Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mass cards

The article below appears in today's Irish Times.

A serious discussion on all aspects of Mass cards is long overdue within the church. The pity is that these issues seem to be discussed in a reactive sense rather than the hierarchical church giving the lead on the subject.


CAROL COULTER, Legal Affairs Editor
A SECTION of the Charities Bill may be unconstitutional because it makes it a criminal offence to sell a Mass card not authorised by a Catholic bishop, according to a former attorney general. The Bill went to President Mary McAleese for signing earlier this week.

The section in question was inserted into the Bill by the Seanad on February 11th last to deal with a problem of the sale of “bogus Mass cards”, which purport to be signed by a priest, but where the signature is not genuine and no Mass is actually said.
The Government amendment was put forward following the earlier proposal of a similar amendment by Senator Ronan Mullen.

Former attorney general John Rogers SC has provided an opinion on it to the solicitor for a man who sells genuine Mass cards, signed by a priest in the Philippines by arrangement with a bishop there. The money raised goes to build churches there. He fears shops may feel pressure on them not to sell if the Bill becomes law.

During the Seanad debate, Senator David Norris read from Mr Rogers’s opinion, which stated that section 96 was “an unjustified restriction on the Article 44 guarantee of the free profession and practise of religion.” The section provides that a person who sells a Mass card “other than pursuant to arrangement with a recognised person” is guilty of an offence. A “recognised person” who can authorise the sale of such Mass cards is defined as a bishop of the church, or the head of an order recognised by it.

The section defines a Mass card as a card that indicates that “the holy sacrifice of the Mass” will be offered for a person’s intentions. In any proceedings it will be presumed, unless proved to the contrary, that an offence has been committed.

In his opinion Mr Rogers says this goes further than is reasonably required to deal with the problem of the sale of a Mass card not properly signed by a priest, where no Mass is said, or where the purchaser thinks it is for a charitable purpose and it is not.
“The narrow categories of persons is arbitrary and unfair and represents a serious interference with the religious practice of some priests and others who are members of non-Catholic churches and religious communities in this State,” he states.

He also points out that it presumes an offence has been committed until the contrary is proven. “The criminalisation of the sale of Mass cards is another aspect of the disproportionate nature of this piece of legislation,” he says.

An apology

Apologies re the banner in Tallaght. Delighted to know that it means the opposite to what was said on this blog. Again, apologies and good luck.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Banner attack

There is a large banner poster in Tallaght village which proclaims 'Daddys are for life and not for Saturdays'.

At the bottom of the banner there is the web address www.usfi.ie.

The insult and the arrogance that such a poster represents surely can have nothing at all to do with the Christian message.

What must it be like for a man walking or driving past that sign who has been separated from his children? No one ever knows why someone is not with their children.

Men separated from their children need to be inspired and given hope, not attacked.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Worrying words from bishop

The quote below is taken from an internet site. If the quote is accurate it is another insight into the direction the church is currently taking.

The alleged quote fits into a pattern and raises the most serious of issues for the church. And especially in the present climate.

Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of The Society of Saint Pius X, has been making news since his excommunication was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI in January. On January 21, 2009, in a nearly six minute interview Williamson told a television news program in Sweden that "I believe that history is strongly against, is hugely against, six million Jews having been gassed in gas chamber as a deliberate policy" during the Holocaust. In 2001, the bishop wrote "That girls should not be in universities flows from the nature of universities and from the nature of girls: true universities are for ideas, ideas are not for true girls, so true universities are not for true girls." The Vatican is now repudiating the Holocaust denials. And Bishop Williamson has claimed he will reconsider the issue of Nazi gas chambers by reading the book of a former Holocaust doubter.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cork fishing port

During a class in Religious Studies in West Kerry on Monday there was a discussion on our present economic situation.

A student who comes from a fishing background commented that the busiest fishing port in Ireland is Cork airport because of its large business in fish importation.

Who are the politicians, economists and 'wise men' who have allowed this to happen? The absurdity of allowing this nonsense in an island nation is bewildering.

Seemingly we are the biggest 'exporters' of bananas in Europe.

The economy is in such a serious situation it seems that what was said yesterday becomes irrelevant today.

How close are we to civil unrest and the arrival of a demagogue? Hopefully our political class are taking wise and good decisions so as to keep at bay any such disaster.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Irish Rail and its crazy timetable


Both Dublin Bus and Irish Bus are in the process of laying off close to 600 workers. Irish Rail will most likely follow suit.

Last month Irish Rail introduced a new timetable on its Dublin Tralee service. The new timetable means that passengers travelling on the 20.00 ex Heuton Cork train arrive in Mallow at 22.19 and are obliged to wait 31 minutes for their connection to Tralee.

What surer way to drive people away from the railway and anger and annoy those who wait the long 31 minutes on cold wet and windy nights in Mallow station!

A decision such as this is obviously made at managerial level. You don't need to know anything about the railway to know that this timetable alteration is absolute nonsense. And it must make any ordinary person lose trust in a management class that could do something like this.

There are many stories circulating as to why passengers have to wait. They are of course anecdotal but each story is sillier than the next.

It is the same manager class who decide who will join the dole queues in the coming weeks and months.

Maybe someone needs to ask who exactly are these people and how have they been running the railway up to now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Flannery criticises CORI

The article below, written by Fr Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist priest, appears in yesterday's Irish Times.

In the article Fr Flannery is critical of the direction in which CORI is moving. He is of the opinion that CORI has 'become part of an exclusive and powerful body and so has lost its ability to critique what is happening'.

Over the years CORI has brought important issues to public notice. It is still doing that today.

But reading the article one is forced to ask the question is it ever possible for anyone who is part of a world-wide multi billion euro organisation to empathise or understand the plight of those who experience any form of poverty, insecurity or marginalisation?

In the current climate of economic upheaval, where people are genuinely greatly concerned about their livelihoods, is there a sister, bishop, priest, who needs to be concerned about their financial situation?

When one is protected or isolated from the daily shenanigans of the world where people live, can their words ever have any significant meaning?

That is a genuine question and in no way a flippant or any type of snide comment.

Anyone who becomes institutionalised surely inevitably loses some sense of much of what happens and exists outside the institution.


What follows is the article in The Irish Times

CORI, THE Conference of Religious of Ireland, an umbrella body for all Roman Catholic religious congregations in this country, has been in existence for over 30 years. It is probably best known for its justice section, which has played an active part in social partnership.

I believe this was a big mistake. Cori became part of a ruling elite and so lost its ability to truly represent the interests of the poor and marginalised in society.

The dramatic collapse of our economy in the recent past has caused people to examine many of the assumptions we had taken for granted. One of those assumptions was that social partnership is a good thing. It was argued that it created industrial peace and, as a result, productivity increased.

That begs the question as to whether it was social partnership or prosperity that allowed for consistent and substantial increases in wages, year to year, leading in turn to industrial peace.
The main criticism of social partnership is that it created what one commentator called a cosy consensus which worked to the benefit of the better paid. Examples include benchmarking in the public service, a scheme that masqueraded as reform involving increased levels of efficiency and productivity.

In fact it meant substantial pay increases for the better off to a far greater extent than for those in more lowly paid jobs. Something of the same happened in other professions. For instance there was an increase in posts of responsibility for teachers which often involved a rise in salary with nominal increase in responsibility.

All of this contributed to the inflated, inefficient and in some cases overpaid public service that we have in this country and which we can no longer afford. This happened under the auspices of social partnership. It could be argued that the social partners became the real governing body in the land, and that decisions were made at this level rather than in the Dáil.

Revelations, particularly relating to abuses of public money at Fás and other State bodies, brought another aspect of this cosy consensus to the fore. It was one I, and I assume many others, would not have been aware of – the presence of so many members of the different social partnership groups on State boards.

This is of great concern, because it suggests a clique of people had a stranglehold on policy-making while being ultimately answerable to nobody, since they had become so closely aligned to the government of the day. This group of people got perks, unavailable to ordinary members of society.

I do not have the expertise to make an economic judgment on all of this. My concern as a religious is that the body representing Irish religious is a member of this partnership. Cori states that its aim is the same as that of its constituent groups – to promote the message of Jesus Christ.

It would be hard to think of anybody who was less part of the consensus than Jesus Christ. He stood outside of, and radically criticised, both the social and religious thinking of his time. Anybody representing religious should be, at least to some extent, on the margins rather than at the centre of power.

Cori justice desk, by allowing itself to become part of an exclusive and powerful body, lost its ability to critique what was happening, and is now unfortunately seen as a contributor to the problem rather than being in a position to propose a real alternative. In its early days it was a strong voice for the poor but, somewhere along the line, it got sucked into the complicity that promoted inequality.

I am not suggesting that religious should not be involved in political and social action. I think of people like the late Michael Sweetman and Austin Flannery, and, in our own times, Peter McVerry. Equally there have been many religious sisters who have given a lifetime of service to the less well off.

I cannot imagine any of them talking about “T16” (Toward 2016, for those outside the in-group) which became shorthand for the plan for Ireland worked out, not in the public arena but in late-night negotiations that were the preserve of the few.
I would hope that Cori can free itself from the shackles of power and become again a voice for the voiceless.

Fr Tony Flannery is a Redemptorist priest and columnist with Reality magazine

German bishops call pope's action a catastrophe and a betrayal of trust

It is inevitable and understandable that many Germans are surprised with the pope's actions.

Respect must be accorded to Cardinals Lehmann and Kasper.

This article appears in today's Irish Times.




CHANCELLOR ANGELA Merkel has asked Pope Benedict XVI to clarify the Catholic Church’s position over the rehabilitation of the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson.

Dr Merkel’s intervention follows an admission by Cardinal Karl Lehmann, former head of the German bishops’ conference, that the episode was a “catastrophe”.

The German leader said she was taking the unusual step of commenting on internal church matters because it involved a “question of principle, that through a decision of the Vatican the impression is created that denial of the Holocaust is permissible”.

“That cannot be left without consequences,” she said yesterday. In her view, the Vatican had “not done enough to date” to clarify its position on Holocaust denial and its relations with Judaism.

The German leader suggested that the Bavarian-born pontiff “make very clear that there can be no denial”.

After Swedish television broadcast an interview with Bishop Williamson, in which he questioned the death of six million Jews in the Holocaust and denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers, leaders of Germany’s Jewish community put relations with the Vatican on ice.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, Vatican co-ordinator of Jewish-Catholic relations, has admitted the pope’s decision to lift the excommunication of several bishops including Bishop Williamson was “badly mishandled”.

“There wasn’t enough talking with each other in the Vatican and there are no longer checks to see where problems could arise,” said Cardinal Kasper on Vatican Radio’s German-language service.

In a frank interview, Cardinal Kasper said the debate filled him with “great concern” and blamed “misunderstandings and management errors in the curia”.
No senior church figures in Germany have dared criticise the Bavarian-born pontiff directly, but many bishops suggest in public that he was poorly advised.

They spoke out over the weekend, calling for swift action to prevent permanent damage to the church’s credibility.

Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart called the rehabilitation a “betrayal of trust, especially for our Jewish sisters and brothers in their relationship to the church”.
“As a Protestant Christian,” said Dr Merkel, “it is encouraging to see many voices from the Catholic church demanding clarification.”

Leading conservatives in the German church point out that the pope’s decree is the start and not the conclusion of a Vatican reconciliation with the followers of Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected the modernising reforms of the Second Vatican Council and are members of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX).

Bishop Williamson has described the pope’s decree to lift the excommunication as “a great step forward for the church without being a betrayal on the part of the SSPX”.

Fr Eberhard von Gemmingen, head of the Vatican’s German service, has described the episode as a “misunderstanding and debacle”. He urged listeners to “pray for the pope and his staff”.

Merkel asks Vatican for explanation

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has asked Pope Benedict to clarify Vatican thinking resulting from the rehabilitation of Bishop Williamson.

The bishop, who is a member of the Pius X Society has denied aspects of the nazi atrocities.

Merkel points out that she does not normally comment on inner church affairs but on this occasion because of the gravity of the issue she was left with no alternative.

The following article was published by Stern yesterday.

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel hat Papst Benedikt XVI. zu einer deutlichen Stellungnahme zum Umgang mit dem Holocaust aufgefordert.

Es gehe darum, eindeutig klarzustellen, dass es keine Leugnung geben könne, sagte sie. Indes wächst die Kritik deutscher Theologen am Papst wegen der Rehabilitierung von vier Bischöfen der erzkonservativen Pius-Bruderschaft.
Papst Benedikt XVI. gerät wegen der Rehabilitierung eines Holocaust-Leugners in den eigenen Reihen zunehmend unter Druck.

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel forderte ihn zu einer deutlichen Position in der Diskussion über den Umgang mit dem Holocaust auf.

"Es geht darum, dass von Seiten des Papstes und des Vatikans sehr eindeutig klargestellt wird, dass es hier keine Leugnung geben kann", sagte sie.

"Diese Klarstellungen sind aus meiner Sicht noch nicht ausreichend erfolgt", so Merkel am Dienstag bei einer Pressekonferenz in Berlin. Merkel betonte, dass sie normalerweise innerkirchliche Entscheidungen nicht bewerte oder kommentiere.

"Allerdings ist das anders, wenn es um Grundsatzfragen geht", sagte Merkel. "Und ich glaube, das ist schon eine Grundsatzfrage, wenn durch eine Entscheidung des Vatikan der Eindruck entsteht, dass es die Leugnung des Holocaust geben könnte, dass es um grundsätzliche Fragen auch des Umgangs mit dem Judentum insgesamt geht", sagte Merkel.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

German Catholics express concern

The German media is giving large-scale coverage to the news of Pope Benedict rehabilitating members of the Pius X Society.

Last evening the Archbishop of Mainz, Cardinal Lehmann expressed concern on the the latest Vatican move and the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Marx, came close to expressing worry.

Among those rehabilitated is Bishop Richard Williamson, who has denied aspects of the Holocaust.

Snow balls


This photograph appears as the lead picture on the front page of today's Irish Times.

The caption reads:First- and second-year international seminarians play in the snow before attending Mass at the novitiate of Legionaries of Christ in Leopardstown yesterday.

Before the advent of technology there was some truth in the adage that a picture never lies. That certainly is no longer true. Photoshop has put paid to that.

Nevertheless this picture has a great story behind it.

What young men in their 20s in the developed world in 2009 play snowballs wearing long dress-style clothing with immaculate coiffured hair, highly polished shoes with gleaming white cuffs and cuff links?