Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Airing differences

Why is there so little debate, criticism, difference of opinion expressed within the hierarchical church in the open forum?

With the demise of the National Conference of Priests in Ireland (NCPI) there is now no established forum where priests can air their views.

The dogs on the street know there is much discontent and disharmony within the priesthood in Ireland and yet this mood or feeling is so seldom aired in public.

At parish level there are so many parishes where parish councils either don't exist or are disempowered.

There are parishes all over the country where there are no parish councils, where people have little or no say in the running of their parish, their church.

It is worth noting that the physical buildings have been built with the money and hard work of generations of families who have lived in the parish. Priests must never forget that and need to be ever sensitive as to who 'owns' the church. The physical building and the spiritual entity.

Dominican website

Congratulations to the Irish Dominican website. News is now appearing on a regular basis. A vast improvement on what was the situation.

No great fan of many aspects of the philosophy of Michael O'Leary but full marks to him for advocating competition and criticism.

Apartheid in schools

The artilce below appeared in Monday's Irish Times.

And what does the Catholic Church have to say. How do the Jesuits, the Spiritans, the Dominicans - not the Sisters, who have been at the vanguard of education in Ireland - reply to this article?

Subtle form of apartheid permeates school system

ANALYSIS: The Department of Education's audit of school enrolment policies is a landmark document with huge implications for schools, writes Seán Flynn , Education Editor.

THE TWO-TIER nature of Irish education at second level is exposed in the Department of Education's audit. In many areas, provisions for the children of immigrants, those with special education needs and Travellers are largely confined to vocational and community schools.

There is a class divide permeating the Irish education system at second level.
In large provincial towns, better-off girls gravitate towards the convent school while boys enrol at the voluntary secondary school run by one of the religious orders.

The task of educating the childrenof immigrants or those with special learning needs is a job for other schools in the town.

The pattern is similar in Dublin, especially on the south side, where there is virtually no provision for special needs students in many "elite" schools.

But it is a very subtle form of apartheid. There are no signs outside any of these schools proclaiming "newcomers or special needs not welcome".

Instead, parents seeking enrolment will be told that the school has little experience in these areas; they might be better off in the local vocational and community schools.

There are other means of maintaining the status quo. Enrolment policies that favour past pupils and siblings can be used to exclude children of immigrants. The "first come, first served" approach of some schools can also work against them.

According to Minister for Education Mary Hanafin, some schools with few "newcomer" or special needs pupils could use this perception of elitism to recruit more pupils.

And parents cannot be absolved of blame. In a recent address, Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin scolded parents - especially those in prosperous Dublin suburbs - who have scant interest in real diversity in schools.

So what can be done about the cherrypicking and discrimination?

At present the only recourse available to an unhappy parent whose child is refused entry to a school is Section 29 of the Education Act. But, as Ms Hanafin acknowledges, few parents are even aware of its existence - and some schools are in no hurry tp point parents in the right direction. Section 29 is slow, cumbersome and ineffective.

Ideally, the Minister would like schools in each area to adopt a common enrolment policy.

But in her letter to the various education partners, she acknowledges this is not always possible as various schools compete for pupils, at a time when school numbers are declining at second

But the Minister is getting tougher. Regional officers will be asking schools to explain their enrolment procedures.

The Minister is also edging towards some form of new regulation in the area. This might include the appointment of a new admissions officer in each region who would enforce fair admission policies.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland, many of whose members work in vocational schools, wants sanctions against schools that refuse to shoulder their responsibilities.

Specifically, the TUI wants the Government to withhold State funding from any fee-paying school that cherrypicks some students and refuses to enrol others. (Curiously, fee-paying schools were not included in the audit).

To date, the Minister has been reluctant to take this kind of robust approach. Indeed, there is little discussion of any possible new sanctions in her letter to the education partners.

But it is clear that the political - and what one might call the moral - pressure on schools to act responsibly is being ratcheted up.

In all, 1,998 schools were audited (1,572 at primary and 426 at post-primary).

Broadly, the picture at primary level was more positive, although the scant number of special needs pupils and other minorities in the Galescoileann will raise questions.

The INTO said last night that it was clear that community superseded religion and other considerations at primary level.

"The local primary school appears to be the school of choice for the majority of parents. In turn, primary schools enrol children from their localities. This is one of the great strengths of the Irish primary education system and everyone in education should strive to maintain it," said INTO.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

St Catherine of Siena

Today, Arpil 29, is the feast of the Dominican saint and doctor of the Church, Catherine of Siena.
She was born in 1347 in Siena. She joined the Dominicans when she was 18.

Wexford tragedy

The tragedy that took place in the Wexford village of Clonroche at the weekend leaves us all without words.

It is the second terrible tragedy in the area within 12 months.

Both men are in the same age group and the tragedies have both happened in the diocese of Ferns.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Two different paths

Surely there has to be an irony in how Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo died on the same day that retired bishop Lugo became president-elect of Paraguay.

Lisbon Treaty

Close to 50 people attended a meeting on The Lisbon Treaty at the Teachers Centre in Dublin last evening. Six speakers addressed the group, each speaking for 11 minutes.

The tone of the meeting was that it was best for Ireland to vote no.

Green Party Senator Deirdre deBurca spoke in favour of the treaty. She came across as most competent and honest. At one stage she made the point that probably if the Green Party were not in power, the party would be voting against the treaty - maybe political suicide but extraordinary honesty for an Irish politician.

She suggested that if Ireland does vote no, the 26 other states will make an addendum and move on.

It would seem that extremes of right and left are forming an alliance opposed to the Lisbon Treaty.

The document circulated by Government to homes re the treaty needs to be much clearer and is far too obtuse.

As already mentioned here the April issue of Alive! carries a most distasteful advertisement re the treaty. Appealing for funds it reads, "Yes! I want to help defeat this godless treaty".

In that same issue of Alive! a small ad reads: " HEALER to help lady with acid in stomach." The ad then goes on to give a telephone number.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Worth reading

This link is worth reading. The writer makes interesting comments.

Worlds apart

This blog is being read in Hanoi and at the US Department of State.

It is also read in the home town of the British prime minister

Welcome to new readers

Clerical child sex abuse

The article below appears in yesterday's Irish Times. It highlights many interesting points and certainly deserves comment.

A question! Had a priest written this article, a, would his diocese/congregation have 'allowed' him publish it, and b, what would have been the response from the public?

Church must not persecute abusers to protect public
Marie Keenan

MUCH OF the focus of Pope Benedict's highly publicised visit to the US has been on his references to the need for healing in the wake of clerical sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church.

Yet a series of interviews with clerical sex offenders which I undertook at UCD, details of which were published recently in this newspaper, reveal that work remains to be done on this issue in Ireland.

As part of my nine-year research project, which began in September 1998, I conducted 30 hours of group interviews, as well as other follow-up interviews, with nine members of the clergy who had abused children.

While in Ireland and elsewhere a great deal of the public discussion has concentrated on the protection of children, the criminality of perpetrators and the systemic "cover-up", during my research it became clear to me that clergy perpetrators had important stories to tell - stories that might enlighten those of us who were asking "why". The media template, "the paedophile priest", with all that it implies, does not come close to describing the diversity of men that I met.

One key part of my overall research, which received funding from the Irish Bishops Conference and two religious orders, was to look at what issues the men faced when the sexual offending was exposed. A number of questions emerge from this. Can there be a life worth living for clergymen who have abused minors and why should anyone care, given that they have broken such a sacred trust?

There are a number of reasons why we should be concerned about what happens to clergymen who have abused minors, on child protection, humanitarian, justice and Christian grounds. Past and potential future victims are the concern of all - treating clergy offenders and allowing them to live meaningful lives are essential steps in reducing future offending. We owe it to victims of abuse to do all in our power to prevent further offending.

One of the most respected researchers on sexual offenders, Dr Karl Hanson (Canada), has previously reported that, based on the available studies, the re-offence rate is much lower for clergy offenders than it is for other child sexual offenders. He also reported that treatment reduces offending, that the risk of offending is cut in half if the offender remains offence-free for five years and that it declines with advanced age. Many clergy offenders have been offence-free for at least 20 years and many of them are of an advanced age.

The problem for sexual offenders, as Tom O'Malley, a law lecturer from Galway, has often pointed out elsewhere, is that as soon as a person is formally or informally judged to be a "sex offender" or "child abuser", he is socially classified under that heading only, his entire social and personal profile is obliterated and his earlier achievements and social contributions are deemed irrelevant. The individual is now no longer seen in individual terms, but rather as a certain "type". What matters now is the very sexual nature of his offending, and not only is his offending behaviour disapproved of, but his very personhood is construed as evil.

I believe this to be the context in which church leaders in Ireland are trying to make decisions about what to do with clergymen who have abused and why some of the systems and procedures applied to clergy offenders are maybe unnecessarily rigid - such as lists of "dos" and "don'ts". My research indicates that when it comes to helping clergy offenders, church leaders respond in many different ways. While some church leaders take a pastoral approach, informed by a Christian ethic, others can take an overly legalistic approach, sometimes tinged with anger. While anger may well be understandable, given the sense of betrayal that clergy sexual abuse has brought to the Catholic Church, the potential for a different kind of abuse in such situations must always be borne in mind. In my experience, systems and protocols set up to control abuse can of themselves become abusive. My fear is that this is happening in some quarters of the Catholic Church - as others have put it, "control of abuse becomes abuse of control".

Fear is endemic in clerical and religious life and fear on the part of church leaders regarding clergy offenders is often indicative of not knowing what to do, especially under the watchful eye of a hurt public, an ever-vigilant press and a context in which clergy perpetrators are wrongly portrayed as a homogeneous mass - the worst of all possible offenders. Arising out my research, my concern is not that the current regimes in place for supervising clergy offenders are lax. On the contrary, I am concerned that, in many cases, they are unnecessarily harsh, leading to emotional loneliness, isolation and anger - factors that contributed to sexual offending in the first instance.

So what can church leaders do? They must be courageous. They must recover from the criticism that they endured for their mishandling of the abuse issue and not let these memories colour their judgment and decision-making. They must be discerning in their acceptance of protocols and procedures that may be contrary to natural justice and they must stay close to the Gospel messages. At some time in the future they may even give leadership on forgiveness.

For all the rhetoric of supervision and monitoring, even were it possible to supervise and monitor clergymen 24 hours a day, it is not this that will ultimately prevent further offending. Rather, future offending will be prevented by a softening of the heart and a new way of thinking, and we all have a role to play in this.

Marie Keenan is a lecturer at the school of applied social science in UCD and a psychotherapist.© 2008 The Irish Times

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New president in Paraguay

Ex-bishop Fernando Lugo has been elected president in Paraguay.
The 56-year-old ex-bishop said on the announcement of his election, "Today we can dream of a different country. Paraguay will simply not be remembered for its corruption and poverty, but for its honesty".

The ruling party had been in power since 1947.

Language frolics

Readers interested in language might like to know of a relatively new German word. It is 'downloaden'.
It means the Germans are saying/writing 'Es gibt SMS zu downloaden'. And of course they call the mobile telephone, 'Das Handy', pronouncing it 'hendy'.

And a question. Why is Honda spelling 'Sie' - the polite form of the pronoun with a lower case 's'?

Priestly ordination

The quotes below are from George D Wilson's 'Clericalism: The Death of Priesthood'.

"Another example which illustrates the potential for clericalisation is the pageantry which has grownup around the basic rite of priestly ordination in recent decades. Those who have not attended an ordination recently maybe unaware of the accretions that have become expected practice across the country. The resulting spectacle is a timpanist's dream. From trumpet fanfare that announces the beginning of the entry procession one would not be surprised if the ordinands were to enter on prancing steeds and bearing jousting lances."

Later he writes:

"The reality of the clericalisation involved is heightened by the fact that these over-the-top practices are apparently not even subject to conscious evaluation. They are taken for granted, which is exactly what is meant by an unexamined attitude, the telltale sign of clericalism."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The President and the Jesuits

Remarks by President McAleese at the Irish Jesuit Province Assembly, Saturday, April 12 2008, IMI Conference Centre, Sandyford, Dublin

Good morning everyone, and thank you for your warm welcome. Thank you too to Fr Dardis, not only for his generous introduction but also for his invitation, as Provincial of the Order, to participate in your Province Assembly this morning.

2008 is a key moment in the histories both of our island and of the Society of Jesus. Fr Dardis has recently returned from the thirty-fifth General Congregation which was, among other things, tasked with electing a new Superior General, the first such election in twenty-five years.

I am delighted to join you this morning in sending good wishes to Fr Adolfo Nicolás on his election and in his new role.The Irish historical moment to which I refer is, of course, last Thursday's celebration of the tenth anniversary of the signature of the Good Friday Agreement, the constitutional cornerstone of the peace that has been and still is being so painstakingly and slowly constructed in Northern Ireland.

The consolidation of peace in Northern Ireland and the sweeping changes brought to all areas of Irish life by our recent prosperity have done much to shift our long-familiar compass points. For the most part, these changes are positive, but they have profound implications for a host of organisations operating all over the State, the Church among them.

I know that as you gather today to discuss the findings of the General Congregation, you will, in the best traditions of your Order, be conscious of their application to the times ahead and your role in those times. Momentous time Ireland North and South has had to become, if not entirely comfortable then at least adaptable to significant change in recent times. Change itself is, of course, nothing new to the human condition. It is, if anything, ironically a constant, sometimes slow and evolutionary, sometimes cataclysmic or revolutionary.

Ireland has been through many phases of change but none can match these times for the quality of change and the sweeping extent to which lives and standards of living have been improved and history's many grim legacies reversed.

To this generation alone has been given a unique confluence of peace, prosperity and growing partnership with its yet to be exploited possibilities for creating a fully reconciled island working hand in hand to reveal its best potential. This is rightly described as an extraordinary development - we are the first generation of Irishmen and women who have such a realistic prospect of altering the course of history on a grand scale.

When Fr Nicolas' predecessor, Fr Kolvenbach was elected we were still held in thrall to history's vanities with high unemployment, mass emigration, a dwindling population and the mess of skewed relationships between Ireland and Great Britain, between Ireland North and South, between Catholic and Protestant, and the two competing National isms, one Irish, one British, the latter more conventionally called Unionism.

That landscape is now both transformed and still transforming and for Christians who were once mired in mutual mistrust at best, hatred at worse, the new landscape is infused with much greater evidence of tolerance and even love.

The release of positive energies particularly in the past year must bring great vindication to those who worked so long and hard for reconciliation, among them many of your confreres.

The Churches are deeply implicated in the journey thus far and in the journey ahead, for underpinning the work of peace is the gospel challenge to love one another, to forgive one another, to be charitable especially to those from whom we are most estranged.

Sometimes the Churches are accused of being part of the problem, of not doing enough to counter the toxic tide of sectarianism and bitter division but in truth, in often the most inhospitable of circumstances there have been church champions of dialogue, advocates for forgiveness, pastors and carers who have comforted and supported the broken-hearted, the wounded and the bereaved. In millions of quiet ways they have been critical sustainers of hope and believers in our individual and collective capacity to shake off the burden of history and create a shared future.

Now, though, we are in uncharted territory both North and South and though each has somewhat different characteristics both face into significant attitudinal, demographic, political and economic changes.

For individuals and organisations there are considerable and indeed exciting challenges in adapting to this newly emerging Ireland and in shaping it coherently and effectively for the betterment of all.your work in areas like education, social justice, communications and the pastoral apostolate, places you right in the heart of everyday life.

Bodies like the Jesuit Refugee Centre, the Centre for Faith and Justice, the Democracy Project, the Persons for Others Projects, the Arrupe Society and are contributing the work of both hands and heads to highlighting and helping us deal with some of the most current and difficult problems faced by Irish society and indeed the international community too in many instances.

New Ireland Old narratives are disappearing. Homogeneous insularity has given way to a globally focused heterogeneity. Poverty has given way to wealth, generations old outward migration has given way to inward migration, the culture of ceann faoi has been overwhelmed by a confident "can do".

We live our economy-driven lives in the eye of the unpredictable storm that is global commerce. We are members of the European Union, itself a phenomenon in the world of transnational politics, a place of miraculous reconciliations and huge shared progress and potential.

We are a people who have always cared about the world's poor and whose care has been historically expressed largely through the endeavours of our missionaries. Now we are among the world's biggest donors of development aid and major contributors to a new culture of focused and strategic cooperation with the developing countries of the world,designed with an amalgam of the best of scholarship and human values, to generate real momentum and traction in the lives of the poor.

We have an agenda to complete the work of our own Proclamation by cherishing all the children of our nation equally and to complete the work of our human calling, to cherish the children of the world equally.

These are phenomenal challenges for all of us, the church included. We are all of us standing at the frontiers of an as yet uncharted future. Thankfully we are not without road maps or guidance or vision but we are also accompanied by what your new Superior General has described as an "uneasiness in…society and in the church that has not yet disappeared.

"The sources and subjects of the uneasiness Fr Nicholas refers to are not of course identical for the Church and society though they probably overlap to a fair degree. The Church's preoccupation - and presumably one shared by the Jesuit order like so many similar orders in the western World - is summed up in a question posed by Fr Nicholas and to which I have no intention of advancing even a hint of an answer, even if I had one, which I don't.

"How come", he asks "we elicit so much admiration and so little following?" Even as that question is being analysed and answers offered and tested, the question of social unease still has to be addressed and the social problems we face still have to be addressed.

There are plenty of them - the cultural aneurism that is abuse of alcohol and drugs, their daily legacy of family and community violence which greatly interrupt our quiet enjoyment of life, the children whose lives are being destroyed by an absence of love in their homes, the adults whose lives have been warped by abuse and neglect, the men, women and children facing a daily diet of worry about money, or chronic or terminal illness, or relationships, or loneliness, or fear, or mental-ill-health, or bereavement, or sectarianism or racism, or any one of legion of things that can make life a difficult and lonely journey, so dispiriting and grindingly hard for the human person, all the more so in an era of widespread optimism.

There is a lovely Irish saying that "Two shortens the journey'. We are a people who believe in community, who work hard at community, who are known to care. We know that life's ups and downs are easier to face when we are supported and encouraged.

For many, faith is an important element of their lives' coping frameworks. Whatever the internal debates and worries experienced by the Church there is still a sizable community of believers needing nurturing, guidance and company on this journey to and through Ireland's future whatever it brings.

Ireland owes a huge debt to the many within the Churches who invested so unselfishly in the education and well being of successive generations and who helped chart the path to today's peace, today's prosperity. These things are new; they have stirred a huge fresh momentum that is ringing the changes and bringing us all to new personal and communal frontiers.Find the spaces. In a way we have reached a type of zero-hour again, a moment when our next steps can radically alter the trajectory of our history.

It is a time for people who are not afraid of frontiers, for people who have courage to face even the most unmapped of roads, for people who have a clear set of values for the journey and an unshakable belief in the vision that is our destination. That pretty much sums up the Jesuits.

I wish you well as you look beyond this day, as you chart your path, choose your companions and do the work of hands, heart, mind and soul that will bring many blessings to this new Ireland of many miracles and many new frontiers of hope.

Henry Peel OP - a holy man, one of us

The remains of Henry Peel lie in St Catherine's Chapel at the Dominican Priory in Dominick Street.

His body lay in state in that room all night and the candles were lit at first light this morning. His removal will take place this afternoon arriving in the main church at 17.00 .

People will gather, pray and talk about Henry.

Fr Diarmuid Clifford will preach at the removal this afternoon and the provincial of the Irish Dominicans is due to preach at the Funeral Mass tomorrow.

A significant number of people in the area were touched by Henry and speak highly of him. He was a popular confessor. A woman who lives in Dorset Street said this morning that he was 'a simple and kind man, a holy man, but one of us'.

In the death notice in today's Irish newspapers, we read "Deeply regretted by his brother Bill, sister-in-law Eva, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, his Dominican Confreres and his many friends".

Last week Henry told me how touched he had been with the kindness he had received from his family in the days he was in hospital.

The death notice is striking. 'Dominican Confreres' - why is the 'Confreres' with an upper case 'C' but all other connections and relatives begin with lower case?

No doubt it will be the 'lower case' people who will shed the tears in these days.

It is seldom you see a Dominican cry at the funeral of a fellow Dominican and that of course is understandable.

Priests need to rid themselves of every vestige of clericalism. And the hints of clericalism show themselves in so many ways and in so many places.

"Henry was a holy man, but one of us."

Chancellor who stood at the Brandenburg Gate

A lovely photograph in today's Irish Times of Helmut Kohl and Maike Richter. The world will remember Helmut Kohl as the German Chancellor who stood at the Brandenburg Gate the night of German unification - there is much argument in Germany whether it was 'unification' or 'reunification'.

His wife, Hannelore, took her own life seven years ago.

The occasion for the photograph is that Mr Kohl is to marry Ms Richer shortly. Mr Kohl is in his 70s and Ms Richter is in her 40s.

Hope for us all!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Last week the Catholic archbishop of Dublin was reported as saying that Catholic schools must not be exclusive. He is reported as saying that they must allow themselves to be open to peoples from different cultures and backgrounds.

Lofty sentiments were spoken.

The Catholic Church in Ireland runs some of the most 'exclusive' schools in the country. High fees mean that the schools are open only to those children whose parents can afford them. A number of these schools offer scholarships. The Jesuits in Belvedere offer a number of scholarships to children in Dublin's north inner city. These scholarships prove most successful.

But are these schools the place where religious orders need or should be involved today?

On Friday the Minister for Education officially opens a new wing at Newbridge College.

If these Catholic Church-run schools are for the benefit of the children of wealthy parents is it appropriate that Government should part-fund them? Especially so, when the education budget is so limited at present. In these schools the State pays the salaries of all quota teachers. Extra funding is also available.

Newbridge has a fine history and has been responsible down the years for providing good and open education. Having taught in the school for a number of years, I am proud to be associated with its fine history of education.

Today there is only one Irish Dominican teaching a secular subject at post primary level on the payroll of the Department of Education.

Hopefully on Friday the Dominicans will be quiet and gentle on their role in education today.


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Monday, April 14, 2008

Henry Peel RIP

Fr Henry Peel, a Dominican in his early 80s, died this morning.

Henry was a kind and good man, who had a great sense of the value of people. He was always willing to engage with those who were less fortunate than he.

I lived with Henry in St Mary's in Cork between 1976 and 1979. He was a measured man whose advice was always valuable.

I later lived with him in the Dominican Priory in central Dublin where again he was most supportive. He was vexed with the unjust way in which I was treated in recent years and was brave enough to express his opinion.

He had the intelligence and faith to see through so much of the nonsense that is being peddled as 'religious observance'. Alas it caused him pain but he was a bigger person than that and with a gentle nod of his head he gave that famous smile of his, which clearly let you know what exactly he thought. His eyes told the story in a most emphatic manner.

Henry was a clever man, history being his speciality.

He contributed a column to St Martin's magazine. His column, which was always about some historical person or event, was the jewel in the magazine.

In dark days in St Saviour's, Henry Peel was a shining beacon - his room was a place to go to, to explain and try to be understood. He was gentle and kind, and never patronised.

We may not always have seen reality in similar ways, but there was nothing aloof or arrogant about Henry.

Henry, thank you for your support and the occasional glass of whiskey that you offered me in dark days.

May the angels bring you to the company of God.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Alive with a major exclamation mark

The advert referred to by Fine Gael TD Jim O'Keeffe is an appalling piece of inaccuracy. The theme of the ad is that God wants us to vote against the Lisbon Treaty.

A sentence in the advertisement runs, "Please help us to fight and win for God and for Ireland! Can you send whatever you can today?" And that means asking for money of course.

The first sentence in the advert reads, "We are in the middle of a fierce battle for the very soul of Ireland".

On page five readers are told that this newspaper is classed as a charity and therefore receives funding from Revenue. Difficult to see how it is a 'charity'.

Another headline tells readers that "Irish Times making up news". Surely that's close to libel!

But Alive does tell its readers that it now accepts credit card donations and payments!

Catholic Church in the news

It is interesting to see the attention given to church affairs in Ireland.

In today's Irish Times there are four letters which refer to the Catholic Church. In the same paper there is a report of an apology made by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

In a debate in the Dáil yesterday Fine Gael TD for Cork South West, Jim O'Keeffe made reference to an advertisement in the Alive newspaper.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pope Benedict in the US

Pope Benedict will shortly be in the United States of America. He will speak at the UN and meet President George W Bush.

It has been reported in the newspapers that a request was made that he meet victims of child sex abuse. The newspapers have reported that the request has been turned down and that the Vatican has said it is now a closed issue.

That has to be a lost opportunity. It would have been a great sign of a suffering church, a church that is repentant and conscious of the terrible wrong that has been done.

If the Vatican did say, as reported, that it is now a closed issue, it is clear that they have little understanding of the great damage that has been caused and continues to be caused on those who have been abused.

Only for the work of the media and the bravery of victims, the world would be unaware of so much wrong-doing perpetrated by some clerics. There are many men and women who have decided not to come forward for various and different reasons. The lives of victims have been damaged, in many cases forever.

If a Vatican official did say that it is now 'a closed issue' it is yet another scandal perpetrated by the hierarchical church.


This blog had its highest number of hits yesterday. It was read on four continents.

Iveagh House marks 40 years of Concern

The Department of Foreign Affairs marked the 40th anniversary of aid agency Concern at a reception in Iveagh House in Dublin last evening.

Junior Minister for Foreign Affairs Tom Kitt TD and Concern's CEO Tom Arnold spoke at the event.

David Byrne, a former EU Commissioner was present. Mr Byrne is a past pupil of Newbridge College. In conversation with him he spoke glowingly of the late Paul Hynes and Henry Flanagan.

It so happens that there was a significant number of people present with Dominican connections.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Priestly vocation

The article below appears in today's Irish Times.
To say "The noise of the world is drowning out the voice of God calling our young," cannot be the 'full story'. There seems to be a tone of "I know better than the world" about such a statement.
All we have is the 'world' we live and breathe in. There is also the tone that the clerical church knows best.

Why is it in poorer developing countries priestly vocations are in the ascendancy? Is it that God is having a better say there, or is it that a road to priestly ordination offers a higher status in society for those with 'vocations'?

Surely the mission of the ordained priest is to live and preach the Word of God in the world of the 'now'.

Elsewhere in the article Fr Bourke writes, "Life is not simply an unconnected series of events and happenings. On the contrary, for the believer, there is a unity and integrity to everything that unfolds".

Is that sentence real and has it meaning? Life is simply not like that.

Again, it is well worth parallelling this article with George B Wilson's book Clericalism, The death of priesthood.

Year for young people to ask if God is calling them to priesthood

RITE AND REASON: The noise of the world is drowning out the voice of God calling our young, writes Eamonn Bourke
A FABLE from the Celtic tradition recounts a conversation between Fionn and some of the Fianna. Fionn asks his colleagues what they consider to be the finest music in the world. "The song of the skylark!" one brave warrior suggests. "The gentle whisper of a lover," another adds. After each has offered his counsel the question is then turned back to Fionn: "But you, Fionn, what do you think is the finest music in the world?"
He replied: "The music of what happens. That is the finest music in the world." This Celtic myth is imbued with a deeply Christian sense; it suggests there is a unity and integrity to all that happens. Life is not simply an unconnected series of events and happenings. On the contrary, for the believer, there is a unity and integrity to everything that unfolds.
The events of my life and the life of the community have a purpose and a plan directed by God, guided towards a particular conclusion according to the will of one who loves us. In this world outlook everything has purpose, everything has meaning.
The great challenge of life then is to discern my role, my vocation, in this plan and to collaborate with the loving purposes of the creator.
St Paul tells of his vocation in his Letter to the Galatians (1:15-16). He tells them that God had set him apart since birth and called him by his grace that he might preach the good news to the gentiles.
We too are set apart by God and called by his grace to bring the good news to a world that is hungry for the truth. We are called to do this through our own unique gifts and talents, responding to the promptings and guidance of the spirit of God.
Next Sunday, April 13th, the church in Ireland begins a year dedicated to the promotion of vocations. This is a year in which we are encouraged to embrace life as a gift from God and to recognise that each of us has a place in God's loving plan. God is not a mass producer of human beings. He is a master craftsman who has created each of us for a unique purpose in life.
In this year of vocation the church encourages us to embrace life in all its highs and lows, joys and sadness, as God's gift to us, as the life we would create for ourselves if we could see as God himself sees, as the life which ultimately we will praise and thank God for when we see him face to face.
This year of vocation will be a resounding success if all the baptised, especially the young who are endeavouring to set out on their life journey, ask themselves the questions "where is God calling me in life?" or "where does God want me to use my gifts and talents?"
A hallmark of a mature and responsible believing community is when its young, who are contemplating where and how they will live their lives, naturally ask themselves whether or not they are being called to priesthood or religious life. The world in which we live today militates against this.
In the noise of this hectic world the voice of God calling our young to these valuable and necessary vocations is being drowned out.
Maybe this year we could as a nation dim the noise, bring the soul to rest and allow a space for the voice of the Lord to penetrate our hearts so that those who are being called to religious life and priesthood may be moved by the prompting of the spirit and those who are not being called to these specific vocations may see their life as a most valuable gift and their life work as their opportunity to give praise to the one who created them.
Fr Eamonn Bourke is director of vocations for Dublin's Catholic archdiocese. Next Sunday the Year of Vocation will be launched in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Lisbon Treaty

The article below appeared in yesterday's Irish Times.

There has been misleading information on the Lisbon Treaty appearing in the media in recent weeks. Alive newspaper has published editorial and advertising in its April edition, which seems to be saying that a vote for Lisbon is a vote against God.

The article below stresses that such thinking is inaccurate and incorrect.

Parliament chief warns of 'misleading' representations of Lisbon Treaty
JAMIE SMYTH European Correspondent
EU: The treaty will not lead to either abortion or Nato membership, says Hans-Gert Pöttering.
THE PRESIDENT of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, has urged Irish people to vote for the Lisbon Treaty and not listen to No campaigners misleading them about what it means.
He also insists that the treaty, if ratified, would not force Ireland to join military alliances or pave the way for the introduction of abortion, as some campaigners have argued.
"I always have defended the right that all nations must be free to decide whether they are without alliances or whether they want to join an alliance," said Mr Pöttering, who begins a visit to Ireland today to meet the Taoiseach and speak to the Seanad.
"Nobody ever can force Ireland to become a member of Nato if Ireland does not want to do so."
But Mr Pöttering, who became president last year and is a close political ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel - who will also visit Ireland next week - praised Ireland's deep involvement in EU military missions overseas that seek to defend human rights.
"Ireland has soldiers in Chad to defend the human rights of the suffering population, Ireland has soldiers in Bosnia and will have policemen in Kosovo, so this shows Ireland together with other Europeans are defending European values and human rights."
Mr Pöttering is a German conservative who has been a member of the European Parliament since its first elections in 1979. A Catholic with deep religious convictions, he criticised comments by veteran Danish Eurosceptic MEP Jens-Peter Bonde, who recently invoked the "abortion issue" as a reason to vote against the treaty.
"The person you mentioned is sharing a political group which consists mainly of either anti-Europeans or Eurosceptics," he said. "He is misleading the Irish people because abortion is not part of European legislation, it remains part of national legislation. I have strong reservations against abortions because we have to do everything to defend human life."
Mr Bonde has said his remarks, which suggested the treaty would undermine small states' ability to create protocols in EU treaties to stop the EU legislating on abortion (Ireland incorporated a protocol in the Maastricht treaty), were taken out of context by the media.
Mr Pöttering insisted he did not want to appear to be telling Irish people how to vote in the referendum but as a keen European federalist the timing of his visit is no accident.
"The Irish people have to make their own decision but I trust the intelligence and the wisdom of the Irish people and they need to make the EU strong and base it on democratic and legal principles and we need better procedures to act," he said.
"I have trust in the Irish people . . . to realise who is telling them the truth or who tries to mislead them."
When asked about a recent vote in the European Parliament that rejected by 499 votes to 129 votes an amendment to "respect the outcome of the Irish referendum", Mr Pöttering said the parliament always respects the will of the people and democratic decisions. But he refused to speculate on the consequences of a No vote for the country. He says the treaty would make the EU more democratic, transparent and give it a better capacity to act.
The European Parliament would oversee almost all EU legislation, while at present it is co-legislator for just 75 per cent of laws. Decisions taken by the Council of Ministers would be more transparent because meetings discussing new laws would be broadcast while national parliaments would assume the power to reject EU legislative proposals if a majority of them disagree with them, said Mr Pöttering.
The treaty commits states to "European values" and to engage on important international issues such as human rights - a key issue for Mr Pöttering. He was the first EU leader to suggest boycotting the Olympic Games following China's repression of Tibetan demonstrators. He has invited the Dalai Lama to visit the parliament, a move that has angered Beijing and pressured other EU leaders to address the issue.
"I see more and more the development in the EU to defend the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people and I think to do so is a political and moral responsibility," he said.
"We still have more than three months until the opening of the Olympic Games so if there are further violations of human rights we must and will have the possibility to react."
While refusing to speculate on Bertie Ahern's prospects of becoming president of the European Council, Mr Pöttering praised him for stepping down before the referendum.
"The Taoiseach made it clear that he did not want his personal difficulties to become a factor in the referendum campaign. This shows great responsibility," said Mr Pöttering.© 2008 The Irish Times

Thursday, April 3, 2008

History of East Berlin newspaper

The article below appears in today's Irish Times.

It is a puzzle. Everyone who knows anything about newspapers in the former GDR knows that those working on the newspapers were in the SED and worked hand-in-glove with the SED government. Both Berliner Zeitung and Neues Deutschland were straightforward organs of the Communist Party. So, why this story and why the 'outrage'?

Surely it would be the exception for staff at the newspaper not to work for the Stasi.

Berlin paper's staff agree to be vetted after editors exposed as Stasi agents

GERMANY: STAFF AT Germany's Berliner Zeitung newspaper are to undergo background checks after two senior editors were exposed as informers for the East German secret police, the Stasi.
The left-leaning daily, now owned by Bangor-born David Montgomery, was founded in 1945 and, though editorially controlled, was the leading daily in the East German capital.
Like no other former East German paper, the Berliner Zeitung has flourished in a united Germany with a winning formula of critical but sympathetic reportage on East German history.
"Our greatest achievement in the last years is that we have managed to get a foothold in the West," said one journalist yesterday. "Our success and our credibility could be ruined by this."
The identity of the first informer emerged at the weekend: Thomas Leinkauf, editor of the weekend supplement, informed for the Stasi under the codename "Gregor" from 1975 to 1977 until Stasi officials dropped him because of his Trotskyist views. Then, on Monday, a deputy political editor admitted he had worked for the Stasi for 10 years until 1989.
Both journalists have left their positions after coming under pressure from colleagues who voted yesterday in favour of allowing researchers to vet the Stasi archive for information on the newspaper's 120 journalists and editors. "We have to make sure we don't lose our journalistic integrity," said editor-in-chief Josef Depenbrock.
The newspaper's critical but sympathetic position on East Germany's past was reflected in readers' letters on the revelations.
Some suggested the leak was no coincidence, coming weeks after a supplement edited by Mr Leinkauf published an article attacking a leading Stasi critic. "It's one thing having worked for the Stasi 30 years ago," remarked one reader. "It's something else, as Leinkauf has done, to print articles playing down the crimes of the Stasi."
Others were more circumspect. "In Russia, a former secret service employee became president," noted one reader.

An intranet

People who read this blog may be aware that one of the jobs of the 'blogger' is a press officer with an NGO.

At the NGO we have developed a new intranet facility, which is at the cutting edge of communications technology. An intranet allows organisations to avoid the endless emails that are sent around. All documents and information of the organisation can be posted on an intranet and it is secure. These documents become immediately available to everyone who has access to the intranet.

An intranet is perfectly suited to an organisation such as the Dominicans with its world-wide outreach and its home network within each individual province.

Right now the Irish Dominicans are planning for a provincial chapter - an intranet would be the perfect vehicle for the dissemination of material.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Web page quality

The Dominican Order spends great energy, talking and explaining about its mission of preaching the Gospel. Provincials write letters in praise of all the great 'work' that is done in this area. Chapters speak glowingly of what is being achieved. But reality seems to tell a different story.

The late John O'Gorman often commented that the brothers of the Irish Province had computer capacity that far exceeded anything they could even dream about.

And yet if anyone did a simple study of Dominican websites they would quickly realise how inept the Order is in the field of electronic communication.

Take today, April 2, 2008 and read the home pages of the Irish, English and German(Teutonia) web pages. There is only one word to describe them - appalling. All three homepages are boring, tardy and have nothing to offer or entice a casual reader. There is nothing 'lively' or interesting about these websites.

The Trinidad Dominicans are all talk about updating their webpage but when you examine further you discover it all died a death last August.

The last item of news on the webpage of the Australian Dominicans is announcing the death of Fr Peter Knowles on March 12.

The last update on the website made at Santa Sabina was in August 2007.

The reality of these web pages fits clearly into the 'clerical culture' that George B Wilson SJ writes about in his book.

It may be said that it is better to see the glass half full than half empty. And that may well be true. But it is also important for someone to keep shouting and criticising those things that are so badly done.

How can Dominicans talk about the mystery and intricacies of God if this is the standard that is offered readers of the web around the world?

Maybe the question should be asked as to how serious the Order of Preachers takes its 'preaching' mission.

Hospital shambles

There has been much news in the Irish media about the state of the Irish health services. Graphic descriptions have been painted of the chaos that reigns in many A&E departments in hospitals around the country. Stories of misdiagnoses have also been carried in the media.

Today at 08.00 I visited a ward in the Mater Hospital in Dublin. I was flabbergasted with what I saw. It was a very big ward - far too big and there was a large number of patients in the ward. Every bed was occupied. But there was not even a curtain separating bed from bed. The room was enormous. Who is responsible for this shambles?

I was visiting an elderly Dominican. He was sitting out on a chair when his breakfast arrived. There was nothing gentle or caring about everything I saw in the Mater Hospital this morning. If we cannot give the best of care to the sick and vulnerable then surely we should hang our heads in shame. How can this State claim to be at the top of any economic statistics if this is the way we care for the sick?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

'Blatant nonsense'

A great quote from Wilson's book.

"A priest friend who had been a civil lawyer before he entered the seminary
told me of an amazing realisation that came to him upon his ordination and
entry into pastoral ministry. He was amazed to discover that except for
something like blatant heresy, there was no medium to hold him accountable
for anything.
Surgeons and lawyers need insurance against malpractice suits.
A pastor can blithely preach blatant nonsense for years with no one to call him to account."

How accurate the above quote is. Once the proverbial does not hit the fan, a priest seems to be able to do and say what he likes.

Why do we find a book great? What makes a piece of writing great? Difficult questions to answer. But for this blogger, this book is the first time he has read something which is at the heart of what is wrong with priesthood.

Distasteful advertisement in Alive

The Irish Times has carried a number of letters concerning Alive newspaper.

In the April issue of Alive on the back page there is an advertisement asking people to support those who are opposed to the Lisbon Treaty.

One paragraph reads, "This treaty is simply a re-hash of the EU Constitution - which rejects God and the unborn child."

The next paragraph is even more outrageous.

There is the menacing sentence, "We'll fight this Treaty with everything we've got. But we need your help".

Elsewhere it tells its readers, "We'll have lost the power to decide."

The ad concludes with the salutation, "Please pray of the campaign. God Bless You. Fr John Brady.

It is a distasteful and worrying advertisement.

A sensational book

Some days ago this blog referred to the book, Clericalism: The death of priesthood by George B Wilson. This book is a sensation and should be on the top reading list of every priest everywhere. It gets to the core of all that is so wrong about what is happening in the hierarchical church at present. The book is published by Liturgical Press. Watch out for regular quotes from the book on this blog. Here is one.

"The marginalisation of the lay public (A hazard incurred in every instance of clericalisation) can have serious consequences.

"During the Vietnam era the point was well made in the form of the slogan: 'War is too serious to leave to the generals.'

When the language of the inner circle is used effectively to take away from the laity decision making and adult responsibility for choices of great moments in their lives, serious mischief is afoot. The destructive impact is multiplied when the laity become complicit in their own disempowerment by allowing the situation to continue by default." (Page 26)

Every page of this book offers the reader extraordinary insight. There is much talk this year about vocation to the priesthood. Hopefully, this book will be carefully read by all those involved in furthering priestly vocation.

The current mantra that there is a vocation crisis in Ireland has to be looked at with deep scepticism.

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