Thursday, May 28, 2009

Where were the Irish people

Nothing whatsoever can ameliorate the damage that has been done to the children who were barbarised in institutional homes. Certainly a misuse of the word 'home'. But where were the people of Ireland when this went on.

The President of Ireland on Radio this morning said that they had hints of it. Why were her parents not speaking up about it? Where were the parents of Ireland. More significantly, where were the journalists of the day?

This did not happen in a vacuum, just as Nazi Germany did not happen in a vacuum.

Anyone who questions authority in any shape or form is considered something of a maverick. If you ask awkward questions you are told you do not know the full story. That is a vein right across all society. And maybe a misuse of the vow of obedience allowed people in authority to behave in an autocratic way.

Just look at the way bishops are appointed and the relationship between a bishop and his priests and people. The Bishop Brennan episode of Fr Ted is written by someone with inside knowledge!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Who were the people in charge?

Kevin O'Connor's article in yesterday's Irish Times obliges the reader to ask is there a nexus between all of this horror and mandatory celibacy. It certainly must have something to do with it. And while we hang our heads in shame, what wisdom and honesty is being contributed to make any sense of celibacy?

What sort of training courses were in place for those men and women who caused such mayhem? Who were the people in charge?

Who is 'forming' the current group of men and women who have decided to become sisters, priests and brothers?

Should all such formation courses be validated by the State? Why not?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Titles

No doubt the Catholic directory for Ireland for 2010 is being currently prepared.
Men will be given titles, such as Reverend Father, Very Reverend Father, Most Reverend Father.

Is that not absurd?

The man in the bracelets

At a time such as this when public indignation is high it may well be difficult to say something measured and meaningful. Maybe that is not at all the case.

Today's Irish Times carries articles by Fintan O'Toole, Kevin O'Connor, Tony Flannery and Elaine Byrne, plus many other news items and comments on the Ryan Report.

Hopefully every member of the Irish hierarchical church will read Kevin O'Connor. They might even consider inviting him to talk to their communities, congregations and orders. They might even begin a worthwhile and true dialogue among themselves. Is that possible?

As to comments in the media re no comment from Fr Sean Healy, is it not the case that Fr Healy's 'branch' of Cori has 'broken away' from the main Cori body?

And what is waiting for us in the Dublin Report?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On this Ascension Thursday

There is little or nothing to say today on this blog on this Ascension Thursday.

Maybe one sentiment and that is that all forms of clericalism will be banished from the face of the earth. Alas, the signs are not good.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Three elections in one day

Watching the election countdown is interesting. Fine Gael canvassers were in the Churchtown area last evening. They were polite and knowledgeable and most informed when it comes to Ireland's overseas aid policy and how we have reneged on our commitment.

But what good do the posters do? How would it work for a candidate if she/he decided not to put up a single mugshot of themselves? So far I have not seen a poster of EU South candidate Seán Kelly in West Kerry. Has anyone spotted how similar he is in looks to the Iranian president?

Are the politicians cutting back on their electioneering expenditure?

The number of posters falling off poles in this inclement weather is noticeable and certainly a danger to cyclists.

Any chance of a non-poster candidate. Obviously and sadly late for this time round.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fergus Finlay on child abuse

According to informed sources the report on the Dublin archdiocese, due out later this month, will carry horrific revelations.

Nothing can be done to change the past but we can learn from it. Is the institutional hierarchical Catholic church in Ireland at present capable of learning from the past?

As long as clericalism exists it seems the chance of any real learning is slim. And clericalism lives in Ireland, indeed, it seems to be getting a new lease of life.


The article below appears in today's Irish Examiner.

Child abuse: get set for new round of shock, horror and hypocrisy
By Fergus Finlay

OVER the next week or so, we will see another couple of reports that will confirm, once again, how children really don’t matter in Ireland.

And once again we will be shocked by the evidence and hurt by the pain and suffering contained in those reports. We will make all sorts of resolutions that we’re going to do better in future, that we’ll never let this happen again. And then the reports will go away to gather dust. The media outrage will die down. Other news stories will come along and we will have to wait till another tragedy happens, or another scandal is revealed, before we go through the whole hypocritical charade once again.

Despite the things that all these reports say about us, the neglect and abuse of children is not an issue in the elections taking place now. None of the parties seems to think it worthwhile to put real child protection on their agendas. Tomorrow, the Commission to Enquire into Child Abuse will publish its report. Or perhaps I should say reports. Five volumes will be published, covering the work of an investigation committee and a confidential committee. The two committees took testimony from, I believe, more than 1,000 people during the lifetime of the commission. Most of the witnesses before the commission were people who were sentenced as children to live out their childhoods in residential institutions.

The vast majority of the children involved were guilty of no crime or, in some cases, petty crime. The places to which they were sent were run on behalf of the state by a variety of religious orders. Thanks to the work of journalists like Mary Raftery, we know a lot about the abuse these children suffered. Our state has apologised to the children, all of them now adults, and some effort has been made to compensate them.

A deal has been done with the religious orders to limit the financial burden they will have to carry arising from this compensation. One of the things we might wonder about tomorrow, as we start to read and hear about the terrible things that were done to children, is whether that deal was just and fair. But I hope the thing we think about most will be the fact that all the abuse in those five volumes, all the suffering of children that will be revealed, was done in our name. And it could happen again.

Later in the month, or perhaps early next month, the report of the inquiry into abuse in the Dublin diocese will be published. It will talk about the hundreds – yes, hundreds – of children and young people who were abused by priests of the diocese over the years. And it will talk about the cover-ups, the hiding of evidence, the way in which the diocese protected its priests and added to the suffering and abuse of victims by doing so.

And it too will be deeply shocking. We will once again feel betrayed, comforted a little perhaps by the thought that there is a good, strong bishop there now, and nothing like this will happen ever again on his watch. Will we stop to wonder what will happen when he leaves? Will the needs of the institution once again take priority over the rights of children? These two reports – shocking as no doubt they will be – are only the latest.

In the past six months we’ve had two reports from an Oireachtas committee. One dealt with the need for proper and full vetting of people who work with children, and one dealt with the issue of how the criminal justice system should deal with people who have sex with children. We’ve had the report into the activities of the Cloyne diocese, which demonstrated that elements of the church hierarchy weren’t honouring even their own guidelines. We’ve had the Monageer report which showed all too graphically (despite extensive censorship) how the lack of priority afforded to child protection in Ireland has led to chaos in a critically important system. An inquiry is still going on into extremely serious child protection issues in Roscommon.

That’s just the past six months. Before that we had the Kilkenny incest inquiry, the Ferns report, Kelly Fitzgerald, Sophia McColgan. The list goes on and on, for years and years and years. And nothing ever changes. Public attitudes change, of course, but the entire political system seems totally unable or willing even to contemplate anything substantial. Look at the reaction to the Monageer report, with ministers all announcing that the inquiry had found that no matter what system had been in place, the tragedy wouldn’t have been prevented. Ministers couldn’t say that without relying on a very heavily qualified and censored couple of paragraphs in the report, but they seemed prepared to cling to anything that would justify as little action as possible. Why is that? Everyone who works in this area knows there are thousands of children at risk all the time.

Last week it was reported that around 6,500 children were known to the system to be at risk of neglect or abuse and none of them had been allocated to a social worker. And yet the minister for health could assure RTÉ News there is no problem because social workers are not subject to the embargo. But that is the direct opposite of the experience on the ground where social workers are carrying caseloads that are far bigger than their counterparts anywhere in Europe. The truth is that the money is wrong, the staffing is wrong, the communications are wrong, the structures are wrong. The hugely overburdened HSE simply cannot cope with the task of taking responsibility for vulnerable children any more – it’s fighting too many fires, dealing with too many crises.

THERE is overwhelming evidence that the system isn’t coping and that children are at risk on that account. And children will die – maybe they already have. Children will be beaten and tortured, and maybe that has happened, too. Children will go hungry, they’ll be out too late at night, they will end up homeless and adrift. They will be introduced to drugs and street crime. We’ll wring our hands and perhaps we’ll hang our heads in shame. But we will once again stop short of doing the things that must be done really to protect children. We all know what they are – we need changes in law, in structures, in management. We need a fully fleshed out policy on child protection and it needs to be given the force of law. And there needs to be someone responsible for implementing child protection policy in the state – someone who will run the system on a day-to-day basis, someone responsible for standards and practice and communications.

As they say, it’s not rocket science. But why is it so unimportant? When we’ve all finished reading the reports due out in the next couple of weeks, will we march on the Dáil to demand change? Or will we all sit around and hope that’s all in the past now. Is it easier for us all to kid ourselves? Or is it really that children don’t matter?

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Election campaigners

The election material is pouring in our letter boxes and if you are living in a bye-election area the stuff is falling out of the sky on the treble.

Some of it makes interesting reading.

Shay Brennan says he is active almost two decades in local politics. He is now 35 so he was politically astute just after 15. He tells the whole world he works for Anglo Irish Bank as a treasury risk specialist. Makes for great reading. He sports a gigantic knot in his tie. Hard to spot if there is gel in his hair.

A Labour leaflet promotes some individual and does not tell you if he is going up for the council, Europe or the Dail.

And then there is the Libertas candidate for the bye-election, Caroline Simons. Caroline puts a great stress on the importance of the ordinary people. One is immediately forced to think of her leader's mansion in the west of Ireland. The leaflet is full of vague aspirations and nasty comments about every other political party.

Has she any connectiosn with the singer?

Is this democracy?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

En route to the Holy Land

This is an interview with Pope Benedict during his flight to the Holy Land. It is something of a 'quaint' set up in that the person carrying out the interview is the Vatican's PR man. Nevertheless, the pope's replies make for interesting reading.

Father Lombardi:
Your Holiness, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity once again for a meeting with you at the beginning of such an important and demanding journey. Among other things, it allows us to wish you a good journey and to assure you that we will play our part in spreading the messages that you wish to convey to us. As usual, the questions I am about to ask are the result of a collection of questions proposed by my colleagues here present. I shall put these questions to you myself, purely for ease of logistics, but they were in fact produced by a joint effort.

Q. Your Holiness, this journey is taking place at a very delicate moment for the Middle East: there are strong tensions – at the time of the crisis in Gaza, there was even speculation that you might decide not to come. At the same time, a few days after your journey, the principal political leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority will also be meeting President Obama. Do you think you can offer a contribution to the peace process that now seems to have become deadlocked?

A. Good morning! First I should like to thank all of you for the work that you do, and let us all wish one another a good journey, a good pilgrimage, a good return journey. As for the question, certainly I shall seek to contribute to peace not as an individual but in the name of the Catholic Church, and of the Holy See. We are not a political power, but a spiritual force, and this spiritual force is a reality that can contribute to advances in the peace process. I see three levels. First, as believers we are convinced that prayer is a real force: it opens the world to God. We are convinced that God listens and that he can act in history. I think that if millions of people – millions of believers – all pray, this is truly a force that influences and can contribute to moving forward the cause of peace. Second: we are seeking to assist in the formation of consciences. The conscience is the human capacity to perceive the truth, but this capacity is often impeded by particular interests. And to break free from these interests, to open up more to the truth, to true values, is a major undertaking: it is a task of the Church to help us to know true criteria, true values, and to free us from particular interests. And so – in third place – we also speak – no doubt about it – to reason: precisely because we are not a political force, we can perhaps more easily, and in the light of the faith, see the true criteria, we can assist in understanding what contributes to peace and we can appeal to reason, we can support positions that are truly reasonable. This we have already done and we wish to do so again now and in the future.

Q. Thank you, Your Holiness. The second question. As a theologian, you have reflected particularly on the common roots shared by Christians and Jews. How is it that, despite the efforts towards dialogue, misunderstandings often occur? How do you see the future of dialogue between the two communities?

A. The important thing is that we really do have the same roots, the same books of the Old Testament, a Book which – both for the Jews and for us – conveys Revelation. Yet of course, after two thousand years of distinct, not to say separate, histories, it is no wonder if misunderstandings arise, because very different traditions of interpretation, language and thought have been formed, there is so to speak a very different “semantic cosmos”, such that the same words used in the two traditions mean different things; and with this use of words that, in the course of history have acquired different meanings, misunderstandings obviously arise. We must each do all we can to learn the language of the other, and it seems to me that we are making great progress here. Today it is possible for young people, future teachers of theology, to study in Jerusalem, at the Hebrew University, and Jews have academic contacts with us: thus an encounter is taking place between one “semantic cosmos” and the other. Let us learn from one another and let us go forward along the path of true dialogue, let us each learn from the other, and I am sure and convinced that we will make progress. And this will also help peace, indeed it will help mutual love.

Q. Your Holiness, this journey has two essential dimensions of inter-religious dialogue – with Islam and with Judaism. Are the two directions completely separate from one another, or will there also be a common message concerning the three Abrahamic religions?

A. Certainly there is also a common message and there will be opportunities to highlight it. Notwithstanding our diverse origins, we have common roots because, as I have already said, Christianity is born from the Old Testament and the Scripture of the New Testament would not exist without the Old, because it makes constant reference to “the Scriptures”, that is, to the Old Testament. Islam too was born in a world where both Judaism and the various branches of Christianity: Judeo-Christianity, Antiochene Christianity, and Byzantine Christianity were all present, and all these circumstances are reflected in the Koranic tradition, with the result that we have much in common in terms of our origins and our faith in the one God. So it is important on the one hand to have bilateral dialogues – with the Jews and with Islam – and then also trilateral dialogue. I myself was the Co-Founder of a foundation for dialogue among the three religions, at which leading figures like Metropolitan Damaskinos and the Chief Rabbi of France René Samuel Sirat and others came together, and this foundation also issued an edition of the books of the three religions: the Koran, the New Testament and the Old Testament. So the trilateral dialogue must go forward, it is extremely important for peace and also – let us say – for living one’s own religion well.

Q. One final question. Your Holiness, you have often spoken of the problem of the declining number of Christians in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land. It is a phenomenon with various causes of a political, economic and social character. What can be done in practice to assist the Christian presence in the region? What contribution do you hope to make with your journey? Is there hope for these Christians in the future? Do you have a particular message for the Christians in Gaza who will come to meet you in Bethlehem?

A. Certainly there is hope, because while this is a difficult moment, as you have mentioned, it is also a time of hope for a new beginning, for a new impetus along the path to peace. We wish above all to encourage the Christians in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East to remain, to offer their contribution in their countries of origin: they are an important component of the life and culture of these regions. In practice, what the Church brings – in addition to words of encouragement and common prayer – are chiefly schools and hospitals. In this sense, we have thoroughly practical establishments here. Our schools educate a generation that will be able to make its presence felt in life today, in public life. The Catholic Church is opening a University in Jordan, which strikes me as an important setting in which young people – both Muslims and Christians – will meet, will learn together, and where a Christian intelligentsia can be formed that is suitably prepared to work for peace. But in general, our schools provide a very important opportunity that opens up a future for the Christians, and the hospitals make our presence visible. Moreover, there are many Christian associations that help Christians in different ways, and with practical assistance they encourage them to stay. So I hope that the Christians really will find the courage, the humility, the patience to remain in these lands, and to offer their contribution to the future of these lands.

Father Lombardi:
Thank you, Your Holiness, with these replies you have helped us to put our journey in context from a spiritual point of view, and from a cultural point of view. Once more I express to you my own good wishes, and those of all my colleagues on this flight, including the others who are flying to the Holy Land at this time, in order to take part and to assist, through their reporting, in attaining a positive outcome for this demanding mission of yours. May you and all your collaborators have a good journey, and to my colleagues I say: Buon lavoro!


Political images

We are in recession. It looks likely that SR Technics will close its doors as planned with no chance of someone buying the concern. The dole queues grow by the day. And yet every political poster shows the face of a smiling politician.

Are politicians another of those group of privileged people for whom the current economic crisis has little meaning?

In this inclement weather the posters on lamp posts are a real danger, especially for cyclists as they are constantly blowing off their fixtures.

While it is extremely dangerous right now to underestimate the importance of the democratic process, it seems there is little or no cut backs in the world of politics.

Words and how we perceive them

On a posting on this blog on May 5 it was said that a priest in a sermon said that we should ask election candidates if they believe in the immortality of the soul.

On consultation with the priest he said that what he did say was that when the candidates call to our doors we should ask ourselves if they the candidates believe in the immortality of the soul.

That does change the complexity of the issue.

What one says and what the listener perceives to have been said is always a conundrum. It must always be a matter of being careful with our words.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pope story is not a story

It certainly has to be a question of lazy journalism. A number of media outlets today have made reference to Pope Benedict as young Josef Ratzinger joining the Hitler Youth.

On becoming pope, the media thoroughly investigated the issue and there is general consensus that he was forced to join and that there was nothing significant in his joining.

Today's Irish Independent has a headline on its front page 'Vatican plays down Nazi claim and the headline on the lead story on page 21 is, 'Vatican forced to deny Pope was a member of Hitler Youth'.

These are not stories. Maybe the current economic downturn is hitting hard the world of media.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Looking out the window


In good weather there must be few places in the world as beautiful as Ireland.
Yesterday in West Kerry the top of Mount Brandon was clear - not a cloud in sight. The mountains in West Kerry were looking incredibly beautiful.

Later in the day I travelled with the 17.15 train from Tralee to Dublin. Ireland was looking at its very best. Seldom have I seen it look so wonderful. I must have spent most of the journey with my nose pressed against the window looking out at the greatest show on earth.

The rail journey from Tralee to Dublin is just exquisite. It begins with the mountains and roughness of Kerry, especially South Kerry and then the train sneaks away from South Kerry and into North Cork where the land slowly changes to rich farmland.

It's single track from Tralee to Mallow and only for the strategic placing of Killarney, Tralee would have lost its rail service many years ago. Maybe too Dick Spring had something to do with keeping the Kerry line open.

Once in Mallow it is on to the main Dublin Cork double line where trains travel at 165 km/h.

Sad to see the Mallow sugar factory closed and the rail sidings now filled with weeds. Ireland no longer makes a grain of sugar.

From Mallow all the way to Dublin Heuston it is prime agricultural land. It must be the best land in the country and yesterday it was looking as perfect as it could be.

Most of the stations are away from the towns but at Thurles you can see Semple Stadium of Munster final glory and at nearby Templemore the stone church is visible. And the Devil's Bit must stay in the window frame for the best part of 20 minutes and that's travelling at 140km/h. It puts things in perspective.
Kildare with its middle track allows our fast train to pass out any commuter train that might be stopped at the station. With the opening of the new double track between Hazelhatch and Heuston this summer trains of the old Great Southern and Western can show off their superior speed to all local commuter traffic.
Kildare and Newbridge stations have managed to retain their old stone look.

It was bright all the way to Dublin and then just somewhere near Sallins the blazing whitened sun was beginning to set in the west.

Down to zero speed at platform five at Heuston Station. That train is done for the day. It was the 07.00 to Cork this morning. Back through incredible countryside on another glorious spring day in Ireland.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Declan Ganley and 'gentlemen'

Libertas founder Declan Ganley when asked if Lech Walesa was paid a fee for addressing the party's meeting in Rome commented, "Gentlemen do not talk about money to other gentlemen".

Anyone who has seen Mr Ganley's palatial home in Ireland must be inclined to ask the 'gentleman' how can one amass such wealth in such a short time.

Are 'non-gentlemen' allowed talk about money to 'gentlemen'?

Mr Ganley seems to have made much of his fortune in Russia in scrap metal immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Do scrap metal men talk to gentlemen about money?

His comments re 'honour' and 'gentlemen' must remind one of all the guff we hear from those who attempt to patronise and lord it over working people.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Preaching

Journalists like priests get stale and it is inevitable that just as the quality of writing can vary so too can the quality of preaching. But maybe with a journalist the editor is looking over the shoulder and can hint, whatever, whereas with the priest how often do superiors 'hint'.

At Mass in Churchtown on Sunday the priest in his sermon began by attacking the media, made snide comments about the film 'Brokeback Mountain' and then went on to say that when candidates for the upcoming elections call to our doors we should ask them if they believe in the immortality of the soul.

Do we not live in a republic?

It was the Gospel of the Good Shepherd in the Church of the Good Shepherd. A great occasion to be uplifted and inspired, instead people praying in the church had to listen to the pet hates of a man who was theologically ill informed.

Featured Post

No comment from bishop

The editorial in the current issue of Kerry's Eye.