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?