Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New school term begins on Monday

The last term of school begins next Monday in our primary and post primary schools. Because Easter has been early it is a long term.

The oral exams in Irish and modern languages take place in early to mid April.

The author of this blog teaches German at a post primary school in West Kerry. It is a small non-fee paying school. It was originally founded by Mr and Mrs Mulcahy. Two years ago it moved from Cloghane to a new campus in Castlegregory.

School population is 100 and growing. A lovely freindly atmosphere pervades. While the Bishop of Kerry is the patron, it is not managed by any church authority.

Having taught at schools run by religious orders and imbibed the ideas of the particular 'ethos' that pervaded, I have to admit I am now asking myself, what was it all about?

We easily create a world around us that seems and looks important but very often it is about nothing, except our own self-importance.

Making sense of words

And Bishop Magee celebrates Mass in Latin. I presume The Irish Times is confused in how it reports the event in today's newspaper.

What is all this about the language in which Mass is celebrated? Is all prayer not a form of talk, communication with God?

Of course we can use all forms of gestures to express ourselves, but surely once we use words we are expected to know what they mean for ourselves and those to whom they are directed.

What's this new-style dressing-up about?

Is there not something remarkably significant in the fact that Bishop Magee celebrated Mass in Latin in Cobh Cathedral?

The Clinton mis-speak

Hillary Clinton admits that she 'mis-spoke'. Is that a new word for telling a lie.

The story about her being under fire in a war zone is funny and sad. But it is a great lesson for anyone who thinks that leaders - all classes of leaders, are any different than the rest of society.

Terms such as 'role model' and 'a born leader' should be removed from our vocabulary.

Most people in power, in all areas of society, get their 'adrenaline rush' by controlling and manipulating people - and the more subtle it is done, the the faster runs the adrenaline.

And we all continue to be fooled

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

RTE gets it wrong re loco drivers

The information carried on Morning Ireland this morning re problems on the railway did not tell the full story.

There was no mention of the cancellation of the early morning train from Tralee to Mallow this morning – the Dublin mind-set! I had to travel from Tralee to Mallow by bus, departing Tralee at 05.25. There was no driver for the 05.25 ex Tralee.

From what I know from talking to drivers, some months ago Irish Rail was in discussion with its drivers re new rosters. And during those talks the company introduced a new timetable with new ‘links’ and never a word to the drivers.

For months there has been confusion over the early Sunday morning service ex Tralee. There have been occasions when the train departed earlier than published on the public timetable.
Irish Rail published a special Easter timetable and not a mention of trains to or from Tralee on Easter Sunday.

Check the timetable and spot the phantom trains that run between Millstreet and Mallow. The trains don’t exist.

It's a shame the drivers don't have an articulate dedicated PR person to speak on their behalf.

Alive newspaper

The phenomenon of the Alive newspaper is most interesting. If it were an 'equivalent' zany 'left wing' or 'liberal' newspaper it would long ago have come to the attention of the Irish bishops. And they certainly would not have approved. How come no authority in the Catholic Church has criticised the material that appears in it? Where is the provincial and the council of the Irish Dominicans on this issue?

The newspaper publishes very unsavoury material. Most of its articles have a hate element to them. It is a mix of bigotry and zany material.

Alive Irish Times letter

Printed below is a letter in today's Irish Times. It is surprising that such a letter has not appeared before this. It is astonishing that this newspaper is allowed have any reference whatsoever to the Dominicans mentioned on it.

The Irish Times letter writer makes fair and accurate observations and also asked all the right questions.

Madam, - I was shocked to receive the hand-delivered March issue of Alive!, a "Catholic monthly newspaper" which claims a circulation of 350,800.
It also claims: "Minister Brian Lenihan and his Equality Authority continue to promote the extremist view of 'gender equality' now being abandoned in the UK". This is deemed "radical feminism" elsewhere in the paper.
Other headlines include: "US activist declares AIDS a 'gay disease'"; "Scientists fear global cooling"; and "Church offering a feminised faith?"
The majority of the articles are written anonymously, in a poison-pen style, preaching highly subjective views without recourse to fact, or even the illusion of objective analysis.
Who is responsible for funding this "free", hand-delivered "Catholic" newspaper, which spreads misinformation to (apparently) "350,800 homes nationwide"?
- Yours, etc,
TERRY McINERNEY, Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Prayerful Triduum and a happy and holy Easter too all our readers.
The article below appears in today's IrishTimes

The atheist delusion

"Opposition to religion occupies the high ground, intellectually and morally," wrote Martin Amis recently. Over the past few years, leading writers and thinkers have published best-selling tracts against God. But the "secular fundamentalists" have got it all wrong, according to John Gray .

AN ATMOSPHERE of moral panic surrounds religion. Viewed not so long ago as a relic of superstition whose role in society was steadily declining, it is now demonised as the cause of many of the world's worst evils. As a result, there has been a sudden explosion in the literature of proselytising atheism. A few years ago, it was difficult to persuade commercial publishers even to think of bringing out books on religion. Today, tracts against religion can be enormous money-spinners, with Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great selling in the hundreds of thousands. For the first time in generations, scientists and philosophers, high-profile novelists and journalists are debating whether religion has a future. The intellectual traffic is not all one-way. There have been counterblasts for believers, such as The Dawkins Delusion? by the British theologian Alister McGrath and The Secular Age by the Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor. On the whole, however, the anti-God squad has dominated the sales charts, and it is worth asking why.
The abrupt shift in the perception of religion is only partly explained by terrorism. The 9/11 hijackers saw themselves as martyrs in a religious tradition, and western opinion has accepted their self-image. And there are some who view the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as a danger comparable with the worst that were faced by liberal societies in the 20th century. For Dawkins and Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Martin Amis, Michel Onfray, Philip Pullman and others, religion in general is a poison that has fuelled violence and oppression throughout history, right up to the present day. The urgency with which they produce their anti-religious polemics suggests that a change has occurred as significant as the rise of terrorism: the tide of secularisation has turned. These writers come from a generation schooled to think of religion as a throwback to an earlier stage of human development, which is bound to dwindle away as knowledge continues to increase. In the 19th century, when the scientific and industrial revolutions were changing society very quickly, this may not have been an unreasonable assumption. Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest may still believe that, over the long run, the advance of science will drive religion to the margins of human life, but this is now an article of faith rather than a theory based on evidence.
It is true that religion has declined sharply in a number of countries (Ireland is a recent example) and has not shaped everyday life for most people in Britain for many years. Much of Europe is clearly post-Christian. However, there is nothing that suggests the move away from religion is irreversible, or that it is potentially universal. The US is no more secular today than it was 150 years ago, when de Tocqueville was amazed and baffled by its all-pervading religiosity. The secular era was in any case partly illusory. The mass political movements of the 20th century were vehicles for myths inherited from religion, and it is no accident that religion is reviving now that these movements have collapsed. The current hostility to religion is a reaction against this turnabout. Secularisation is in retreat, and the result is the appearance of an evangelical type of atheism not seen since Victorian times.
As in the past, this is a type of atheism that mirrors the faith it rejects. Philip Pullman's Northern Lights - a subtly allusive, multilayered allegory, recently adapted into a Hollywood blockbuster, The Golden Compass - is a good example. Pullman's parable concerns far more than the dangers of authoritarianism. The issues it raises are essentially religious, and it is deeply indebted to the faith it attacks. Pullman has stated that his atheism was formed in the Anglican tradition, and there are many echoes of Milton and Blake in his work. His largest debt to this tradition is the notion of free will. The central thread of the story is the assertion of free will against faith. The young heroine, Lyra Belacqua, sets out to thwart the Magisterium - Pullman's metaphor for Christianity - because it aims to deprive humans of their ability to choose their own course in life, which she believes would destroy what is most human in them. But the idea of free will that informs liberal notions of personal autonomy is biblical in origin (think of the Genesis story). The belief that exercising free will is part of being human is a legacy of faith, and like most varieties of atheism today, Pullman's is a derivative of Christianity.
Zealous atheism renews some of the worst features of Christianity and Islam. Just as much as these religions, it is a project of universal conversion. Evangelical atheists never doubt that human life can be transformed if everyone accepts their view of things, and they are certain that one way of living - their own, suitably embellished - is right for everybody. To be sure, atheism need not be a missionary creed of this kind. It is entirely reasonable to have no religious beliefs, and yet be friendly to religion. It is a funny sort of humanism that condemns an impulse that is peculiarly human. Yet that is what evangelical atheists do when they demonise religion.
A curious feature of this kind of atheism is that some of its most fervent missionaries are philosophers. Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon claims to sketch a general theory of religion. In fact, it is mostly a polemic against American Christianity. This parochial focus is reflected in Dennett's view of religion, which for him means the belief that some kind of supernatural agency (whose approval believers seek) is needed to explain the way things are in the world. For Dennett, religions are efforts at doing something science does better - they are rudimentary or abortive theories, or else nonsense. "The proposition that God exists," he writes severely, "is not even a theory." But religions do not consist of propositions struggling to become theories. The incomprehensibility of the divine is at the heart of Eastern Christianity, while in Orthodox Judaism, practice tends to have priority over doctrine. Buddhism has always recognised that in spiritual matters truth is ineffable, as do Sufi traditions in Islam. Hinduism has never defined itself by anything as simplistic as a creed. It is only some western Christian traditions, under the influence of Greek philosophy, which have tried to turn religion into an explanatory theory.
The notion that religion is a primitive version of science was popularised in the late 19th century. The positivists believed that with the development of transport and communication irrational thinking would wither way, along with the religions of the past. Despite the history of the past century, Dennett believes much the same. In an interview that appears on the website of the Edge Foundation ( under the title The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion , he predicts that "in about 25 years almost all religions will have evolved into very different phenomena, so much so that in most quarters religion will no longer command the awe that it does today". He is confident that this will come about, he tells us, mainly because of "the worldwide spread of information technology (not just the internet, but cell phones and portable radios and television)". The philosopher has evidently not reflected on the ubiquity of mobile phones among the Taliban, or the emergence of a virtual al-Qaeda on the web.
The growth of knowledge is a fact only postmodern relativists deny. Science is the best tool we have for forming reliable beliefs about the world, but it does not differ from religion by revealing a bare truth that religions veil in dreams. Both science and religion are systems of symbols that serve human needs - in the case of science, for prediction and control. Religions have served many purposes, but at bottom they answer to a need for meaning that is met by myth rather than explanation. A great deal of modern thought consists of secular myths - hollowed-out religious narratives translated into pseudo-science. Dennett's notion that new communications technologies will fundamentally alter the way human beings think is just such a myth.
In The God Delusion , Dawkins attempts to explain the appeal of religion in terms of the theory of "memes", vaguely defined conceptual units that compete with one another in a parody of natural selection. He recognises that, because humans have a universal tendency to religious belief, it must have had some evolutionary advantage, but today, he argues, it is perpetuated mainly through bad education.
From a Darwinian standpoint, the crucial role Dawkins gives to education is puzzling. Human biology has not changed greatly over recorded history, and if religion is hardwired in the species, it is difficult to see how a different kind of education could alter this. Yet Dawkins seems convinced that if it were not inculcated in schools and families, religion would die out. This is a view that has more in common with a certain type of fundamentalist theology than with Darwinian theory, and I cannot help being reminded of the evangelical Christian who assured me that children reared in a chaste environment would grow up without illicit sexual impulses.
Dawkins's "memetic theory of religion" is a classic example of the nonsense that is spawned when Darwinian thinking is applied outside its proper sphere. Along with Dennett, who also holds to a version of the theory, Dawkins maintains that religious ideas survive because they would be able to survive in any "meme pool", or else because they are part of a "memeplex" that includes similar memes, such as the idea that, if you die as a martyr, you will enjoy 72 virgins. Unfortunately, the theory of memes is science only in the sense that Intelligent Design is science. Strictly speaking, it is not even a theory. Talk of memes is just the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors.
Dawkins compares religion to a virus: religious ideas are memes that infect vulnerable minds, especially those of children. Biological metaphors may have their uses - the minds of evangelical atheists seem particularly prone to infection by religious memes, for example. At the same time, analogies of this kind are fraught with peril. Dawkins makes much of the oppression perpetrated by religion, which is real enough. He gives less attention to the fact that some of the worst atrocities of modern times were committed by regimes that claimed scientific sanction for their crimes. Nazi "scientific racism" and Soviet "dialectical materialism" reduced the unfathomable complexity of human lives to the deadly simplicity of a scientific formula. In each case, the science was bogus, but it was accepted as genuine at the time, and not only in the regimes in question. Science is as liable to be used for inhumane purposes as any other human institution. Indeed, given the enormous authority science enjoys, the risk of it being used in this way is greater.

Dominican prior in St Mary's Pope's Quay Cork

Below is a letter from Joe Bergin, which appeared in The Irish Times on Saturday, March 15.

Joe was my prior while I was at UCC between 1976 and 1979. He was always kind to me. In later years we probably understood one another better.

Attending university with me at the time was the late Gerard Skelly. The two of us had a very different understanding of the world and the role of the priest.

Gerard, may God be good to him, had a great way of being on the side of authority. Some might call it consummate diplomacy!

In those days 'fadó fadó, use of a community car was 'somewhat' restricted. On cold wet days, cycling to college and watching Gerard driving past me in the community car I always had a special 'prayer/curse' for Joe Bergin.

Look forward to reading Joe Bergin's book and what he will have to say about the years in Cork. It should make for great reading.

Joe, should you happen to read this blog - greetings to you.

Madam, - I have been following the correspondence regarding the appointment of the new Dean elect to Christ Church Cathedral with great interest. In the late 1980s I was, I believe, the first Irish clergyperson to become an Anglican priest. I had been a Dominican for more than 30 years.
The decision to continue active ministry in another denomination was less acceptable to some than the decision to leave and get married. The references in some of the recent letters to heresy and apostasy stirred up unpleasant memories, though now I can smile at them.
The times, as well as the personal circumstances of my situation then, led me to seek new ministry in America, rather than in Ireland - which would have been my wish. The past 16 years have, to say the least, been eventful. Now that I have reached the age of retirement from full-time ministry, I plan to write about my experiences.
Among the things I've come to realise more and more is that the God and Christ I serve are above and beyond religious persuasion and theological difference. And, in response to Fr John McCallion (March 8th) lamenting and feeling sad about the years spent offering Mass, I can only say I continue to share the Real Presence of Christ with others with great joy and gratitude. - Yours, etc,
New York,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sacramental significance

The liturgical celebration of St Patrick's Day on Saturday, March 15 brought out in stark relief the divide there is between people and priests.

If something is not understood or appreciated by people, then what symbolism or significance does it have.

Had St Patrick's Day fallen on the days between Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday, it would have made sense to change the liturgical celebration away from that day. But by falling on the Monday of Holy week, surely it made no sense moving it to the previous Saturday.

There is an important parable in this.

Reconnect the pulpit and the pew

The book review referred to on this blog last week is written by Tony Philpot and the name of the book is 'Clericalism: the death of priesthood'. The author is George B Wislon SJ, publisher is Liturgical Press.

As the reviewer points out the book is not a comfortable read. The theme is clericalism and the toxic effect this has had on the church.

Some quotes from the review.

" 'Clergy' denotes a social, not a religious reality, reality. It means any one of the in-groups that dwell at the heart of any society."

"Once ordained, Wilson believes, a priest becomes embedded in a clerical culture, he inherits its ways of thinking, speaking and judging. At ordination he is made a member of a class with special access to powers not available to others, He inherits, whether he deserves it or not, the knowledge and competence that goes with the class. Such a class will refuse criticism, and within it there is a corporate loyalty. Ordination even gives us priests a uniform, and a special vocabulary, and a title."

"Priesthood, however, is something different."

"When a member of a Christian community is put forward by his fellows for ordination, this does not cause automatic holiness: sacraments are not magic."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Book review

There is a review of a book written by a Jesuit on page 21 of The Tablet of March 8.

The review is excellent and recommends the book. The book is about clericalism and all the madness that goes with it.

More details later.

An apology

On the back page of today's Irish Times is an apology to Kieran Fagan from Mercier Press.
In Good Times and Bad Seamus Martin libels Kieran Fagan.

Kieran simply asked for an apology in the newspaper. He has to be admired for his magnanimity.
Seamus Martin is a brother of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

The book was launched in February in Waterstones by the archbishop.
Kieran is a journalist who worked with The Irish Times for many years.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

New ways of saying things

Overheard in Dublin's Camden Street today.
"Have a good one."
"Happy Paddy's Day."

Is it all part of the process of 'going forward'?

German psychiatrist Alice Ricciardi-von Platin

The Guardian carries an obituary today on Alice Ricciardi-von Platen, the German psychiatrist, who revealed the horror of the Nazi medical programme.

In 1935 she moved to Italy where she joined refugee groups in Florence. She remained in Italy until 1939.
When war broke out she worked as a GP near Linz in Austria. There she became close to an anti-Nazi priest and learned about the horrors of the nearby concentration camps of Mauthausen and Ebensee.

At 96, she lectured with great clarity before a packed, young audiencein the Nurenberg Rathaus, inspired by her concerns with the troubling legacy of Nazism in today's psychiatry.

Alice Ricciardi-von Platin was born on April 28, 1910, at Weissenhaus in Holstein, Germany.

Fictitious broadband coverage

Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan, is committed to providing 100 per cent broadband coverage throughout the State. So he says.

"If areas are not served by July 1, the date at which we intend to commence delivering the national broadband scheme, they will be included in the scheme."

How truthful is this? Presumably the key is in the 'commence delivering'.

Surely the 'commence delivering' happened many years ago!

Large swaths of the country, including West Kerry, do not have broadband

Patron prelate of GAA admits that he is not speaking to the organisational heads

In today's Irish Times Bishop Dermot Clifford is quoted as saying that the GAA"should be the first organisation to give it up. As the greatest amateur sporting organisation in the world it should be setting the standard".

The quote refers to the story which is covered in the previous blog.

Why do the Irish bishops always have to talk in terms of the 'greatest'? And to suggest that the GAA should be the 'first' really portrays a terrible type of thinking.

The archbishop went on to say, "I am from the country. The shepherd's voice will be listened to. I expect a positive response from parents."

He also said, "Our emphasis is on the parents at the grassroots level, not on organisational heads."

Is that not a strange sentiment coming from the patron of the GAA?

Bishops score own goal - a hat trick

The comments made by the Irish bishops yesterday re children playing GAA on a Sunday morning has received wide coverage in the Irish media.

If they had tried to get the worst possible headlines they could not have perfected what they did. How do they manage it? This is such an amazing own goal, it is a hat trick. You would think with media savvy Archbishop Diarmuid Martin this sort of nonsense would not be possible.

All over the papers and on RTE 1 news last evening are the roaring headlines that children should be at Mass on Sunday instead of out on the playing pitch. Archbishop Dermot Clifford appeared on RTE 1 news last evening. Really is this the best Irish bishops can do?

Of course there is need for prayer on Sunday and need to say it too. But this way!

Firstly, there are Masses on Saturday evening. Most GAA games don't begin before 11.00 and there are also Sunday evening Masses.

The President of the GAA has been most restrained and kind in his reply.

Maybe instead of sounding off in such a manner, Archbishop Clifford would be better employed seeing to it that priests celebrate more meaningful liturgies and prepare and preach better sermons. That would be a far more positive approach and a much better starting point.

There are times, when all one can do is hold his or head down and bear the embarrassment.

How many Masses are so badly celebrated, how many sermons are nonsensical drivel?

In the middle of all this nonsense the bishops made wise comments about GAA sponsorship of drink companies. And of course that has been lost in the Sunday Mass nonsense.

If they had tried to employ a PR company to do the worst possible job, they could not have done a better job.

Do they ever learn?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Diarmuid Ó Peicín SJ

The obituary of Fr Diarmuid O Peicin SJ, printed in full below, appeared in Saturday's IrishTimes.

Those who feel marginalised and rejected please read what the late Mr Haughey and the then Bishop of Raphoe Dr Seamus Hegarty had to say about this great man. The relevant paragraphs are highlighted in bold.

Indeed the comments of both of these men are a wonderful parable.

It is a salutary comment on the really great and the charlatans and spoofers. Why do we give so much obeisance to people in positions of power?

Turbulent priest who saved Tory Island

Fr Diarmuid O Peicin: ONE Of the many lasting images of Fr Diarmuid Ó Peicín is when last year, old and frail, he attended the Dublin premiere of the film about his island exploits, called Fear na nOileán.

The award-winning film, subsequently broadcast on TG4, was made by Frenchman Loïc Jourdain and his partner Anne Marie Nic Ruaidhrí, a native of Tory Island, Co Donegal, where the priest served controversially but ultimately successfully in the early 1980s.

When Anne Marie visited him in Dublin five years ago to moot the idea for the film his response was, "You took your time."

Fr Ó Peicín knew his standing in the world.

As the film, depicting how he spearheaded the campaign to save the island, rolled, the couple's then three-year-old daughter Kilda was happily running up and down the aisle.

This was a double satisfaction and validation for the priest because not only was he being honoured in his lifetime but through Kilda he could see that he had preserved Tory for another generation, at a time when it could so easily have been stripped of its people.

It was fitting therefore that at his funeral yesterday Anne Marie was invited to do one of the requiem Mass readings in the Jesuit church in Milltown while Kilda, now 4, carried the gifts.
Fr Ó Peicín was a Dubliner who, close to retirement and after years teaching and working with Irish immigrants in England, travelled to Tory Island in 1980 to learn Irish.

While there he was angered by the lack of facilities, the official indifference to the place, and the fact that such were the conditions that 10 families felt they had no option but to accept houses in Falcarragh on the mainland.

He suspected this was part of an insidious plan to gradually destroy Tory as a living island, to transform it into another Blaskets.

This suspicion was reinforced when journalist Gerry Moriarty unearthed an official paper suggesting that the 150 people on Tory should be relocated and the island used as variously a holiday home for American tourists, a high-security prison, a quarantine centre or a firing range for the Army. This astonishing official mindset triggered a ruthless, single-minded Old Testament fury and zeal in Fr Ó Peicín, who had a simple biblical take on his mission: if you weren't for Tory you were against Tory.

Those who were so negatively inclined - and there were many - were regularly subjected to the venom of his tongue.

He campaigned throughout Ireland, Britain, Europe and the US. He also campaigned for all of Ireland's coastal islands.
He died on Tuesday, aged 91, the day that Ian Paisley announced he was resigning as First Minister and DUP leader.

What was curious here, perhaps even unique, is that Dr Paisley - no lover of the Jesuits - was a firm supporter of the priest, and lobbied on his behalf in Brussels.

"He has lit a fire that has never gone out in Europe and Europe must look after its island people," said Dr Paisley on Fear na nOileán.

Charles Haughey, in opposition and as taoiseach, was supportive, although at the time in the recession-hit Ireland of the 1980s the money was not available to meet all of the priest's ambitions.

Still, when in 1984 the then Bishop of Raphoe Dr Seamus Hegarty instructed that Fr Ó Peicín leave the island because, the bishop argued, his presence was proving so divisive, Mr Haughey spoke in favour of the priest.

"While I don't want to interfere in diocesan affairs," Mr Haughey opened to the interviewing journalist, before doing just that by contending that removing the valiant priest from Tory was bad for the island and its people.

At the end of the interview Haughey looked up from under his hooded eyes and, off the record, growled, "You know, he's mad."

And so he was but in the positive John Healy sense where in his book Death of An Irish Town he urged people to "get mad" in order to halt the depopulation of rural Ireland. In Fr Ó Peicín's case it was to save Tory. Which, against the odds and with the support of the islanders, he did.

Fr Diarmuid Ó Peicín, SJ, born Dublin, October 16th, 1916, died March 4th, 2008.

The story of Easter

Next week is Holy Week. Have you noticed how it is now, in error, being called Easter Week?
Is it commercialism wanting to hype up the festivity and hence sales or is it a fear of using the word 'holy'.

So what is to be said about Easter, any clever ideas out there? The victory of light over darkness, life over death - good ideas but what's the imaginative sexy idea that will stop people in their step and make them ask and wonder?

Does it ever dawn on you how poorly informed people are about the liturgy? During Lent I saw an Easter candle lighting in a sanctuary. When asked why it was lighting I was told that it was always lit at funerals etc.

There is such a wealth of tradition and symbolism within the Christian tradition and we all know so little about it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


For the last few weeks I have been bringing Communion to an old lady in West Kerry. The family telephoned me on Sunday telling me she was dying and asked me would I come and anoint her. I got out of bed and did just that.

I don’t believe my parents are annihilated. What heaven is I have no idea. But we were made for something greater.

Why don’t I leave the priesthood? I don’t know. Maybe it gives me some sort of ‘status’ that I would never otherwise have had. Maybe I am by now totally institutionalised and I need priesthood as an emotional crutch!

Visiting sick and old people, I sometimes say to myself, I’d like to be a good priest.

The old man mentioned in this blog last week, who was buried on Saturday, had a great 'farewell'. It was a real sign how people admire and respect those who live the Christian life in an authentic way. Jamie loved people. He always gave and was never known to take. He loved animals - always a sign of the gentleness of people.

If priesthood is not about people it surely must be some sort of aberration. Far too often the hierarchical church seems to get lost in a world of bureaucracy and maybe power and control too.

The late John O'Gorman OP believed that religious orders and dioceses should have a system in place whereby men who wish to leave the priesthood should be given a financial package that would incentivise their departure. He believed there was little or no point in keeping men who were deeply unhappy and simply afraid to go because they were not in a financial position to leave.

John spoke from a position of strength - spiritually and financially. And that is important to be able to do that.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A gentle man who loved animals

A 79-year-old man, Jamie Wrenn, died in Kerry on Wednesday. Jamie had been very ill 17 years ago with cancer and as a result of that experience he organised a walk from Castlegregory to Tralee every year. He wanted to show his gratitude for the kindness he received. The walk has taken place for the last seven years and raised over 100,000 euro for oncology in Kerry.
Jamie was a most gentle man, who always had a kind word to say. He loved animals.
He was slight in build and spent 30 years on the buildings in England.
On the walk to Tralee every year he led the walk, driving his horse and cart. It was a day's adventure and the group of people on the walk enjoyed every metre of the 30 km trek.
On arrival in Tralee there were refreshments in a local hostelry. To see the light in Jamie's eyes on arrival in Tralee was a great blessing from God. He was a frail man, slight in build but a mighty man to organise and arrange such an event in West Kerry. He did it to say thank you.
It has been a great privilege to meet and get to know Jamie Wrenn.
I hope he is praying for all of us in heaven.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cardinal words

Cardinal Rode, the Vatican's top official on religious orders, recently said that religious life was being weakened by 'moral relativism'. "The biggest problems are created by the climate of secularisation which is present not only in Western society but also within the church. The indicators are unfettered freedom, a weak sense of family, a worldly spirit, the scarce visibility of religious dress, a devaluation of prayer, an insufficient community life and a scant regard for obedience."

What exactly is meant by 'secularisation', 'unfettered freedom' and worldly spirit'

The reference to religious dress is interesting. What exactly does the man mean?
The current phenomenon of clerics spending undue time and attention to flowing robes is indeed most worrying.

Surely the place of the priest is in solidarity with the marginalised. The present trend of dressing up making oneself noticeable would seem to be a far cry from the life and times of Jesus Christ.

And as for the 'worldly spirit', it really is difficult to hear princes of the church use such language.

It is coincidental that this blog this week mentions the names of cardinals from another era.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A sexual ethic

A series of essays by Timothy Radcliffe OP has been published by Continuum. In Christianity and Sexuality in the Time of Aids, Radcliffe writes that bad sexual behaviour is usually linked with domination and violence.

He writes: "If a good sexual relationship overcomes the distortion of power, reaching for equality and mutuality, then it is a preaching of the Gospel to the society in which we live. It challenges the unjust power structures of every society."

It makes for interesting reading.

German responses to Zollitsch

As a result of comments on celibacy made by the new president of the German bishops' conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, divisions are beginning to appear in the German church. Christian Weisner, spokesperson for 'We are Church', has said that the archbishop's comments mean that the topic is now not taboo. He goes on to say it is an issue that many priests are 'dying to discuss'.

On the other side, Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg has said that reopening the debate on priestly celibacy is 'not helpful'. He went on to say: "The Church should not allow itself to be pressurised from the outside into discussing Zeitgeist issues."

Who does Bishop Mixa consider to be 'outsiders' and who is 'Church'?

Auxiliary bishop of Cologne, Heiner Koch said that discussing priestly celibacy was, "a most deplorable and specifically German habit of repeatedly returning to a pet topic". On the face of it that sounds quite an amazing statement.

But please note these comments have been reported to the media. Hopefully the quotations are accurate.

Galileo honoured at the Vatican

The Vatican is to erect a statue of Galileo. It will stand in the Vatican gardens near the apartment in which Galileo was incarcerated while awaiting trial in 1633 for advocating heliocentrism, the Copernican doctrine that the earth revolves around the sun.
Galileo was forced to recant by the Inquisition.
Galieo Galilei was born in Pisa in 1564

The folowing is Galileo's abjuration

I, Galileo Galilei, son of the late Vincenzio Galilei of Florence, aged 70 years, tried personally by this court, and kneeling before You, the most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals, Inquisitors-General throughout the Christian Republic against heretical depravity, having before my eyes the Most Holy Gospels, and laying on them my own hands; I swear that I have always believed, I believe now, and with God's help I will in future believe all which the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church doth hold, preach, and teach.
But since I, after having been admonished by this Holy Office entirely to abandon the false opinion that the Sun was the centre of the universe and immoveable, and that the Earth was not the centre of the same and that it moved, and that I was neither to hold, defend, nor teach in any manner whatever, either orally or in writing, the said false doctrine; and after having received a notification that the said doctrine is contrary to Holy Writ, I did write and cause to be printed a book in which I treat of the said already condemned doctrine, and bring forward arguments of much efficacy in its favour, without arriving at any solution: I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy, that is, of having held and believed that the Sun is the centre of the universe and immoveable, and that the Earth is not the centre of the same, and that it does move.
Nevertheless, wishing to remove from the minds of your Eminences and all faithful Christians this vehement suspicion reasonably conceived against me, I abjure with sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church. And I swear that for the future I will neither say nor assert in speaking or writing such things as may bring upon me similar suspicion; and if I know any heretic, or one suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor and Ordinary of the place in which I may be.
I also swear and promise to adopt and observe entirely all the penances which have been or may be by this Holy Office imposed on me. And if I contravene any of these said promises, protests, or oaths, (which God forbid!) I submit myself to all the pains and penalties which by the Sacred Canons and other Decrees general and particular are against such offenders imposed and promulgated. So help me God and the Holy Gospels, which I touch with my own hands.
I Galileo Galilei aforesaid have abjured, sworn, and promised, and holdmyself bound as above; and in token of the truth, with my own hand havesubscribed the present schedule of my abjuration, and have recited it wordby word. In Rome, at the Convent della Minerva, this 22nd day of June,1633.
I, GALILEO GALILEI, have abjured as above, with my own hand.

And the cardinals who were involved:
F de Asculo, G Bentivolius, D de Cremona, A S. Honuphri.B Gypsius, F Verospius, M Ginettus.

And what of the suffering and confusion the great and powerful cause to the weak and vulnerable?

A myth about celibacy

On an afternoon programme on Newstalk yesterday a priest commented that celibacy gives a priest more time to do his work.

What an insult to my parents. I have seldom encountered a priest who has worked as hard as my late parents. It is an amazing myth that few seem to challenge. Certainly my parents never had the number of holidays priests seem to take. Of course it is dangerous to generalise but to say that celibacy gives one more time to work is simply not true. It is akin to saying that if there were no school examinations young people would develop a love for learning - nonsense. There is nothing that focuses the mind better than deadlines.

Not for a moment am I making a general statement saying that priests don't work. Of course there are hard-working priests. I have been misquoted on this before. But I am saying that in my 34 years as a priest I have come across far too many priests who simply don't know what it means to do a day's work five days a week.

It is another myth to say there is a shortage of priests in Ireland. Maybe there are too many. And I can give you chapter and verse on this point.

Rail news

Since the introduction of the new Irish Rail timetable a small number of trains have not been running. It only came to media attention in the last few days.

At the time of the introduction of the new timetable in December Irish Rail drivers were in discussion with the company concerning rostering and the need for extra drivers. Irish Rail introduced extra trains in the new timetable without consulting the drivers. The drivers point out there are simply not the drivers to drive the trains, so the trains are not running. They are very clear it is not a 'dispute'.

The media immediately call it a 'dispute' and they seem to piggy-back news. Last month a press association was told about the problem but did not run the story. It seemed as if they were waiting for someone else to run it.

All the time people in Kerry were turning up for a train due to depart from Tralee on Sunday at 08.10 to find it had left at 07.15!

And not a whisper about it in the newspapers.