Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fr Michael O'Leary RIP

Fr Michael O'Leary, a priest of the Kerry diocese, died last evening.

Fr Michael, a native of Castlegregory in West Kerry, was in his 90th year. Some years ago he retired as parish priest in Moyvane and went to live in Tralee.

He was a kindly man, who had the great ability of listening to people and being with them in times of joy and tribulation.

Some years ago Fr Michael was extremely kind and helpful to me and as a result of our encounter on that occasion we kept in touch.

Last Sunday week I visited him in Kerry General Hospital where we prayed a Psalm together.
Just as we finished the prayer a woman from Moyvane came to visit him. In our brief few words she expressed how kind Fr O'Leary had been to her family while he was pp in Moyvane.

He was a priest, who genuinely cared for people and what finer tribute can be paid to a priest than to acknowledge that he was a kind man.

Fr O'Leary's requiem Mass will take place in Moyvane parish church on Thursday at midday

May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Murdoch's influence in Ireland

From time to time there is an opinion expressed within church circles that the media do not give a fair hearing to church issues.

Print, TV and radio attempt to tell the story as it is. Columnists express opinions.

There is no doubt that Irish newspapers give wide coverage to church issues. A day hardly goes by without some church story receiving coverage in the media.

Fortunately the media is not obeisant to the church in a way that it was three, four decades ago.
In today's Irish Times Sarah Carey writes how she was forbidden to write in favour of the Lisbon Treaty when she was working with the Irish edition of The Sunday Times.
She argues that is is always important to ask 'Who is behind this and what is there agenda?'.
It is a most forthright article, worrying too.
It is interesting to note how right-wing church groups now seem to be in bed with Rupert Murdoch publications. And frightening too.
Sarah Carey asks in whose interests did the Sunday Times campaign against the Lisbon Treaty to the exclusion of all favourable comment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The God question

The article below appears in today's Irish Times. It makes for an interesting read.

RITE AND REASON: TP O'MAHONY is a fine journalist. He learned his trade at the Irish Press and began covering religious affairs in 1967, in the aftermath of Vatican II.

Over the years he did the lot - papal visits, conclaves, synods and religious conferences not to mention the niggling scandals that were beginning to emerge.

But while immersed in both the minutiae and the grand scheme of ecclesiastical politics O'Mahony was finding his own conventional faith coming under increasing strain. It wasn't, however, a question of Christianity, or which brand of Christianity but something more fundamental - the very existence of God. Mid-life crises of belief are nothing new, and those so visited usually find their own way of "muddling through".

O'Mahony, however, is different. He has a burning curiosity and capacity to worry at a problem. When he left journalism, having moved from the Irish Press to the then Cork Examiner , he began to study law at UCC, all the while trying to figure out where he personally stood on the "God Question".

What's new? Not much except that the "God" debate has sharpened and maybe even soured in recent times with books by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Has God Logged Off? is the result of O'Mahony's own personal quest.

He revisits the famous five proofs of St Thomas Aquinas, produced in the 13th century, and examines the major philosophical arguments pro and con theism since then. Drawing not only on what creative artists such as Beckett, Buñuel and Morris West have to say about the presence or absence of God, but also on the experiences of modern-day well-known Irish people including actor Mick Lally, writer Mary Kenny and Cork character Bernie Murphy, he manages to bring fascinating and sometimes novel insights to this age-old debate.

The strength of O'Mahony's book is its simplicity. He makes his case clearly; his aim is not to show how clever he is but to bring his reader with him on his journey.

O'Mahony starts from obvious points that religious faith, of its nature, tends to be personal, just like its opposite. Beyond the person, however, there is a wider cultural dimension. For centuries, especially in the West, religious belief and the concept of God have been fundamental to our system of meaning.

O'Mahony quotes Patrick Masterson's 1974 book Atheism and Alienation on the proposition that the affirmation of God is one of the most noteworthy of human achievements. Theism, he sees as a defining characteristic of the western tradition. But Masterson also insists that while the affirmation of God is a major achievement, scarcely less remarkable is man's repudiation of this affirmation of God.

So while theism is a defining characteristic of the western tradition, atheism in its various forms is also a significant expression of man's quest for meaning.

O'Mahony seeks to remind us that struggling with the seductive appeal of both is an inescapable element of the human condition.

And where does that leave the author? Not surprisingly, perhaps, with Pascal: "If there is a God he is infinitely beyond our comprehension." He finds comfort and relief (escape?) in Pascal's wager: "exercising a particularly blind form of faith" that God actually does exist.
"I've done just that and called heads like my friend Bernie Murphy. I'll find out one of these days whether I wagered wisely."

Eloquent but not necessarily the most persuasive or weighty of conclusions. I'm not sure that the author himself is fully convinced. Be that as it may, this is a charming and thought-provoking book, written with clarity and honesty.

• Maurice Manning is president of the Irish Human Rights Commission Has God Logged Off? - the quest for meaning in the 21st century , Columba Press, €12.99

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The art of compromising

Below is a report in today's Irish Times.

How come people who are at the vanguard of speaking out against abortion say so little when it comes to capital punishment?

Many right wing religious groups campaigned forcefully against the Obama campaign on grounds of his stand on abortion and there was not a whimper from them on capital punishment.

Has the Catholic Church praised the president-elect for his intention of closing down Guantanamo Bay?

The comment of Bishop W Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware makes for interesting reading.

The article as it appears in today's Irish Times
US CATHOLIC bishops have pledged forcefully to confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights, saying the church would not compromise on its firm stand on the issue.

At their biannual meeting in Baltimore, several bishops criticised Catholics who had argued it was morally acceptable to support Barack Obama because he said he would reduce abortion rates. The gathering of 220 clergymen took place a week after the election of a Democratic ticket that supports abortion rights and includes vice-president-elect Joe Biden, who is Catholic.
The head of the bishops group said Obama's election should be celebrated but he made it clear the church would not compromise on Catholic teachings.

Obama's election "is a moment that touches more than our history when a country that once enshrined race slavery in its very constitutional order should come to elect an African-American to the presidency," said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.

"In this, I truly believe, we must all rejoice," the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops told the meeting on Tuesday.

Cardinal George said the country may have reached a point where "all races are safely within the American consensus", but he voiced concern that Catholics faced political pressure when seeking office to compromise on "fundamental Catholic teachings".

The bishops issued a general statement before the election, urging voters to consider all life issues in casting ballots, including war and capital punishment.

Some bishops still came out against Obama during the campaign over his stance on abortion rights. Abortion opponents are concerned that possible Supreme Court appointments by Obama could undo efforts to reverse the court's Roe v Wade decision, which legalised abortion in 1973.
Many bishops urged Catholics to make opposition to abortion a priority when they voted, but exit polls showed Obama won 54 per cent of the Catholic vote.

Although the church leadership remains committed to outlawing it, a poll carried out in August by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that almost half of American Catholics think abortion should be legal in all or nearly all cases.

While the bishops agree on the goal of ending abortion, they differ on how they should persuade lawmakers - of Catholic and other faiths - to agree.

A few bishops have said Biden should not receive Holy Communion, but Bishop W Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden's home diocese, said he and the Democrat had agreed to meet when scheduling allows to discuss Catholic teaching. The bishop said he did not advise Biden to refrain from Communion.

"I won't politicise the Eucharist," the bishop said. "I don't want to alienate people. I want to change their hearts and minds."

John Podesta, the head of Obama's transition team, has said the president-elect is considering reversing President George Bush's limit on federal spending for embryonic stem cell research.
Catholic leaders are staunchly opposed. Cardinal George said expanding embryonic stem cell research would "alienate tens of millions of people, not just Catholics, and militates against the type of unity the administration hopes to achieve."

Obama and Pope Benedict had their first telephone call on Tuesday, but a Vatican spokesman said the stem cell issue was not raised during the conversation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Staggering sums of money and great pain

According to a report in today's Irish Times the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin has paid out to date more than €12.4 million in claims of child sex abuse and another €3.3 million in legal fees.

That is just one diocese in Ireland. It needs to be said again, €12.4 million plus €3.3 million. And this in a church which has claimed to be the owner of sexual morality. It really is staggering.

What is more astonishing is that so many of its spokespeople claim they were not aware of the damage that was being done. This from an organisation which for centuries claims to know God's last word on sexual matters.

It is extraordinary and mind boggling.

What of the damage done to so many.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Austin Flannery OP

There is an appreci-ation of Austin Flannery in today's Irish Times. But it seems it is not on their digital version, so this blog is unable to upload it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Weimar and Lisbon

Anyone who visits the German Historical Museum on Berlin's Unter den Linden has to be struck with some of the similarities between the present situation in Europe and the time between the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise to power of Hitler.

In the run-up to the referendum in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty the No campaigners spoke about Ireland losing its 'identity', fears that Ireland would be 'over-controlled' by powers away from Dublin. And the far right Christian groups' attempt to instill fear in the minds of people that Ireland could lose its Christian identity

All the time there was an evident 'sneer' that 'we' know best and should protect our 'nationalism' at all costs.

A visit to the Berlin museum should be a must for anyone who is interested in seeing our world in the context of history.

Where would our economy be today if we were not in the euro zone? In a much worse situation than Iceland.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

West Kerry to Dublin on two wheels

A break from the serious world for a few moments.

This blog makes great effort to write all its material in the third person. An interlude today.

On Monday afternoon I left West Kerry at 13.50 on my Honda 680. Destination was Dublin, a distance of circa 380 kilometres.

It was one of the few clear Mondays since early June so the possibility of getting to Dublin without rain made the adventure tempting.

And off I set.

Still at novice stage every moment on the bike requires 120 per cent attention and concentration. The Kerry scenery is spectacular but there is little time to admire it from the seat of my Honda.

The relatively new Tralee Castleisland road offers the first signs of the big road. It brings an element of relaxation but also one of fear and terror. The level of concentration tires me.

Out of the Kingdom and into Limerick. First signs of cramp so a two-minute stop in Newcastle West to stretch and relax and off again. With the clocks gone back it seems a terrible waste of daylight time to spend any time off the bike before dark descends.

The semi-permanent road works on the Nenagh bypass make for scary driving but you just have to keep going. It's getting dark now and a strange sense of isolation and 'worry' sets in.
Nobody out there knows I am a novice.

Mountrath offers the hope of the motorway ahead but the punishment of the roads leading to the town certainly put a great damper on any hope of freedom ahead. Bollards and cones, gravel and muck are hell on a motorbike.

And then the motorway. Instead of it being a terrifying experience it offers openness and freedom. But it has its moments. A convoy of trucks ahead and need to pass them. But they are travelling at speed and suddenly as I am passing them I check the speed I am doing. The clock is at 140 km/h. What happens if I lose my grip on the handlebars or I hit a heap of gravel. I keep going and then move in to the slower lane and stay there. Relaxation.

The three-lane approach to Newlands Cross can cause confusion as most of the traffic, slow and fast, seems to stay in the middle lane. Where to stay? Keep going. And straight.

Arrival at Tallaght and the gear hides my identity. Job done. First time to drive to the capital. To work on it the next day. More fear but the second day it seems a little easier.

All a practice-run for the planned trip to Berlin and then on to Volgograd.

Maybe longer away than I had imagined!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vatican suggests psychological evaluations

The article below appears in yesterday's issue of The Irish Times.

The heading, Church defends Vatican, is amazingly odd. Something akin to telling readers Tuesday follows Monday.

As reported in the article below, the Vatican document seems most confusing.

The Irish Catholic Church's national co-ordinator for diocesan vocations, Fr Patrick Rushe says, 'clericalism is not as prominent now'. The veracitiy and accuracy of this comment needs serious questioning. Fr Rushe also says that, 'Many of the seminarians were also of 'better quality' than in the past. What does that mean? Is there scientific evidence to show this or is it another clever statement of obfuscation, hoping that the serious problems will go away?

He also says that 'such matters are being taken seriously by the church'. Is this so?

The document, according to the IT article says that if men have 'difficulty with the celibate life the path of formation will have to be interupted'.

What a nonsense is this?

And then the document, again according to the IT, says that men with 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies' should also have their formation interrupted.

Any chance the Vatican could come clean on all this and be prophetic and visionary. Even tell the truth.

A question for those in the Vatican who are responsible for formation of men studying for the priesthood: what happens if those in charge of student formation are homosexual and misogynistic?

Hopefully the Vatican document is not as silly as what is reported in yesterday's Irish Times. Then again, maybe it just is.

And then the final comment in the art of gobbledygook, this sentence appears:

At a news conference in the Vatican, prefect for Catholic education Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, said the use of psychological tests should become neither "obligatory" nor "ordinary practice".

The recent death and subsequent media coverage of Jorg Haider is a most interesting metaphor.

And now the article in yesterday's Irish Times.

Church defends Vatican document

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

A VATICAN document issued last week, which recommended that seminary candidates undergo "psychological evaluations", was as much about reassuring the laity that such matters are being taken seriously by the church, Fr Patrick Rushe has said.

The Irish Catholic Church's national co-ordinator for diocesan vocations said the document from the Congregation for Catholic Education was more broadly focused than just on sexual issues.
"It encourages psychological profiling in the broader sense, as a help" in assisting candidates for the priesthood, he said.

"We find that most guys coming to us need development of some kind, though not as it was say 20 years ago."

More often, these days, seminarians were men who had come through ''their own journey of faith. They may have been non-practising for a period. They may have gone from fervour to non-practise, only to find fervour again.They may be older, with a wider experience. They are all the better for that in many cases," he said.

Most seminaries "now encourage a period of reflection", where such men are concerned. It is part of a process, and issues dealt with were "much broader than sex or orientation", he said.
He felt that today's seminarians were more realistic. "They may have had other professions and been in relationships. They know what life is like."

But, he also felt, you could not replace the idealism of youth. Many of today's seminarians were also of "better quality" than in the past, and had "a deeper sense of service. Clericalism is not as prominent now [among seminarians]".

Currently there are 87 men training to become priests in Ireland at seminaries in Rome, Spain, Britain and Maynooth.

This year 14 men were ordained to serve as Catholic priests in Ireland, compared to nine in 2007.

Fr Rushe was commenting in the context of a document issued by the Vatican's congregation last Thursday.

It recommended that seminarians undergo "psychological evaluations" with regard to potential personality disturbances as well as to their ability to live a celibate life. It followed on from another document issued by the congregation in 2005 which said the Catholic Church cannot ordain men who are active homosexuals or who have "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies.
The new document argued that if seminary students demonstrated areas of grave immaturity, then "the path of formation will have to be interrupted". Such areas of "immaturity" it indicated included deep-seated homosexual tendencies, unclear sexual identity, difficulty with the celibate life, excessive rigidity of character and lack of freedom in relations.

It said special attention should be given to ensuring that celibacy was not "a burden so heavy" that it compromised a candidate's affective and relational equilibrium.
As for assessing a candidate's ability to live a celibate life, it suggested that "it is not enough to be sure that he is capable of abstaining from genital activity" but that it is also necessary "to evaluate his sexual orientation".

The document said that psychological tests could be useful with a view not only to identifying troubled candidates but also in helping seminarians through their vocational journey, especially if the candidate needs to overcome psychological wounds.

At a news conference in the Vatican, prefect for Catholic education Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, said the use of psychological tests should become neither "obligatory" nor "ordinary practice".

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