Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The defining issues

In the current edition of the Irish Catholic David Quin writes about the controversy happening between US Catholic politicians and the US hierarchy.

On ETWN at the weekend there were two Catholic bishops discussing Catholicism.

How come the deciding issues of whether one is a member of the church or not always seems to come down to issues concerning sexuality.

The usual suspects, gay marriage, abortion, etc are always and ever the issues that we are told are the defining issues as to whether or not we are catholic.

Has anyone ever heard of a bishop saying that tax fraud barred one from being a catholic? Has ever a bishop clearly and unambiguously spoken so strongly against the evil of poverty - one in six of the world's population are starving?

Living life is flux.

Is it not ironical that a hierarchical church that speaks so much on issues of sexuality has shown itself to be at such a loss when it comes to the practical every day living of a person's sexual life.

If bishops are so emphatic and certain about the 'thinking' of God on certain matters pertaining to sexuality how did they get it so wrong when it came to the present shambolic situation.

They keep saying that they did not know and that they depended on professional advice. Something odd here.

Also, is there not something unusual about bishops going on and on in such solemn tones on matters of sexuality while they adorn themselves with chains, crosses, rings and long frocks?

Is one ever struck by the visual appearance of so many bishops?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Far too smart

How could a spokesperson for the diocese of Down and Connor have been allowed write this letter? Letter appeared in Tuesday's Irish Times.

Presumably Brendan Smyth had faculties to work as a priest in the diocese.

Madam, – Pat Buckley (Letters, January 13th) inaccurately stated that, at the time of his “sacking”, Fr Brendan Smyth “was ministering in Down and Connor with the knowledge and consent of its then bishop, Cahal Daly”.

It should be noted that Fr Brendan Smyth, a native of Belfast, was not a diocesan priest and never held any appointment in the Diocese of Down and Connor at any time. – Yours, etc,


Media Liaison Officer,

Down and Connor Diocese.

There are always clues in language

Irish bishops are 'summoned' to Rome. They will meet 'senior Vatican officials'. "Bishops are good fathers to their priests".

Language tells its own story.

As to the 'senior Vatican officials' simply scary.

Are the bishops being called or summoned?

Bishops are not fathers to their priests. And how can ever such a general term be made. And this comment is reported to come from a Vatican cardinal. This is terrible language and an insult to my father.

Mercy sister turns to Google

Sister De Lourdes Fahy is keeping a close eye on developments in Haiti.

She was in the country in July 2006. She was the coach of the Gort Community School debating team that won the Concern Debates that year.

“This is all so shocking and sad. I keep thinking of the fantastic people we met when I was there with the school debating team.
“I could not believe the heat when we landed in the capital Port-au-Prince and there were people everywhere.

“We were met at the airport by our ‘twins’ who would spend the week caring for us and making sure everything went as per plan.

“Everyone was so welcoming.” Sister De Lourdes recalls.

And now she is scared that some of those people she got to know might be dead or badly injured. She is keeping a close eye on TV and in the newspapers but is also going on to the internet and googling names.

“I discovered that an American man, who worked at a children’s home is alive and well. He works with Hearts with Haitians. They have three homes in Haiti and two of them have been destroyed.

“A friend of his jumped from a window and survived.

“It is all so terrible and I can understand the people looting. I’d be looting too if I had no food and water.
“I am worried about the war lords who had been rounded up and imprisoned. They had been terrorising the people and now they are all out of prison,” Sister De Lourdes tells me.

“Before going to Haiti I read Garham Greene’s The Comedians, which is set in Haiti under the rule of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his secret police
so I had done some background on the history of the country. And that was a great help.

“I really was greatly impressed with the work Concern does in the country.

“In Saut d’Eau when I was there Concern had put in a water purifying plant and it meant the people now had clean water. Before that was there, they were using water from where the cows were drinking.

“I really liked the way Concern works with local groups. They really are doing amazing work,” she tells me.

And then she is back to her computer to see what’s happening.

The 73-year-old Mercy Sister has taken to googling no bother.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A kind act

It would seem impossible for us ever again to complain about our weather and infrastructure after Haiti.

On Sunday afternoon a man called to my house. I had visitors at the time so he asked if I could come over to his car. I had no idea what was in store. He wrote out a check for a subtantial sum of money for Concern for Haiti.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

How people are so scared to speak out

Sarah Carey's piece in Yesterday's Irish Times makes for great reading.
She comments how on a radio show on RTE 1 at the weeekend no one on the panel was willing to criticise comments made by Colm Tobin.

Obviously because of who he is panelists were afraid or simply unwilling to criticise him. It happens everywhere.

Ms Carey made no reference to his inappropriate comment on Pope Benedict. A pity she did not refer to that.

Great column. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Either an effort at spin or nonsense

The article below this comment appeared in yesterday's Irish Times.

Has Garry O'Sullivan seen the pope's letter? Has the letter been written? It would be nice for the people to be the first readers of the letter. Is that not what letters are. a communication from the writer to the reader?

He tells the bishops and CORI members to stop bickering with one another. Surely the problem for far too long has been that bishops 'reigned' in an absolute autocratic manner.

The Irish church has never known any sort of 'collegiality' or consensus. People, including priests, were scared of their lives to stand up to bishops and probably still are.

What does Mr O'Sullivan mean when he talks about Diarmuid Martin's experience of the European church?

Spin or nonsense?

Dublin archdiocese well positioned to lead on child protection

THE DUBLIN archdiocese got child protection spectacularly wrong as the Murphy report and the tsunami of outrage and disgust that followed it demonstrated.

However, there is an opportunity to position the archdiocese by this time next year, January 2011, as a national champion for children and propose that every other civil institution would be held to its standard.

At first glance this might seem hopelessly optimistic. Yet it is clear that Archbishop Martin in his comments on New Year’s Day has a vision of where he wants to go in 2010. Renewal will happen in more than just child protection structures he said “because when you have seismic moments you need a qualitative leap to a different view of church”.

It will not be too difficult to make a qualitative leap in terms of child protection; the Dublin archdiocese has structures in place that are beyond anything any civil institution currently has.

By establishing the archdiocese as a national leader in child protection Archbishop Martin would position himself as a champion for Irish children and challenge the State and its institutions to follow suit at a time when the State is cutting resources to social services..

If 4 per cent of abusers are clergy or religious (SAVI Report 2002), then who is championing the rights of the children affected by the other 96 per cent?

Reform of the archdiocese is actually a more difficult task however. The first step in this leap to a renewed church will be the pope’s letter, most likely on Ash Wednesday. It will acknowledge the tremendous contribution of the Irish to the church worldwide from the time of the golden age of monasticism to the modern missionary movement. The pope will express his complete abhorrence at clerical child sexual abuse. There may well be a call for a proper understanding of proper sexual health among clergy but also in society and a re-statement of the church’s position on healthy sexual morality.

He will commend the child protection initiatives taken to date and ask that they be brought to fruition within the church. Finally, he will call on the whole Irish church to sit in fellowship and ask that the Gospel be preached by clergy and religious, working together with the laity in order to bring about the renewal of Gospel values and faith in the Irish church.

In other words, there are great people in the Irish church, so face up to your problems, don’t run away from them but solve them, stop bickering (bishops and Cori) and make the Irish church accountable to the Holy See and civil society.

Archbishop Martin will push ahead with reforms in the Dublin archdiocese based on his experience of the church in Europe, removing the failed structures so clearly identified in the Murphy report and distancing the archdiocese as fully as possible from those priests who were “collectively responsible” for what his administration agrees was a “cover-up”.

He may go to each of the deaneries as he did before and try to rally the priests around a vision of the future. To bring his priests, indeed the archdiocese with him, he is going to have to overhaul the communications structure that so failed the diocese in the past.

His own communications style at present needs polishing; it is being openly criticised by his priests and indeed by many bishops. The handling of the auxiliary bishops is seen as being rough and priests are asking themselves if a bishop can be treated so, how would they fare.

That said, while priests are quick to point out that their archbishop has feet of clay, they are by no means demoralised.

Change is being talked about; the albatross of mismanagement is finally being removed, and the diocese will be positioned to expend all its energies in reaching out and ministering to people in the challenges of their daily lives, the life and death stuff that they, priests, were ordained for.

For the Dublin archdiocese and the Irish church, in 2010, at last, there will be good news.


Garry O’Sullivan is managing editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Radio Romance

Garrison Keillor's Radio Romance is a great read.

Keillor is a regular contributor to The Irish Times.

The setting for Radio Romance is the beginning of radio in the US - Mid West to be precise. It's a funny read - all about the link between real people and their persona in actors on the radio. The actors take on lives of their own.

Shortly before the death of one of the founding brothers, he claims his life concerned two things, radio and women.

It's a clever book and something of an insight into the 'emptiness' of all our lives. It's about how we are misunderstood. It has also something to do with standing back from what we do and seeing the futility of it.

The station is called WLT. And it stands for With Lettuce and Tomato.

In the days of non-stop stories and plays on radio it had great relevance. But maybe in today's world of live radio it has even more meaning?

Is the relationship between the fictional character and real person as real in live radio? Keillor is being deadly smart.

A great read and highly recommended.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Dublin bus driver in Dublin's snow

Yesterday afternoon close to 5pm a bus was parked up near the Dropping Well in South Dublin. The driver was unable to get the bus up the hill due to snow. We got chatting. He asked me if I had seen a young boy at the bus stop just some metres from where he was parked. He had let off all his passengers at the stop. He noticed that the boy, not Irish, was somewhat disabled and he was concerned for him. He felt that the young boy, once taken out of his routine would be experiencing difficulty. He went on to tell me that he managed to get the boy's mobile telephone and found his mother's number. So he called the number and told the boy's mother, who said she would come and collect him. A Dublin bus driver in yesterday's snow.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The story of every diocese

A number of auxiliary bishops in Dublin have tendered their resignations. They have done so for a number of reasons. Among the reasons is that they are perceived to have been part of a culture of cover up.

If that be the case and if the Irish hierarchical church is to be honest and indeed logical then surely every bishop in Ireland should resign. Every diocese in Ireland has been involved in a cover up. So why no more resignations?

There is a simple answer to that. The State authorities have not yet caught up on them. And does that not make it all so profoundly sad.

But really, is resignation the answer? It's doubtful.

Death of Freya von Moltke


The widow of a German lawyer executed after the failed plot to assassinate Hitler, Freya von Moltke became an outspoken advocate of German democracy.

Ms von Moltke, who died January 1 at age 98, spent World War II tending to the farm at her husband's family estate in Kreisau, Germany, which became the meeting place for a group who opposed Nazism and plotted to re-establish German democracy.

But after the July 20, 1944, assassination attempt in which Hitler was injured by a bomb, the so-called Kreisau Circle was discovered. Ms. von Moltke's husband, Helmuth von Moltke, an expert in international law and counselor to the German Army's high command, was convicted of treason by a Gestapo "people's court" and hanged in early 1945. Ironically, he had opposed Hitler's assassination in part for moral reasons, says their son Helmuth.

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Freya von Moltke Foundation

Freya von Moltke at the von Moltke family estate in Kreisau, Silesia, now part of Poland.
.In the aftermath of the war, Ms. von Moltke and her two sons were rescued by British troops and settled in South Africa. Ms. von Moltke undertook a U.S. speaking tour in which she elucidated her vision of a peaceful Germany. The 1949 visit inspired Eleanor Roosevelt to write in her newspaper column that Ms. Moltke "will do almost anything to feel that the land where her children should live has a chance of being a democratic, peace-loving country."

But Ms. von Moltke's dreams ran up against the South African apartheid state that instituted racial laws shortly after she arrived in 1947. In 1956, weeks after her oldest son graduated from secondary school, she moved the family back to Germany and then to the U.S. She settled in Norwich, Vt., where she lived with Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, a German-Jewish philosopher who taught at Dartmouth.

Born into a prosperous Cologne banking family, Ms. von Moltke studied at the University of Bonn and at age 20 was married to Helmuth von Moltke. They moved to Berlin, where he completed his legal studies.

Ms. von Moltke also earned a doctorate in law, but moved to the family estate at Kreisau after she had children. Her husband's international legal practice burgeoned and he was accepted as a British barrister, as he worked behind the scenes to oppose the Nazis. The Kreisau Circle met at the von Moltke estate several times during the war years and made plans for German democracy, which they assumed would follow the failure of the Nazi regime.

While Mr. von Moltke was in Berlin, the couple exchanged daily letters in which he asked after the sugar-beet harvest and questioned the wisdom of keeping a pair of ducks. He also expounded on his vision of a new Germany, and on the inhuman turn in German politics.

"How can anyone who knows these things still walk around free?" he wrote in one letter after seeing a German policeman kick a Jew. In another, he wrote of "a blood-guilt that cannot be atoned for in our lifetime."

Because their contents were potentially incriminating, Ms. von Moltke kept her husband's letters hidden in beehives on the estate. "Even the SS weren't brave enough to look there," she told Britain's Guardian newspaper in 1972. A selection of the letters was published in English in 1990 as "Letters to Freya."

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany's reunification, Ms. von Moltke and her wartime experiences became better known in Germany, and politicians, including Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Chancellor Angela Merkel, consulted her.

But she initially turned down an invitation in 1989 from Chancellor Helmut Kohl to accompany him on a visit to the Kreisau estate -- now a part of Poland after borders were redrawn -- insisting that the invitation must come from Poland to honor postwar reconciliation. The Polish and German governments later joined to finance a reconstruction of the estate as the Freya von Moltke Foundation, which opened in 1994 to foster international discussion on peace and democracy.

In recent years, Ms. von Moltke said that she came to believe that Hitler should have been assassinated, and remained proud of her husband's wartime work.

"Even though we had no success," she told the congregation at a Berlin church in 2004, "and even though we were weak, we kept European humanity alive in Germany."

World-wide readership

This blog is now being read in 51 countries around the world. It is read in Russia, in 43 states of the United States of America. It is read in 17 of the EU nations. And it is read on all five continents.

Happy New Year to all our readers.

A man who believes his every word is profound

Reverend Doctor Vincent Twomey's belief in the power of his own word is reaching new heights.

This letter appears in today's Irish Times.

Madam, – Since I am on record as calling for the resignation of the bishops mentioned in the Murphy report (December 3rd), I should have expressly excluded Dr Martin Drennan. The present Bishop of Galway was not found guilty of either negligence or cover-up by the Murphy commission. The one substantial reference to Bishop Drennan in the report (51.1-51.2) indicates that, when he was Auxiliary in Dublin, he acted appropriately in the case in question. The report concludes, “The Archbishop acted correctly in immediately addressing the concerns and suspicions in this case.” This amounts, if I am correct, to a recommendation of Bishop Drennan’s initial response with regard to a young priest acting suspiciously with young males.

Calls for his resignation are unfounded. If I was in any way guilty of inciting such calls, I am sincerely sorry and ask forgiveness. – Yours, etc,


Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology,

Divine Word Missionaries,

Full of bluster

This news item appeared in Saturday's Irish Times.

Does the weakness of the article, the fact that it carries no news and tells the reader nothing, lie with the journalist or with the archbishop?

Dermot Martin talks about the late Cardinal Daly as an 'extraordinary man' but then later admits he was 'away' when asked about other issues.

ARCHBISHOP OF Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said Pope Benedict’s pastoral letter to Irish Catholics is likely to be sent before Lent.

Ash Wednesday this year is on February 17th and he has also indicated that a synod of the Irish Catholic Church is unlikely.

On December 11th, following publication of the Murphy report, Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Martin met Pope Benedict at the Vatican.

Afterwards the Pope said in a statement that he planned issuing a pastoral letter “to the faithful of Ireland” in which he would “clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation”.

Archbishop Martin was chief celebrant at a World Day of Peace Mass at the Sacred Heart Church in Dublin’s Donnybrook yesterday morning.

Speaking afterwards to The Irish Times he said the pope’s pastoral letter could be expected “maybe even before Lent.” He hoped it “would contain some indications as to how we go into and celebrate Lent because Lent is a period of penance. Lent is a period of renewal. Lent is a period which leads us to the resurrection of Easter.”

As to the current situation in the archdiocese he said: “Well, the auxiliary bishops of Dublin are still auxiliary bishops until their resignation is accepted or not accepted by the pope. And we’ll have to wait and see. This is Christmas time and it’ll be some time, as I’ve said, before we have an indication.” Asked whether he had any comment to make on the position of the Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan, he said “no”.

As to whether a synod was likely he was “not too sure we’re quite ready for a synod of the Irish church and I’m not too sure if people quite understand what a synod of the Irish church might be like”.

He continued: “It could be anything from a very traditional canonical synod to an assembly of the Irish church. But I’ve said an ongoing talk shop may not be the answer either. I think that we do requires leadership and some of us are called to do that. That’s what I’ll try and do.”

He recalled that “in the Pro-Catherdal at Christmas I said one thing which I’ve been reflecting on myself and that is in the history of God’s relations with his people that there’s been a history of infidelity on the part of his people but of fidelity by God, and that when we talk about reform and change and renewal of the church we have to turn there, to God, to give us the leadership and to open our hearts to a conversion of ourselves.

“That, for me, is the challenge to see how we can get the entire believing community in Dublin to renew itself in its faith.”

He said: “When I talk about renewal it’s not simply about renewal of child protection structures it’s a much deeper renewal. The church in Dublin, the church in Ireland really needs that and we’ve to start looking in ways that are very different.”

He added: “Cardinal Daly, in that sense, was a person who was ahead of his times in the way he thought.

“He was open to other traditions in Europe and I think we have to start, we are moving out of an . . . occasionally you have to have these seismic moments when you have a real change in the way . . . a qualitative leap to a different view of church.

“I’ve been reflecting a lot. I’ve been talking to people about it. But I’m not going to make any statements until I have something to say on a broad range of issues.”

On Cardinal Daly in particular he said the he was “a man who spanned a huge range of Irish, recent church history, both in his academic life and as a bishop in three dioceses.

“He went to be cardinal in Armagh when he was quite on in years and wasn’t well. But he accepted responsibility and leadership. Very, very much so.

“He was a man . . . an extraordinary man in his rejection of violence. That didn’t make him popular with everybody, the rejection of violence, but he was absolutely consistent in that.”

Asked about the late cardinal’s handling of allegations of clerical child sex abuse, he said “I can’t say, honestly. I was away at the time. I just don’t have any . . . I have no idea what the situation there was in his .”

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