Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas greetings

A happy and holy Christmas to all readers of this blog.

That's what we said at home so it's good enough for me. It surely has to be better than 'have a good one'.

Has any one noticed, at least in Ireland, there has been a move away from 'merry' and back to 'happy' Christmas.

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The art or madness in following leaders

The news on the Irish hierarchical church is relentless. It has become somewhat like dashing down a hill with people on both side hurling stones at you. They never stop, they keep coming, in all forms and shapes.

What must it have been like west of Stalingrad on December 24 1943? The German troops, starving, dying, wounded, still managed to decorate their trenches with Christmas things - the few things they had left. They, at least the sensible ones, knew it was all over. They were surrounded. In 21/22 days time they would be prisoners of war.

Some days earlier, Paulus, or at least some high ranking officer at command HQ on the steppes, wrote a note to Hitler assuring him of the loyalty of the Sixth Army and the bravery of the troops. The soldiers were experiencing minus 38 degrees Celsius. They were filthy, covered in lice, few clothes and little or no ammunition.

But for Zhukov, Hitler may well have had his way. The discipline, intelligence, dedication and ruthlessness of Zhukov in everything he did between the Don and the Volga paid off. And he had to deal with Stalin. The Soviet Army was cruel, cruel to its soldiers. No mercy was ever shown. It was brutal and violet.

Hitler brought them to this place, on the banks of the Volga. Millions followed his madness. What is it about people who hand over their minds and hearts to absurd and ridiculous systems?

Why do we give such authority to people?

This is the season of bishop bashing and it is probably unwise to join in the melee. But anyone who looks back in Ireland since the foundation of the State has to ask why did the Irish people give these men such power. It was absurd, probably sinful.
Why did I not stand up in public and demand an apology from Archbishop McQuaid the day he 'savaged' my hair?

Yes, I laughed at some of them behind their backs and spoke out about them in a quasi public manner but I too was afraid. It's so easy to say we are children of our generation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

At last people begin to speak their minds

What's happening in the Irish hierarchical church when Jim Cantwell in a letter in today's Irish Times refers to the 'megaphone' behaviour of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin? Elsewhere in the letter he refers to the behaviour of the archbishop as being 'graceless'.

Bishops Drennan and Walsh have also called into question the behaviour of Diarmuid Martin.

Did it take this disaster to help rid the church of clone bishops.

Hopefully, Irish bishops will in the future think for themselves and speak their own minds.

It was a horrible phoney clerical world. Hopefully the church has the power and will to change. But what are all the silent men thinking, the ones who never speak their minds, the men who work in darkness?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another example of lazy journalism

Probably part of the human make-up but there seems to be an abundance of 'laziness' when it comes to the Irish media.

The recent events in Listowel, the statement of the Bishop of Kerry and the subsequent resignation of the acting parish priest of Castlegregory, deserved a far closer analysis than they received.

It seems so often that few journalists give too much time or attention to the underlying events that cause things to happen. Listowel is a case in point.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Acting Castlegregory pp in the news

Today the acting pp of Castlegregory has hit the national headlines.

It appears Fr Seán Sheehy gave a character witness to a man who was convicted in court of a sexual assault.

It is reported that Fr Sheehy referred to the 'alleged' assault subsequent to the man being found guilty of the crime.

What communication exists between priests and bishops and or provincials?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Burkas and religious habits

In Europe, especially in France, there has been much discussion on the wearing of the burka. In Poland and Germany there has been controversy over displaying the cross in certain public places.

We in the western world 'pride' ourselves in the tolerance we have for freedom of expression.

Not so long ago there was the uproar over images in a Danish newspaper.

Freedom of expression is a key aspect to open and honest democracy. People are entitled to say what they wish and also wear the clothes they wish. Or are they?

There are libel and slander laws to protect the good name of people. There are codes of dress, which are applicable and appropriate and conform with the custom and practice of society.

There are those who see the wearing of the burka as some sort of statement. Some see it as a type of 'fundamentalist' statement, which might well be seen as not in keeping with the society in which they are living.

What about young men expressing a wish to wear a religious habit in a public place?

Will it be worn in select occasions and in select places? And why? Will it be worn for instance in expensive restaurants and chippers? Will it be worn in pubs and homeless hostels?

Who are the woman who insist on wearing the burka and the men who insist on wearing their religious habit in public places?

In both cases they are people who subscribe to a religious belief.

In the context of wearing the religious habit, it would seem that giving witness to the message of the Gospel, it is far more important to be concerned with empathising and being with the 'little people'.

In the Ireland of now surely habits and burkas place us at a distance from the majority of the children of God.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Meeting with Pope Benedict

Had Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin been accompanied by Marie Collins on their visit to Pope Benedict, then one might have every reason to beleive that something could happen.

Again, Irish journalists seem too lazy or maybe simply incompetent to ask the queswtions that need asking.

Army chief disagrees with minister

Followers of German affairs will surely be observing the current scandal over the Afghan bombing on September 4.

The affairs has so far claimed the defence minister of the time, a senior ministry official and the head of the defence forces, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, a highly-decorated Bundeswehr soldier.

The latest sensation is that Wolfgang Schneiderhan has gone on German television and said that the denfence minister's version of events is untrue.

The defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a rising star in German politics.

It must be of historical significance to see a former head of the German armd forces in public disagreement with the defence minister.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bishop Éamonn Walsh speaks out

Below is an interview with Bishop Éamonn Walsh, an auxiliary bishop in Dublin. The interview appears in today's Irish Times.

Bishop Walsh makes a very strong case which appears to be plausible and the veracity of the man must be accepted. But why did Archbishop Diarmuid Martin not make this clearer in his interview on Prime Time?

'If I had done any wrong I'd be gone' - Dr Walsh

Patsy McGarry started by asking Bishop Walsh about suggestions he was “under pressure”

“Yeah, well, you and your newspaper have put me under pressure and I’m the kind of person that if I have something to say I say it very directly.

“If I had done any wrong, I’d be gone. And the other thing is that my record on child protection goes back a long way and it’ll continue. And if on the other hand the perception continued among the people that I was somebody who was complicit in all of this, then that would be a barrier in my ministry and I couldn’t even minister as a priest or a bishop if that were to continue.

“So I have to do everything in my power to assure people of my earnestness in the past, in the present and, while I may be contaminated in people’s mind by association, I consider a lot of the things that have been written have been at least disingenuous, have been an ingenious way of twisting facts.

“They are not satisfied with what’s in the Ferns report, where I gave a co-operation beyond what any court could compel. Even when there was the part of the appendix that was due, as the judge called it, an unfortunate but a genuine error, that still has not been accepted by some commentators. And I find that an attack on my personal integrity, and if I haven’t my integrity I have nothing. The easy thing for me would be to walk away. That’d be the easy option. And I will have to consider if my personal integrity and the continuing perception of me as a priest – if I haven’t got that I have nothing.”

You can understand probably why, considering the findings of the commission of what went on in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004 – that basically there was a cover up – I’m not insinuating that you were party to it, but you were secretary to Archbishop McNamara, who took out insurance in 1987. You were secretary to Cardinal Connell before you became auxiliary bishop in 1990. You can see why people ...[might have a particular perception]...

Bishop Walsh cut in to reply at this point:

“I can see that absolutely. I’ve no problem seeing that and the perception they have of a secretary and the perception of the kind of table we have, a sort of board of management. But as far back as 1990, I wasn’t a month in the job as a bishop, and I stood up at a meeting and I said that not alone should the police, who were already informed about an individual, but we should say where he was living and the number of his car, because I felt he was a danger.

“A certain person, who is now deceased , wrote in horror to the archbishop that somebody could even think that way. That was the culture of the time. I did everything I could, but if I am contaminated by association, then I have to accept that and I will let the people judge, the people in my area. But at the end of the day I have to make whatever decision and, as I said, the easiest thing would be for me to walk away.”

The commission report refers to one particular allegation in one instance where you advised a woman to write to the chancellor. Did you report that to the Garda?

“Can I answer that very clearly. That was post the framework document (1996) and what I said to the woman . . . she rang me on a Saturday. She was a nun. She was a social worker and she said I have a concern, could you advise me? And I said what is it, and she said there is a priest who has offended and I said is he alive and she said he is. Is he in ministry, she said he is. Then you must act right away and this is how you proceed. You go to the chancellor who is the delegate and write to him and I will check to see he acts on it.

“He did act on it but it took about six months for the woman to actually get the name of the complainant and you can’t go to the guards with a third-party concern. So the spin that was put on that yesterday morning (in an article on Tuesday in The Irish Times by One in Four founder Colm O’Gorman) was most disingenuous and outrageous.”

To address the Ferns inquiry . . . the uncovering of those eight separate files you had not submitted to the Ferns inquiry until this lady went to the One in Four organisation [with an allegation of clerical child abuse in April 2005]?

“They’re very conveniently trying to claim the credit for everything there. As soon as that came to our attention we went to Judge Murphy [retired Supreme Court judge Frank Murphy, chairman of the Ferns inquiry team]. He has in the report acknowledged that this was a genuine, regrettable error. It did not affect the findings and he said that my integrity was totally intact and referred to the co-operation I gave. You know, the world knows the level of co-operation that I have given. And again, I find it amazing that a person who would write in the dedication of their book to me ‘To Eamonn, in truth and respect’, Colm O’Gorman, could try and speak from the other side of his mouth and put another interpretation on that.

“I find that just scandalous for a person who stands for what we call an international organisation called Amnesty. And to behave in that kind of an unjust way is beyond words from me. I’ve no more to say.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

100 dead soldiers

Today's Guardian newspaper carries the photos of the 100 soldiers killed this year in Afghanistan.

Of the 100 dead men, six were officers and of those six, one was in a senior command position.

Many words nothing new

Fr Vincent Twomey has an opinion piece in today's Irish Times.

He argues that there are too many bishops in Ireland. He has not too much to say about how bishops are appointed.

Fr Twomey is a retired professor of theology at Maynooth. Presumably he was many years teaching in Maynooth and under many 'leaderhsip regimes'. 'The dogs on the street' knew that all was not well in Maynooth for decades.

Any thinking person, who stood inside the main door at Maynooth had to be forced to ask pertinent if not 'treasonable' questions. What did the upper echelons know?

Every priest who was ever appointed to a senior position in Maynooth was sure to be the 'safest pair of hands'.

The problem of the institutional hierarchical Irish church is far deeper than Vincent Twomey suggests in his opinion piece.

His comment about the 'civil role' of Irish bishops must be of great concern and worry to anyone who hopes we live in a republic.

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A morning salutation

An elderly man walking down Rathgar Road this morning shouted across the road to a young family going to school. 'Good morning how are ye', were his words. Cycling down the road I just managed to catch his smile and hear a response from the other side of the road. Rathgar Road is a wide road and I cycling, made it difficult to catch it all.

But it was just a great moment. And the man when he was making his greeting, waved his folded-up newspaper. I saw his smile.

A lucky man presumably. And then I began to think of the British soldier who was killed in Afghanistan yesterday, the bishops and all their nonsense. I remember once taking the mitre off a bishop the wrong way. I was later told it had been done the 'wrong way'. Why did I not have the wisdom to tell him to take it off himself.

Then on British television last evening there was a high-ranking officer of the British Army 'explaining' about Afghanistan.

Bishops, commanding officers, let them look after themselves. I like the man with his newspaper.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The day the church celebrates its belief in the mystery of Mary being conceived free of original sin.

The majority of Catholic schools in Ireland are closed today in honour of the feast. And yet it is quite likely the majority of students who are off school today know little about today's feast.

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

Mary teaches people to treat others with respect, pope says

Pope Benedict rode in the popemobile from the Vatican to the heart of Rome's tourist and shopping district to pay homage to Mary at a statue erected near the Spanish Steps.

"The mother of God teaches us to open ourselves to the action of God, to see others as he sees them -- starting from the heart. And to look upon them with mercy, with love (and) with infinite tenderness, especially those who are most alone, despised and exploited," the pope said.

Rome, like any big city, is filled with people who are invisible until some scandal lands them on the front page of the newspaper or the television news where they are "exploited to the very end, as long as the news and images attract attention," the pope said.

"It is a perverse mechanism, which unfortunately is hard to resist," he said. "The city first hides people, then exposes them to the public -- without piety, or with false piety."

But within each person, the pope said, there lies a strong desire "to be accepted as a person and considered a sacred reality because every human story is a sacred story and requires the utmost respect."

Pope Benedict said that with so many stories of evil and scandal filling the news, it's easy for people to think those things only happen to others. But the little good or little evil that everyone does has an influence on others and contributes to the overall tenor of society, he said.

"Often we lament the pollution of the air, which in certain parts of the city is impossible to breathe. It's true, the commitment of everyone is necessary to make the city cleaner," he said.

"But there is another kind of pollution, less perceptible to the senses, but just as dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit; it makes our faces less smiling, darker, and stops us from greeting each other and looking each other in the eyes," Pope Benedict said.

The pope said that on the day dedicated to remembering how Mary was preserved from sin, he wanted to honor the many citizens "who have understood that it is useless to condemn, complain and recriminate, but better to respond to evil with good."

"This changes things; or better, it changes people and, consequently, improves society," he said.

Earlier in the day, the pope recited the Angelus with visitors gathered in St Peter's Square for the feast, a major public holiday in Italy.

Pope Benedict said all Christians should rejoice in having Mary as their mother.

"Every time we experience our fragility and temptation, we can turn to her and our hearts will receive light and comfort. Even in the midst of the trials of life, in the storms that shake our faith and hope, we remember that we are her children," he said.

"The church itself, even if it is exposed to the negative influences of the world, always finds in her the star which will lead her to follow the route indicated by Christ," he said.

At the end of the Angelus, the pope greeted 85-year-old Polish Cardinal Andrzej Deskur, president of the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate, which promotes academic studies of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and pastoral initiatives in favor of Marian devotion.

The cardinal, seated in a wheelchair, and other members of the academy were in St Peter's Square for the midday prayer.

German film festival in Dublin

German film festival is on in Dublin this week.
More information under,

Irish Rail timetable in tatters

Irish Rail introduced a new timetable at the beginning of December.

It is already in tatters. Trains are running late on a regular basis, indeed, so late that on occasions bus transfers are required. How much is all this costing the company? Will anyone ever be told?

When the company introduced the new Spanish fleet on the Cork route and the subsequent hourly service they had Dublin Cork, Cork Dublin trains stopping at no more than three stations. They argued that with an hourly service it was not possible or workable to have trains stopping at any more than two or three stations.
In the new timetable, the 16.30 ex Cork, stops at Mallow, Charleville, Limerick Junction, Thurles, Templemore, Ballybrophy, Portlaoise, Portarlington, Kildare, Newbridge. Yesterday this train was 30 minutes late.

Is what they said two years ago inaccurate or is what they are now doing incorrect? Both ideas cannot be correct?

And the 'famous' curtains. The first day they were a waste of money. Where are they now and how much did they cost?

The introduction of their barrier system at Heuston was obviously not properly planned and executed. How much is the ensuing inefficiency costing?

The company deserves praise for its online booking service. It works well. But why such expensive paper when you collect your ticket at a booking office? What happens if there is no booking office or the office is closed?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Perfect time for prophetic stance

There are a number of pictures in this week's issue of The Kerryman. In one picture there is a guard of honour for Bishop Kevin McNamara.Fr, now Bishop Dermot Clifford may be in the same picture.

The nonsense of it all - giving guard of honours to these men. And it was the people who did that. How come no one stood up to them and told them to know their place.

How prophetic it would be now for a bishop or an archbishop to resign his post. Every bishop and archbishop in Ireland has been appointed to that position through a most non-transparent method. Every single bishop and archbishop in Ireland is in his job because he has proved one hundred per cent loyal to the institutional hierarchical church. Not only that, but they have passed the rigorous test on all matters dealing with the church's views on sexuality. Every single Irish bishop and archbishop has been ordained a priest before 1974 and they have been party to how the church operates. They have got their jobs because of their proven loyalty to 'mother church'.

How can anyone of them now distance themselves and dare say, they did not know?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nonsense words from theologian

This morning on RTE Radio 1 Fr Vincent Twomey in the course of an interview in which he called for the relevant bishops to resign, said that the 'Irish bishops were responsible to God'. Later on in that same interview he said that, 'the Irish bishops were ultimately responsible to Rome'.

And that in so many ways explains the mind-set of the clerical church around the world.

Fr Twomey is a retired Professor of moral theology.

Is it any wonder we are where we are?

Populists have that unique ability of appearing on so many stages at so many times. And it so easily can be couched in words that sound learned.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Most annoying when it's me

This article appeared in yesterday's Irish Times. A great read and most entertaining.

The funny thing about it all, most Germans take it as a given that in English you can say 'It is me'. But the same Germans would not tolerate someone using the accusative where the nominative should be used.

But with a name such as Prondzynski, they must originally come from east of the Oder!

There was a typo in the Irish Times article, which has been corrected here.

Me, myself or I? Unlike Janis Joplin, I’m driven to get the grammar right, insufferable pedant notwithstanding, writes FERDINAND VON PRONDZYNSKI

The phone rang. “Myself and Gerry need to see you,” a voice said (name withheld to protect the guilty). There followed a brief explanation of the subject, and then: “Don’t worry, me and Gerry will sort this out for you.”

I hear this expression all the time, and mostly I don’t bat an eyelid. But this time I said, “Me and Gerry?”

There was silence on the other end, clearly indicating that he had no idea why I was querying this. And why would he? All around us, it’s constantly “Me and Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally”. Gone are the days when you wouldn’t put yourself first in a sentence, and worse, gone are the days when someone would baulk at the idea that the phrase, “Me and Gerry will sort this out for you” could possibly be correct. After all, what he was saying was “Me will sort this out”.

“Gerry and I” I suggested.

“Why? Wasn’t it Me and Bobby McGee ?”

While I was pleased to hear the reference to the song written by Kris Kristofferson and made famous by Janis Joplin, even a quick look at the grammar of the sentence from which the song title comes would show a wholly different context. (Mind you, it should have been Bobby McGee and Me, but that wouldn’t have worked with the meter.)

I suggested this to my friend, and there I lost him completely. “Grammar? What on earth are you talking about?” As the actual subject of his call was important and I was in danger of distracting him from it, I let it go. Sometimes you have to accept that you have lost a battle, maybe even a war.

But then a week later, the same person (who is actually a lovely individual and a friend) was in my office telling me about the outcome of that call. “It’s all done,” he said happily. “I’m glad you let me and Gerry get on with it.” Then he paused and smiled. “Oops! Of course I mean I’m glad you let Gerry and I get on with it.” And another smile, the smile of the quick learner.

Oh please, I thought to myself, let that be a joke. But heavens above, he was serious. So what do I do? Tell him, “No, it’s ‘You let Gerry and me get on with it’”? Of course not. I just smiled back.

When I told this story over dinner to a group of people recently, the consensus was quick and overwhelming: that I was an insufferable pedant. Someone pointed out that what we now consider to be the rules of grammar are of fairly recent origin, and that Shakespeare wrote his works without any regard to either spelling or grammar.

“If I was you,” he suggested, “I would forget about all that kind of stuff.”

Really, if I was you? Does nobody use the subjunctive any more? Can we not keep alive that it should be “If I were you”?

No, I suspect we can’t. Popular usage has moved beyond the recognition of such rules, and in fairness I knew what he meant, so why should it matter? Maybe I am just a pedant.

And yet, and yet . . . My excuse for this attitude is that English was not my first language. For the first seven years of my life I spoke only German, and when we moved to Ireland I had to learn my new language at school. It may also be significant that I learned English and Latin at the same time and, perhaps being Germanic, I was in any case looking for rules all the time.

So is it all just a bit of personal eccentricity? I don’t think so. In universities in particular, one of the transferable skills we should be helping students to acquire is accurate and self-confident communication.

Communication is not just about exchanging words; it is often about conveying precise and nuanced meaning. This becomes more important still when you factor in cultural influences and differences. In some languages tiny changes in meaning can produce huge changes in meaning, with possibly serious consequences.

The same is true in English. One way of demonstrating that is to take a popular phrase in English and feed it into an automated programme for translation, say, into German, and then translate the output back into English.

Nowadays such programmes are much more sophisticated,

but back in the 1970s it is said that an attempt to translate the biblical quote “the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” by computer into Russian and then back again into English resulted in “vodka is good, but meat is bad”. The story may be apocryphal, but it nevertheless makes an interesting point.

So I hope that we have not given up yet on grammar, or on the idea that language has a precise meaning. Our education system still needs to respect the intricacies of linguistic communication, and it is not good that we appear to have largely abandoned this.

Anyway, that’s what myself and Gerry think.

Ferdinand von Prondzynski is president of Dublin City University

Root cause of church's problems

The article below appears intoday's Irish Times.

AFTER THE first wave of revelations over a decade ago, the sexual abuse of children by the clergy was explained away by the Roman Catholic Church by the bad apple theory – that these isolated “sexual acts” were transgressions by a minority of weak priests. In the wake of the Dublin diocesan report, that explanation has been amplified to include institutional failures of decision-making in dealing with offenders and victims, and a culture of secrecy and cover-up, writes MAUREEN GAFFNEY

But tidying up corporate governance and instituting a more transparent culture is not going to resolve the scandal of clerical sexual abuse. That will require the church to face up to a much more profound problem – the church’s own teaching on sexuality.

Consider the list of issues the church has failed to deal with credibly since the 1960s: premarital and extramarital sex; remarriage; contraception; divorce; homosexuality; the role of women in ministry and women’s ordination; and the celibacy of the clergy. All have to do with sexuality.

Very few Catholics are looking to the church for moral guidelines in relation to any of these questions anymore. And why would they? After all, the church’s teaching on sexuality continues to insist that all intentionally sought sexual pleasure outside marriage is gravely sinful, and that every act of sexual intercourse within marriage must remain open to the transmission of life. The last pope, and most probably the present, took the view that intercourse, even in marriage, is not only “incomplete”, but even ceases to be an act of love, if contraception is used. Such pronouncements are so much at variance with the lived experience of most people as to undermine terminally the church’s credibility in the area of intimate relationships.

The sexual revolution, particularly the development of effective contraception, and the growth of the women’s and gay rights movements, has left the church stranded with an archaic psychology of sexuality. The world has moved decisively away from a view of sex as simply procreation. What preoccupies men and women in the modern world is trying to understand the psychological roots of their own sexuality: how it is formed; how central it is to their identity and sense of self; and probably most essentially, how it can make or break their relationships. Even the clergy cannot put up a credible defence for the insistence on priestly celibacy in the face of the almost complete collapse in vocations and the mounting evidence that many priests have ignored teachings on this matter.

Richard Sipe is a former priest and a recognised authority on celibacy. On the basis of his research in the US and other countries, he estimates between 45 and 50 per cent of Catholic clergy are sexually active. A study in Spain found that of those clergy who were sexually active, 53 per cent were having sex with an adult woman; 21 per cent with adult men; 14 per cent with minor boys and 12 per cent with minor girls. His own research showed 20 per cent of priests were involved in a more or less stable sexual relationship with a woman, or with sequential women in identifiable patterns. Another 10 per cent were in exploratory “dating” relationships that might include sexual contact.

Some of the remaining 70 per cent tried to solve the problems of their loneliness by having a close friendship with a woman that excluded sex. But, predictably, many priests discovered how dependent their celibacy was on the traditional all-male clerical structure of their lives that was no longer available to them as they increasingly worked in a more isolated way in communities.

Sipe estimates the proportion of gay men in the priesthood as between 30 and 50 per cent, significantly greater than the proportion in the general population. About 10 per cent of clergy in the US were involved in homosexual activity. A further 12 per cent identified themselves as homosexual or as having serious questions about their sexual orientation, although not all were sexually active. These men find themselves in a church which views a homosexual orientation as “an objective disorder”, “a more or less strong tendency towards evil”. How can gay men and women in religious life, or those troubled by their orientation, work out their sexual identity in such an environment, let alone minister to their gay and lesbian flock?

All of those issues are institutionally denied or shrouded in secrecy. Hardly surprising, then, that paedophilia can flourish in such an environment. It is important to stress here that homosexuality and paedophilia are two quite separate phenomena. A 2004 study for the American bishops found the percentage of clergy accused of child sexual abuse was consistently between 3 and 6 per cent, and the overall average is 5 per cent.

As the institutional structures of the church have weakened in the wake of successive scandals, it is likely that the proportions of priests who are actively engaged in sexuality of one kind or another may have increased.

Yet, the church has remained unmoved in the face of the mounting evidence of defection from its sexual teachings by both laity and clergy, although in the case of the offending clergy, they seem entirely capable of keeping their doctrinal orthodoxy psychologically separate from their actual behaviour.

It is predictable what will now happen. The church’s “learning curve” will crank up temporarily and its corporate governance on child sexual abuse may improve. And then, it will be business as usual. But no amount of improved decision-making and transparency will enable senior clergy to respond effectively to the church’s crisis of sexuality.

To do that, they must confront the root cause of the problem – that the Catholic Church is a powerful homo-social institution, where men are submissive to a hierarchical authority and where women are incidental and dispensable. It’s the purest form of a male hierarchy, reflected in the striking fact that we all collectively refer it to as “the Hierarchy”.

It has all the characteristics of the worst kind of such an institution: rigid in social structure; preoccupied by power; ruthless in suppressing internal dissent; in thrall to status, titles, and insignia, with an accompanying culture of narcissism and entitlement; and at a great psychological distance from human intimacy and suffering.

Most strikingly, it is a culture which is fearful and disdainful of women. As theologian William M Shea observes, “fear of women, and perhaps hatred of them, may well be just what we have to work out of the Catholic system”. Until that institutional misogyny is confronted, the church will be unable to confront the unresolved issue of its teaching on sexuality and the sexuality of the clergy. Instead, celibacy will continue to be used as a prop to the dysfunctional homo-social hierarchy. The hierarchy will continue to project its fear of women on to an obsessive effort to exert control over their wombs, their fertility and their unruly sexual desires. That is the psychology of exclusion.

It is to be hoped that the Catholic Church in Ireland will resolve this issue. Not just because many of us don’t want to lose the reassuring moral presence of the church, nor because we cannot easily do without the intelligent altruism of devoted religious, but because the great joy and hope of the Christian message was never more badly needed.

Maureen Gaffney is a clinical psychologist. She is chairwoman of the National Economic and Social Forum, which advises the Government on economic and social issues, and is a member of the board of the HSE

Strategy change is nothing near enough

There is an interesting comment posted on this blog today under Saturday November 28.

The Archbishop of Dublin appeared on Prime Time last evening.

Certainly the strategy is changing as noted by Marie Collins. But the systemic issue is not being discussed and this surely is an opportune time to discuss much of what is wrong in the clerical church.

Those men who are deeply entrenched in the clerical environment are silent at present and indeed the chances of any change is most unlikely. In the terms of the leader of Sinn Féin, 'they haven't gone away you know'. But not only that, they will become entrenched and become more convinced of their 'cause'.

Had Dermot Martin last evening said that there is a problem with the appointment of bishops he would have gone some way in addressing issues that need immediate attention

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Need for greater clarity

Below, in bold, is the first paragraph from the Murphy Commission. It states clearly that their task was to investigate how the church and State handled the allegations.

The Second paragraph, in italics, is the first paragraph of the letter from the Archbishop of Dublin, which was read at Masses in the diocese on Sunday. But the archbishop avoids stating clearly that the investigation was an investigation into the actions and behaviour of church authorities, viz bishops and archbishops.
It would have been far more credible had the archbishop made that point clear in his opening paragraph.

1.1 The Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation was established to report on the handling by Church and State authorities of a representative sample of allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse against clerics operating under the aegis of the Archdiocese of Dublin over the period 1975 to 2004. The report of the Commission is in two parts.

It is difficult to find words to describe how I feel today. As Archbishop of a Diocese for which I have pastoral responsibility, of my own native diocese, of the diocese for which I was ordained a priest, of a Diocese which I love and hope to serve to the best of my ability, what can I say when I have to share with you the revolting story of the sexual assault and rape of so many young children and teenagers by priests of the Archdiocese or who ministered in the diocese? No words of apology will ever be sufficient.

At least Cardinal Connell had the grace to recognise what the remit of the Commission was.

Here is the opening paragraph from his letter.

The report of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission, which has now been published, gives a shameful picture of the pattern of sexual abuse of children by priests in the diocese during the period of the Commission’s remit. While acknowledging the work that was done and the structures that were gradually developed to deal with this appalling problem during my tenure as Archbishop, the report is severely critical of the diocesan response, particularly in my earlier years in office.

Navan Road needs to visit Iveagh House

In today's Irish Examiner columnist and Barnardos CEO, Fergus Finlay, argues that the Papal Nuncio in Ireland should no longer remain dean of the diplomatic corps.

If the Vatican has refused to reply to questions from the Murphy Commission surely it is time for the Irish Foreign Minister to have a word with the Papal Nuncio.

The bishop of Limerick talks about consulting the people of the diocese as to whether or not he should resign. What was the dialogue with the people of the diocese during his appointment process?

Some wise words

Francis Hunt has an interesting comment on this blog. It appears in the comments of Saturday, November 28.

It's worth noting some bishops seem to be either below or above the radar. It is yet again another worrying aspect of what is happening.

Marie Carroll continues to speak with amazing clarity and accuracy. She keeps drumming home that nothing is changed in the hierarchical church. She is correct.

Abusing the pulpit

Sunday was the beginning of the Advent season and the first Sunday in Advent.

It is a guideline for every priest that he should use the Gospel of the day or the feast for the topic of his sermon.

What happened last Sunday in Ireland? The rule was broken and letters from bishops were read. Of course the letters were vetted by the appropriate spin doctors. This procedure by the Irish bishops was in clear breach of what the Church advises, indeed, highly recommends.

It was a clear misuse of the pulpit by the bishops.

Ask the question if the clerical church had not been found out would all this 'stuff' have happened?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Not a peep from the Navan Road

Will the current furore in the Irish church inspire theologians to sit down and ask serious questions as to why this has happened? It is doubtful.

What is likely to happen is a closing of ranks. It is highly unlikely that there will be any serious discussion in the area.

It has been reported that some bishops have said that it would be too costly to do an audit in every diocese. Of course an audit must be done everywhere. If anything, it is probable that this behaviour was more prevalent in rural Ireland than in urban areas.

The whole sorry story is appalling and please, not a word from anyone in the hierarchical church to say they did not understand the seriousness of what was going on. They did and they do.

It is the forced drip feed that is terrible and so demeaning.

There is also a serious theological issue at stake. It seeps right through every corner of the hierarchical church that God's preferred 'people' is 'the one true church' and that his priests are there to guide it. Is there not some sort of problem here?

There is also a permanent state of denial at work. Some years ago when the Micheál Ledwith story broke, a lecturer from Maynooth told me in no uncertain terms a year or so before the story broke, that nothing untoward was going on in Maynooth. Indeed, he was 'cross' with me for even suggesting that something may not be right and proper. He dismissed me in a most imperious manner - still does today.

It is all so horrible and indeed sad. But all one has to do is to examine carefully how bishops are appointed and the sort of people who are the career people within the church.

All seems silent in Rome and on the Navan Road.

German cleric makes glib comment

The German Suddeutsche Zeitung reported on the Murphy report on the Dublin archdiocese.

In Saturday's edition there was a report on the declining number of men joining seminaries in German.

The report quoted from the Catholic Church's spokesman with competency in the area and he is reported has having said that the decline in numbers is mainly due to the secularisation of society.

There we go again. This is far too glib a comment to make. Later in the article the correspondent profiles the men who are currently in priestly formation. It is extremely accurate and incisive.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Angry and sick and no change

To think that John Charles McQuaid 'forbade' people from attending TCD. To think that these men tried to tell good parents how to live their lives is a crime against humanity.

The lore and the nonsense that spewed from their lips. But on a personal note, when I think of how we were expected to give these men respect. The titles they used. It is nothing but horrendous. And what about the people, who told us to behave in such a fashion?

Of course there are great women and men in the service of the hierarchical church? I have been privileged to know so many.

When dictates come down from Rome and bishops, and the 'theologians' 'attenpted' to make sense to the nonsense, and still do today.

Telling us they did not know the damage that was being caused. Of course they lied and still do, so as to control and attempt to hold on to whatever sort of power they think they may have.

Those people attempting to guide young women and men with respect to their sexual lives causes me physical illness.

Funny, how they know the mind of God in every detail in sexual activity, and then this.

What is particularly bleak is that it is most probable the change that is necessary, seems impossible of taking place in the current clerical environment, which may well try to close rqnks.

The tears, at least for me, seem crocodile in quality.

What about an audit of every diocese in the world?

Should the Irish State request Rome recall the Papal Nuncio?

Every current serving bishop in Ireland has been appointed to that job by means of a proceess that is devious, secret and most questionable.

Every current Irish bishop is part of that appalling nomenclature. No exceptions, although Willie Walsh has spoken his mind in an open and honest fashion.

The church continues to play its own clever mind games. It is not honest about the issue it has with homosexual priests. It refuses to talk in any open or meaningful manner on the topic.

To think that a married Anglican priest can become a Catholic priest and remained married is a fabulous nonsense but theologians have the magic explanation.

This may sound angry. It is. For over 30 years I have been asking for open and honest debate on all issues dealing with sexuality within the clerical church to be refused at every possible opportunity. And one of the powerful weapons of the church is to stay silent or else to dismiss you as a person who is angry or has 'probelems'.

McQuaide, Ryan, McNamara, But they are simply the fall guys.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Behaviour of a disturbed man

I wrote something on this blog and I wrote it in great anger. Why?
When I received the order of tonsure, the then archbishop of Dublin was meant to cut my hair in a symbolic way. At the time I had long curly hair and that man grabbed my hair in a savage fashion and cut it like a savage.

I can still remember walking back from the altar feeling very strange. His behaviour and action was that of a man with serious difficulties. It probably was 1972 or 1973 and he was the archbishop of Dublin.

Of course it was not acceptable bahaviour.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Close down clerical church

And what hqappens now when every other dioceses is investigqted?

It is the main item in most European media this evening.

This is shocking. Maybe what is most shocking is that it may well be the clerical church is still not listening.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New rail timetable

Irish Rail introduces a new timetable on Monday, December 1.

The majority of Cork Dublin, Dublin Cork trains will now be stopping at every gate. The reason for this seems to be due to a reduction in the number of trains between Limerick and Dublin.

The 20.00 ex Dublin Cork with connections for Limerick and Kerry has been withdrawn.

In the evening, trains to Kerry are at 17.05, which is a direct train and the last train with a Kerry connection is at 19.00.
The 05.25 ex Tralee train has the new departure time of 05.20. With a connection in Mallow, this train arrives in Dublin Heuston at 09.00.

The new Hazelhatch Dublin new track is due for opening.

Beware of all titles

There are two reports in today's Irish newspapers concerning abuse. One is of a priest, who abused a boy in Cavan. The other is of a former Christian Brother, who abused 19 schoolboys between 1967 and 1968.

This is all terrible 'stuff'. But are there serious questions being asked as to why and how it happened/happens?

The former Christian Brother was 14 when he joined the congregation. That cannot have been right and proper then and it cannot be right and proper now.

Does the Catholic Church still run 'junior seminaries' in any part of the world? Yes, seemingly it does, including India. If it does, is this 'right and proper'.

And then this coming Thursday the report on the Dublin archdiocese will be published.

It is important to remember this is just one Irish diocese.

How can anyone ever take a person in authority with any sense of credibility. We give people 'authority' and then, no matter what happens, there is the great temptation to behave in a sycophantic manner towards them.

To think that bishops, provincials etc were and are treated with such obeisance. We look on in horror and shock when we see religious and political leaders treated as 'semi-gods' in other cultures and parts of the world. What have and do we do?
But it is worth noting that so many of the sycophants laugh and deride the very figures of authority to whom they give lip service, but behind their backs of course. In secret and under the cover of anonymity. Especially the church, needs to examine its culture of secrecy and yes, anonymity too.

The custom and practice of bishops wearing rings and crosses may well seem somewhat defiant after Thursday's report. Once we give titles to people we begin to head down a slippery slope.

There is also a report in today's newspaper about a Chinese dissident who has been jailed by the authorities.

No matter what the system that prevails is it always the same class of people who manage to take power and control and then justify themselves, whatever the price? It's done one way in democracies, another in dictatorships and another way in theocracies. But always the same type of person. And the poor people suffer.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The art of air-brushing

In yesterday's Irish Times Mary Raftery wrote a piece about Australian orphanages and the role the Irish played in them. It does not paint a kind picture of the Irish clerical church - yet again.

What is it at all? There must be some underlying reason why so many clerics have behaved in such a manner and then the institutional church tries to air brush it all.

It seems the church is still doing that. Of course all organisations have built-in mechanisms to protect themselves but should it not be different with church?

What actually happens when a group of men or women come to live together, telling the world that they are living celibate lives?

Sexuality for most people can involve problems and difficulties. What must happen in religious communities where many men and women become profoundly sick and dysfunctional. What happens in the diocesan church when men simply cannot cope with the burden that they have been asked to carry? And add to that the reality that some men and women in religious communities and diocesan priests are not challenged by their work. The work ethic and the realistion that one does not have to earn their bread can be a festering sore.

At least Bishop Willie Walsh gives hope to the many people who believe there is something systemically wrong with the church at present. As does Patrick Hederman OSB.

Silence, clever ways of putting people down, pseudo sophisticated intellectual mind games are not a way to deal with what is going on in the church at present.

Is there a need for imaginative leadership right now, people who will be open and honest?

It's time to move away from the culture of talking out of both sides of the mouth at the same time and being honest, open and truthful with each other and ourselves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'Thick-headed, self-opionated and sexist'

The article below appears in today's Irish Times. John Littleton works at the Priory Institute.

Mark Patrick Hederman's comment is worth noting.

Exploring what it means to be a Catholic in Ireland today

SOME TIME ago, John Littleton and I decided that the next step in our attempts to map the evolution of contemporary Irish Catholicism would be to get people to share their experience of what being Catholic means to them, how it shaped their thinking, and enriched or impoverished their lives.

It was no easy task to get 22 individuals from various walks of Irish life to commit to such a task. For many, Catholicism was something they took for granted, something they were not accustomed to thinking about in any profound manner. They had been born into the Catholic faith, were introduced to its rituals and practices and then either stayed within the fold or left.

So what are the main characteristics of this new book? Well, our desire was to get as broad a cross-section of opinion as possible, an ambition we achieved reasonably well. The largest single group of contributors consists of priests, who, not surprisingly, have a particular interest in the topic.

Similarly, journalists feature prominently, but again these are people who are accustomed to putting forward opinions in written and oral form. We were acutely conscious of gender balance, but unfortunately did not quite manage an equal divide on this occasion. However, the women contributors display great honesty and passion and some raise serious questions about how they feel at times disenfranchised within the institutional church and alienated by a patriarchal hierarchy.

For example, the poet and writer Mary O’Donnell, in a contribution that mirrors the opinions of other contributors, both male and female, takes issue with the church’s “undimmed interference in the biological lives of women, its obsession with human sexuality, its inability to accommodate the views of adults whose approach to life was not an exact match of the official template”. Yet she also feels that a religious imagination is intimately connected to her sense of self as writer/artist.

In the current atmosphere, with the horrific revelations of the Ryan report fresh in our minds, and the findings of the investigation into the handling of clerical sex abuse in the Dublin archdiocese about to be made public, it is clearly not an easy time to be a Catholic in Ireland.

One might therefore expect a book like this to be tinged with pessimism and bitterness. However, this is not the case.

Even someone like Colm O'Gorman, the victim of horrific abuse at the hands of Fr Seán Fortune, still remembers the comfort of seeing the Sacred Heart picture in the kitchen of his home, with the “flickering red light beneath the image of Christ, who exposed his heart surrounded by thorns, a symbol of divine love for humanity”.

Problems with aspects of church teaching do not prevent many from appreciating the beauty of its ceremonies and architecture and the consolation offered by its message of unconditional love for God and one’s neighbour. Irish Catholic editor Garry OSullivan sums up his approach in the following manner: “Being a Catholic means being a liberal, a conservative, a progressive, a traditionalist, a heathen, a Jew and a Greek.”

Former editor of The Irish Times Conor Brady acknowledges his love for “the immense variety of spiritual richness that Catholicism offers”, while Fianna Fáil TD Mary O’Rourke finds huge solace every time she contemplates the beatitudes.

Mark Patrick Hederman, abbot of Glenstal Abbey, hopes that the Holy Spirit may “change the church from being the fragmented, self-opinionated, thick-headed, sexist, male-dominated organisation”, to one day become “the transparent image of the God it was meant to be serving”.

It is important that Irish society comes to grips with the vast consequences the decline of the power of the Catholic Church brings in its wake. We should not write its epitaph without first trying to evaluate what exactly it embodies.

Hopefully this book will go some way towards doing just that.

Eamon Maher, director, Franco-Irish studies centre in Tallaght IT, is co-editor with John Littleton of What Being Catholic Means to Me (Columba Press, €14.95)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A place of horror in a Berlin suburb

Anyone who has visited the former Stasi prison in Berlin Hohenschoenhausen, must put their hands to their heads and say, how could and should this have happened.

It is an appalling statement of man's inhumanity to man. But what is most worrying for me is that in whimsical moments I often gave some sort of 'praise' to the former GDR. Hohenschoenhausen is all one needs to prove definitively that the GDR was an evil and corrupt state.

If one looks at a pre 1990 map of Berlin there is no mention of the prison.

A place of such terrible terror and horror and secrecy too is yet another clear proof of the importance of a free press, with all its limitations and abuses.

How did the German people let this happen. Between 1933 and 1989 there was Buchenwald, Dachau et al and then Hohenschoenhausen, Bautzen et al.

Anyone who visits Berlin should go on pilgrimage to Hohenschoenhausen and see for themselves what the SED Government did to their people, did to the brightest and the best. Did the young physics student at Berlin University, Angela Merkel, know about this place of horror? Did the Irish Government know anything about it?

Where are all the senior people who ran this horror camp?

What explicitley did the cardinal bishop of Berlin say about Hohenschoenhausen? Indeed, the Catholic Church did oppose the regime but why were they not knocking at the doors of this evil place day and night?

The women and men who were inmates should be greatly honoured and admired.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Perfect occasion for senior politicians and civil servants to apologise to Irish people

What a difference it would make if some senior politician or civil servant came forward and apologised for the bufoonery for which they were responsible.

This weekend heads of government meet in Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Wall. Imagine if our leaders decided to forego the celebration and explan to the Irish people and EU that they are ashamed of themselves and the errors they made. Before they begin to cut the money from the poorest of the poor, surely they are obliged to admit their own terrible mistakes.

And our civil servants, where have they been? They are treated with great respect. We have been forever told that they are the 'real government'. Was there no one there who was not brave enough to say inside the estabishment that the bufoonery should stop?

It was the ordinary people in East Germany who knocked down the Wall. It had little to do with high civil servants and politicians.

Is it time for the Irish to take to the streets? If only we could take the example of the East Germans and take to the streets in peace and respect. But the great worry now must be that it could turn to violence.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Barriers went up 20 years ago

On Monday, November 9, 1989, East Berliners crossed from east to west. NVA troops at Bornholmer Strasse, Heinrich Heine Strasse, Friedrich Strasse and all the other crossing points in Berlin simply lifted the barriers and the rest is history.

Erich Honecker cast a vote against himself at a plenary session of the Politburo. He later died in South America of Cancer. His story is one of pity and sadness. As a young man he objected to Hitler and paid the price. He was obviously a man of courage and principle, yet for decades he managed and controlled a totalitarian police state.

His wife Margo, once Education Minister in the GDR lives in South America and last week said that many people in the former GDR miss the 'old ways'. This from a woman who shopped on a weekly basis in West Berlin's KDW, a woman who was greatly disliked by the public and by those who worked close to her.

In 1955 Anglela Kasner, now Merkel, moved from Hamburg to Templin in the GDR with her family. Her father was pastor and moved from west to east. Angela was the brightest in her class, studied physics at Leipzig and Berlin. She was particularly good at Russian and was often seen learning her Russian vocabulary waiting at the bus stop for her school bus. She joined the FDJ (Free German Youth) and won a special scholarship for her excellence in the Russian language.

"She was a local leader of the Free German Youth, a Communist youth organisation akin to the Soviet Komsomol. Although Merkel seems reluctant to speak about it these days, she was in charge of agitation and propaganda for the young Communists at the Academy. It was quite an achievement for the pastor's daughter. Merkel earned her masters in physics in 1986.

"It was impossible to be a pastor in the GDR without being in contact with the State Secret Police.

"There were a very few exceptions to the rule. Pastor Kasner became a leading member of the Weissensee Work Group, a “brotherhood of priests” who cooperated with the State authorities. The State Secret Police controlled the activities of the group. The atmosphere in Angela's house was undoubtedly political.

"Later Merkel has repeatedly said that the membership in the Communist youth organisation was a must for those who wanted to study at the university in the GDR. Even if her “agitation and propaganda” stint was a political maneuver, it shows Merkel's ability to adjust to the circumstances. Perhaps her membership in the Communist youth organisation was just a career requirement though she never did anything to challenge the regime of the GDR," Pravda wrote.

Angela Merkel became the first woman to head the German government

In 1985 this writer was stopped at Invaliden Strasse from bringing his bicycle into the East. Have often wondered where that border guard is today. On another occasion in Weimar in 1988, this time on my bike I was stopped by police for going through a red light - did it twice before being stopped. The quick remark was difficult to resist and I told the Volks Polizist that I thought red meant forwards in the GDR. He did not think it funny and took my passport.

At the time I was attending a course and was in the country as a guest of the State so I managed through the university of Weimar to get back my passport but with a fine. In those days people from 'capitalist states' were obliged to change their money at a one to one rate, although the mighty German Mark was equal to 11 GDR Marks on the black market. I had originally changed my money on the black market but so as to get my passport back I had to show proof to the police that I had changed my money 'legally'.

We had a problem, but a solution too. I asked a student on the course from the Soviet Union if she would give me a 'gift' in GDR currency, which she kindly did. It was a nervous few hours. I handed over my GDR currency and thanked my Coviet fellow student.

What would Angela Merkel have thought of it all back then?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Manna from heaven for media

It is possible that the Joe Coleman story will turn into a great embarrassment and annoyance for the Catholic Church.

It's an occasion where any ordinary person must feel a sense of sympathy and concern for Archbishop Neary.

In the past the moving statue phenomenon has happened at roadside grottoes. Is this the first time that the 'roadshow' has moved to a church?

Broadcaster Joe Duffy had clairvoyant Joe Coleman on his radio show on Monday. Many people called in and also on the show was the manager of the Knock shrine, Pat Lavelle.

Joe Coleman on the Joe Duffy programme referred to Padre Pio and Joan of Arc.

Middle class 'sophisticated' catholics will put their hands to their heads and laugh or cry. Superstitious people will talk about it and look for 'something'. The clerical class will be divided. There will be those who will dismiss it as a load of nonsense and there will be those who will say that anything that brings people to pray is of value.

But for the media it is manna from heaven. It has all the ingredients of being a great story. It has the mix of curiosity, large crowds, religion, fantastic story. It is Fr Ted in 'real time'.

All the time in the background is the 'money ingredient'. If the church makes money at Knock, then why question the bona fides of a clairvoyant? And money is a big issue in church affairs. The recent High Court challenge re Mass cards may in many respects be the tip of the iceberg.

People angry with the church could well look at the 'organisation' and ask and wonder what is the story to its trillions.

The late John O'Gorman OP, whose anniversary it is today, once wisely observed that fellow academics had commented to him that the Achilles heel of the church was not the 'sex issue' but rather 'money'.

Truly it is all a great conundrum. How often has the Word of God been peddled with the world of money hovering in the background. That world can be extremely sophisticated, articulate and organised. It can also be extremely cheap, tricky and silly sounding.

The Joe Coleman story may well run and run.

Getting there

Significant progress is being made on tracing who wrote the two anonymous comments to this blog. As already reported, the Gardai have been informed. Computer expertise has been sought and three IP addresses will be sent to the Gardai. Legal advice has also been given.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Police notified

This blog has received two anonymous inappropriate and libellous emails. The police have been notified.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pending report to be horrific

Below is an article by Patsy McGarry on the report on the Dublin archdiocese due for publication this week.

Is it possible for the clerical state to reform itself? There are far too many signs at hand to suggest it is not happening. Indeed, the increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life may well be an ominous sign of the failure of any sort of root and branch change.

Travel around the country and read some of the newsletters/parish bulletins that are being produced. There is a palpable arrogance suggesting that priests 'know' the mind of God.

And there is still an attitude which is quite common which suggests the 'media' is against the 'church'.

Will there ever be an open and real discussion on priesthood, what it can do to people?

Cover-ups exposed in Dublin report will shock most

RITE AND REASON: The Dublin Archdiocese report will have a profound impact on the Catholic Church’s authority in Ireland, writes PATSY McGARRY

OVER COMING days we are likely to witness something definitive where the Catholic Church in Ireland is concerned. Publication of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation report is expected to confirm much, but it will shock even more.

This shock factor is unlikely to be centred on the abuse stories involved, or on their scale.

Following the Ryan report last May, it might be said that the Irish public has become almost inured to such depravity. But it is the scale of the cover-up in Dublin and the moral audacity of senior clergy involved which is likely to shock most of all.

Words such as “immoral” and “amoral” are expected to be on round-the-clock call among descriptions of the activities of the Dublin church authorities.

Indeed, stronger language may be employed as it becomes clear that the Catholic Church in Dublin operated a jurisdiction within a jurisdiction based on one consistent rule: protect the institution at all costs.

Those costs included the exposure, and indeed sacrifice, of vulnerable children, again and again, to predatory abusers.

There has been nothing like this Dublin inquiry, anywhere, before. The Ferns inquiry, which is nearest in character to Dublin, involved 26 priests and two bishops. The Dublin inquiry has involved a sample of 46 priests and 19 bishops, including four archbishops.

From what is known, its findings are damning. Bishops in Dublin moved priest abusers around from parish to parish, again and again, in most instances informing no one in the parishes, even its priests, of the newcomer’s proclivities.

In most such instances, too, they moved the abuser priests into poorer, working-class areas, where people were more trusting and less likely to ask questions and where, as elsewhere, it was the children of the most devout who were taken advantage of.

At one time it is known, for instance, that three such abuser priests were posted to one working-class parish on Dublin’s northside. In another Dublin northside parish, the presbytery was shared by one priest child abuser, a second priest and the latter’s mistress.

Nowhere before has Catholic Church authority been held to account on such a scale by a statutory body, on any issue. The irony that this should happen in Ireland will not be lost on many.

The likely exposure of a moral vacuum at the heart of Catholic Church authority in Ireland’s largest diocese will have a wider resonance. It will make it difficult to accept that this was a feature peculiar to the Catholic Church in Dublin or in Ireland.

The impact of the findings for the Catholic Church’s authority on this island are likely to be profound. The immediate effect of such large-scale betrayal will be renewed and radical focus on the role of bishops as patrons where Catholic primary schools in Ireland are concerned.

But that is not all. Its implications for the future of the clerical church in Ireland are grim.

We saw yesterday that the Bishop of Kerry, Most Rev Bill Murphy, has warned that “it is no exaggeration to say that, in the coming years, the church in Ireland will not survive without a committed and involved laity”.

He continued that it was “very likely” that by late next year some parishes in the Kerry diocese will be without a resident priest. And that is now.

Although there has been a rise in the number of first-year seminarians at Maynooth this year, it is the exception which underlines a rapid fall-off in vocations to the Catholic priesthood. There is no reason to believe that the Dublin report will halt that trend.

We are witnessing an unseemly end to a form of Catholicism which has been dominant in Ireland since shortly after the Famine. The Dublin report is likely to hasten that decline considerably.

That this has been brought about by the church authorities themselves, more than any outside influence, is another lesson in the consequences of abusing power.

It is, too, another powerful illustration of the corruption towards which such unchecked power leads.

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From Wir sind das Volk to Wir sind ein Volk

Twenty years ago this week Erich Honnecker was in the last days as secretary of the SED. On October 18,1989 he was replaced by Egon Krenz. He too would quickly bite the dust.

Bloodshed had been avoided at the last moment at the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig. The head of police had asked Berlin for instructions. Berlin remained silent.

It was the last days of the GDR.

The openness,transparency and honesty of all that happened at the church in Leipzig stands out in stark contrast to all that was hidden, anonymous and nasty about the Stasi.

Canterbury versus Doncaster

Below is a report of what the Archbishop of Canterbury said at Southwark Cathedral. It appears in today's Irish Times.

In the current issue of Alive! the new Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, is reported as saying, "I'm not green and I'm not conned by global warning".

The editor of Alive! is constantly arguing that the media has a 'liberal' agenda.

Would it be more correct to say that Alive! has an agenda that panders to misfits.

The thoughtfulness and gentleness of the Archbishop of Canterbury surely are more attractive and meaningful, and maybe even Christian, than the words of the new Mayor of Doncaster.

Alive! seems to be filled with cheap shots. It is a nasty publication.

PEOPLE SHOULD use the climate change crisis as an opportunity to become human again, setting aside the addictive and self-destructive behaviour that has damaged their souls, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in London yesterday.

Dr Rowan Williams told an audience at Southwark Cathedral that people had allowed themselves to become “addicted to fantasies about prosperity and growth, dreams of wealth without risk and profit without cost”.

The consequences of such a lifestyle meant the human soul was “one of the foremost casualties of environmental degradation”.

“Many of the things which have moved us towards ecological disaster have been distortions of who and what we are and their overall effect has been to isolate us from the reality we’re part of. Our response to this crisis needs to be, in the most basic sense, a reality check,” Dr Williams said.

“We need to keep up pressure on national governments; there are questions only they can answer about the investment of national resources. We need equally to keep up pressure on ourselves and to learn how to work better as civic agents.”

Earlier this year Dr Williams said God was not a “safety net” that would guarantee a happy ending and human pillaging of the world’s resources meant the planet was facing a “whole range of doomsday prospects” that exceeded the results of global warming. Humanity faced being “choked, drowned or starved” by its own stupidity, he said, and he compared those who challenged the reality of climate change to the courtiers who flattered King Canute, until he proved he could not command the waves by going to the seashore and trying to do so. – (Guardian news service)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Newspaper yarns

The story below is the result of a clairvoyant, who has been contacting newspapers about 'visions' he is experiencing.

The newspapers are enjoying the fun and naturally it is a a great yarn.
Is this where Irish Catholicism finds itself?

Thousands wait for Knock apparition

THOUSANDS GATHERED at Knock Shrine, Co Mayo, yesterday hoping to see an
apparition of Our Lady.

Overheard on the Luas

Overheard on the Luas today.

Two students with 'mid-Atlantic' accents talking about the experience of studying in Dublin, the advantages of having coffee bars nearby and the general good value of food and beer available to students.

The conversation changed to the Air Corps accident on the Galway Mayo border on Monday evening. One of the two students began to chuckle and laugh at the event. Someone on the Luas reminded them that two men had been killed in the accident. One of the students replied, "I was not talking to you."

The Green Line Luas was crowded. Not a word from anyone except from the man who challenged the comment.

The student did reply that he was not talking to the man. Can you have a private, out loud conversation on a packed Luas?

Irish bishops at Council

This concluding paragraph from a review of "The Irish College, Rome, and Its World" [Catholic Historical Review 2009/4] may interest readers.

The most startling statements are made in the chapter on the college and Vatican II. Michael Smith, the present bishop of Meath, who was a student during this period, offers some very frank insights into the Irish hierarchy of the time. He states that the Irish bishops did not expect the Council to last long nor make any impact on the life of the Church, said very little at the Council itself and did not try to communicate what was happening, did not seek briefings from theologians nor from other bishops, had a minimal relationship with the Irish journalists assigned to the Council, and only encountered their fellow Irish-born bishops at a dinner toward the end of the Council.

The letter of the Council came to Ireland, but not the spirit. The Irish College is no longer full of Irish seminarians.
[Fergus O'Donoghue S.J.
Irish Jesuit Archives, Dublin]

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two German Dominicans

A German television station in a two series programme has profiled two Dominicans. One, Georg Severin, has left the Dominicans to marry a woman and Rufus Keller remains a Dominican.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stasi operatives sent packing

During all those meetings in the Leipzig church and the events that led up to the fall of the wall, it is most unlikely that Pastor Führer would ever have been anonymous or called himself 'P O'Neill'.

No doubt the Stasi operatives were anonymous with codenames and hidden identities.

There is a profound sadness and emptiness about people, who hide behind anonymity. There is a hopelessness about it.

Why does it happen so often within church organisations?

The miracle of October 7, 1989 in Leipzig

Article below appears in today's Irish Times - great piece about how a seed is sown

Remembering how the fall of the Wall began in a Leipzig church

LITTLE CHANGES within the walls of Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche, the 12th-century Romanesque church of St Nicholas.

The walls here remember Johann Sebastian Bach’s premiere of the Johannes Passion on Good Friday in 1724 – and they remember the night 20 years ago when 2,000 people, excited and terrified, gathered here to do something extraordinary.

After 40 years in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a four-decade lock-in of daily humiliations and falsified elections, they refused to be intimidated any longer.

Clutching their courage in their candles, they filed out of the church and began to march. It started a chain reaction that, exactly one month later, toppled the hated Berlin Wall.

“Without October 9th in Leipzig, there would not have been a November 9th in Berlin, I’m sure of that,” says Bettina Schuster, a 40-something woman with long brown hair and kind eyes, sitting calmly in the church where it all began 20 years ago.

“I had a young son, I was a teacher, I really shouldn’t have come here but I just felt I had to.

“It felt so great to finally speak openly about our frustrations, to listen to others. There was a feeling of security and peace here, even though there were police outside allowed to shoot if necessary.”

The long road to 1989 began in 1981 as peace prayer evenings organised by the Nikolaikirche’s pastor Christian Führer in 1981 in response to Cold War arms race.

The group had connections to Vaclav Havel in Prague and Solidarity in Gdansk, but was crippled by public apathy. Five years in, the Monday night gatherings were attracting just four people.

“I was ready to give up but one of the people attending said, ‘If we give up, then there is no hope any more’,” remembers Pastor Führer, then as now a lively, spiky-haired man, instantly recognisable in his jeans and denim waistcoat.

“Then I remembered the parable of the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds that can still grow to provide shelter for many.”

He carried on into what had become the era of perestroika in the Soviet Union. In East Berlin, the elderly Politburo was in denial about the need for reforms. In Leipzig, the pastor could sense the longing for change.

People wanted to talk about free elections, their longing to travel freely, and his church became the safe haven for their discussion.

“The people had been silenced, by fear and the secret police, we provided a space for them to discuss taboo topics,” says Pastor Führer.

In 1988, he watched attendance at his Monday prayer meetings grow – eight, 80, 100.

The meetings got a shot in the arm on September 4th when a group of young people emerged from the Monday meeting to hold up a banner reading: “For an open life with free people.”

A West German television camera outside filmed the scene, including how a Stasi agent ran forward to snatch the banner. For the first time Germans, east and west, saw pictures from Leipzig. A week later, the Nikolaikirche was full.

Pastor Führer was jubilant but nervous: would the meetings remain calm as the pressure continued to build?

“I reminded people of the Sermon on the Mount – love your enemy – and hoped they would take this message of non-violence with them from the church.”

The critical turning point came on October 7th, 1989. In East Berlin, GDR leader Erich Honecker welcomed Mikhail Gorbachev for the 40th anniversary of the GDR, a last hurrah for the ailing Politburo chief and his regime.

In Leipzig, meanwhile, nervous policemen broke up the official anniversary events in the main shopping street with a baton charge.

“They surrounded us, moving in to hit us and drag people away,” remembers a tearful local woman Birgit Scheffel.

“Old people and children were trampled. Things were really on a knife-edge. We all wondered whether the next Monday demo would stay peaceful or turn bloody.”

By the evening of Monday, October 9th, nearly all churches in Leipzig had joined the demonstrations. Outside, the atmosphere was charged.

Stasi officers had been sent in as agents provocateurs to stir up trouble and justify a police intervention. Pastor Führer knew none of this but feared the worst as he emerged from the Nikolaikirche.

With an extraordinary 70,000 people behind him, the nervous pastor led the march around the Leipzig ring road.

Faces illuminated in candlelight, they chanted for freedom: “Freiheit! Freiheit! Freiheit!” To their amazement, they completed a circuit and returned, unhindered, to the Nikolaikirche.

“I was so overwhelmed that I was incapable of thinking anything except that, because the police had not intervened, the GDR was no longer the same as it had been,” remembers Pastor Führer.

Today, he has his own theories about why things remained peaceful.

The police were prepared for everything, a police officer told him later, but not for candles and prayers. Frantic calls from Leipzig to Berlin seeking permission to intervene went unanswered.

Two decades on, Pastor Führer has retired from the Nikolaikirche. As the official anniversary machine grinds into life in Berlin, he is happy to retell the other story of 1989: about the revolution that came from his church in Leipzig.

“For most of these people, after the Nazis and the communists, Jesus never existed,” he said. “It’s nothing short of a miracle that they understood perfectly his message of peace.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Inaccurate and offensive comments

What is it about marriage and matters related to sexuality that seem to give a significant number of priests a drive and mission that is palpable in its ferocity?

In a parish newsletter this week a priest devotes three columns to the Sunday Gospel. The Gospel on Sunday was about divorce.

In the piece, the priest writes: “Two people ‘married’ by a judge are not married in the eyes of God.” How the priest can see into God’s eyes is surely confusing.

Catholic theology and the law of the church clearly says that a marriage between two non-baptised people in a registry office is a valid marriage. Is what the priest is saying contrary to Catholic teaching?

The tone of the three columns is not helpful and no doubt has the potential of alienating many good people who are in ‘irregular relationships’

In that same newsletter there is a note about a 'Novena of life'. A sentence runs “Abortion has turned the womb into a tomb and women into killers.”

Again such a comment has the potential of hurting many people who are genuinely in search of God.

A similar tone was evident among a number of priests in the run up to the Lisbon vote.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Anonymous ad in today's Irish Independent

On page 8 of today's Irish Independent there is an advert advising people to vote No in tomorrow's Lisbon referendum.

It will have to go down in the history of advertising as one of the most bizarre. But it is terribly funny.

Amazing lines in it. It tells us Dia Láidir. It talks about infected water in Galway in 2007 and a Freemason-determined EU Parliament.

It is hilarious. But what is disturbing and worrying about it is that it is anonymous and most likely has many sympathisers within the clerical church. It really is scary.

Should a national newspaper carry an anonymous advertisement?

Is the ad blasphemous?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tribunal says sister should be reinstated

The Irish Employment Appeals Tribunal has upheld the case of a Presentation Sister who refused to leave her teaching post after being instructed to do so by her superior.
The comment from the bishop's office is interesting as is the term from the woman's superior to the Presentation Sister, "missioning you to a period of rest".
Where does the hierarchical church think up the vocabulary of subterfuge?
It is an interesting judgement.

Vatican answers criticisms

Article below appears in The Guardian.

Up to five per cent of priests found guilty of illegal behaviour. Is that an acceptable figure? What about the priests who are never discovered?

Is the Vatican in this piece admitting that a significant number of its priests are gay?

This might well be a prophetic moment.

Maybe the Vatican might learn from the openness and honesty of current German political life where the Mayor of Berlin is openly gay. And most probably the next German Foreign Minister will be Guido Westerwelle of FDP, who is also openly gay.

The problem with the Catholic Church appears to be its unwillingness to admit what is in fact a reality. It means so many priests are dishonest about their sexual orientation. And so begins the world of 'cover up' and a language and style that is far removed from what is real, true and honest. It is linked to the world of anonymity, which is so alive and 'thriving' in the Irish Catholic Church.

Sex abuse rife in other religions, says Vatican

Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent, and Anushka Asthana, Monday 28 September 2009 22.41 BST

The Vatican has lashed out at criticism over its handling of its paedophilia crisis by saying the Catholic church was "busy cleaning its own house" and that the problems with clerical sex abuse in other churches were as big, if not bigger.

In a defiant and provocative statement, issued following a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva, the Holy See said the majority of Catholic clergy who committed such acts were not paedophiles but homosexuals attracted to sex with adolescent males.

The statement, read out by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to the UN, defended its record by claiming that "available research" showed that only 1.5%-5% of Catholic clergy were involved in child sex abuse.

He also quoted statistics from the Christian Scientist Monitor newspaper to show that most US churches being hit by child sex abuse allegations were Protestant and that sexual abuse within Jewish communities was common.

He added that sexual abuse was far more likely to be committed by family members, babysitters, friends, relatives or neighbours, and male children were quite often guilty of sexual molestation of other children.

The statement said that rather than paedophilia, it would "be more correct" to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males.

"Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17."

The statement concluded: "As the Catholic church has been busy cleaning its own house, it would be good if other institutions and authorities, where the major part of abuses are reported, could do the same and inform the media about it."

The Holy See launched its counter–attack after an international representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Keith Porteous Wood, accused it of covering up child abuse and being in breach of several articles under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Porteous Wood said the Holy See had not contradicted any of his accusations. "The many thousands of victims of abuse deserve the international community to hold the Vatican to account, something it has been unwilling to do, so far. Both states and children's organisations must unite to pressurise the Vatican to open its files, change its procedures worldwide, and report suspected abusers to civil authorities."

Representatives from other religions were dismayed by the Holy See's attempts to distance itself from controversy by pointing the finger at other faiths.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis, said: "Comparative tragedy is a dangerous path on which to travel. All of us need to look within our own communities. Child abuse is sinful and shameful and we must expel them immediately from our midst."

A spokesman for the US Episcopal Church said measures for the prevention of sexual misconduct and the safeguarding of children had been in place for years.

Of all the world religions, Roman Catholicism has been hardest hit by sex abuse scandals. In the US, churches have paid more than $2bn (£1.25bn) in compensation to victims. In Ireland, reports into clerical sexual abuse have rocked both the Catholic hierarchy and the state.

The Ryan Report, published last May, revealed that beatings and humiliation by nuns and priests were common at institutions that held up to 30,000 children. A nine-year investigation found that Catholic priests and nuns for decades terrorised thousands of boys and girls, while government inspectors failed to stop the abuse.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Church run fee-paying schools

There is an article in today’s Irish Times about fee-paying schools. The piece is written by Orlaith Carmody, who has sent her three sons to Jesuit run Clongowes Wood College in Co Kildare.

It’s the old chestnut about fee-paying schools. But maybe there is more to that discussion right now as we are in economic meltdown.

It is universally recognised that the Jesuits run great schools. I have taught in a Jesuit run school. I have also taught in a Dominican run school. I have seen first hand the job of work that is done.

But are there not serious questions to be asked about the idea of the Catholic Church running schools for the children of parents who happen to have the money to afford them?

The Catholic Church does not pay tax on any of the money it collects through donations. It does not pay Capital Gains Tax or Inheritance Tax as it is a registered charity. That in effect means that any project it runs is subsidised by the State. Charity status of its nature means that it is a charity and the purpose of ‘charities’ it would seem, is to help and give assistance to the less well off.

Fee-paying schools can never be termed ‘charities’ so surely there must be a dilemma in the entire current structuring.

If part of the mission of the Church is to be on the side of the poor and marginalised how then can it feel at ease running schools that attract the children of parents who can afford to pay?

It is a complicated and emotive issue but nonetheless a real problem. If the Church closed down all its fee- paying schools in the morning, they would be replaced by private companies.

Also, does it mean that the Church in some way or other helps create a divide in Irish society between ‘ them and us’? And is that not ironic, considering these fee-paying schools are subsidised because of charity status?

The State pays the slaries of teachers in fee-paying schools. Recently they changed the pupil teacher ratio in State-run schools from 18 pupils per teacher to 19. In fee-paying schools it was changed to one teacher for every 20 pupils.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Inappropriate anonymous material

Over the last few weeks a number of comments have arrived at this blog. The language was at first not recognisable. It transpired they were written in Japanese.

The material was not appropriate for this blog. It was also anonymous.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Whether to dress up or dress down

On the blog of the English Dominicans this week there is an article on the virtue of modesty. The writer deals with various aspects of women's dress.

Immediately below that article there are more than ten pictures of young men dressing up in the Dominican habit.

It's all bicycles in Dublin

Over 6,000 people availed of the new Dublin bike scheme last week.

Today at the Grantham Street bicycle bay all 20 bicycles were out and about.

The scheme seems to be proving a runaway success.

A one year subscription costs €10. It can be obtained by logging on to
The first 30 minutes is free.

A pity they do not have bays at Heuston and Connolly Stations. Against that, it is not advisable to take a bike if you have a specific deadline. Say you arrive at your destination bay and all 20 slots are engaged? Where then do you leave the bike?

With the scheme and the tax back scheme if you buy a bike through your employer there are many extra bicycles on the roads in Dublin.

Unfortunately some of the arrogant style 'gentlemen' who drive flash
cars seem to have moved over to pedal power. They are as annoying on bicycles as they are in cars. And more dangerous.

Jesuit find in Melbourne

The artilce below is in today's IrishTimes. Something most uplifting about it.

Why a priest in Melbourne received Michael Collins's last letter
What may be the final letter written by Michael Collins has turned up in Melbourne, along with several other relics of Irish history. But who was Collins writing to?

YOU WOULDN’T expect a missing piece of the puzzle about Michael Collins’s last days to surface in Australia. But that is what has happened, thanks to Brenda Niall, who has written The Riddle of Father Hackett, a biography of an Irish Jesuit, Fr William Hackett, who spent the second part of his life in Australia having been sent into exile because of his political activism.
As part of her research, Niall sent the Melbourne Jesuits searching for some letters that had been known to have gone missing after Hackett’s death in 1954. In a suburban garage, the present Jesuit archivist Michael Head SJ found a collection that had been hidden for half a century. In it was a letter from Michael Collins, probably the last he wrote, acknowledging a note Hackett had left for him and saying he was sorry to have missed seeing Hackett that day. The letter was dated the day before Collins was ambushed and shot.

What was Fr Hackett, a Dublin Jesuit, doing at Collins’s headquarters in Cork on August 21st, 1922? Niall speculates that he was possibly trying to arrange a peace meeting between Collins and Éamon de Valera.

Few if any Irish Jesuits at that time were willing to side with de Valera and Childers against the Treaty with Britain. But Fr Hackett was the son of an unrepentant Parnellite, and his family did not agree with the Catholic bishops’ line on the civil strife.

Fr Hackett was friendly with Pearse and MacDonagh, leaders of the Easter Rising, and became an activist after 1916.

Part of his story is recorded in other letters discovered in Jesuit archives in Melbourne – letters from Éamon de Valera, Robert Barton, who signed the Treaty but later opposed it, and also from the controversial Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne, who campaigned for the Irish cause in Australia, the US and in England, where the authorities prevented him from landing in his native Ireland. About 50 letters from members of Childers family also came to light during Niall’s research, as well as a journal of the civil war period.

Often riding long distances on his bicycle, Hackett provided pastoral care for the rebels, but trod a very fine line between the pastoral and the political.

The Irish Jesuit leadership allowed him a free hand for years, but eventually seems to have become wary of his activities. In 1922 he was sent to Australia for motives that are not altogether clear. He accepted his unwelcome posting for the good of Ireland, the Jesuits and his soul.

Fr Hackett had a rich life in Melbourne as a teacher, as a maverick headmaster of Xavier College, as founder of the Catholic Library in the heart of Melbourne, and as mentor to a generation of Catholics who have influenced Australian social and cultural life.

He was a people person, always worried that he was an intellectual lightweight, but he convinced many Catholics that they should not just pray and pay but take ideas and books seriously.

Fr Hackett was also friendly with the Liberal prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, which was as politically incorrect as could be in the eyes of most Australian Catholics of Irish background. Fr Hackett seems to have prompted Menzies’s visit to de Valera in Ireland in 1941, which angered Churchill but gave the Australian a new slant on Irish neutrality.

In her biography, Brenda Niall is able to bring him to life in Melbourne partly because he was a friend of her doctor father and regularly visited the Niall home.

One of Hackett’s endearing traits was his humour, which did not desert him even at the end of his life. After being knocked down and fatally injured by a taxi when crossing a Melbourne street at night, before he died he is said to have remarked: “I never thought I’d have a taxi to take me to heaven.”

The Riddle of Father Hackett by Brenda Niall is published by the National Library of Australia

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