitcus, "Long life comes to him who honours his father, he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord', are comforting lines.
Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to all readers of this blog. Again, this week the Irish Jesuit web magazine has loads of interesting material plus a fine short editorial.
I have often made reference to the Jesuit web page. Why not be honest and open at Christmas. The SJ site is informative and full of news and nothing pretentious about it. Nor is it clerical. That critique stands on its own. So when I compare that website to the website of the Irish Dominicans all I can do is hold my head down in shame.

These days websites do make a statement about the organisation they represent. Look at any of the websites of public broadcasting corporations and you are immediately drawn into them. And the Dominican webpage is telling a tale.

Everything about the Irish Dominican webpage is awful and wrong. Even the map of Ireland is poor. There are few links on it and so much of the material is out of date. Are you interested in attending a novena in November 2007? It wreaks of the worst forms of clericalism. May I ask that it be closed down rather than it being maintained in its present awful format.

This is a webpage that just some few months ago was advertised by the Irish provincial as being relaunched.

For the Order of Preachers, for a group of people who spend much time and energy talking about preaching and communication this site tells a very differernt story. Interesting though, the site of HQ in Rome is also poor as are many provinical sites.

Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year to all. One of my new year wishes is that the Dominican website be revamped or else close it down. At least be honest.

Not what it seems

On Sunday December 9 Irish Rail introduced their new timetable. But they forgot to tell the travelling public – mugs like me – that the new timetable is not fully operational out of Tralee. According to the new timetable the first train on Sunday ex Tralee departs at 08.10. And so it says on the internet and talking clock. But things are often not what they seem with Irish Rail.

If you arrive at Tralee on Sunday morning at 08.00 for the 08.10 train, it’s tough luck for you. In Kerry the new timetable is still the old one and the train that is due to leave at 08.10 went off on its merry way at the old timetable time of 07.15.

Two weeks later Irish Rail are still keeping this the best kept secret on track.

If it was not so annoying it would be hilarious.

But what is also most interesting is how staff at the company justify the stupidity and arrogance. It happens far too often that people support and agree with their superiors even if what they are saying and doing is wrong.

And that seems to happen more regularly where there is no serious competition or opposition. Draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Begging to go to Sydney


The next world youth day takes place in Sydney. Benedict XVI will attend.
There will be young people from all over the world in attendance, at prayer and on pilgrimage.
The event attracts large crowds from around the world and hopefully it is a time of prayer and inspiration for those who attend.
But it has come to my attention that some people who travel to the event have sent out begging letters to help pay for transport etc. Something very odd about that. It has all the marks of the 'Paddy the Plasterer' syndrome. If large sums are received then will the money be declared to Revenue?
If the event is an occasion of prayer and pilgrimage then it is a great moment. But there are always signs of triumphalism about it, which must cause concern for people. Sending out begging letters to clap and dance seems appalling. Most people, especially the poorer in our society, have little opportunity to live beyond their means. Begging letters for air fares seems far removed from Gospel values.

This and that

How do priests do it? Fr Vincent Twomey has made amazing comments about the playing of carols before Christmas.
The first mention of Christmas for this author appeared on a bill board advertising a Christmas fete in aid of fee-paying Terenure College. And it was on display many weeks ago. Commercialising Christmas!
The 'Thinking Anew' column in 'The Irish Times', of Saturday, December 1, written by MC, is still attracting letters to the letters page of the newspaper. Yesterday's letter is in response to Ronan's Wall's letter of December 12.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hope - an antidote in dark days

The western world has been most critical of the current democratic process that is taking place in Russia? Is it because it sees there are failings and corruption involved or is it because they are not pleased with the final results? We cannot forget the hanging chad. But probably when results don't suit us we all are inclined to look for 'excuses' to see a way out.
Last Sunday's readings were redolent with hope. Christians can never be 'hopeless'. But there seems to be something amiss in the Irish church today. Of course there are great people at work but there is a deadness about, a clericalism that is simply scary, an attachment to a status quo that has nothing to say to so many people in Ireland today. There is an attitude at large that seems to be more interested in what vestments to be worn at Mass rather than how we can preach the Gospel in a language that makes sense to the marginalised and the poor. Many church publications are more interested in telling us boring stories about bishops than how best to communicate with a world that is hungry for the Word.
There is also a 'cuteness' and 'secrecy' in evidence that seems to further the cause of those who never say anything. Johnson, I think, has something to say about that.
God works in extraordinary ways. This might be a good day to keep repeating those words.
And if you disagree with the prevailing dispensation the 'pack' has an amazing ability of hunting one down and making sure to let it be known that they are sure that God is on their side.
The status quo is far more dangerous than we ever realise. The day the church forgets about the marginalised it has moved away from its core message.
These days our hearts and minds need to be filled with hope.
Sometimes it is difficult to decide whether to write or say something. I was about to delete this blog when I received a telephone call from an engineer at Dublin City Council. He called to agree with me re the poor quality cycle path in O'Connell Street. Imagine if enough people spoke their minds? Imagine if enough people spoke their minds within the church? Imagine if enough people spoke their minds and simply refused to go away. Just as a political party that is in power for too long thinks it owns the nation, elements within the church arrive at a stage where they genuinely believe they 'own' God.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cycling in Dublin

Back to the cycle lane on the south bound side of O'Connell Street. A garda told me today that it is positively dangerous to cycle in Dublin and he concurred that the O'Connell Street cycle path is particularly dangerous.

'Mortal sin'

Newstalk ran a piece on the Brenda Power show this morning re the phenomenon of people going to Mass on Christmas Day, who never see the inside of a church for the rest of the year.
The station called me to speak on the show.
Surely it is a matter of inviting people to prayer and if people come to our churches on Christmas Day we should welcome them with open arms. Brenda wanted to know was it a 'mortal sin' if people missed Mass on Sunday. I was reminded what Fr Peter McVerry said on 'Would you Believe' recently. He said he did not believe in hell or in a reward system.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thoughtfulness

The Jesuit website, AMDG, carries a wise editorial this week.
It reads
Christmas is imminent and with it comes the shopping frenzy that seems unavoidable at this time of year. Giving is good and yet it's not just about money. It's often more about the thoughtfulness involved that makes a good gift.

Editor

Going to church at Christmas

According to 'The Irish Daily Star' Pope Benedict refers to Christmas as the biggest feast in the Christian calendar. Is Easter not of greater significance?
Churches will be filled to capacity this Christmas to celebrate the incarnation.
There will be the 'purists' who will tut tut at people paying their once-a-year visit to church.
Hopefully going to church at Christmas is an occasion of prayer for all who go. And who is to cast doubt on the reason or purpose of people going to church at any time?
If we priests celebrate the liturgy in a meaningful way and preach sensible sermons on the Gospel of the day maybe we will entice people to call again.
Surely it is always a matter of inviting people to pray.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christian hope

Yesterday I stood at a bus stop in Shankill at 18.15. It was a cold evening. I arrived in O'Connell Street at 19.55. Not a pleasant experience.
State and church leaders are constantly admonishing people how to live their lives - advising them on how to do things, telling them the best way to do things.
How can people who have no idea what it means to be discomfited have any idea how poor people live their lives.
We often hear that politicians are in touch with the grass roots. Is it possible for people in 'authority' to empathise with poor people?
The same with church leaders. Can priests say a word to people who are weary and tired?
Is Chrstian hope the answer?

A most dangerous cycle path

In yesterday's blog reference was made to the cycle lane in Dublin's O'Connell Street. It really is an appalling affront to cyclists. It is nothing less than shambolic. It is extremely dangerous, especially with buses pulling in at bus stops. Why did the city authorities not build a reversible running continuous cycle lane down the middle of the street?
And these are the designers who run around in important suits cradling mobile phones and looking important - all the time wasting tax payers money.

Punch drunk with bishops

The current issue of 'The Irish Catholic' carries the images of 21 bishops. It is a 32 page publication.
Readers may like to know that the newspaper has been bought by The Farmers Journal Trust as has the 'The Irish Field'.
Format and pagination is due to change shortly and it is also likely that editorial content may be improved.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cycle lane in central Dublin

Anyone cycle down Dublin's O'Connell Street of late? A new cycle path has appeared. It may have been done under cover of darkness. Like all things Irish it really is amazing. There are three components to it. From the top of the street - the Parnell monument end, it is the common/usual design. Then suddenly it disappears as one approaches the mid point in the street. And then once you cross the Abbey Street junction it is back again. This time protected by plastic bollards on the street side.
Who designs these things, who allows this sort of madness? But since it will only be cyclists who will be using it, who really cares?
To think that when they redesigned the main street in Dublin they did not bother putting a proper cycle lane in both directions and in a safe place. How much are the planners and engineers paid?
And a warning for all cyclists. Don't be fooled into thinking you are safe in a cycle lane. You may have noticed, some lanes are 'protected' by broken white lines, while others are protected by unbroken white lines. I have been told by gardai that there is no difference.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The wonder and misery of the web

Millions of people log on to web pages Monday to Friday. Traffic is far lighter at weekends.
Every company every organisation has a website. Some are more attractive than others. Some are more user friendly than others.
Certainly Ryanair makes an art form out of how to be user friendly. It took Aer Lingus a long time to get anywhere close to them. Lufthansa and Irish Rail make it difficult for the uninitiated to navigate on their sites.
But there is little worse than an out-of-date website. What's the point in having a website if it is out of date? Little or none.
Church websites in general seem to be poor. There are some exceptions. The Irish Jesuits have a lively interactive website.
Many church websites seem to hide behind a weird form of clericalism. Recently I saw an archbishop being called 'archbishop' twice in his title. The same site carries out-of-date material and other material that is simply not relevant to the world of the web.

Priests with a mission

RTE screened 'Would You Believe' on Sunday evening. It was a profile on Fr Peter McVerry SJ and the work he does in Dublin in helping young people on the margins.
Also interviewed was Fr Bruce Bradley, who is rector in Clongowes Wood.
These men would give you heart, they make sense of priesthood. And I know first hand as I taught in Belvedere when Bruce was head master at the school.
The work and courage, the honesty and faith of Peter McVerry is nothing less than inspiring.
Peter's work puts into relief the tomfoolery that seems to happen so easily with priests.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Isaiah

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. The first reading is from the prophet Isaiah. The prophet writes:
"He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles.
Nations will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.
O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord." (Isaiah 2: 4 – 5)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Marx and materialism

There is an interesting piece in today's 'the guardian'.
It is written by Giles Fraser, who is vicar of Putney and a lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford.

"Marx made the point that capitalism turns everything into a commodity - and thus people into objects. Christians would agree, but also see Marx's uncompromising materialism as being part of the problem. For in spite of Marx, this materialism has been conscripted into the service of capital and forms the bars of our cage. Which is why the Marxists failed, and why the only people offering a genuinely countercultural critique of western modernity are to be found in churches, mosques and synagogues.

Archbishop accused of bullying priest

A Spanish archbishop is before the courts for an alleged bullying offence. The archbishop is accused of bullying a priest and causing insult, assault and injury.
How many bishops/provincials have caused insult and injury? How many bishops/provincials have caused injustice and bullied their way through power? And not a word about it in our courts.
Maybe the Spanish case will herald a change. Hopefully.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Guardian editorial

England's 'theguardian' newspaper carries an editorial today on how BBC's 'Today' programme yesterday did not air 'Thought' at the usual time of 07.50 and instead ran it at the later time of 08.35.

It writes, 'While religion is in the news as an identity issue, the slot's value is in dealing with faith as a philosophical inquiry. It is a tricky task: combining philosophical rigour with the demands of addressing a large, revved-up audience."

It talks about 'Thought' calming things down.
People are interested in religion, theology, talking about God.

For anyone who is interested, excited and passionate about listening and talking about God, these are great days to be alive.
People are hungry for open and honest debate.

The Dominicans, at least in Ireland, should be far more involved in the great debate that is possible. Instead we are submerged in clutter, keeping the ramshackle show on the road. Christian hope demands that we free ourselves from the shackles of clericalism. And those in charge need to be courageous enough to face the problem openly and honestly.

Mikhail Gorbachev's words to Erich Honecker as he arrived at Schönefeld airport to begin the celebrations of 40 years of the GDR are apt here.
"Wer zu spät kommt, den bestraft das Leben."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Church and homosexuality

An interesting article appears in today's 'Irish Times'.
Two paragraphs in the article stand out. One is: "I believe we only know the fullness of God's truth at the end of time," she said. "And in the meantime, we have to be careful about being so sure that we understand it all."
And the last paragraph:
"I think the centre of the church has heard the message," she said. "But it's more of a struggle for people on the edge of the progressive part and the edge of the more conservative part. Both believe in utter faithfulness that they're right . . . and there's less patience that God will work all things out in the end."


What follows is the article as it appears in today's 'Irish Times'

Bishop tries to bridge bitter divisions over homosexuality

A woman presides over the US Episcopal Church as tension rises over homosexuality, writes Rebecca Trounson , San Jose, California

Anxiety crept into the priest's voice as he inquired of the leader of his unsettled church: could she find any way to bridge the widening rifts in the Episcopal Church or was it an impasse?

Standing in the airy sanctuary of a small San Jose church on a recent morning, the Most Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori was direct, her low voice calm, as she offered her more nuanced view to the priests and lay leaders.

"I'm not sure it is a stalemate," she said quietly. "I think this church and others may just be becoming clearer about who they are." And she reminded her audience that small groups of believers previously had left both the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican fellowship, and both entities survived.

Perhaps, Jefferts Schori said, if all sides in the current debate over sexuality and Scripture could "hold their truths more lightly", they might yet find a way forward together.

"I believe we only know the fullness of God's truth at the end of time," she said. "And in the meantime, we have to be careful about being so sure that we understand it all."

The first woman to be elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Jefferts Schori (53) is leading her flock at a pivotal and, for many in the church, profoundly uneasy time.

The influential, liberal-leaning church, the US branch of Anglicanism, is facing the possibility of a break with the worldwide Anglican communion, the result of long-standing tensions over homosexuality and scriptural interpretation that crystallised with the American church's decision in 2003 to consecrate an openly gay bishop.

Now parishes and entire dioceses within the Episcopal Church are threatening to go their own way. Four congregations have voted to pull out of the diocese of Los Angeles.

Next month, the Fresno-based San Joaquin diocese could become the first in the US to take a final vote to sever its ties with the national church. At the centre of the storm is Jefferts Schori, a former oceanographer and licensed pilot who became an Episcopal priest in 1994, when she was 40. Her election in June 2006 as the 26th presiding bishop of the 2.4 million-member church was hailed as a breakthrough, both for women and for full inclusion for gays and lesbians, which she supports.

In her first year, Jefferts Schori, a tall, slender woman with a thoughtful manner and resonant voice, has won praise from many for her efforts to hold the fractious church together and keep it, at least so far, within the 77 million-member Anglican communion.

In October, leaders of Anglicans overseas responded largely positively to pledges from the Episcopal Church to "exercise restraint" in consecrating more gay bishops and to refrain from authorising official blessings for same-sex couples.

On her recent visit to northern California, Jefferts Schori repeatedly urged Episcopalians to look beyond the issues that divide them and focus on what she said should be the church's main mission, ministering to people in need. She also asked them to reach out to one another and be patient as the church passes through an arduous time.

"She's clear-thinking, decisive and unafraid, absolutely unafraid," said Rev Ian Douglas, professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a member of the Episcopal Church's executive council. "She is really the kind of person we need right now."

But some of Jefferts Schori's efforts, in particular her decisions to get tough with parishes and dioceses that are attempting to leave the Episcopal Church and trying to take church buildings and other property with them, have drawn criticism.

In a November 12th letter, for instance, Rev Jack Iker, the conservative bishop of the Fort Worth diocese in Texas, accused her of misusing her office and engaging in "aggressive, dictatorial posturing". Jefferts Schori had warned Iker in a letter earlier this month that he could face church discipline if he continued to back proposals that would lead his diocese away from the national church.

Nonetheless, on Saturday representatives from Fort Worth approved constitutional amendments that are the first steps toward that departure.

"She's playing hardball, and that's not going down very well, in this country or in the communion," said Canon Kendall Harmon, a leading church traditionalist from South Carolina who runs a popular Episcopal blog.

But Jefferts Schori explains her strategy in different terms. In her November 9th meeting with some 100 leaders of the El Camino Real diocese, she said she believed strongly in reaching out and listening to Episcopalians frustrated by what they see as the church's too liberal direction.

"I think there are many in our church who feel beleaguered, and often they don't hear from other parts of the church that they, too, are beloved," the bishop said during the conversation with diocesan leaders in the sanctuary of St Stephen's in the Field Church.

"If we can ratchet it down a little, we may find a way to live together even if we don't agree."

Jefferts Schori said it pained her that some on both ends of the theological spectrum seemed no longer able, or willing, to discuss their differences - and this in a church with a long history of tolerance for diversity.

"I think the centre of the church has heard the message," she said. "But it's more of a struggle for people on the edge of the progressive part and the edge of the more conservative part. Both believe in utter faithfulness that they're right . . . and there's less patience that God will work all things out in the end."

© 2007 Washington Post © 2007 Washington Post

Saving Private Ryan

The Dublin bus strike is over and the buses are rolling out of Harristown again.
But does anyone know what is the outcome of the industrial dispute? Who won, are there winners? Doubtful in this current climate if workers can ever be winners.
We have sold off Aer Lingus and eircom. Sir Anthony bought and sold eircom. What did he do for the company and how much did he make on the transaction?
Larges swathes of the country are without fixed line broadband. Why?
In the present climate of privatising whatever moves it is seldom pointed out that one of Europe's largest and most successful car manufacturers, Volkswagen, is largely controlled by the German State and German Laender. And there is a passionate debate taking place in Germany at present whether or not to privatise Deutsche Bahn. Whatever happens the German State will continue to have a say in the running of the world's finest rail network. ICEs are now travelling at 320 km/h between Frankfurt-am-Main and Cologne. The track and signalling remains in the ownership of the German State.
In a world where privatisation has become a mantra how come the US has never thought about privatising its armed forces? Is it that an army is too important?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Out of date

The website of the worldwide Dominican Order, section on friars, was last updated on August 2, 2007. The website of the Irish province of the Dominican Order talks about events that are 'going to happen' in September 2007. And this is an updated site which was 'launched' with certain fanfare not too long ago.
Unless these sites are properly and professionally managed is it not time to take them down. More clarity and less obfuscation is required.
How can an organisation that talks so much about 'preaching the Word of God' edit such poor websites?
I recommend readers log on to the Irish Jesuit weekly web magazine and see how it can be done.

Rite and Reason

Fr Brian McKevitt writes in today's Irish Times. The Rite and Reason column makes for interesting reading and adds to the debate on liberal individualism. And it is good to see such debate. An appropriate place for Dominicans.
Fr Brian writes, "It doesn't take a genius to recognise that people with a living Catholic faith will create a much different society to those who have no hope beyond death, who think that human beings are simply big-brained animals whose greatest achievement is self-assertion."
Is Fr Brian saying that all people with no hope after death are 'big-brained animals whose greatest achievement is self-assertion'? If so it is unfortunate and actually not true. I know people who do not believe in life after death and they are anything but 'big-brained animals whose greatest achievement is self-assertion'. And I also know people who believe in life after death who are 'big-brained animals whose greatest achievement is self-assertion'.
And who says social disintegration is happening in Ireland? Is Ireland any more socially disintegrated than it has been in the past?

Vatican fashion

It is being reported that the new papal master of ceremonies is sporting a lace surplice.
Is no-one going to cry stop before all this madness is discovered for what it really is. Maybe that is exactly what should happen.
And then we have the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship accusing bishops who are trying to limit the use of the Tridentine Mass of "being in rebellion against the Pope" and guilty of "one of the gravest sins" - pride.
It really is difficult to take this nonsense.
And make no mistake about it there is a nexus between the Tridentine Mass and the 'lace'.

Monday, November 19, 2007

God rules with fairness

The response at Mass on Sunday tells the listener that the Lord will rule with fairness.
It is a lovely idea. It is another of those aspects that distinguishes this world from paradise.
Children are always conscious of being treated fairly. How often does a child say, 'Mammy that's not fair'?
Pupils are quick to spot when a teacher is not fair. And the teacher who cultivates 'pets' is quickly spotted and disliked.
At the Labour Party Conference at the weekend it was mentioned that the top 5,000 earners in Ireland draw down millions in tax money to subsidise their pensions.
Our health service is two-tier whereby people, who pay into private health care receive favoured treatment.
Both of these 'systems' are not fair.
Are we, 'preachers of the truth', at the vanguard of questioning this unfairness? The simple answer is that we are not.
I suppose we are all in private health schemes. I am and I also pay into a subsidised pension scheme.
Sunday's response reminds one of 'God's rule'. God rules with fairness.
That surely gives us great hope.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Star headline

The comment on this blog re the tabloid press takes something of a battering today.
The lead headline on today's 'Irish Daily Star' does not seem to support what was mentioned here about the newspaper.

On the bus

My normal means of transport around Dublin is on the bicycle but because of a persistent cold/cough I have been off the bike and have moved to the bus.
Back on the bus recalls childhood memories - with my mother and father - and always wanting to go upstairs and sit in the front seat. Do children still do those sort of things?
But these days every time I get on a bus I am forced to think that people who never use public transport miss out on an aspect of life.
When was the last TD or senior politician on a bus? I think of our taoiseach earning a substantial wage increase. Place that beside a woman with a child in a buggy waiting at a bus stop in the rain. She may end up waiting 20/30 minutes and then the hassle that follows while standing on a crowded bus.
When politicians claim to be 'in touch' with the 'ordinary people' I must admit that I am puzzled.
That same puzzlement embraces me when I hear senior church figures talk about the 'marginalised'. When has a cardinal or an archbishop last been on a service bus in Dublin?
Travelling by bus around Dublin is something of an art-form. Planning the journey, using the timetable, working out the most economical form of payment. And then the timetables that are on the bus stops. The bus timetables are stone-age technology.
And then I think of our taoiseach having at his disposal a chauffeur driven car 24 hours a day and for the rest of his life.
I suppose that's another art-form - giving the impression that you are one of the 'lads'.
I observed the hard work a driver was engaged in on a 150 yesterday at circa 19.00. We pulled away from he stop. Many standing and there in the middle was a man who seemed somewhat agitated. He turned to all of us and said, "Why are you all looking at me?" At that he went up to the driver and asked to get off at the next stop.
The 46As and 145s are among the routes that have the new 07 buses. They certainly are out of sync with the stone age bus timetables.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

'Preaching'

Some months ago this blog reported on a Dominican who while preaching in church recommended that people should not listen to 'experts'.
Reports have come in on a sermon the same man preached in recent days.
The Redemptorists were coming to town to preach a novena. Before their arrival the same Dominican told the congregation that in the past the Redemptorists preached hellfire and brimstone but now they had gone 'soft'. They were like a marsh mallow. He went on to explain that marshmallows are soft but if you eat too many of them you get ill.
Seemingly when the Redemptorists were finished the novena they were presented with gifts, including a box of marshmallows.
Should there not be some sort of Comreg appointed to protect people from this sort of stuff?

Tabloid press

People regularly dismiss the tabloid press. Maybe they should think again
Today's 'Irish Star' carries a complete and accurate account of the current bus dispute at Harristown depot.

The media

Anyone who is the subject of media scrutiny will often complain that the media sensationalises and on other occasions gets the story wrong.
So is the media just the messenger or is it more?
Is it possible that journalists like the rest of the human race can simply be lazy and then fail to get the story as it is?
Two examples in the last few days have highlighted the point.
On Sunday a train travelling from Dublin to Sligo was delayed up to four hours. The incident received extensive coverage on radio, TV and in the newspapers. And yet no journalist ever asked Irish Rail the most pertinent question of all - how come that it took so long to run a spare locomotive from Connolly Station to the failed train? And that's where the real story was. Instead we got loads of irrelevant questioning and answering, and indeed obfuscation.
Item number two. The current industrial dispute at Harristown. The item is receiving much media attention and yet it seems no-one seems to know the actual reason for the dispute.
Do drivers have to clock in at Harristown and then travel into town to join their bus? Can they clock in in town?
Is it possible for regular journalists to cover a multitude of stories about which they have little or no background?
What happens when it comes to subjects of erudition and complexity?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The new solemnisers

The new marriage laws make for some interesting anomalies.
Was it not time for the bishops to separate the civil side from the sacramental aspect?
It appears that bishops have nominated priests as 'solemnisers of marriages'. Does this mean that a priest who has been nominated as a 'solemniser' can now be the state witness at a non-sacramental marriage? In other words can a priest set up a 'nixer-style' operation side-by-side with his role as a solemniser of marriages which also have a sacramental aspect?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Worth reading

In the 'Irish Times' of Monday November 5, there are two articles on the centralisation of hospital care in Ireland. Anyone reading the articles could do well to stand back and think of the role of the priest in Ireland.
Words such as co-operation, further education and peer advice are all anathema to the majority of priests working in Ireland.
I have seen cases, numerous, where pps refuse to have parish councils, never listen to the wisdom and advice of their parishioners.
I strongly recommend the articles in Monday's 'The Irish Times', page 14.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

John O'Gorman OP

Saturday November 3 is the fifth anniversary of the death of John O'Gorman.
John was a friend and colleague of mine.
The obit, which is printed below, appeared in 'The Irish Times' some days after John's sudden death in Limerick.

JOHN James O’Gorman was born in Blarney Street in 1945, attending the North Monastery Christian Brothers School in Cork. He was one of their brilliant young men, obtaining a scholarship to UCC. But John instead of going on to university joined the Dominican Order in September 1962. He was professed the following year and ordained a priest in 1969.
John O’Gorman stood out as a shining light. Most of all he was a man of absolute integrity. But he was also endowed with brilliant intelligence.
After priestly ordination he did post graduate theology in Rome and remained on at the Irish Dominican community in San Clemente as bursar.
He spoke Italian like a Roman, at least so said his neighbours on the Via Labicana. But he never lost his Blarney Street accent.
John was not happy with Rome and the Roman scene. His first love was always science and mathematics. He began postgraduate work in Maths while in Rome.
Fr John Heuston, a brother of the 1916 man, himself a fine mathematician, admitted that he had never before met someone with such mathematical talent.
John came home to Ireland in 1976 and moved to the Dominican Community at Newbridge and did his H.Dip at Maynooth.
Without any formal degree in Mathematics, he blazed a trail of brilliance through Newbridge College. What were just normal results, John turned into spectacular performances. And by the time of his last year at the school, there were two streams in sixth year doing Higher Level Maths in the Leaving Cert.
But he was also there for the not so clever. Anyone who sat at John’s feet in Newbridge will remember him as a brilliant and fair teacher.
John was endowed with both a practical and speculative intelligence.
In the early ’80s he began to develop an interest in Computer Science and did a PhD in computing at the University of Limerick.
This led to a career in lecturing at the college, a job he much loved.
He was meticulous in everything he did. While Mathematics and teaching were his first love there were other sides to this faithful son of St Dominick.
He walked every by-road of Ireland, climbed to the top of every mountain and had a knowledge of roads and rivers and mountains that was just simply breath taking.
John also took his theology seriously and had a profound knowledge of the Bible and was familiar with modern theological thinking.
But he was never at home with his priesthood. It might have been his Roman experience, it’s difficult to say. In the mid eighties he requested permission to resign from priesthood while remaining a Dominican. As he expected Rome found it difficult to put its head around such an idea and John’s request was placed on a shelf somewhere and forgotten. But John, the man of faith and logic that he was, retired himself from all sacramental ministry. The Order granted John his request.
But most of all John was a dear friend, someone who was always there to give the best of advice and help.
He had absolutely no time for show or pretension and lived the most simple of lives.
He carried his intelligence easily but never used it as a tool to lord it over anyone.
He was a member of the provincial council of the Irish Dominicans and took his responsibility in a most serious fashion.
John, the man of integrity and vision, had no time for bluff or show. But above all, any signs of obfuscation annoyed him intensely.
He had little time for people in authority who attempted to take short cuts and he had no mercy for Dominican superiors whom he felt were not living up to their responsibility.
He was a true democrat, moulded by the constitutions of the Order, so when he felt superiors or communities where lack lustre in their living out their calling to St Dominick he had no problem letting people know his views.
He was in some ways a private man but was always there for his friends and he would go to any distance to help and support. I know.
John was a physically fit man, could walk up to 20 miles a day. He took good care of himself. And yet, John died in his room in the Dominican Community in Limerick on Sunday evening of a massive heart attack.
He is survived by his brother Andrew, sister-in-law Emer, niece Fiona, nephews, Rory and Mark, and his Dominican brothers.
I have lost a dear friend.
May he rest in peace.
Michael Commane.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Back blogging shortly

The writer of this blog has been out of action for some time. It is hoped that the blog will be updated on a daily basis within the coming days.
Apologies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A good debate is possible

Thank you to those who have contributed comments to yesterday's blog.
At the beginning it was decided that this blog would not accept anonymous comments. In the context of what has been written and because of the specific subject these comments are being left on the blog.
There is an opportunity for good and charitable dialogue/conversation on the topic. The more transparent and open contributors are, the better sense any debate will make.
Again, thank you to those who have commented. Also, thank you to all those who have contacted me personally re the blog.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The sting

The Irish media today carries a story about Italian priests who claim to be gay. Among those on whom the sting was carried out is a Vatican monsignor.
Of course it will make a great story. And the newspapers will pick up as much salacious gossip as possible. The Vatican and Church authorities will go into spin mode and do what the Vatican always does.
A wise man once advised me to forget about all the nuances and subtleties of learning, everything comes down to two things, money and sex. Wise words from a wise man.
It is important that we at all times show Christian charity and compassion to people. And priests, above all, have to be 'people's people'. We are all fragile and vulnerable to the harshness of life.
But the Catholic Church needs to show a far greater honesty when it comes to the issue of homosexuality among its priests. Surely it makes no sense to hide it and never talk about it. The Church appears to treat homosexuality among its members in the same way as does the President of Iran!
It is a real issue and needs sensible discussion. And the current dispensation where homosexuals are forced to be closet is a profoundly unhealthy situation.
There seems to be a link between men, who are homosexual and men who are 'clerical' in their disposition. Surely this leads to a great dishonesty.
What happens if men who are 'rigidly Rome true' and then homosexual are made bishops, provincials, student masters?
Will a gay bishop, provincial or student master want to discuss the pertinent issues with his fellow priests? Most unlikely. And this subsequently leads to an atmosphere of distrust and fear.
What happens in communities of priests, sisters, brothers where a sizable number in the community is gay?
It is a huge issue and it is not being discussed in any sort of reasonable way within the Church politic.
If a discussion is attempted it is most likely that the person who suggests such a discussion will be pilloried and sneered at.
So, every time there is a sting and someone is discovered to be homosexual, the Church is forced to do a merry dance, which is sad and pathetic. It also behaves in an untruthful manner.
There is little or no honesty regarding this most sensitive issue. It needs serious discussion. Our Anglican brothers and sisters are embroiled in the issue, but at least they have the honesty to discuss it in open forum.
The world knows they have a homosexual bishop. But the world has not the slightest idea how many Catholic bishops, provincial, student masters are gay. Need the world know? A good question. But there is a great dishonesty in how the Church behaves, responds and reacts to the issue.
And especially in an organisation which puts such emphasis on sexual behaviour. Surely there is something amiss.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

World-wide readership

This blog is being read in 24 countries around the world.

Books to read

Two books that I strongly recommend. One is Brendan Hoban's 'Change or Decay' and the second book is 'Ich bin kein Berliner' by Vladimir Kaminer. Hoban's book is an accurate but sad analysis of the Catholic Church in Ireland and how it is being destroyed by a clerical mindset. Kaminer's book is totally different. It is a send-up about Berliners and how he as a Russian looks on the Berliners and the new Berlin that has been formed since the fall of the Wall. It is amazingly funny. And there is a connection between both books. Kaminer could write a brilliant book about the Catholic Church in Ireland. The book is certainly waiting to happen. First idea could be a send-up on Sunday sermons and so much of the nonsense that is spoken. The lack of preparation and the silly stuff that people have to endure. The book would be an immediate best seller.
Of course that is not the universal picture. There are men who put great time and energy and thought into what they say but they have to be in the minority.
And anyway priests need to take themselves less seriously. It's a matter of 'chilling out'.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Getting your hands dirty

An expression I can remember from my childhood was 'he is afraid to dirty his hands'. Looking back on it it says much about an attitude to life.
Later this month two elderly Holy Ghost priests are heading back to their 'homes' in Kenya. They are men who have worked hard all their lives. Among that generation of priests there seems to have been a great work ethic.
How many priests today are 'afraid to dirty their hands'? There is a new 'dispensation' about that is worrying. It expresses itself in theology, canon law, liturgical practice but most of all in the relationship between priests and the people with whom they live and minister.

Barry Kehoe

Irish Dominicans, who are or were members of the province back in the 1960s/'70s, might like to know that Barry Kehoe is fine and well.
I bumped into Barry today on Camden Street. He has retired from DCU and is now doing consultancy work. His son runs a shop and fitness centre on Camden Street.
The province was and is the poorer for losing a man such as Barry.

Maybe better to stay away from the 'big issues'

The Irish Catholic bishops launched yesterday, 'Catholic Primary Schools: A Policy for Provision into the Future'.
Most schools in Ireland are managed by the Catholic Church. They are owned by the Catholic Church.
Having spent many years as a teacher at post primary level and having been associated with the primary sector I can't help but think it is more a question of holding on to 'what we have' than any philosophical or pedagogical reason that the Church continues to be involved in education in Ireland.
In running some of the most elite post primary schools, it is involved in helping divide society. True, if the Church was not there some private group would move in and maybe better to keep it as it is.
In the teaching of religion at both post primary and primary level - just one question, how come young people know so little about Christianity.
I have seen cases where priests seldom if ever even visit the local primary school where the bishop is patron.
Maybe before the bishops launch high-flying documents, they take a seriouis look at what is actually going on on the ground in schools run/managed/owned by the Catholic Church.
And related to that issue is the major problem of day-to-day management within the hierarchical organisation in Ireland.
So often it appears there are no managemnt structures in place to help and facilitate and yes, monitor the priest on the ground. Again, it is only when some crisis arises that 'firebrigade' action takes place.
That's why, maybe it is better for the Irish bishops and provincial 'superiors' (a horrible word, nearly as terrible as 'the laity') to stay mum on the wider picture, at least until they get their own house in order. There is so much to be done. This column hopes to give chapter and verse on some of these issues in the future.
The Irish Catholic Church, in spite all its spinning and PR work seems to have learned very little in the last 20/30 years, maybe nothing at all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

'An Anglican fudge'

There is an interesting editorial in today's Irish Times.
Readers may have missed it in the newspaper. Here it is printed in full.

An Anglican fudge

The troubled relations within the world-wide Anglican Communion, of which the Church of Ireland is a part, would seem to have taken a small turn for the better with the decision in New Orleans by the Episcopal Church to cease appointing as bishops openly homosexual priests, and to end giving blessings to same-sex couples.

At a stroke, it would seem, the issue that has caused profound division within the 77 million strong communion has been set to one side. But in reality, there are irreconcilable differences at play that are unlikely to go away as easily as proponents of this decision must surely hope.

The central issues here concern tolerance, equality, inclusiveness, New Testament Christianity and love. The fissure among Anglicans goes back to 2003 and the Episcopal Church's consecration of an openly gay bishop, Bishop Gene Robinson. Led by churchmen in Nigeria, where homophobia is enshrined in law and violence against gay people commonplace, and traditionalists in the US (where violence against gay people is also commonplace in many states), conservatives within the communion have been campaigning to have the Episcopal Church expelled or forced to reverse its position.

Episcopal bishops meeting in New Orleans, accompanied for a time by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who urged compromise, on Tuesday decided after six days' debate to rescind in effect their policy of what might be termed proactive tolerance. Henceforth, no openly gay priest will be ordained a bishop, no matter the depth of their faith or the quality of their ministry or leadership, or the degree of support they may have among their congregation.

There can be no doubting that the American church leaders, facing a deadline of next Sunday, were anxious to avoid an irrevocable split within Anglicanism. But gay activists will ask how the bishops can, as they did, reaffirm their commitment to the civil rights of gay people and express opposition to any violence towards gay people or violation of their dignity, while at the same time denying full and equal rights to gay people within their church.

The Anglican Communion is a compromise organisation, one of the defining differences between it and the Roman Catholic Church. Anglican churches in many countries - not least this one and the UK - have among their congregations and within the ranks of their clergy many gay people whose orientations are well known. They will not go away and they are likely to ask with increasing urgency if they must forever tolerate being treated as second class Christians. The issue may be fudged but it will not go away.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at Columbia University tells his audience that there are no homosexuals in Iran.
How will the Vatican respond to such a comment? What will cardinals, bishops and priests have to say to that?

Raido Maria

The Polish radio station run by a Redemptorist priest has come out in favour of the current government in the upcoming elections in the country.
It is worth noting that the Vatican and some Polish bishops have told the radio station not to become involved in politics. But the station continues to involve itself in politics and politics that are right wing, insular and at times anti-Semitic. It has also made nasty comments against homosexuals.
So how serious is the Vatican and the Polish episcopacy in turning down the volume on Radio Maria?
A book worth reading is Brendan Hoban's 'Change or Decay'.
A good read for anyone interested in the state of the church in Ireland today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jesuit website

The following appears on the Jesuit website today, September 25.

The sight of Buddhist monks protesting against the Burmese government in the media this week reminds us of the essential 'action' side of faith. The Burma Action Ireland group staged a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Dublin this morning, highlighting China's role in supporting the Burmese military junta. Maybe we could do with a bit more of this Buddhist-style activism here in Ireland!

Brendan

Well said Brendan. It has occurred to me that as the wall in Berlin came tumbling down, a high official of the Central Committee of the Communist Party commented that they were ready for every eventuality but never considered prayers and candles.
It was the Christian demonstrators in Leipzig who set the ball rolling.
Compliments to the Irish Jesuits on a fine website.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

First with the news

Read it on this blog first. News of the demise of the NCPI appeared on this blog before it made it on the pages of Irish newspapers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The demise of the NCPI

At a meeting of the NCPI (National Conference of Priests of Ireland), Sister Stanislaus Kennedy has called for the church to give up running schools.
There seems to be a great logic in that. Why should sisters and priests have anything to do with the running of schools, at least at management level. The idea that the church should be involved in subsidising the education of the rich seems most odd.
There might be reason for the church educating poor people, who cannot afford education - the original reason why so many sisters and priests became involved.
At that same NCPI meeting it was decided that the organisation should be disbanded.
Maybe it was never a very effective organisation and while it may have had the name of an organisation that supported the rights of individual priests, it never seemed to have any sort of serious teeth or backbone. But it did highlight issues and often spoke out in a way that challenged people, bishops and civil authority.
Now that it no longer is in existence, priests have really no recognised body to support and speak up for them.
It is also symptomatic of a worrying trend within the hierarchical church. On one hand it displays an inertia that exists, and it also points to a worrying trend where clerical apparatchiks are in the ascendancy. Surely that's the last thing the church needs at present.
These can be lonely days for priests who stay clear of cliques and groups and try to speak in any sort of prophetic language.
May I on this blog call for a strong union for priests to be set up. Anyone out there willing and able enough to pick up from where the NCPI have left off and create a new grouping that will act on behalf of priests.

Lost in translation

Between Cardinal Meisner's use of the word 'degenerate' and the German ambassador's recent talk in Dublin, words, especially in translation need great care.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Who dares to speak?

A Fr Fay is alleged to have stolen $2.5 million from his parishioners in Darien, Connecticut in the US. Alleged to have spent it on high living, his mother and probably his boyfriend. Oh, and on his personal chef too. Ah well.
We are all made of clay - part of the human condition.
What is it about the catholic church around the world that it has such appalling management structures in place.
It's the same old story right around the world.
Did no-one tweak to this behaviour right from the beginning? Did no-one miss the money? The money is alleged to have been stolen, not from the diocese, Federal Reserves, a major corporation. No from a parish!
What is it about clericalism that makes them so unanswerable.

Unusual words

In an article titled 'Time to respect those who freely choose celibacy', Simon Rowe in Thursday's Irish Times writes:
"As an aside it was intersting to observe this past week the reaction of those born after Fr Cleary's death in 1993. Most ask, "Who was Fr Cleary", and, "Why all the fuss about something that went on between two consenting adults?" '.
Someone born in or after 1993 is now at a max 14/13 or under. Mr Rowe quotes directly.
Is that second quote really the language of a 13/14 year old Irish young person. I doubt it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Criticism gets things moving

We live in an era of competition or at least so we are told.
Most people at this stage will say that the introduction of Ryanair brought cheap travel for millions of people.
It's not an argument that always holds. Has a multiplicity of banks meant cheaper banking?
That's the world of economics and business.
A fellow Dominican has commented that this blog is 'not the way we do things'. It is a legitimate comment and worth noting.
But why is it in the world of the church there is so little open discussion and 'difference'.
Some weeks ago this blog criticised the Irish Dominican web page. For a long time it has been poorly managed, is out of date and contains little or no interesting information.
What happens? At least according to the current site, readers are being told that the site is being updated.
Of course there has to be open and honest criticism, even annoyance with ineptitude. That's life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The late Fr Michael Cleary

Yesterday in Dublin city centre I met a friend of mine from Dominik Street. Before they introduced the car parking meters Jimmy was a part-time attendant. We know one another for the best part of 17 years.
Our conversation yesterday turned to the late Fr Michael Cleary. And Jimmy was quite strident in telling me how he liked the man and still liked him. He met him on a number of occasions and had been impressed with him. He felt that Fr Cleary understood his life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bishop Robinson's speech at launch of his book

The text below makes for good reading.


THEOLOGY
Confront sexual abuse, don't manage it
30-Aug-2007

By Geoffrey Robinson


The Cardinal Secretary of State at the Vatican is usually thought to hold the second highest office in the Catholic Church. The present Secretary, Cardinal Bertone, was a personal appointment by the pope. So it was disheartening when, on a recent visit to the United States, he was asked about sexual abuse and first blamed the media, then greedy lawyers, then said that the Church had “faced this trial with great dignity and courage” and hoped that “other institutions and social agencies will face the same problem with their members with an equal degree of courage and realism as the Catholic Church has done.” I believe that most of the Australian bishops had moved beyond this point more than a decade ago, so it is discouraging to hear that it still prevails at the highest levels. It is a typical example of seeking to manage rather than confront a problem.

As long as the Church seeks to manage rather than confront, the devastating effect the scandal has had on the Church will continue and will cripple other activities. Of what use is it to proclaim a “new evangelisation” to others if we are not seen to have confronted the suppurating ulcer on our body? In all our preaching to others, we would lack credibility. Cardinal Bertone does not seem to realize just how much credibility the Church has lost over the last twenty years and how seriously we must act in order to regain it.

Over that time most of the blame has been poured onto the bishops. I am not simply seeking to divert this blame, far less to defend every action of every bishop, if I say that it is important to understand that, within the present structures of the Church, the pope alone has the power to confront this problem in its deepest sources.

One must ask, “Where is the papal statement addressed directly to victims, with the word ‘sorry’ proclaimed clearly? Where is the papal promise to investigate every possible source of abuse and ruthlessly to eradicate it? Where is the request to those institutes especially set up to treat offending priests to present their findings on the causes? Where is the request to the bishops to coordinate the studies in their territory and report to Rome? Where is the document placing everything on the table for discussion, including such things as obligatory celibacy and the selection and training of candidates? With power go responsibilities. The pope has many times claimed the power and must accept the corresponding responsibilities.

If you go to Italy, you will not be there long before you meet the two phrases “far bella figura” and “far brutta figura”. Literally they mean “to make a beautiful figure” and “to make an ugly figure”, but are better translated as “keeping up appearances”. In other words, when something is badly wrong, you still present a beautiful exterior, a beautiful figure to outsiders. This mentality goes all the way back to ancient Rome, so it is deeply entrenched, and it is small wonder that it has been present in a Church that has its centre in Rome. When one adds to this the rise of papal power in the second millennium, culminating in papal infallibility, with its idea that the pope and the Church he rules can never really be wrong, one begins to understand why someone like Cardinal Bertone could still speak in the way he did. The response to abuse was at least as great a scandal as the abuse itself. If we are to overcome it, we must be prepared to put up with a temporary and very brutta figura so that we may eventually create a genuine bella figura.

The danger for bishops today is that they can think that they have done everything that is within their personal power and that the rest is up to the pope, over whom they have no control, so they can and must just get on with their job. It seems to me that bishops and, indeed, all members of the Church, still have the most unpleasant, most difficult and most unwelcome task of trying to insist that the pope be the rock a pope is supposed to be in holding the Church together. They have to use whatever means they can to convince him that there is a scandal that will cripple all the Church’s activities unless and until it is confronted.

This has been the first and major basis for the book that is being launched today, but as I wrote it I realized that there was a second basis.

Protestant Churches have always had the weakness that, when controversies arise, there is no authority to hold them together, so they have divided into dozens of Churches and literally thousands of sects. Within the Catholic Church, on the other hand, the power of the rock, the pope, has held the Church together. Its weakness, however, is that all the divisions do not go away, but are contained within the Church. Outsiders frequently have the idea of a monolithic Church, with everyone meekly obeying the pope, and they can fail completely to understand just how diverse the Church is, just how motley a group of people Catholics really are, and how fierce are the divisions and the struggles for power within the Church.

I believe that the major division is between the proclaimers of certainties and the seekers after truth. Of course we need certainties and of course we need a search for truth, but it is possible to put too heavy an accent on either of these elements. Today the proclaimers of certainties seem to be in the favoured position and to hold the reins of power. This has left many people feeling a sense of alienation, of being marginalized, of no longer quite belonging to the Church that had given them much of their sense of belonging, meaning and direction throughout their lives. This feeling has strengthened sense of needing to search for truth.

In writing the book I became aware that I was writing a book for these people, that I was trying to tell them that there is a Church for them and that it is fully in accord with the mind of Jesus. I was telling them that there are basic certainties, but there is also abundant room for search, for taking personal responsibility and growing through that process to become all we are capable of being, all God wants us to be.

I became aware that it was important for many people that there should be a bishop saying these things. At moments I felt that the needs of these many people were so great that it is perhaps true that I have never been more of a shepherd, I have never been more justified in carrying around a pastoral staff, than I have in this. If the book carries an important message to these people, then I shall be delighted.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as this, for I feel that the major differences between the proclaimers of certainties and the seekers after truth are not religious or theological, but psychological. For reasons in their background and upbringing or within their personality, many people need certainties. In a world in which, as Alvin Toffler still teaches us, change is the only constant, this need can be profound. I may argue with a person’s theology, but I cannot argue with their psychological needs.

Surely the answer has to lie in dialogue and mutual respect, and we have a long way to go. We must get away from the idea that the side with which I disagree must do all the changing and come to me, and see instead that both sides need to reach out. I hope that I have given some indications of the lines the dialogue might follow.

I express my sincere thanks to those people who read either the whole or different parts of drafts of the book and offered me their comments. They greatly helped me to avoid some basic errors and to have greater consistency in the book. I would love to name them, but the unfortunate reality is that that might not help them.

I thank Garry Eastman for the risk he took when overseas publishers would not take up the book. I thank him for his support for me and the wholehearted manner in which he has sought to promote the book. I thank Cathy Oliver, the editor, who was patient with me and helped my writings to look more like a consistent book. In the last two weeks I thank Debbie McInnes for her expertise in guiding me through my dealings with the media. I thank Michael Whelan, Catalyst for Renewal and the Aquinas Academy for hosting this gathering. I thank my brothers and sisters and my many friends for their support for me, whatever the circumstances.

I thank all of you for coming here this afternoon and supporting me by your presence. I hope that the book in some manner speaks to your own needs and longings, both psychological and spiritual.

Geoffrey Robinson is a retired auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Sydney. He is author of the recently-published "Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus". Details at the website of John Garrett Publishing. The above is the text of the address he delivered at the book's launch.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bishop's book

A contributor to this blog has referred to the Australian bishop who is making interesting comments.
Thank you to the contriibutor for the alert.
Bishop Robinson is speaking with great clarity and his book is obviously worth reading.
More on this topic at a later date.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Misogyny

Columnist Diarmaid Ferriter writes about the late Fr Michael Cleary today as does Mary Rafftery in The Irish Times.
Diarmaid is harsh but what he says is true. Again, it comes down to the 'clerical thing'.
I keep saying to myself, who do 'clerics' think they are.
The quote from John McGahern is scary.
And what is most frightening is a new 'clerical tendency' which is showing itself among young people joining seminaries and religious orders.
Ferriter's comment about misogyny is surely incisive. I wonder is there a diocese/religious congregation anywhere in the world which has organised a serious think-in/seminar on the problem of misogyny among its clerical numbers? I'd be surprised to hear if there has been a single one.
What do men 'in charge' of young students for priesthood say on the subject?

Encountering people

A strange thing happened me today. I was walking down the Rathmines Road in Dublin to work. This man came towards me. I immediately recognised him. He was md in The Kerryman, Donagh O'Doherty, while I was working there. He was driving down the same road, happened to see me, stopped his car, parked it in busy traffic, came towards me and offered me a lift to work. We chatted for the five-minute journey.
When Donagh was md I was FOC at the newspaper. We were on opposite sides. He was representing the might and power of Sir Anthony and I was trying to represent the journalists, the workers. You could say, capitalists versus workers.
Donagh was always polite and correct in his dealings. But our meeting this morning set me thinking of the importance of people talking with each other and how important it is to 'de-name' people of the titles and categories we give them.
In another encounter in the last few days I found myself talking, even smiling with someone about whom I have been far too critical.
May I go a step further and say if we could all see the presence of God in others, we'd be laughing.
We, at least I do, sell ourselves to systems and organisations,beliefs and then take stands.
The mind is a strange place.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A launch

Looking through the website of the Irish Dominicans I came across this note.
As you will see it was decided in September 2004 to 'update' the Irish Dominican website. Today is September 5, 2007.
What exactly did Harold Wilson mean when he said,'A week is a long time in politics'?.


from Fr. Pat Lucey, OP.

On behalf of the Irish Dominican friars I welcome you to our reconstructed and up-dated website. It was suggested at our Provincial Chapter held at St. Mary's, Tallaght, in September, 2004, that we should set about this task and I am happy now to re-launch the present website. I hope you enjoy using the site and pray that it will be used as an effective tool to preach the Word of God

Fr Pat Lucey OP
Provincial.

The late Fr Michael Cleary

RTE television ran a programme on the late Fr Michael Cleary on Monday evening. As a result of the programme there have been many words spoken about the man and the era.
In 1990 Fr Cleary published a book called 'From the Heart'.
One chapter is titled 'Priests are human too'. It is a great example of the 'clerical thing'.
And in that chapter he talks about 'the pseudo-intellectuals' and 'noveau riche' who 'church-bash'.
The arrogance is breath-taking. But it is the clerical mind-set. I'm scared when I hear clerics talk about the 'laity'.
The chapter headings in the book make for extraordinary reading.
It would be irreverent and inappropriate to list here the chapter headings.
I'm amazed that no journalist has picked up on it.

The Lives of Others/Das Leben der Anderen

A film worth seeing is the Lives of Others or in original German, Das Leben der Anderen.
This is a review I have written for the September/October issue of 'Spirituality', which has just appeared.

The Lives of Others (the original title in German: Das Leben der Anderen) was released in Germany in March 2006 and in England and Ireland in April 2007.
It is one of the best films I have seen, if not the best. After three viewings it remains a brilliant piece of cinematography. Indeed, at each sitting new insights gained, new aspects of characters discovered.
The film is set in East Berlin in 1984.
The opening scene shows Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) lecture young recruits to the Ministerium für Staatsicherheit (MfS) commonly known as the Stasi. He is showing his students the most efficient ways of getting people to talk – people whom East Germany (The German Democratic Republic), deem enemies of the State.
Wiesler is the archetypical small East German official who offers total allegiance to the system. But he also believes in the communist ideal and hopes for a world where there will in truth be a classless society. But Wiesler is also a desperately lonely man, who lives alone in a soulless East Berlin apartment.
A government minister and a high official of the Central Committee of the SED – the ruling communist party is attracted to the girlfriend of the well-known playwright, Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch). And so as to make the way free for the minister, the Stasi set about bugging the home of Dreyman and the man in charge of operations is Wiesler.
Wiesler quickly discovers what is going on and why he has been asked to take on this operation.
The purpose is of course to get something on Dreyman so as to discredit him and send him off to jail leaving his girlfriend, Christa –Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), ‘free’ for the high official.
It shows how out of touch officialdom is with the world of life and love. How can the government minister ever expect to win the love of Christa-Maria? But because of the lip service paid to the party and the ideology behind it, the governing class believe they are untouchable and think they know what is always to be done.
Dreyman is considered by the authorities to be party-friendly and he is to a point. But when his friend and fellow artist commits suicide, Dreyman proves to be duplicitous in a surprising way.
All the time Wiesler knows what is going on and has continually to decide how much or what he will tell the authorities.
This film is about the metamorphosis of one poor lonely man, who has been fooled by a rotten regime.
During his eavesdropping on Dreyman and Christa-Maria Sieland, he sees the power and wonder of real love and friendship, he looks at his own life and realises its pain and emptiness. He also realises that he is being used but also knows that he could redeem himself and in so doing save the lives of honourable people.
Wiesler has choices to make and his dilemma is whether he should or not disclose what he is observing in the operation.
His boss, Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), exemplifies perfectly the middle management class of the old East German State. He is a careerist, who at this stage in his life probably believes in nothing except his own survival and promotion. In that sense the film is not just a portrayal of life in East Germany but may also be an allegory of life in any modern state.
When Grubitz becomes suspicious of Dreyman and Wiesler he calls in Christa-Maria and uses on her all the nasty tricks the Stasi have learned over the years.
Right through the film Wiesler clearly knows that should he not obey the orders he has been given he will suffer the consequences.
Mikhail Gorbachev comes to power in the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall comes down.
An early joke against Erich Honnecker told by a young Stasi recruit means that the recruit comes in touch with Wiesler just as the Wall falls. It is a clever detail with great significance and irony.
Once the Wall is down Dreyman checks out his Stasi file. He never knew he was being spied on, something that was a complete mystery to him. He discovers how there was total surveillance on him.
The final denouement gives the seal of excellence to this brilliant film.
The film is in German with clear readable sub-titles. It is a remarkable expose of what went on in the East German State and it is truly extraordinary that the young director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, can capture the mood so perfectly, down to the detail as to how the young Mfs officers wear their uniforms in that characteristic ‘GDR style’.
The film is set in 1984 and it so happens that I was living in West Berlin at the time and my work took me regularly to East Berlin. So naturally, I have a close affinity with what is going on. The film is amazingly true-to-life and when the artists talk about crossing from east to west at their ‘beloved Heinrich-Heine crossing’, any one living in Berlin during the division of the city will know the pain and brutality that those crossing points evoked. And Heinrich Heine was mainly used by Berliners and in that sense had a mix of intimacy and pain about it. So close and yet so far.
Germans and especially Berliners will also recognise all the coldness and horror that went on at Normannenstraße, the centre of Stasi operations.
But the film is much more than a story about what went on in a corrupt communist state, it is very much about how an individual becomes a slave to a system. It is also a powerful analysis of the sort of person a system uses to carry out its dirty tricks. But the great hope in the film is that, in spite of everything, the human spirit has the ability and the potential to rise above all that is nasty and bad and set their sights on the great goodness that is inside the soul and heart of every man and woman.
If it is not now running where you are, make sure to buy the DVD and sit down and experience a film that does much more than chronicle life in old East Germany. This film is a powerful modern allegory warning all of us never to sell our souls to any system or party. It also challenges us to see the freedom and goodness there is when we stand up and face the music that is involved in taking on corruption and indeed, stupidity.
It might be over-simplified to make Wiesler the all-perfect hero. He was a lonely man, also maybe a bitter man and his bitterness might well have motivated him to do what he did. But again, that is another argument for recommending the film – there is no perfect person. Even in his greatness, there is always the nagging contention that had he been higher up the ladder, he would not have done what he did.
The ifs and accidents of life.
See it for yourself.
It’s easy to manipulate people, ordinary decent people. The East German authorities always insisted that any time they said ‘Berlin’ they would always add, ‘Berlin, capital city of the GDR.’ (German Democratic Republic). They had it written on their coins.
One day in 1984 I was near Alexanderplatz in the heart of East Berlin when I got chatting to a middle-aged woman. At one stage I asked her where she was from. Her reply was, “I am a capital citizen”. When I further asked her why she did not simply say ‘Berlin’, she was amazed with my question. It came natural to her to say that long mouthful of propaganda nonsense.
The GDR had it down to a fine art and yet in spite of all its power and control, Wiesler stands out as a man apart and succeeds.
I must admit that while I was living in Berlin – the western part of the city, I was fascinated with the east. I regularly found myself saying, ‘Berlin – capital city of the GDR’ and often when my Dominican brothers would ask me where I had been after a visit in the east, I would tell them that I had been in ‘the capital city’. In some perverse way I was proud to say, ‘Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR’.
Never underestimate the thousands of people who prayed and protested in the church in Leipzig in the months before the wall came tumbling down making the Heinrich Heine crossing redundant.

Ulrich Muhe died in Walbeck on July 21, 2007.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Breda O'Brien, the archbishop and astrology

Two letters in today's Irish Times re Archbishop Brady, Breda O'Brien and astrology might be worth a read.

ARCHBISHOP AND ASTROLOGY


Madam, - Breda O'Brien (Opinion, September 1st) is one of a number of commentators who have suggested that one could not expect anything better from the mass media than for them to focus on that part of Archbishop Seán Brady's recent speech at Knock in which he criticised the fortune-telling industry.

That aspect, writes Ms O'Brien, "generated a predictable response". She writes that the archbishop's comments on the matter "were little more than an aside in a substantial homily".

If that is so, I wonder why the Catholic Communications Office headlined its press release about the speech as follows: "Those who put their trust in horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, tarot cards and mediums lack trust in God's providence and are colluding with an illusion, promoting a fiction - Archbishop Brady".

Feeling superior to the mass media is a pleasant experience, particularly for fellow journalists. However, public expressions of such superiority may be used to discount legitimate and critical journalism.

One expects tabloids to be sensational (which is not necessarily the same thing as being inaccurate), and some of what they have published in defence of horoscopes could be seen as predictably self-serving. However, a number of newspapers carried serious reflections on the archbishop's speech.

While the media are certainly not without sin, their graces might more fruitfully spend their time in dialogue with critics rather than in condemning journalists as the "commentariat" (Archbishop Brady's term). - Yours, etc,

COLUM KENNY, School of Communications, Dublin City University, Dublin 9.

Madam, - I salute The Irish Times for exercising impeccable judgment in printing the full text of Archbishop Brady's homily at Knock. It was an excellent clinical assessment of Ireland in 2007. One of the most apt phrases for me centred on trust: "Trust is the fruit of perfect love". Trust permeates all facets of human interaction. The reality is that loss of trust leads to so many broken marriages causing pain and heartbreak. Truth is the next casualty. - Yours, etc,

MARY RYAN, Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Breda O'Brien's words

Breda O'Brien's article in Saturday's Irish Times is well worth a read.
Some quotes that are worth noting.
She asks. "Where would the average Catholic who wants to learn more about prayer turn to?" Later in the article she writes, ".. so many parishes are more dead than alive, and sap up your energy rather than renew it."
And "Mass so often is like an endurance test".
They are interesting comments from a columnist who is considered to be on the side of the church.
It often strikes me attending Mass in various churches how bad the liturgy can be.
Yes, it's easy to see the glass half empty!
But there is seldom any serious attempt given to improving our celebration of the Eucharist and our preaching.
Oh yes, there is the daft brigade, who are into liturgical lap-dancing. More about that later. But there is little or no incentive or drive to get us praying and preaching in a way that makes sense for us all.
Breda O'Brien also makes a most incisive point about the stranglehold of priests on the church.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Right versus left

The Tablet carried a fine article on the Polish Catholic radio station, Radio Maria.
Why is it that most Catholic institutions that become popular are usually extremely conservative - even 'zany' in their pronouncements?
It seems always to end up with people having the perception that if you are Catholic then you are right-wing to the point of being 'zany'.
Categorising people into right and left does not help. But there is a some sort of link between 'far right-wing' people and a form of 'pseudo zealotry' that is most worrying. Is the same phenomenon on the left wing? Not sure. Maybe 'liberation theology' in South America is an example.
Maybe this will explain what I am trying to say. If a 'right-wing' priest gets up and talks nonsense it seems he will not get into any trouble with authority. But if a 'left-wing' man preaches nonsense he will be set on immediately.
I have seen some 'right-wing' publications in Ireland that border on libelling people and yet they seem to be untouchable.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Preaching

So the buzz word is 'manpower'.
I have just read 1.1 of the Draft Manpower Document of the Irish Dominican province.
"Closures will bring about renewal."
Elsewhere in it I read that the Irish Dominicans can provide the Irish people and those coming to Ireland purpose in their lives.
For me these are difficult words to read. Who do we think we are that we can write this sort of material. At present we don't seem to be too interested in offering hope to each other.
What is it about clericalism that makes people think that they have some sort of 'God-given' insight which allows them talk as they do?
Instead of being close to people it seems to me we are isolating ourselves more and more from the daily lives and sufferings of those to whom we think we have something to say.
Is there any forum/management structure which will help and advise priests in their preaching and ministry.
At a Mass I was at two weeks ago I heard a priest (not a Dominican) 'preach' seven minutes of total nonsense. His celebration of the Eucharist was appalling. Certainly Latin would suit him and those who have to listen to him much better then no-one would understand him.
And I don't think he is too great an exception.
Why is the standard of preaching so poor?
A seminar/meeting/workshop on our preaching, where we would invite people who attend our churches to join with us could prove a fruitful exercise.
Of course there are great preachers of the Word. But they always seem to me to be the men who have cast off all the shackles of clericalism.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stocks and shares

While working at The Irish News I had the good fortune of meeting Archbishop Brady. I always found him a kind and pleasant man, very friendly and no nonsense about him. A man devoid of pretension, a humble man in the best sense of the word.
His sermon at Knock has received much attention.
But, there is always a 'but'. I imagine long before the ordinary Irish punter was dabbling on the stock market, the Irish hierarchical church was buying and selling shares. Is there a single diocese or religious congregation that does not have stock market portfolio? I doubt it. I imagine they have financial advisers.
The money that has been at their disposal to pay for the misdemeanours of priests has been mind-boggling.
Has anyone ever done an audit of church property in Ireland?
As for the tarot cards; I recently read a monthly 'holy' magazine, which was a mix of pious nonsense and patronising lore. And then all through it there was a clear hint that they needed money to keep it going.
I like Archbishop Brady. What he said needs saying, but as per usual, there is more to the story.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Journalists and priests

I think it is St Thomas who says that it is what is said rather than who says it that should concern us.
That has been a dilemma for me today. I see there has been a controversy between Irish Independent columnist, Ian Doherty and Fr Vincent Twomey.
Both men greatly annoy me. And then it dawned on me - it's not who they are but what they say. But it is exactly that - what they both say that irritates me.
Interesting. It strikes me that journalists and priests have much in common - many of them, journalists and priests end up believing in their own importance. And that certainly seems to be so with both these men.
Ian Doherty versus Vincent Twomey!
But the sun shines in West Kerry today and I'm not buying the Independent and have no intentions of letting Vincent Twomey annoy or irritate me.
Funny thing is though that I am a priest and a journalist.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The picture

The older man in the picture posted by Nick Miller is Tadhg Kelliher from Castlegregory. He tells me that he worked for my grand-aunt and grand-uncle. He says they were extremely odd.
Does that explain me?

New academic year

At last the sun has appeared in West Kerry and there can be no place in the world more beautiful than this corner of the earth.
Alas the summer is almost over and it's back to business shortly.
I have been on holiday here at home for the last ten days.
It's the place my grandfather was born and his before him. And it is in that context that I am delighted to be going back teaching. As and from next week I'll be teaching German in the local secondary school. The modern buzz word is 'connectivity'.
I'm also delighted to be going back teaching German. It's up there with my 'first loves'.
And then on top of that Concern has given me a permanent pensionable job based on three days a week. It means the coming year will be busy.
But then it has always dawned on me that being busy is an important key to the puzzle. Maybe especially for priests. I often wonder what priests do all day.
Please pray for me. I have bought a Honda Deauville 700cc. Amazing piece of equipment but dangerous too.
The plan is to retrace the steps of the Soviet general who routed the Wehrmacht on the Volga and chased them all the way back to Berlin. And he told him too that he would meet him again and it would be in Berlin.
But it is just to Tralee this afternoon!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Edith Stein

Today is the feast of Edith Stein.
On a visit to Poland in 1985 I called on an Anglican pastor on the GDR Polish frontier near Breslau. We had morning coffee together and I can still remember how he told me that his State - The German Democratic Republic - was about to collapse.
At the time I thought he was out of touch. How wrong I was and how correct he was.

Italian wisdom

There is an excellent article in The Guardian of August 8 - feast of St Dominic by Neal Lawson. It is about the positive possibilities that are now offered by Gordon Brown's premiership in Britain.
The author quotes a line from the Italian strategist Antonio Gramsci, ".. the old is dying the new cannot be born".
The article is about how Brown may address the symptoms of inequality.
He talks about how the political pendulum swings between our desires as individuals and our social needs, between our private and public lives, the thirst we have for freedom and the hankering we have for security.
It is ideal reading material for those Dominicans meeting in Bogota at present. Dominicans, who preach the Gospel would do well to read it.
I'm tired of all the new pious guff I am hearing and reading.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Flying kites

Came across the following sentence on the webpage of the Dominican chapter in Bogota.

"The eighth month of the year is beginning. This is the right season for flying kites in Bogotá; it is very windy."

The following piece also appears on the webpage.

"A new week has begun here in the General Chapter. Our Eucharist was celebrated in French by the Provincials of the Provinces of Saint Dominic and Saint Thomas in Italy. The homilist this time was Fr. Giovanni Distante, O.P, Provincial of the Province of Saint Thomas Aquina, who preached about 'becoming aware of the necessity of more complete and visible solidarity with the human beings of our time'; a preoccupation that must be present in the General Chapter. The songs for the Eucharist were in charge of the student brothers."

Is it cynical to say that this sort of language leaves people confused?

Feast of Saint Dominic

A word to say thank you to those who have made comments on this blog.
The reason why I decided to discontinue was multifaceted.
Bloggers are a strange 'breed' and bloggers who are associated with the clerical 'thing' seem even more 'strange', especially those with a 'pseudo conservative' style about them.
I also despair at times when I look around and realise how the clerical institution refuses to face serious issues.
Just in recent days I have experienced a form of anger and violence that has really frightened me. And it was because of that experience I decided what's the point in trying to get any form of discussion up and running. Most times, that anger and violence is hidden and couched in a worrying form of silence and 'pretence'. Now and again it emerges in many different manifestations.
And back to the website of the Dominican chapter in Bogota. It is appalling - will anyone shout out and say this is a terrible website? I doubt it.
Recently a Dominican told me that we exercise our form of democracy when we vote for our 'superiors'. I find that astonishing but also patronising. Does it mean once we vote we shut up and say nothing. Dominic would surely turn in his grave at such an idea.
On this 8th day of August 2007, happy St Dominic feast to all readers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Maybe good bye

It is most probable that this blog is about to close down. Blogs and bloggers are a strange animal.
There are more efficient ways of getting the message out to the public.
That letter, which I quoted from The Tablet makes a good point about the mind-set of some bloggers. And I would hate to be associated with such a grouping.
I hope you have enjoyed what appeared on this blog.
But be assured, the fight goes on.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Not user friendly

Can anyone advise on how to navigate around the Dominican Order General Chapter webpage.
It appears to be far too complicated for those 'lesser mortals'. But that reminds me of years ago when people would hear a sermon, not understand what was being said and then come to the conclusion that it was above their heads. Of course, it was not above their heads - just simple rubbish that had no sense to it.

Excellent letter in The Tablet

This letter appeared in last week's The Tablet.
I quote it because it is written by someone, who is most perspicacious. An excellent letter, which needs to be carefully read and then discussed in an open and honest fashion in every seminary around the world. And now too.

"Mark Francis was right about the motu proprio in what it ignores and its missed opportunities. For the most part (to quote the motu proprio), 'Christ's faithful who spontaneously request it' and 'parishes where a group of faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition exists stably' are already well catered for under the existing arrangements.
And for all the talk about 'leaving the 99 to go after one lost sheep', the new arrangements will not bring the Lefebvrists into the fold - their problem has never been liturgy but ecclesiology - they do not believe in the same church. Once the dust has settled, the newly all-powerful Ecclesia Dei commission has made its mark with one or two star chambers, and everyone has calmed down, the main difference will be that some seminarians and younger clergy of a certain persuasion (most of them, incidentally, bloggers and all of them knowing the private email addresses of the Roman Curia) will be wearing more lace and promenading a little more grandly.
Chris Grady
London SW4"

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dominicans meet in Colombia

Provincials of the Dominican Order are currently attending a general chapter in Bogota. A chapter is held every three years and at the next one, venue to be decided at this meeting, the Order will elect a new leader.
There does not appear to be a bulletin board on the website of the Order, informing people what is going on at the chapter on a daily basis. It would be so much more attractive and user friendly if one could go to the site and read what is happening that day and what happened yesterday.
Maybe every province of the order should have its own daily update.
Why is it that when it comes to communications and the dissemination of information, church organisations are simply not at the races?
Is that why there is far too often a knee jerk reaction to 'blame the media'?
The Dominicans will spend much time and expense talking at Bogota about the mission of preaching. Before another word is said someone should direct the provincials to do an honest audit of what the actual situation is on the ground, province by province.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sermon of prior provinical of the English Dominicans, Allan White

Navigating around the web there is some interesting information on the chapter of the Dominican Order taking place at present in Colombia. Here is a sermon preached in the last few days by the provincial of the English province, Allan White, who is actually a Cork man. He talks about not being saved by institutions. He also refers to a mission of transparency.
Interesting words.

The Pharisees took counsel together to destroy Jesus. They call a general chapter to decide how to deal with this threat to their survival. Like many who are involved in such meetings they concentrate so much on the detail in the picture that they risk failing to see the background. What is the background to Jesus? Matthew gives it to us quite plainly. He makes a long quotation from the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah. In these songs Isaiah proclaims to the defeated and demoralized exiles in Babylon that their exile is ending and that they will return home. They have been chosen as God´s servant to be a light to the nations. They are to live this vocation not by imitating the imperial ruthlessness of Persia and Babylon; they are not to adopt the way of earthly powers to subjugate and oppress human beings, their mission will bring light and justice but not with destructive force and military might; they will carry out this task with gentle care.

There is a contrast between this general chapter of the Pharisees and the response of Jesus to threat it poses. They intend to use the full force of the law to compel submission, but submission is not obedience. You cannot change consciences by making law. The Pharisees are proactive in their legal righteousness.

The contrast is with Jesus. Matthew emphasises what he does not do. “He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone here his voice in the streets, he will not break the bruised reed or quench a Smoldering reed. He dies not attempt to impose himself or his ministry by force. Faced with oblivion or with the threat of extinction he does not as many of us would do draw attention to himself, enter into controversy, gather allies or raise a faction, using the law, bending the system to ensure that we do not fall into the annihilation of invisibility. He withdraws rather than confronting those who reject him. Why so? So that all that he says or does may be more transparent to the presence of God which rests on him.

Jesus encourages his disciples into this same withdrawal. They too are called to the way of transparency. Sometimes religious institutions can imitate too closely the ways of state and empires. In their fear of extinction they forget that their mission is to mercy and that the laws they live by are simply commentaries on the Gospel. Many of us are bruised reeds and smoldering wicks, not to be crushed or quenched but summoned to the abandonment of all that prevents us from being transparent to the grace of Christ. We are not engaging in Chapter like that of the Pharisees motivated by fear, designed to eradicate threats and compel submission to law rather than encourage obedience to the Gospel. We know we shall not be saved by our institutions, our projects our priorities or our frontiers, but only by sheer naked commitment to Christ, the Word which we bear and in whose name we glory. All we have to offer is the Word and the name. People may expect more of us or demand more spectacularly visible triumphs, but they are doomed to disappointment.

We are called to follow Jesus on the way to the transparency. "Philip: the one that has seen me, has seen the Father". as well as Jesus was transparent with the One who sent him, this way, when people see us, they should only see Jesus. When Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles was going through the the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, a poor man asked alms . The man simply asked to be healed, which Peter was able to do. However, he gives the poor man much more. Peter asked him just to look on him and then he said: "Silver and gold I have not; but what I have, this I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk". Pedro asked the man to gaze at him, to see through him. Our task is not that people know to the Order of Preachers but taking people to know Jesus. That is the mission of all preachers: a transparency mission.

The Putin Youth

This link makes for an interesting read.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2134522.ece

It in some ways resonates with a new clerical tone within the Irish church and the Dominican Order.
The piece about being ashamed to wear the T-shirt - well you could replace that with 'roman collar' or some other items of clothing.
What do you think?
Surely the new tendency is worrying! Or is that the sort of thing Plato began to say as he grew old?

A letter

There is an interesting letter in today's Irish Times.
Here it is in case you may not have seen it.

VATICAN AND THE JEWS


Madam, - Newspapers around the world have reported that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, has declared that the highly controversial prayer for the conversion of the Jews could be dropped from the reintroduced Latin-language liturgy. He said that "we could simply study the possibility of substituting the prayer", which asks that "God remove the veil from Jewish hearts" so that they would recognise Jesus Christ.

The picture of the Church's top personnel (which ones, how many?) spending time studying this "possibility" is truly mind-boggling. We have no way of knowing what Jesus himself might think of this use of manpower by the Church which claims to be the only true Church of Christ. The words of the gospel come to mind: "and Jesus wept". - Yours, etc,

(Fr) SEÁN FAGAN, SM,

Lower Leeson Street,

Dublin 2.

The Bible

On Sunday and Monday Irish newspapers reporting on Joe O'Reilly being brought to prison mentioned that he asked to be given a Bible. Paris Hilton also had the 'Great Book' in prison.
That sort of detail always surprises/interests/amazes me.
I imagine a large number of Irish people are not familiar with the Bible as a whole or individual parts of it. And yet a man goes off to prison and he asks for a copy of the Bible. Why? Had he asked for 'Oliver Twist' would the newspapers have reported it? Maybe. If you were heading to prison would you ask for a copy of the Bible?
Just this morning I asked a colleague what was the first book of the Bible and she did not know.
Maybe I am wrong, but it often strikes me we pay great lip service to the Bible and know so little about it.
The readings at Mass at times seem difficult to understand. What a pity we don't sit down in our communities and discuss the readings at Mass in an open and honest way. We could learn so much from one another.
Are we as Dominicans excited about our preaching?
Is there not a great need to take on the challenging job of making the Bible come alive for people, seeing it through the eyes of faith and reason? We have some great biblical experts. Do we use them enough?