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.