Wednesday, November 28, 2007


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


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.