Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thank you

It seems people are slower to comment when the blog moderator is in action.
A guarantee is given that only libelous comments will be removed or censored. After consultation yesterday with a journalist and a legal person it was confirmed that if a libel appeared on this blog, the creator of the blog would be held responsible and could be sued.

A word of thanks to the readers of this blog. It is being read by close to 1,000 people on four continents.

This blog will continue to offer 'alternative' reading. Never will it claim to speak for the Irish Dominicans but it does offer up-to-date and relevant comment. It will always be non-clerical in its approach. Hopefully critical when necessary and never afraid to question the status quo.

There are some current issues that need urgent discussion. Watch this space.

Please keep reading and comment too when you wish.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The put-down line

Someone has referred to the author of this blog as a 'so-called religious'.

The late Charles Haughey referred to an Irish Dominican as a 'so-called priest'. Not a bad tradition to follow!

It certainly is a good put-down line but it also portrays all the arrogance that is intended. CJH was an expert in that particular art form.

And just as Fianna Fáil from time to time thinks it owns Ireland, the Catholic Church in Ireland thinks it owns God. It is something that percolates right down to the lowliest cleric.

If it were not so sad and pathetic it would be hilariously funny.

Monsignor Fernando Lugo

Former Bishop Fernando Lugo is hoping to become the first opposition politician in Paraguay to take power peacefully since the country's independence in 1811.
According to the government's own statistics 21 per cent of the population of 6.5 million live in extreme poverty.

The Vatican denied Lugo's request for laicisation and experts in canon law say he is now essentially in a state of rebellion against Rome.

People in Paraguay see Lugo as being an honest and humble man and he is seen as a man who has nothing to do with corruption.

If he wins the election in April and becomes President of Paraguay and then improves the lot of the poor of the country surely he will be doing something good and something most pleasing in the eyes of God.

If it is a question of being in 'rebellion against Rome' or doing something that is pleasing to God, can one have a choice which road to take?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Priest, poet and author

RTE carried a tribute to the late Fr John O'Donohue on Sunday evening.

Among the points the late poet, priest and writer made were:

Fundamentalists can never have a real conversation with history.

The church has a pathological fear of women.

When we go into a restaurant we never order everything on the menu so why not a la carte Christianity?

Few are availing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and yet we are living in a time when so many people are 'confessing' at every possible public forum.

Certainly great topics for discussion.

There was a wonderful newness and openness to the ideas expressed by the late John O'Donohue in the Would You Believe programme last evening.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Martin book

This blog yesterday referred to Seamus Martin's new book.
What makes interesting reading is how he describes his brother, the Archbishop of Dublin. And what is of particular note is how he explains his brother's behaviour at the time of the death of his mother and father.

The book contains some inaccuracies. I am fairly certain he gets my uncle's, John D Hickey, middle name wrong. And was Bill Redmond that much of a tyrant?

For a foreign correspondent to get the name of the Federal Republic of Germany wrong seems quite odd.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book launch

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin launched his brother's book at Waterstones last evening. Good Times and Bad is about the life and times of Seamus Martin, retired Irish Times journalist.

The archbishop read his text, which was carefully crafted. At one stage when Seamus was referring to the work his brotehr is doing there was sponaneous applause from the gathered lierati.

Dominicans might be interested in reading page 15, where Seamus tells his readers that all his father's brothers went to Newbridge College.

"The excpetion was my father, Jimmy Martin, who was, wrongly, judged to be interested only in fixing the engines of cars. My Dad was just given the basic primary education required by law and then left to fend for himself. Mother never forgave the Martins for this, and it made her determined that her sons would get the best education she could afford."

And as it happened a Newbridge past pupil who recognised his English teacher - 1983 -and is now in the Army - was also present at the launch.

Coinicidentally and apropopos of what was written in this blog yesterday, there is a legal issue with the book.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Comment moderation

There is a slight change taking place on this blog.

So as to prevent any issue of libel, comment moderation has been enabled. All comments must be approved by the blog author.

A guarantee is given that it is only for reasons of libel and to protect good taste that this change is taking place.

Please feel free to criticise the author of this blog and any material that appears. Anonymous comment will continue to be allowed provided it does not libel. It must also conform to standards of good taste.

Having been Letters Editor of a regional newspaper I am very conscious of the dangers of libel. In the case of newspapers it is the publication which is held to account.

Since comments are now appearing on this blog it has been a matter of concern that a comment might libel someone by accident or intention.

Hopefully this new restriction will not in any way curtail people in what they write or might wish to write.

Cuba's Castro

BBC 2's Newsnight last evening featured a discussion on the life and times of Cuba's Castro.

Both sides were represented on the panel. It was most interesting to see how different people expressed such different views on Castro. No doubt they all spoke in good faith. Who was telling the truth? Or is that the question at all?

There were two people who passionately believe that Castro has improved the lot of the people of Cuba and there were two more people who believed the very opposite.

How can we ever manage to change the minds and hearts of people, especialy when it comes to preaching the Gospel?

Take this blog for example and the entrenched opinions people express - sometimes done in an anonymous manner, other times openly. Others refer to issues as rants when they disagree. And then there is the put-down 'so-called'.

It's an interesting world.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The debate begins in Germany

This makes for interesting reading.

Barely a week since taking office, the head of the German Catholic Church, Robert Zollitsch, has raised eyebrows with comments that clerical celibacy is not "theologically necessary."

In an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, 69-year-old archbishop of Freiburg, Robert Zollitsch, who is now head of the German Catholic Church, said that celibacy and the unmarried lives of priests were a "gift," but not essential.

Furthermore, he said it would be a "revolution" if the celibacy tradition within the Catholic Church were dissolved.

This week's publication of the interview prompted a swift response from Regensburg's bishop, Gerhard-Ludwig Müller.

"All of the specifics of being a priest and the corresponding rules of celibacy could not be expanded upon, as a theological context would require, in a quick interview," he said in a press release.

"The Second Vatican Council made clear in Article 16 -- "Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests" -- what the decisive requirements are," Müller added. "That is and will remain the policy of the Catholic Church."

No end to strife in sight

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Zollitsch (l) follows in the footsteps of Cardinal Karl Lehmann
Müller maintained that no one should presume that the celibacy rules of the Catholic Church would be abolished.

Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung daily pointed out in its Tuesday edition that such a refutation of Zollitsch's stance reflects the displeasure it caused among the more conservative bishops in the German Bishops' Conference, an assembly of the bishops and archbishops of all the German dioceses.

Yet the majority of bishops within the conference voted for Zollitsch last week as the new head of the German Catholic Church.

The archbishop of Freiburg is not only known for his more liberal views on celibacy, he has also professed his support for day-care nurseries for children (as opposed to the more traditional view that mothers should stay at home).

He has also said that if the German government can draw up legal guidelines for gay and lesbian relationships and marriages, he can do the same -- a view strongly opposed by Pope Benedict XVI.

DW staff (als)

A light shines in Germany

The newly appointed head of the German Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, seems to speak a language that makes sense. Wonderful to see such open and fresh thinking. Alleluia.
As he says, he does not believe in thought control.

The following article appears in today's Irish Times.

Prelate queries need for clerical celibacy
Derek Scally in Berlin

GERMANY: The newly appointed head of the Catholic Church in Germany has described the vow of celibacy as "theologically unnecessary" for priests or the church.

In a wide-ranging interview with Der Spiegel magazine, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch (69) made clear he intends to continue the liberal tradition that brought his predecessor, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, into conflict with his conservative German colleagues and the Vatican.

"The connection between being a priest and remaining unmarried is theologically unnecessary," said Archbishop Zollitsch. "You will notice I don't approve of thought control. But I have experience that bishops from India or Africa would wonder if we in Germany wanted to shake up this tradition. It would be a revolution, one with which parts of the church would not go along."

The archbishop said a discussion of priestly celibacy, introduced in the 12th century, would require a Vatican council. That was unlikely in the near future, he said, as long as projects from the last council were unrealised. In the interview, Archbishop Zollitsch distanced himself from leading conservative clergymen in Germany who regularly cause consternation in public discussions with their choice of words.

Last year a prominent bishop attacked the idea of childcare and a new parents' allowance because, he said, it turned women into "child-bearing machines".

Archbishop Zollitsch said such terms ruined the chance of necessary discussion.

"We Catholics created the first creches, set up by nuns," he said. "We need creches because many parents simply need them."

He expressed disappointment that the church hadn't been able to capitalise more on the wave of goodwill following the election of Pope Benedict, to reach out more to people's everyday lives.

"We have to take into account the societal situation whether it suits us or not," he said. "We have noticed a hint of longing for religiousness appearing."

He also referred to a Vatican communique that Protestant churches are not true churches but ecclesial communities.

"This Vatican communique caused resentment and injured feelings," he said. "Yes, it is a church but a different one. According to Catholic understanding, not a church in the full sense of the word, but it is a church. I cannot deny it that."

Archbishop Zollitsch said he was "not seeking conflict with Rome", nevertheless lively times could lie ahead between the head of the Catholic Church in Germany and the German pope.

Sunday Independent article

The article which was referred to in yesterday's blog contains the following sentences. These are worrying ideas and is a Sunday newspaper the forum to express such views?
The direct quotes are from an Irish Dominican talking about his 18-month experience as a priest administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Is the word 'flabbergasted' appropriate here?

And who is the 'us' to whom the man is referring? Please exclude me from the group.

Is this the perfect example of a cleric patronising people?

But of course it is much more than that.

The quotes as they appear in the newspaper:

"I always know by their faces when they come to me."

"I see a side of a generation that no one else sees.."

"I ask them if they’re happy and they say yes. And then I ask them if they are really happy and they say no and they don’t know what it is they’re looking for."

"That’s why they need clothes, drugs, money…"

"Their honesty is frightening. It really shakes us up. I see a lot of sorrow and sadness, young people not being able to cope and they have to release it somewhere."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sacrament of Reconciliation

There is an article in yesterday's Irish Sunday Independent reporting on the views of an Irish Dominican re the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The content of the article is at least worrying and most upsetting.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Death of founder of Legionaries

Marcel Maciel Degollado, 87, founder of the Legionaries of Christ was buried last week in his birthplace, Cotija de la Paz in south central Mexico. It seems to have been all done on the quiet. No letter of papal condolence.
This man was a supporter of Franco, he was hospitalised for drug addiction in 1956.
Many ex Legionaries have come forward alleging they were sexually abused by him.

In 1998 victims of Maciel took their case to Rome. Pope John Paul defended Maciel by treating the case as if it did not exist.

In 2004 Cardinal Ratzinger ordered the investigation that led to Maciel's 'demotion'.

The author of this blog lived in Rome between 1974 and 1976.It was my first time to meet members of the Legionaries of Christ. It was a truly astonishing experience. These young men all dressed in identical nonsensical clerical clothing. They all seemed to lack any individual identity. They spouted out words and cliches that were bizarre and meant nothing, at least to me.

I can still remember one day at a lecture, listening and observing a group of these men and clearly saying to myself there has to be something odd here.

It seemed as if their minds had been taken from them and they were spouting out clerical nonsense.

These men took vows never to criticise Maciel or their superiors.

Just two summers ago I bumped into another group of Legionaries, this time in West Kerry, and it was more or less, the same old story again.

Is it not astonishing that a religious congregation founded by a man about whom there have been many serious allegations of sexual misconduct can go on its merry way.

Back in 1974 it was as clear as day to me that there was something seriously wrong here. It is not just the sexual madness but it is the link between all that 'stuff' and a mad 'conservative' 'holier than thou' attitude that must be the issue here.

These young men, everyone of them, was dressed for the catwalk and looked ridiculous. Shakespears has something to say about the clothes we wear.

I have spent the last ten years working in the media business and when I compare the 'Roman gentlemen' with the young men with whom I work it is as clear as day that all is not in order. And it is not exclusive to the Legionaries of Christ.

The 1974 experience left me with no doubt that there was something seriously wrong with the way a particular type of clerical grouping looks at the world. And I now believe that the papacy of John Paul II has helped make the 'clerical situation' more serious.

On the occasion of his death the press office of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement descdibed Maciel as an 'instrument of God'.
As The Tablet points out, Maciel is dead, but his congregation soldiers on.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Popular versus unpopular

This blog began in June 2007. Many topics have been aired during that time. There have been pieces on prayer, death, religious life, church, politics. Much has been written on German issues. Even zany points on grammar have appeared. Split infinitives are not tolerated and the past participle of the verb 'to get' is not 'gotten, but 'got'. And never once is there a whisper of 'going forward'. Why upper case common nouns? Why should priest, cardinal, bishop begin with an upper case? Church may be an issue, but certainly the building is lower case, just as school or house.
Of course, all subtle ways of giving importance to intstitutes and people!
And the word 'laity' is absurd and an insult when it is used in the context of church matters. Surely a 'lay person' is the person who is no 'expert'. So is it only priests who are experts in church matters? Nonsense of course.

Occasionally readers leave comments. It was originally planned that there would be no anonymous comments but most of the anonymoyus comments have been left on the blog.

Anonymity is scary but censorship is horrible. It would never be the intetnion of this blog to hide behind censosrhip or obsessive secrecy. Enough damage has been done in that area.

But what is most interesting to observe is the popularity of certain issues. Once they are mentioned this becomes a very busy and popular blog.

One is bound to smile.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Concern marks its 40th birthday

The following editorial appears in today's Irish Times. In the same edition there is an eight-page broadsheet supplement on the aid agency.

It is ironic that while Ireland has struggled to combine efficiency and social justice at home, Irish-based development agencies have been able to do so abroad. Yet the 40th anniversary of Concern, which we mark in a special supplement with today's edition, is nonetheless a source of justified pride for the country.

From its origins as an immediate response to famines in Biafra in 1968 and Bangladesh in 1972, Concern has developed into a world-class aid organisation. While retaining the compassion and sense of human equality that motivated its founders, it has become a thoughtful, pioneering operation whose innovations in fields like emergency nutrition have been adopted by the UN as global standards.

Concern has brought hope to millions of people in Africa and Asia whose lives have been blighted by natural disasters, poverty and injustice. But it also brings hope to Ireland. One of our great contemporary fears is that in the pursuit of prosperity, we have lost our deeper values. Concern is a great example of the way such values can be sustained even while change is embraced. Its roots are in the Catholic missionary tradition, but its founders had the foresight to make it non-denominational. That openness has allowed it not just to operate successfully in majority Islamic societies like Bangladesh, but to translate the best aspects of the missionary movement into the context of a pluralist Ireland.

This underlying continuity has enabled Concern to face change. The framework for aid has shifted from charity to human rights. There has been a growing awareness that, while emergency disaster relief will always be needed, long-term solutions to chronic poverty can only be brought about by developing countries themselves.

In an era of large-scale government aid programmes, relatively small organisations can still make a big difference. Concern's modest size and non-bureaucratic culture has allowed it to respond quickly to emergencies and to think about problems in a more flexible and radical way. People in the most extreme long-term poverty are often socially or geographically isolated, making it hard for official programmes to reach them. Concern is very good at seeking them out and giving them, not just material help, but a voice in their own societies.

This capacity to work on the edge owes much to the fact that a large proportion of Concern's funding comes from ordinary Irish people whose contributions are not tied to any official or political agenda. They give money because they have learned over 40 years to trust Concern. There could be no greater tribute to the organisation as it heads into its fifth decade.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Life after death

Today is the 20th anniversary of my mother's death. She died at 06.10 in Dublin's Meath Hospital. The hospital is gone but I pass the building every Tuesday and Thurdsay going to and from work.

Many people of my generation are 'iffy' about heaven and hell. I am part of that 'elite'.

But when it comes to speaking about my parents I have no difficulty whatsoever in saying that they have not been annihilated, rather that they are with God in heaven.

Is that what God's love is about?
It's strange how all the pious waffle can be so irritating, patronising and nonsense-talk and yet when it comes to those we love we can immediately find a home for them in heaven.

If it were not Lent the Dominican Order would be celebrating the feast of Blessed Reginald today.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Two interesting letters

Two interesting letters in today's Irish Times


Madam, - On the RTÉ 1 9pm news last Monday, Cardinal Sean Brady, speaking at a reception in his honour at Dublin Castle, claimed the Irish bishops were "united" in their "determination" to establish the truth concerning clerical sexual abuse in Ireland.

But the unity and determination of which he speaks is far from self-evident to many people whose lives and faith are affected by this distressing matter. It would seem that the Irish bishops, on the subject of clerical sexual abuse, could be divided into three categories.

There are a few who, are genuinely and sincerely seeking a solution, engage with the suffering of victims and the real problems posed for the institutional church.

There are some, good-hearted and decent (and probably the majority) who don't seem to know what end of them is up, or how to respond properly to the anguish caused by the sexual predations of some priests of the church.

And there are a few others who, themselves, are gravely dysfunctional human beings, completely lacking in the empathy demanded by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, towards those so profoundly betrayed and deeply wounded by "wolves among the flock".

As regards the "unity" and "determination" of bishops to engage seriously with the ongoing crisis in the Catholic Church, it would be worth knowing the level of commitment and understanding bishops have shown in striving to come to terms with the profound suffering of victims.

How many bishops have genuinely encountered - one to one - victims of predatory priests? How many bishops have read - and kept up to date with - studies, books and other scholarly works which address the devastating spiritual consequences of clerical sexual abuse for victims?

How many dioceses in Ireland have organised seminars, workshops, conferences, etc, which could, for example, facilitate meaningful encounters between the survivors of clerical sexual abuse and members of the clergy?

It is tragic that Government inquiries, High Courts and other such bodies are needed to investigate the Church on matters of clerical sexual abuse. True openness, to God the Holy Spirit, would have long ago exposed the clericalism, selfishness, narcissism, sociopathy and corruption that have given rise to these scandals.

The People of God are further betrayed by meaningless episcopal sound-bites, feigned "compassion" and PR exercises. These evils will continue to wound and damage God's Church until they are faced in a true spirit of abject contrition, heartfelt repentance and desire for real reform. - Yours, etc,

Fr PATRICK McCAFFERTY, Glen Road, Belfast.

Madam, - Young Jimmy O'Brien (January 31st) must be congratulated for actually reading Humanae Vitae. However, one wonders whether he is old enough to have ever tried to practise what the encyclical preaches. I have tried it and I cannot recommend it.

Young Mr O'Brien then comments on Pope Paul VI, the encyclical's author, who predicted that artificial contraception would result in women being less respected by men than they were prior to their invention and use - by modern men and women! He believes that this prediction has come to pass. I hope he is not presuming he can speak for all men. My guess is that he has arrived at this conclusion because he himself feels that women in today's world are less deserving of respect.

No doubt Jimmy O'Brien is a well meaning young man but he had a lot to learn about women and men and about himself in particular. I wish him well in his voyage of discovery. I used to be young myself once upon a time; now I am 71 - older and, I hope, just a little bit wiser. - Yours, etc,

IRENE REDMOND, Granville Road, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

An unholy consequence

According to Irish newspapers today Archbishop Desmond Connell is quoted as saying he would go to jail rather than release some of his private papers.

Confidentiality is most important. And someone who goes to talk to someone expecting it to remain confidential understandably expects the deal to be kept.

As archbishop in Dublin Desmond Connell was the man in charge. The question may be asked do his papers pass on to the next man or are they his personal property. That issue has been discussed in the legal forum.

Is there not a sense of irony to all this. For hundreds of years the Catholic Church has pronounced on matters sexual. It certainly has given the impression that it knew exactly what God was thinking on the subject. And then all this.

This row, explosion, whatever one wishes to call it, is about terrible heinous crimes, unspeakable crimes.

Of course under no circumstances is it one per cent of priests who have committed these crimes. And the Vatican cardinal who has said that should be made withdraw his inaccurate ‘pronouncement’.

It might well be said that Desmond Connell will find himself a scapegoat in this new melee. Because the church will under no circumstances carry out any real study or investigation why so many priests have committed these crimes. Will they undertake to study why they kept it secret? Will they discuss why they moved about so many men so that it could all be kept secret?

Twenty years ago I asked for an open and honest discussion on matters of sexuality within the priesthood. I became an object/subject of laughter and silence. I still am that object/subject. In fact I was told by a now leading figure in a religious order that no such things went on, and under no circumstances did anything untoward take place in Maynooth. I was actually told that I did not live in the real world. That very day the then president of Maynooth College was Monsignor Michael Ledwith.

I believe that nothing has changed. Yes, the church is employing expensive lawyers and sophisticated spin doctors. But an organisation as old as the church, thinks in milleniums and centuries. What will or can a few years mean to it?

And there is the added worry that a whole generation of active, 'normal', intelligent men have left priestly ministry, mainly to marry women.

Their wisdom and worldly knowledge is now required.

Another worrying question might be, who has replaced these men!

It is a dilemma.

And all the time no-one has stood up to correct the Vatican cardinal who says it is one per cent of priests who have abused. Journalism, like all professions, must have its fair share of lazy practitioners.

In Ireland alone most probably every religious order and diocese has more than than the one per cent quota.

If the Vatican cardinal can issue such nonsense that can clearly be examined in the context of the facts what must it be like when it comes to all the unverifable information that is disseminated by these high cardinals?

It is also interesting that not a single Irish bishop has been brave or honest enough to distance himself from the Vatican cardinal's comment.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Jerome Kerviel, the Societe Generale trader who ran up the biggest trading loss in history, broke his silence to turn on his former employer yesterday, saying he refused to be a scapegoat for the losses and insisting he acted only to swell the French bank's profits.

The author Max Frisch in 'Andorra' writes a great piece on scapegoating.

It is always the small person, the provincial person, the person who has no voice, who is the object of scapegoating. But sometimes the scapegoat talks back and can change the course of history. Alas, that is seldom.

It is usually big organisations, organisations with histories steeped in control and authoritarianism, which are adept at scapegoating.

Scapegoating always involves bullying and injustice.

Hopefully, in time, we will be allowed hear the full story of Jerome Kerviel.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Unfolding realities in Irish hierarchical church

Patsy McGarry in today's 'Irish Times' writes, "He (Archbishop Martin) indicated that privilege would not be waived where legal advice involving insurance was concerned".

Does this mean that in all cases were separate legal action is pending and there are insurance issues privilege will not be waived?

Imagine how it would be if the Irish church many years ago had gone to mothers and fathers and spoken to them.

Remember this is just the Dublin archdiocese. What's the story in every other diocese and religious order? I imagine horrific. And it is no one per cent.

Back to the Vatican cardinal who said it was one per cent of priests who abused. Will this man be held accountable for what he has said?

Is it possible for an exclusively male organisation to be healthy?

Fr Martin Dolan's comments in St Nicholas of Myra church in Dublin's Francis Street on Sunday as reported in the media appear to be wise words.
Those of you who have seen 'The Lives of the Others' might see a link between Fr Martin Dolan and the young student at the Potsdam Eiche school!

Who is paying for this grand mess?

That one per cent

Remember the Vatican cardinal stating that it was/is just one per cent of priests who have abuse(d). That figure does not at all seem to tally with the figures coming from Dublin at present. Indeed, the figure tallies with nothing in reality - nonsense speak.
Is it not worth noting that it takes the child abuse issue to cause a 'split' among the hierarchy. How unsure they are of what they say on this issue and how sure they appear to be when they are talking on intricate theological issues - including telling people how to live their normal sexual lives.

Featured Post

No comment from bishop

The editorial in the current issue of Kerry's Eye.