Thursday, July 31, 2008

Christianity is always contemporary

The Question and Answer quote below took place while the Pope was travelling to Sydney.

Cindy Wooden of CNS, Catholic News Service: While you are in Australia, the bishops of the Anglican Communion which is also very widespread in Australia, will be meeting at the Lambeth Conference. One of the main topics will be possible ways of strengthening communion between the provinces and of finding a way to ensure that one or more provinces do not take initiatives that the others see as contrary to the Gospel or to Tradition. There is a risk of the fragmentation of the Anglican Communion and the possibility that some may ask to be received into the Catholic Church. What are your hopes for the Lambeth Conference and for the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Benedict XVI: My essential contribution can only be prayer and with my prayers I shall be very close to the Anglican Bishops meeting at the Lambeth Conference. We cannot and must not intervene immediately in their discussions, we respect their responsibilities and what we desire is that new divisions or ruptures may be avoided and a responsible solution found in keeping with our time and also with fidelity to the Gospel. These two things must go hand in hand.

Christianity is always contemporary and lives in this world, in a certain period, but it makes Jesus Christ's message present in this period and therefore makes a true contribution to this time only by being faithful in a way that is mature and creative but faithful to Christ's message.

Let us hope, and I am personally praying, that together they may find the path of the Gospel in our day. This is my hope for the Archbishop of Canterbury: that the Anglican Communion in communion with the Gospel of Christ and of the Word of the Lord may find responses to the current challenges.

No point in complaining

Maybe it was more evident before the arrival of the Celtic Tiger, but there is something in the Irish psyche that inclines us not to try to change things. Maybe clearer said, we are great for giving out but we never seem to direct our complaint, anger or annoyance where it is most effective.

We can go off and have a meal somewhere and then give out about it to our friends and neighbours. Why not have a word with the chef or owner? The same can be said about what we think of the doctor or priest. We can kill them with our words but it’s always to someone else. Maybe it has something to do with a belief deep inside us that we feel that our complaints will not be taken seriously.

I think I have come up with a reason why we feel our complaints will get us nowhere. It’s the weather, stupid.

Complain all we like but everything and nothing we say about the weather will have absolutely no effect on how the weather behaves.

It’s been the wettest June in years and certainly July can’t be far behind. We can say and do all we like but our words will do nothing to change the weather.

Although I read somewhere recently that the Chinese have developed some sort of gadget that should it rain during the Olympics they will shoot this stuff into the clouds and it will displace them and hey presto it’s back to blue skies. It sounds great and why can’t our Government talk to the Chinese prime minister and buy some of the stuff from him?

I have to tell you I am bone sick of this weather and it is relentless.

On Monday July 28 I had planned to drive my motorbike from West Kerry to Dublin. Since the close of the secondary school I have been trying to get to Dublin on my bike on a dry Monday. Not a chance. But the Saturday and Sunday before July 28 it looked good, so good even that it was swimming weather. But the weather forecasters smelt a rat. The fool that I am, I was inclined to dismiss the meteorological experts. In fact I was so certain it was going to be fine that I actually decided on a slimmed-down wardrobe for the days in Dublin!

Woke up before 08.00 on Monday to hear that now all too familiar sound on my roof. It was lashing rain. It was dark and all I could say was one expletive – silently of course.
I waited and waited like a fool, thinking it might stop. In thunderous rain I drove the motorbike to Tralee for an appointment but under no circumstances could I have gone to Dublin on it. The escapade had to be aborted. So plan B goes into place.

Sometime shortly after lunch the rain fades out but it remains miserable and down at Castle strand it was something akin to a November day. Still, it had stopped raining but it was now too late to go on the bike.

I buy one of those special offer €16.00 rail tickets to Dublin, which are available Monday to Thursday on specific trains. And off I go on the 19.15 rail service to Dublin.

The train arrives in Dublin at 23.05, ten minutes ahead of schedule. I walk over to the bicycle shed at Heuston Station, unlock my bike, affix bicycle clips and secure bag on the carrier. Just as I place my left foot on the pedal, what happens? It begins to rain. There was a deluge and it went on and on.

I later discover that it had been a scorcher in Dublin. But the moment I put my foot on the bicycle pedal, the rains arrive in the capital city. And another sort-of-silent expletive.
It’s bad enough staying put and taking pot luck but when you move from place to place and the rain follows you, then you really must have a problem.

Mr Cowen, please talk to Wen Jiabo. The Chinese might sell you that stuff they have designed for the Olympics at a knock-down price after the games.

So what the hell’s the point in giving out? See, all our shouting and complaining is not going to change the flow of one drop of rain.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bishop Gene Robinson

In the article below the following paragraph appears.

"He recalls giving a retreat to 75 gay Catholic priests, at a secret location, where he was asked what they must do to change the church's attitude to homosexuality. 'I told them to take care of the women's issue first. The rest will follow.' "

Is it not profoundly sad that the retreat had to be conducted at 'a secret location'?

The secrecy and denial that goes on within the Catholic Church cannot be helpful or healthy for anyone. While the Anglican Community is currently experiencing great pain, at least there seems to be an openness and honesty present that allows them to discuss the issues.

What happens in the Catholic Church?

This article appears in Saturday's Irish Times.

The consecration of the openly gay Gene Robinson as Anglican bishop of New Hampshire has caused a potential fracture in the Anglican Communion. He talks to Patsy McGarry , Religious Affairs Correspondent.

BISHOP GENE ROBINSON seemed to share at least one of God's qualities at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury this week. He was everywhere. But, unlike God, he was also visible, usually surrounded by well-wishers, supporters and the media. Where the latter was concerned he was easily the most accessible and available of all the 670 bishops invited to the conference - to which he wasn't invited.

Bishop Robinson (61) is the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained a bishop in any major Christian denomination. He had been married with two daughters, and now two grand-daughters.

He discussed his probable orientation with his wife before marriage but they decided to continue together. They divorced in the 1980s, by which time he had gone public about his sexuality.
He met his current partner, Mark Andrew, in 1987. In 1988 he was made a canon in the US Episcopal diocese of New Hampshire and was elected bishop there in June 2003. He was consecrated bishop in November 2003, while wearing a bulletproof vest.

The event convulsed the worldwide Anglican Communion and threatens to split it asunder. About a quarter of its bishops have boycotted the current Lambeth Conference due to dissatisfaction at how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, titular head of the Communion, has handled the crisis. On June 29th, most of those bishops gathered in Jerusalem to form the Global Anglican Future Conference, which some see as a breakaway Anglican group.
Meanwhile, in the US, disaffected Episcopalians disaffiliated from their Church and formed the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, with the support of the Nigerian church, led by its primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola.

BUT ON THURSDAY morning last, while most of those 670 other bishops attending the Lambeth Conference were walking through central London in support of the Millennium Development Goals, Bishop Robinson was bravely visiting the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral.

"Bravely", because this was where another "turbulent priest" was dealt with rather summarily. For this is the very cathedral where there was murder. On December 29th, 1170, four knights loyal to King Henry II killed Archbishop Thomas Becket there. With their swords they sliced the crown off his head at a spot near the High Altar.

It is said that, in exasperation at Becket, King Henry had said sometime beforehand, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" The knights decided to oblige. Becket was canonised three years later and his shrine became a focus for one of the major pilgrimages in Christendom.
Bishop Robinson visited the spot where Becket met his end. It is also marked by a plaque which records that Pope John Paul II and the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, prayed there in May 1982. Indeed, so nervous were the cathedral authorities at Bishop Robinson's presence last Thursday that they requested no photographs be taken to mark the event.
Bishop Robinson's connections with Ireland go back to his days as a canon. His diocese was twinned with the Church of Ireland diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, and he visited there occasionally. Speaking to The Irish Times this week, he recalls that in 2000 he gave a retreat for clergy of that diocese at Dingle. "What a beautiful place," he says of the Co Kerry town. It was also why his consecration as bishop in 2003 was attended by the then Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, Right Rev Michael Mayes.

Had he been invited, this would have been his first Lambeth Conference. Regardless, the people he met there this week were "wonderful, extraordinarily warm", and their reaction to him had been "astonishingly positive". The worst he encountered were "people who won't smile". He did not take part in official events at the Conference, nor had he any plans to.

It troubles him that some described his consecration as Bishop of New Hampshire as just another example of US unilateralism, comparable to the invasion of Iraq.
"That derives from America's standing now. America is seen as some sort of drunken cowboy swaggering around the world. America needs honest feedback," he says, adding that its handling of its role as the only world superpower was "not at all positive". But his own election and consecration as bishop followed "thoughtful, prayerful and careful consideration" by those responsible.

He also feels that preoccupation by the Communion with such same-sex issues while "young men are knifing one another in London, and while over a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, is the height of irrelevance".

Asked why the churches generally seem so preoccupied with sexuality issues, he says it is down to "patriarchy. It is about the empowerment of women, whether through controlling their fertility or ordination. It has been in place a very long time. There has been a change in the culture over the past 50 years. Before then straight, white, educated men made most of the decisions for the rest of the world. Now people of colour, women, gay and lesbian people have set off an enormous change in the way the world operates." And, as far as he is concerned, "misogyny and homophobia are linked" in the churches, too.

THE BIBLE WAS written in patriarchal times, he says, But he doesn't believe "God stopped revealing himself in the first century. He continues to do so through the Holy Spirit." He also refers to the much greater role women had in the early church, when many were deacons.
"And of course women were hugely involved in the ministry of Jesus," he says.

He recalls giving a retreat to 75 gay Catholic priests, at a secret location, where he was asked what they must do to change the church's attitude to homosexuality. "I told them to take care of the women's issue first. The rest will follow."

He is high in his praise of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, where organisation of the current Lambeth Conference is concerned. "He has got it exactly right. It is about conversation and the building of relationships. It is not about proclamations," he says.
More generally, he challenges those attending the conference.

"No one is saying I am the only gay bishop here. No one is saying I am the only partnered gay bishop here. Maybe the question is really one of honesty," he says. He recalls a BBC interview with a Nigerian bishop who had said that while homosexuality among clergy there was officially forbidden, the reality was that a gentleman's agreement operated not to talk about it. It was another "don't ask don't tell" situation, he says.

Bishop Robinson wonders "how such clergy can go into a pulpit on a Sunday and ask people to live a life of integrity". In his view, "God selects the members of his church. Our role is to love each other the way God loves us. It is not for us to decide who should be in or who should be out."

Archbishop John Neill

The article below appears in Saturday's Irish Times.
IRELAND'S 12 Church of Ireland bishops may differ as to whether gay clergy should be consecrated bishops, but each respected the other's opinion, the Archbishop of Dublin said yesterday, writes Patsy McGarry .

Speaking to The Irish Times at the Lambeth Conference, Dr John Neill said he "would emphasise that all of us (Irish bishops) feel our positions are compatible with scripture and respect each other's different understanding (of scripture) on the subject".

Dr Neill said he had been "very strongly opposed to gay clergy but over the years I have mellowed a great deal". It had been a similar case where his views on the ordination of women priests were concerned: "As you get older you do see a bigger picture," he said.

As for the consecration of then canon Gene Robinson as bishop in 2003 he felt it was "untimely" but he had been very impressed by an American bishop who had opposed that consecration but had later said to him "now you are going to be a bishop and I am going to work with you".

Dr Neill continued: "And that's the way I feel too. The consecration may have been premature, but once it happened it was proper to recognise him as a bishop of the church. I am just sorry he is not part of this conference.

"I also respect the process by which he was elected. He was known as second-in-command in the diocese (of New Hampshire) for many years. It's not as though he was elected because of his homosexuality."

The Episcopal Church (of the US) organised a meeting with Bishop Robinson on Wednesday night in Canterbury, which Dr Neill and his wife attended.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Subs and words

The article below appears in yesterday's Guardian.
The German verb 'naschen' means 'to steal' in the context of a child 'stealing' cakes etc at home. I have often heard the word used and always took it to mean just that. But the article below makes me wonder was I understanding correctly!

Maybe Giles should have had this subbed before he sent it to The Guardian. Far too many 'mes' when it should be 'Is'!

Read Giles Coren's letter to Times subs,
Wednesday July 23, 2008
I am mightily pissed off. I have addressed this to Owen, Amanda and Ben because I don't know who i am supposed to be pissed off with (i'm assuming owen, but i filed to amanda and ben so it's only fair), and also to Tony, who wasn't here - if he had been I'm guessing it wouldn't have happened.

I don't really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do. Owen, we discussed your turning three of my long sentences into six short ones in a single piece, and how that wasn't going to happen anymore, so I'm really hoping it wasn't you that fucked up my review on saturday.

It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. A piece builds to them, they are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend.

I wrote: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh."
It appeared as: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh."

There is no length issue. This is someone thinking "I'll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best".

Well, you fucking don't.This was shit, shit sub-editing for three reasons.1) 'Nosh', as I'm sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German 'naschen'. It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, 'nosh', means simply 'food'. You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the 'a'. I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, 'nosh' means "a session of eating" - in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of 'scoff'. you can go for a scoff. or you can buy some scoff. the sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what i meant. Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn't mean? I don't know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it's easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.

2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as "sexually-charged". I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y.. I have used the word 'gaily' as a gentle nudge. And "looking for a nosh" has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. "looking for nosh" does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you've fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don't you read the copy?

3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed 'a' so that the stress that should have fallen on "nosh" is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you're winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.

I am sorry if this looks petty (last time i mailed a Times sub about the change of a single word i got in all sorts of trouble) but i care deeply about my work and i hate to have it fucked up by shit subbing. I have been away, you've been subbing joe and hugo and maybe they just file and fuck off and think "hey ho, it's tomorrow's fish and chips" - well, not me. I woke up at three in the morning on sunday and fucking lay there, furious, for two hours. weird, maybe. but that's how it is.

It strips me of all confidence in writing for the magazine. No exaggeration. i've got a review to write this morning and i really don't feel like doing it, for fear that some nuance is going to be removed from the final line, the pay-off, and i'm going to have another weekend ruined for me.
I've been writing for The Times for 15 years and i have never asked this before - i have never asked it of anyone i have written for - but I must insist, from now on, that i am sent a proof of every review i do, in pdf format, so i can check it for fuck-ups. and i must be sent it in good time in case changes are needed. It is the only way i can carry on in the job.

And, just out of interest, I'd like whoever made that change to email me an
d tell me why. Tell me the exact reasoning which led you to remove that word from my copy.
Right,Sorry to go on. Anger, real steaming fucking anger can make a man verbose.All the bestGiles

Exhaustive pleasantness

The artilce below appears in today's Irish Times.

The unbearable politeness of being at Lambeth Conferenc

Despite being at war the brethren bare teeth only in cheery greeting to each other, writes Patsy McGarry .

THE UNFLINCHING pleasantness of everyone is as exhausting as these hot, humid July days in Canterbury. Because, even if the world's Anglicans are perceived by some to be at war with one another, it is such a lovely war.

After all, who can sustain murderous thoughts for long when confronted continuously with nothing more sinister than a seemingly endless parade of whitest teeth bared only in cheery greeting. The exhausting part is that this is expected to be reciprocated in kind, however agitated one's inner, slavering demons.

It is the Anglican way, this wearing down of rigid position through the application of the relentlessly pleasant until an acceptable level of fudge has been arrived at. And it is what is happening once again at this Lambeth Conference. That is how this most disparate worldwide Communion has survived so much. Not least women.

Yet there have been those few moments of blessed relief too. Such as the refreshingly candid bishop who earlier this week and, in private, on seeing again the omnipresent Bishop Gene Robinson, that actively gay man whose ordination precipitated the current crisis within Anglicanism, wondered openly, "has he not been shot yet?"

Or the sweet lady on the "Inclusivity" stall at the conference's Marketplace Centre who, curious about the blue ribbon attached to one man's identity tag, recoiled in abject but utterly spontaneous horror when told it designated "media".

There are, it seems, even among Anglicans, limits to what can or ought to be embraced. Media are among the "fallen too far". And, as if to illustrate this, the fourth estate has been accommodated at the farthest reaches of Kent University campus where the conference is taking place. Events involving the bishops are at the other end. Not that it matters, as media is barred from all.

Indeed, and possibly as a further indication of its status on the part of this conference, the media has been located in the Darwin College, where the restaurant is called Origins (and, presumably, they eat forerunners of the species), while all press conferences take place in the attached "Missing Link" building.

The "survival of the fittest" theme may be what is expected where media is concerned but it has no place among those whose priority is deepening relationships with disagreeable people rather than devouring them. Something clearly, it seems, the media monster doesn't get.

The fault, dear Brutus, lies ... where?

Comment rejected in error

A comment posted on this blog today was rejected in error. Would whoever sent it please resend and it will be posted. Apologies.

Brilliant website

The Barack Obama website is truly amazing and must be revolutionary. From every aspect it is simply a superb work of art.

If anyone who reads this blog wants to see 'perfection' on the web, then log on to the Barack site.

Graphically, it is stunning but what is amazing is how it connects the universal with the local. Key in any postcode in the US and you discover what Barack events are taking place in that location.

On the home page he write: "I'm asking you to believe, not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington .... I'm asking you to believe in yours".

It is in ways reminiscent of the Kennedy line about "....what you can do for your country." But it is still a great call.

Imagine if a religious 'superior' said that to his/her community - meaning it - the power it could have. Instead the tired wearisome words that are heard!

Healthcare in Ireland

The article below appears in yesterday's Irish Times. It is an excellent analysis about where we are and the future that is open to us regarding our health service.

Back in the 1960s when Mount Carmel Hospital was being built, the Blue Nuns, as they were called, went from door to door in the neighbourhood collecting funds for the hospital.

Has that money ever been recognised? Have the people who contributed to that fund ever been beneficiaries of the profits that are today made by the hospital?

David Begg is saying something of great merit in the article below.

Healthcare now facing crisis point

IF THERE is any silver lining to last week's Supreme Court decision on risk equalisation, it is in the probability that co-location is now also a dead duck, writes David Begg

This highly ideological plan to move the delicate public-private hybrid that is the Irish healthcare model aggressively in the direction of private provision is predicated on the affordability of health insurance. It seems inevitable that the absence of risk equalisation will undermine community rating and put health insurance beyond the reach of older people.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has always opposed co-location. We regarded it as a euphemism for the privatisation of medicine. We could see the rationale put forward to support it was bogus.

In a forensic deconstruction of the concept, Dale Tussing and Maev Ann Wren, in a report commissioned by Ictu three years ago, revealed that the tax initiative on which it is based would cost the Irish taxpayer €400 million to €500 million. It would also consolidate existing inequalities within the two-tier health system we have.
But the biggest flaw in co-location was always its implications for older people. It was clear that many people who paid health insurance all through their working lives could find themselves unable to afford it in retirement.

This problem would be exacerbated by two external factors: the demographic changes which over the next 20 years will hugely increase the number of older people in society; and the large-scale abandonment by employers of defined benefit pension plans in favour of defined contribution plans, which basically means that many people now working face a collapse in their incomes on retirement.

The Supreme Court decision brings this problem front and centre. It is a fact that people in retirement will not be able to maintain health insurance premiums in the absence of community rating.

Without private health insurance, people will have to rely on the public hospital system and this implies a big investment to increase capacity in the public system. The numbers of people well off enough to pay the insurance premiums will not exist to make 11 new co-located private hospitals viable. Even without this development the financial assumptions underpinning co-location were beginning to look decidedly shaky. Some of the principal investors, faced with more exacting conditions from newly risk averse banks, are in negotiations with the Government to have the taxpayer assume a greater level of risk if the project fails. This would be unthinkable and must not happen.

The Government must face up to the reality that the ideologically driven model of private healthcare provision upon which they embarked under the current Minister for Health and Children is no longer sustainable. If this is so then what is to be done?

In my opinion we have to consider a model of healthcare based on a mandatory universal insurance system operated by the State. This would ensure that health services are underpinned by a sustainable funding arrangement that is adequate to the needs of the population and fair to every citizen regardless of age or means. This is the system favoured by most countries in Europe. The VHI is the obvious platform upon which to build this model given the capabilities required.

I suspect that this Supreme Court judgment may be regarded in time as a cathartic moment in Irish history. The reason is that it lays bare the deficits in Irish social provision which hitherto the Government had relied upon market solutions to fill.
The extent to which changing demographics pose challenges for policy makers is, I think, insufficiently appreciated.

Healthcare expenditure is related to population size and demand. Demand is related to age, and ability to pay in older age is related to the quality and coverage of pension schemes. The care of people generally is related to labour force participation. Care of children and the elderly used to be looked after in the family. With increased labour force participation by women, this duty increasingly has to be provided outside the home. Yet we have a very inadequate infrastructure for caring for the elderly and none at all for children.

These deficits in social provision will sooner or later become a crisis just as health insurance is now in crisis. There is no planning for this eventuality. By 2026 our population is forecast to be 5.7 million. An increase in population of this magnitude would make the foregoing challenge much more acute.

There is a real danger in my view that we are wilfully neglecting what we need to do in order to ensure a sustainable future for this country. We currently have a low dependency ratio and these factors combined give us a unique opportunity to reflect on where we want to go and to make the necessary changes to get there. For me it is a no-brainer that Ireland should seek to emulate the Nordic countries. On every criterion of economic efficiency and social cohesion they lead the world. They pursue a polity which is broadly social democratic in nature.

Our 20-year dalliance with neo-liberalism will end in tears. That it is unravelling the social fabric of our country is epitomised by what is happening in regard to the various aspects of healthcare provision. More importantly, we are losing our sense of social solidarity and the common good. It is important to be able to discern the signs of the times.

• David Begg is general secretary of Ictu. He is a governor of The Irish Times Trust

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

July 20 plot

Sunday, July 20 was the anniversary of the von Stauffenberg bomb plot on the life of Adolf Hitler.

To mark the occasion and to honour the men who hatched the plot and were subsequently murdered, recruits to the Bundeswehr received their military rank outside the German Parliament buildings in Berlin last Sunday.

The ceremony was attended by members of the German Government, including the Chancellor and the Defence Minister.

The nucleus of the bomb plot of July 20, 1944 was hatched in the ruins of Stalingrad.

Some post-Soviet Russians have stated that Chuikov spent over one million soldiers lives to hold the city, but that claim is almost certainly exaggerated.

The Germans lost about 350,000 men, the Italians, Hungarians and Romanians about 100,000 men apiece.

The Red Army also must have lost at least 500,000 men in Stalingrad and the surrounding areas, which were adjunct to the battle.

But the most horrendous toll must have been on the innocent civilians, who formerly lived in the city.

Stalingrad was estimated to have had 850,000 residents in 1940. It isn't known how many of them may have escaped the carnage and vanished into the interior of Russia.

After 1945, a census showed only 1,500 of these people remained in the pile of rubble that had once been Stalingrad.

The Weir

Conor McPherson's 'The Weir' is having a very successful run at The Gate at present.

What's it about? A conversation in an Irish pub and the ability of the drinkers to move from one mood to another. They might be your typical men who go to the pub every night. They can well jeer at anyone who thinks they have risen above their station. They might well appear to have nothing to them, but nothing could be further from the truth. And the catalyst who proves that is 'Valerie'. But even before she appears and tells her story there are signs that these men have something to them.

Seán McGinley, who plays Jack, is impeccable, every word he says and every move of his body has something important to say.

Every person has something to them. We have all been made in the image and likeness of God.

The programme for the evening is not good value. little information on the actors and not a word about the play. Somewhat odd. Certainly not a good buy at €5.00.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The €16 fare

The new fare deal with Irish Rail has to be the bargain of the year.

€16 single to Cork/Tralee is a great deal and obviously Irish Rail are closely watching Ryanair on both routes.

To avail of the fare you have to log on to There are some glitches with the system.

I travelled yesterday from Tralee to Dublin on one of those fares. When you book your ticket you have to nominate a station where you wish to collect your ticket.

At the big stations there are machines where you can collect your ticket. But for example in Tralee there is no such machine and when I was due to arrive for the 19.15 train the ticket office was closed. So, make sure your station has a machine and if not, telephone the station in advance to leave the ticket with a member of staff.

And the seat that was designated to me on my booking form was not booked for me on the train.
But as the train was almost empty there was no difficulty.

With the current price of fuel, Irish Rail must be giving serious thought to reducing some of its services. in its new timetable, which is due in mid December.

Banning cigarettes

As mentioned earlier on this blog, The Irish Times is now available for free on the web.

It has introduced a blog on its page where its journalists contribute.

The following blog was written yesterday by Deaglan de Breadun, a friend and ex schoolmate of this blogger.

But if it came to pass, would it not mean a new area of business for the criminal class?

Talking with some friends last night about the political outlook, we agreed one of Fine Gael’s problems is that it hasn’t got the same firepower at the front line as in the party’s glory days of Garret FitzGerald, Alan Dukes, John Kelly, et al. Avril Doyle was another who came to mind. A member of the Belton clan, which has had a prominent role in Irish affairs over the years, she is an able politician and formidable in debate.

Nowadays, Ms Doyle is a Member of the European Parliament for the “Ireland East” constituency, along with party colleague Mairead McGuinness and Liam Aylward of Fianna Fail.

In terms of political profile on the domestic scene and despite the excellent work of the Parliament office in Dublin, ”going to Europe” is the equivalent of entering a convent or a monastery.

But even without ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament is an increasingly-important body which deals with a growing range of issues that impinge on our daily lives. As Neil Kinnock once pointed out to me, it is the largest democratically-elected assembly in the world (his wife Glenys is a Labour MEP).

But sadly, the Parliament is not taken seriously by the media in English-speaking countries (The Irish Times is of course one of the honourable exceptions). It just doesn’t catch people’s imagination and its workings as part of the EU system can be extremely complex. However my eye was caught by a report (see link below) that Ms Doyle had called for a total ban on cigarettes and cigars throughout the EU within 15 years, with the clock to start ticking in 2010.

Ireland and then-Health Minister Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil led the way internationally with the ban on smoking in pubs and the workplace. Here’s a chance to build on that, on a cross-party basis, and show what good Europeans we are at the same time.

When I was being treated (successfully, according to test results) for prostate cancer last year I became friendly with an elderly lady whose appointments generally coincided with mine. Her condition, I gathered, was lung-related, but every opportunity she got, she escaped from the waiting-room to go outside and puff frantically on a cigarette. I can still see her in my mind’s eye, dragging desperately on a butt as though her life depended on it, when the opposite was probably the case.

Meanwhile, a very dear friend of mine who had lung cancer was told by his specialist that, unless he gave up the “smokes”, the treatment would be discontinued. He did, but it was too late and he has since sadly passed away.

The 15-year time-frame makes sense. Let’s hope talk is translated into action. I assume a simple point-of-sale prohibition is intended but the penalties would need to be judicious and “commonsensical”. What we don’t want is for ciggies to join the dreary list with marijuana, cocaine and heroin as part of the repertoire of the illegal drugs trade.

This is an idea whose time has come. Why didn’t we think of it before?

Stephen Doyle OP

Fr Stephen Doyle, who was buried in St Mary's Priory Tallaght today, spent most of his Dominican life working in Trinidad.

Back in the late 1960s, early 1970s Stephen was teaching religion in the Vocational School in Tallaght. He had a full day of religion class Monday to Friday and he worked terribly hard at it.

Anyone who has taught in an Irish school knows the difficult job it is and teaching religion makes it more difficult.

But Stephen did it in his stride with no fuss or drama. He was also an eloquent preacher. The late Fr Paul Hynes considered him back then one of the best preachers in the province.

He was a gentle person, who gave the impression that he was attentive and interested to those with whom he engaged.

I taught two of his nephews in Newbridge College and I can still remember how polite and gentle they were.

May he rest in peace.


Stephen Doyle RIP

For the information of former Dominicans, who are not living in Ireland or may not have heard the news, Stephen Doyle has died and his funeral Mass is in Tallaght today at 11.30. Burial takes place after Mass in the priory cemetery.

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wise words

An indirect quote from a wise Irish Dominican.
"You can do what you like in the Irish Dominicans once you don't criticise the establishment/system."

There is indeed an aspect of anonymity to this quote but it would be most unfair to mention the source as it was said in a private personal conversation.

Great value on the railway

Irish Rail are offering great reduced fares on their website. The tickets have to be bought on the web.

Just look at the prices.

These fares are only available on certain trains. Check list below.

At last and well done Irish Rail.

What is it about Irish Rail PR that they seem to stay so quiet about their business. This new fare deal just gets a small mention on their website. It's a big deal and deserves a fanfare of bugles. Just like what Ryanair does when planes arrive on time!

Dublin Heuston - Cork €16 each way*

Dublin Heuston - Tralee €16 each way*

Dublin Heuston - Ennis €13 each way*

Dublin Heuston - Limerick €13 each way*

Dublin Heuston - Galway €12 each way*

Dublin Heuston - Westport €12 each way*

Dublin Heuston - Kilkenny €8 each way*

Dublin Heuston - Waterford €8 each way*

Only on*These fares are available Monday to Thursday on the following trains only on (these fares are not available from booking office or telesales):

Dublin to Cork 09.00/ 10.00/ 11.00/ 12.00/ 13.00/ 19.00/ 20.00/ 21.00

Cork to Dublin 10.30/ 11.30/ 12.30/ 13.30/ 14.30/ 15.30/ 18.30/ 19.30/ 20.30

Dublin to Waterford 07.30/ 09.30/ 10.00/ 11.30

Waterford to Dublin 10.45/ 13.15/ 15.00/ 18.25

Limerick to Dublin 05.35/ 06.35/ 11.55/ 12.35/ 14.15/ 15.55/ 19.50

Dublin to Limerick 09.25/ 10.00/ 11.25/ 12.00/ 20.00/ 21.00

Dublin to Tralee 09.00/ 11.00/ 13.00/ 20.00

Tralee to Dublin 09.15/ 11.15/ 13.15/ 17.15/ 19.15

Dublin to Galway 07.10/ 09.10/ 11.10/ 19.15

Galway to Dublin 10.50/ 13.10/ 15.05

Dublin to Westport 08.20/ 12.40

Westport to Dublin 13.10/ 18.05

*These fares are standard class fares only. Exclusion dates will apply. These fares are subject to availability on selected services Monday to Thursday and are only available on Terms and conditions apply.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Funeral Masses

The current controversy re what happens in the church during a funeral Mass makes for some interesting observations.

Of course it is important that the funeral is carried out in a dignified fashion and in accord with the liturgical rites of the Catholic Church.

The current discussion centres around the music used and the eulogy spoken at the end of the Mass.

And not a word about the sometimes nonsense preached by priests at funeral Masses. Before the Irish Catholic Church 'preaches' and 'orders' people how funerals should be conducted they should see to it that all its officiating priests celebrate liturgies and preach sermons that are fully in accord with the liturgical rites of the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today's Guardian

The Guardian newspaper carries a two-page profile of Archbishop Rowan Williams today. G2 gives over four pages to the controversy of gay bishop, Gene Robinson. And on page 29 of the paper Giles Fraser writes a comment on Bishop Gene Robinson.

It is sad to see such open dispute within the Anglican Communion. But is that worse than the silence, subterfuge and dishonesty that prevails within the Catholic Church on the issue?

Would it make sense to say there are more people with a homosexual orientation ordained priests within the Anglican Communion than in the Catholic Church? Of course that is a nonsense. It is just that the Catholic Church has developed an amazing 'method' of hiding the reality.

Speaking the truth

The article below appears in today's Irish Times.

It is an interesting piece and deserves the attention of the reader.

It is reprinted on this blog to highlight how 'silent' the Catholic Church is on the issue. The author writes, 'the general Church of Ireland policy seems to be "don't ask, don't tell".' Rev. Kingston might well and accurately say exactly a similar sentiment for the Catholic Church in Ireland and probably worldwide.

For many years the writer of this blog has been 'accused' of being homophobic.
Nothing is further from the truth. But the author has attempted to initiate a discussion on the topic within the Irish Dominicans. Indeed, 20 years ago at a chapter of the province he suggested the subject be debated. Silence reigned then and continues to reign. From time to time when a 'scandal' breaks the immediate reaction is to 'silence' the problem and continue as if nothing happened.

This policy is of course unwise, dishonest and short-sighted and has nothing to do with 'truth', the motto of the Dominican Order.

With more and more men with a homosexual orientation joining the priesthood, the church is finding itself with a disproportionate number of homosexual priests in its ranks. And because of the silence, dishonesty and subterfuge, it is walking blinfoldedly towards a terrible disaster.

The Anglican Communion seems to have an honesty and openness that the Catholic Church refuses even to think about.

But regularly the media seems to get confused when debating the issue. It is not at all a conservative versus liberal issue as the media explains it. At least within the Catholic Church men with a homosexual orientation are those who are most conservative and attracted to traditional forms of ritual.

"Listening process vital to bring gay, lesbian clergy in from margins

RITE & REASON: The Church of Ireland has long held within its ranks gay and lesbian clergy. It is time to welcome them, and gay and lesbian laity as well, writes Mervyn Kingston .

AWARENESS OF the existence of gay and lesbian clergy is high among our Anglican neighbours in the Church of England and the North American Anglican provinces. By contrast, gay clergy in the Church of Ireland are relatively invisible. Where homosexuality is concerned, the general Church of Ireland policy seems to be "don't ask, don't tell".

While this allows some space for gay and lesbian clergy, it falls far short of the acceptance of gay and lesbian clergy achieved in other provinces of the Anglican Communion. It also perpetuates invisibility and does not facilitate the listening process. In a recent interview the Archbishop of Armagh admitted: "We haven't adequately listened to the stories of gay people, or adequately lived up to our obligations to pastoral care."

If gay and lesbian clergy are too afraid to come forward because of homophobia or a concern about being disciplined, how are they to be listened to? If the bishops and senior officers of the Church of Ireland are inhibited or lack the knowledge or willingness to engage with gay and lesbian clergy, how can a full listening process take place?

Dioceses of the Episcopal Church in North America and of the Church of England have for decades accepted openly gay clergy, including partnered gay clergy. This is making it increasingly difficult for the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland not to address the issue.
Furthermore, under the UK Civil Partnership Act 2005, clergy of the Church of Ireland are legally entitled to enter into same-sex civil partnerships. This can be expected to occur in the Republic too when it too introduces civil partnership. Already the Church of Ireland Pensions Board has confirmed that it will treat civil partners the same as spouses.

In a study published in the current issue of the Church of Ireland theological journal Search I write about gay clergy in Church of Ireland parishes. At least 65 gay clergy can be counted as having served in the Church of Ireland since the second World War. They each served in four parishes, on average. By drawing attention to the not insignificant number of gay clergy in the Church of Ireland, and by showing how they have served and are serving in all parts of the church, it becomes clear the issue of gay and lesbian clergy is not an abstract one but is part of the reality of parish life in Ireland.

Most gay clergy are highly respected, and their ministry is acceptable in each place, but of course their sexuality is not known. Gay and lesbian clergy or lay people have not been adequately involved to date in the listening process. What is needed is a listening exercise at rural deanery and diocesan level, where clergy and lay church members get to meet in person some of the gay and lesbian Christians in our churches.

To assist the listening process in the Church of Ireland a new group, Changing Attitude Ireland, was formed last year. It is a network of clergy and lay people, gay and straight, committed to working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered affirmation in the church.

This includes working for change in the official teaching and attitude of the church and for the provision of services of blessing for same-sex couples in church using an authorised liturgy.
Gay clergy are and have been part of the Church of Ireland. If we are to be a truly open and inclusive church, then we need to find ways to welcome gay and lesbian lay people and clergy, who often feel marginalised and isolated.

The challenge is how to release them from invisibility, to value them and draw on their particular experience as part of a meaningful listening process.

• Rev Mervyn Kingston is a retired Church of Ireland clergyman, and co-founder and secretary of Changing Attitude Ireland."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

David Rice writes in The Irish Times

David Rice, a former memebr of the Irish Dominican Province, writes about a new-style church being born in France.

The article appeard in yesterday's Irish Times.

People living outside Ireland might like to know that the Irish Times is now available free online at

RITE AND REASON: Perhaps what is already happening in the French Catholic Church is an indication of where Irish Catholicism is headed, writes David Rice .

IT HAS often been said that France has her crises before the rest of Europe - whether it be the French Revolution itself, or the student revolt of 1968, or the alienation of people from the churches.

There is one such crisis where France is ahead of Ireland, and that is in its shortage of Roman Catholic priests. France is also ahead in its response to that shortage. In essence the lay people have taken over the local church and run it for themselves.

In one diocese in northern France there is only one priest to serve 27 parishes. It means the priest has been reduced to the role of circuit rider who drops by on rare occasions to offer a Mass and consecrate some hosts. For the rest of the time the people run their church themselves. In 2001 the diocese of Nice had to reduce its 265 parishes down to 47.

One of these, the recently created parish of Nôtre Dame de l'Espérance, runs along a celebrated strip of the Mediterranean coast, with five churches. There were five priests; now there is just one, who cannot cope on his own. Yet all five village churches are flourishing.

The secret is that each church has an appointed lay person, called a relais local , whose duty is to run both church and parish, and perform almost all functions save uttering the words of consecration and administering those sacraments only a priest is allowed to do.

A principal function of the relais is to conduct a Sunday Communion service in the absence of the priest - for all practical purposes a Mass without the consecration. There is frequently no priest at a funeral any more.

At the Église Sacré Coeur in Beaulieu, I attended one such funeral, conducted by the relais locale for the church. She received the coffin. There were words of welcome, the singing of hymns, a short eulogy of the deceased, readings from scripture, a brief reflection by the relais , the lighting of candles beside the coffin, a blessing of the coffin with holy water, and prayers for the deceased. It lasted about half-an-hour. There was no Mass, as there was no priest. But there wasn't a Communion service either.

This new de facto structure in the parish is not confined to relais locales . Marie-Anne Hosley, an energetic Frenchwoman whose mother hails from Co Down, has lately been appointed general manager of the parish with its five churches. While her official title is économe , she assures me it is more about admin than money.

Although unpaid herself, she manages a payroll of nine people, including cleaners, organists and two parish secretaries.

Other lay people - men and women - are equally active in many of the former roles of the priest - parish visitation, counselling, pre-marriage instruction, attending the sick, bringing communion, chaplaincies to hospitals and retirement homes and in some areas to scout and youth groups.

Also it is lay people who, almost exclusively, perform the crucial role of imparting their faith.In the neighbouring diocese of Monaco, Bernadette Keraudren gives many hours guiding catechumens - those who want to become Christian or Catholic.

The catechumens go through about two years of guidance, all done by lay people. None of this is stop-gap until better times come. This is for keeps, because better times are not coming. Soon there won't be any priests at all. Or so few that it simply won't count. So people here see a totally new church ministry evolving, which will inevitably become more formalised.

But the dearth of priests means that the people will ultimately be left without the sacraments and without the Eucharist, the centre of their faith. That is why the relais , and all these other layfolk who are de facto running the church, are asking, when will the Vatican wake up to the facts of life and allow or recognise new ministries?

"Vatican Two talked about us all being priests," Hosley says. "The priesthood of the laity. So maybe the church will soon have a new form of priest." That could mean that, in one fell swoop, there would be women priests and married priests. Many here believe that time is not far off.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Mass

This week two people in different parts of Ireland have made comments on attending Mass in Dominican churches.

One person said that they were very tempted to get up and walk out. They could not hear what was being said and they found it difficult to take the antics of the celebrant.

The other person said that they went to Sunday Mass in a Dominican church - a different church from the one above - and they were made feel very depressed.

And there will not be the slightest hint of a suggestion that we Irish Dominicans need to sit down and start talking about important and relevant issues.

And not in a Dominican church. The priest forgot to consecrate the hosts in the ciborium which was on the side table. So when it came to communion someone in the church told the altar server to bring the ciborium to the priest so he could distribute the breads.

It is a great example of how many priests have failed in giving any sort of understanding or explanation of the celebration of the Eucharist.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hans Küng at 80

Speaking to members of the UK parliament and assorted Anglican bishops Hans Küng made some interesting comments. Fr Küng earlier this year celebrated his 80th birthday.
Here is some of what he said to Paul Vallely, associated editor of The Independent.

Some quotes.

"The terrible scandals in banking and the global credit crunch are based in dishonesty."

"The whole Iraq war was based on lies."

"There is a danger that now in the Roman Curia there are only 'yes men'. Cardinal Daneels is correct: Where are the thinkers? It would be nice if, for the new Archbishop of Westminster, you had a candidate who is really capable and not just obedient to the Roman Curia."

"Our parishes are crumbling. In my home parish in Switzerland we rely on a visiting priest aged 90 to say Mass. It's a catastrophe. But the bishops just don't see the reality. Whenever they go to a parish everyone turns up to see the bishop and get the false impression."

"The irony is that because of the celibacy law homosexuals are attracted to seminaries in disproportionate numbers. All this creates a very unhealthy atmosphere which must be changed. So you have a disproportionate number of homosexuals in the priesthood."

And about Pope Benedict he said, "I have not given up hope that he will finally do something really courageous".

"Benedict XVI would tell you he talks to the bishops all the time. He is very attentive."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Wit can be most disarming. It also has the wonderful ability of laughing at people, especially people who try to make themselves important.

On a windy wet day in Kerry someone asked what the title VF stood for. They thought it might mean Vicar For Rain.

Letters from Stalingrad

Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad is considered one of the great works of the German advance on the city on the Volga, the subsequent fighting in the city and then the brilliant encirclement of Paulus' Sixth Army by the Soviet Army, which was planned and executed by Zhukov.

In the book Beevor captures the atmosphere of the German and Soviet troops. How both armies vacillate between euphoria and desolation. It is best of all recalled in the letters the troops sent back to their loved ones, especially their wives.

The letters that manage to get through the censor express the feelings of men, telling their wives what life is like, in the case of the German troops, 4,000 kms away from Germany. The depth of feeling, warmth and love is palpable.

Human love is a great gift from God. The rule of celibacy allows many priests to discover a love that is supernatural. But surely it is a rare gift and is it possible that it can be developed and nurtured by all priests, especially when there seems to be so little care and real inter-communicative dialogue which is truly life supporting and positive.

Both within dioceses and religious orders there seems to be a great need for support and honest dialogue between superiors/bishops and priests and among priests themselves.

Of course there are people who get on fine, men who are truly holy. But how many men are left to languish? Yes, that happens all through society, but priesthood is meant to be at the cutting edge of love and excitement. Is it?

It is better to see the glass half full than half empty and priesthood is a great calling.

A question; how often does a bishop/superior sit down with his individual priests and talk and listen openly and truthfully, away from the games and cliches?

Instead, the common advice on the ground is to keep quiet, tell your bishop/superior nothing, play the game, get some sort of silly promotion. And keep the system going, even when anyone with a head on his of her shoulders knows it is all imploding around them.

Good people do kind deeds

A reader of this blog sent in the following story. She and her sister live in central Dublin.
It is a lovely tale of the kindness of people and how such kindness is appreciated. It is also a comment on our police service.

"I was helping my sister get out of her wheelchair before lifting the wheelchair up a flight of stairs where we live.

Just as I was about to lift the wheelchair, a car pulls up and a man asks me if he can help.

I hesitated for a moment and then he said he and his colleague were gardaí, so I agreed to their offer of help.

He parked his car and one of them carried the chair up the stairs and the other man linked my sister up the stairs.

I was flabbergasted with their kindness"