Thursday, June 24, 2010

The war in Afghanistan

The Stanley McChrystal show seems to be the only show in town these days.

It all happens because of Eyjafjallajokull, a long drive to Berlin, journalist getting too pally with army types and then too much drink in an Irish pub in Berlin.

It is also an insight into the shadowy world of who actually runs the show in democracies. The mix of army and secret service agencies seems to be the lethal cocktail that controls the engines in democracies.

Think of the power, privilege and prestige of MI5/6, CIA, Mossad (המוסד), BND(Bundes Nachrichten Dienst) etc and then compare their ethos and lives with what it must be for the mother, father, partner, child of the young soldier who is maimed or killed while 'fighting for country' in far-off Afghanistan.

And think of the thousands of Afghans who have been killed.

The soldier, whatever his nationality and his dead Afghan 'enemy' share the reality that most of them are the dispossessed, the unemployed.

And we keep glorifying the endeavours of war.

The calamity that is hitting the church at present is a result of people daring to uncover 'secrets'. Why cannot the same discovery process take place in armies and secret service agencies?

It should. Everything is possible.

Schmidt talks of foreign policy delusions

Helmut Schmidt comments about the current trend in Berlin are most worrying. He refers to the 'pompous Wilhelmine slant'. He accuses the administration of foreign policy delusions not seen since the Kaiser era, particularly in Franco-German relations.

The former chancellor refers to a 'new national egotism'. In similar fashion Juergen Habermas and former foreign minister Joschka Fischer have criticised the Merkel government.

A spokesperson for Dr Merkel declined to comment directly, adding that the only monarch in Dr Merkel's chancellery office was a portrait of Catherine the Great.

"She admires her as a strong woman, not because she shares her political views," he said, adding hastily "and certainly not the views of the Kaiser.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A sudden move from edicts to scurrying

In the last few days Bishop Walter Mixa was reported to be planning rescinding his resignation. Other reports told the story of the bishop being stitched up by more liberal German bishops and in today's Irish Times there is a short news piece 'confirming' that Germany's Catholic bishops yesterday said that they had sent a damning report to Pope Benedict to persuade him the man had to be removed from his post in Augsburg.

What at all is happening? Here are these men, constantly running for cover, confused and really looking pathetic and yet, in the past they spoke with such 'authority'.

Cardinal Meissner is reported in recent days as saying, "When the faithful ask me: 'How can we help our priests?' I always respond: 'Go to confession'."

If it were all so simple and as 'pious' as that? And why ask a cardinal?

It's difficult to hear those words when one recalls the days when Cardinal Meissner was cardinal bishop in Berlin. The man drove about in a top of the range Mercedes. A catholic bishop driving a Mercedes in the capital city of the GDR looked, to say the least, odd. The then Berlin diocese straddled east and west. On one occasion speaking at a seminar for priests, Cardinal Meissner said that when it came to faith and morals his word was the last word to be heard in the diocese. There was to be no discussion.

If one were to compare the edicts of bishops some 30 years ago with their current scurrying about, once is forced to ask for what do they stand, what do these men hold sacred?

Bishop Mixa has been for a long time associated with a trenchant conservative element within the German Catholic church. Their words have always sounded suspect.

These days it all makes for sad and maybe laughable reading.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

God mammon and carelessness

Last week's Der Spiegel magazine carries a four page article on money issues within the Catholic Church in Germany. The article is alarming and most worrying.

It begins with the reporting of two priests, who are involved in personal scams and then moves on to the vast financial portfolio of the church in Germany. Its underlying tone is the arrogance of church officials and the disconnect of many of them from 'reality'.

Reading the article one is forced to think about current developing trends within the church in Ireland.

Is it inevitable that when people do not have to work for their living that they lose touch with what it means to buy a loaf of bread? In this current economic crisis is the institutional clerical church feeling any pain or discomfort?

And then the latest news coming from Rome that the Vatican has a property portfolio of €9 million in the city.

In a parish in a diocese in Ireland there is an appeal for funds to rehabilitate a wall in a church that has given trouble since renovations some few years ago. The problem has happened because of clerical mismanagement and simple laziness and sloppiness - not being present, off on holiday, etc. And now the parish/diocese has simply gone to the people asking for funds to correct the error. It is yet another example of breathtaking arrogance. And what is most worrying is that there has not been a word of criticism from a single member of church personnel in the diocese. The spin on the story is shocking.

And that story probably replicated right across the country.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pope Benedict on Thomas Aquinas

In the general audience held in St Peter's Square on June 2, Benedict XVI continued with his catechesis dedicated to the great saints of the Middle Ages, speaking on St Thomas Aquinas, called the "Angelic Doctor" for the elevated nature of his thought and the purity of his life".

The Pope explained that Thomas was born around 1225 to a noble family in Roccasecca, Italy near the Abbey of Montecasino. He was sent to the University of Naples at a young age where he first became interested in Aristotelian thought and felt a call to the religious life.

In 1245 he went to Paris to study theology under the guidance of St Albert the Great who held this student in such esteem that he was asked to accompany him to Cologne, Germany to open a centre for theological studies.

"Thomas Aquinas, at St. Albert the Great's school, carried out a task of fundamental importance in the history of philosophy and theology as well as for history and culture", the Pope said. "He studied Aristotle and his interpreters in depth" and "commented on a great part of Aristotle's works, discerning what was valid in it from what was doubtful or refutable, demonstrating its consonance with the facts of Christian revelation, using Aristotelian thought with great breadth and intelligence in presenting the theological writings he composed. In short, Thomas Aquinas demonstrated that a natural harmony exists between reason and the Christian faith".

"His great intellectual endowment brought him again to Paris to teach theology. That is where he began his monumental literary output: commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures and the works of Aristotle along with his masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae".

"There were a few secretaries who assisted in drafting his works, among whom was Reginald of Piperno [...] who was bound to him by a fraternal and sincere friendship characterised by great trust and reliance. This is a characteristic of the saints", the pontiff observed. "They cultivate friendship because it is one of the most noble manifestations of the human heart and holds something of the divine within it".

In 1259 Thomas Aquinas participated in the general chapter of the Dominicans in Valenciennes, France to establish the order's constitutions. On his return to Italy, Pope Urban IV charged him with composing the liturgical texts for the feast of Corpus Christi.

"St Thomas has a profoundly Eucharistic soul", the pope affirmed. "The beautiful hymns that the liturgy of the Church sings to celebrate the mystery of the real presence of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Eucharist are due to his faith and theological wisdom".

In Paris, where he returned in 1269, a great number of students followed his courses, but the "Angelic Doctor" also dedicated himself to preaching to the people, who listened with attention. "It is a great gift that theologians know how to speak with simplicity and fervour to the faithful. The ministry of preaching, on the other hand, also helps those who are experts in theology to develop a healthy pastoral realism and enriches their research with stimulation", the pontiff remarked.

In the final months of his life, St Thomas -- who died in 1274 at the Abbey of Fossanove, Italy when he was heading to Leon to participate in an ecumenical council -- confessed to his friend Reginald of Piperno that, after a divine revelation, he considered his work as "so much straw", writing nothing further afterwards.

"It is a mysterious episode that helps us understand not only Thomas's personal humility but also the fact that all that we are able to think and say about the faith, as elevated and pure as it may be, is infinitely surpassed by the greatness and beauty of God who will reveal himself to us in the fullness of paradise," Benedict XVI

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

AA celebrates 75 sober years

This week Alcoholics Anonymous is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Today's Irish Times carries a feature to mark the occasion.

Most people are only too aware of the damage that alcohol abuse can cause.

There is probably not a family in Ireland that is not touched by the demon drink.

AA traces its origins to June 10, 1935 the day when Dr Bill Smith had his last ever drink. He and businessman Bill Wilson met and talked about their drinking habits and experiences. Today the global fellowship is in 150 countries with a membership of two million.

On a personal note, up to last year I suppose I could say that I was a social drinker. Maybe on no more than three or four occasions I drank too much. But I would seldom if ever go out for a meal without having a glass of wine outside of Lent or Advent.

Then last year on June 12 I made a spontaneous decision to give up all alcoholic drink until a particular issued had been resolved. The year is up on Saturday and the issue has been resolved.
Surely it would be silly ever again to imbibe.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Investigators have much to do

The episcopal line-up to investigate the Irish Catholic Church seems impressive. They seem a decent enough bunch of men. But is it at all possible to get to the core of so many issues that need serious investigation?

One aspect all the media seem to get wrong and that is a link between so-called liberal minded people and homosexuality. Within the church it is the opposite that is the case. Most closet homosexual priests and brothers espouse to a right wing style of thinking.

The resignation of the Lib Dem member of the British Cabinet because of his fear in expressing his sexual orientation surely has to be a powerful allegory for similar issues within priesthood.

Hopefully when the investigators arrive in Ireland there will be full, open, honest and candid discussion. It might a chance for truth to happen.

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