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.

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.

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