Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The world of agents and clerics

On the back page of yesterday's Irish Independent there is a story at the top of the page about how a cardinal tells a victim to 'stay quiet'. Further down the page there is the story of the death of Gareth Williams the MI5 agent.

Both reports are tragic stories about the lives of people. Both stories are about organisations, which take the oxygen of their existence from silence.

The cardinal tells the victim, "I don't think you'd do yourself or him a favour by shouting this from the rooftops".

The MI5 operative "had few close friends and been willing to confide little about his work or private life".

So many lives destroyed and for what? Organisations and agencies that have a madness for secrecy at their core.

And the underlining arrogant self-righteousness of such organisations. They always know best. It's custom and practice and precedence too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The great Christoph Schlingensief dies

Christoph Schlingensief, who was considered one of the most important figures in the German theatre has died.

Schlingensief, who was also a renowned artist and actor, had suffered from lung cancer for more than two years.

He directed numerous films, plays and operas, including at the renowned annual Richard Wagner festival in Bayreuth, and in Manaus, Brazil.

Schlingensief's plays, mostly staged in Germany, Switzerland and Austria always questioned the status quo.

He was greatly influenced by his local Catholic priest in Oberhausen where he was an altar boy. He later joined a Catholic youth movement.

He believed that the Hitler virus had left a great and terrible mark on the German psyche.

At one stage when four million people were unemployed during the chancellorship of Helmut Kohl he planned a swim for all four million near the home of Kohl. Had all four million dived at the one instant it would have flooded Kohl's home. The German police banned the action.

Christoph Schlingensief is a great loss to Germany. He is survived by his wife, Aino.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nothing is ever simple and straightforward

This column appears today in the regional papers in Ireland owned by Independent News and Media

By Michael Commane
The Leaving Cert results are out, so too the first round CAO offers.

It has all been something of a media circus. But like all circuses, after a few days it picks up its tent and moves on to the next story. That’s the way of the media and nothing wrong with that. But like everything else, there is always another story behind the headlines. Nothing is simple and as straightforward as we think.

As a school teacher about to go back to school at the end of this week I think I have some sort of understanding about what is happening in education in Ireland. In some ways it is clear and simple, in other ways it is extraordinarily complex.

There are also many modern day myths about Irish education. The idea that we have the best educated young people in Europe is a nonsense. A German student who does English in his or her Abitur (final school examination) is far more proficient in English than an Irish person is in German who does German in his or her Leaving Cert. Another myth might be how we give schools reputations; so often we can be so wrong and allow snobbery to fool us.

The Leaving Cert is something analogous to a horse race. It certainly has its competitive nuances. There’s a competition out there to get that coveted third level offer.

Is it a fair competition? Is the individual young person allowed reach his or her academic potential and does the State get value for money?

On the RTE1 main television news on the Thursday evening after the LC results were published there was a piece on the results and the journalist finished the report by commenting that Leaving Cert results in Dublin depend mainly on the student’s postal address. How right she is.

The church has a long history in education in Ireland. The brothers and sisters spent generations in schools. Was it education and opening the mind to new ideas or was it some sort of appalling factory that stopped us from thinking? It’s easy to be clever in hindsight.

There are few sisters or brothers teaching in classrooms today. There is a big debate taking place on the ownership of primary schools but there is less discussion on the ownership and management of second level schools.

The Catholic Church runs, manages and controls most of the best all-round schools. Names such as Loreto on the Green, Glenstal, Clongowes are renowned centres of education. Take a trip up the driveway of Clongowes or Glenstal and you are immediately catapulted into a world of privilege and splendour. It costs money and lots of it to send your child to these schools. It’s another world from schools that have to eke out an existence on a daily basis. It is most unlikely that there will be any problems with subject choice or teacher pupil ratios in the top fee paying schools in the State.

If someone has spare cash and knows how to go about it then they can send their children to a religious-run elite school. Is that the way it should be?

What if the religious orders pulled out of elite-style schooling, packed their bags and moved to deprived urban areas where they would offer their skills in the educational area? How prophetic it would be.

People who talk about religious-run schools talk about a special Christian ethos that pervades the school. I have always been sceptical about that.

The students of the elite schools go on to become the captains of Irish
industry. Where has the so-called Christian ethos led them and indeed the rest of us?

Alas if the church closed the doors of these schools it is most likely that they would be taken over by private companies and run for profit. That would be a retrograde step.

Of course there will be exceptions but the child who grows up in a socially deprived background has far less a chance of getting those 600 points than the sons and daughters of professional people. Okay that’s the way of the world. But should it be the way of the world and the way of things in Ireland that church-run elite schools actually get tax breaks while at the same time cash strapped schools in deprived inner city areas are gulping for survival.

It’s worth noting that there is less class division lines in rural Ireland than there is in urban areas.

We all know that family background, what goes on inside the home, plays a vital role in the life and times of a young school-going person.

If we spent more resources on education we would have to spend far less money in security, police and prisons.

And just to prove the point that nothing is as simple as the media might like to portray, Kerry, which has a long tradition of educating bright young people, does not have one such elite-style school within its borders. See, nothing is simple and straightforward.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Maxmillian better than Kevin but all a fraud

Today's Frankfurter Rundschau reports that someone with the first name Maxmillian gets better marks in an exam than had he the name Kevin - even if Kevin gives similar answers to Maxmillian.

What does that say about our chances of borrowing money if we are in competition with the Germans?

Wissenschaftler haben herausgefunden, dass Schulaufgaben, die unter dem Namen Maximilian verfasst wurden, besser benotet werden als die gleichen Aufgaben, die von einem Kevin abgegeben wurden - auch wenn es sich um das gleiche Kind handelt.

Kinder mit vorurteilsbeladenen Vornamen bekommen schlechte Noten, sagen Wissenschaftler.

Die Vornamen von Kindern können deren Schulnoten beeinflussen. Das haben Oldenburger Wissenschaftler in einer Studie herausgefunden, bei der sie den Zusammenhang zwischen Namen und Notengebung analysierten.

„Aufgaben, die unter dem Namen Maximilian verfasst wurden, erhielten zum Beispiel eine bessere Bewertung als die gleichen Aufgaben unter dem Namen Kevin“, sagte Prof. Astrid Kaiser vom Institut für Pädagogik am Dienstag.

Für die Studie hatten mehr als 200 Grundschullehrer Texte bewertet. Diese stammten zwar immer von demselben Kind, mal trug es aber einen mit Vorurteilen belasteten Vornamen, mal einen positiv empfundenen. (dpa)

An amazing moment of church history

Cardinal Sean Brady’s interview on RTE Radio 1 today is a milestone in the history of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The 'bad man' who is protected by a cardinal

Reading the story below gives some insight into the control and power that leading authorities really have.

The crazy situations that exist. Don't we really fool ourselves when we think we live in wonderful democracies in the western world.

Imagine a cardinal archbishop protecting a man he says is 'a bad man'.

When it comes to talking out of both sides of their mouths, top marks for the CIA, MI5/6, Mossad, BND and bishops, archbishops and cardinals, State agencies, major corporations. And these are the people who tell ordinary people how to behave.

The idea that priests are foisted on communities without one single word of approval by the community is another absurdity. All so bizarre.

A report from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman has confirmed that the RUC, the Catholic Church and the British government colluded to protect a priest who was suspected of being involved in one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, the 1972 Claudy bombing, in which nine people were killed.

The report says the decision of the police to seek the assistance of the Catholic Church and the British authorities failed those who were murdered, injured and bereaved in the bombing.

According to Northern Ireland's Policing Ombudsman, Al Hutchinson, the RUC investigation was wound down after the priest, Fr James Chesney, was transferred over the border to a parish in Co Donegal where he died eight years later.

The Ombudsman's report claims that after the Claudy bombing, on the basis of intelligence and other material, the RUC believed Fr Chesney was a suspect in the case and the IRA's director of operations in south Derry.

The Ombudsman details how an Assistant Chief Constable wrote to the Northern Ireland Office seeking help to 'render harmless a dangerous man, Fr Chesney.'

A meeting subsequently took place between then Northern Secretary William Whitelaw and then leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland Cardinal William Conway at which, according to Northern Ireland Office records, the Cardinal indicated 'he knew that the priest was a very bad man and would see what could be done.'

According to the documents, at that meeting in December 1972 the Cardinal also mentioned the possibility of transferring Fr Chesney to Donegal.

The Ombudsman's investigation also found documentary evidence that then Chief Constable of the RUC Graham Shillington was aware of the proposal to transfer Fr Chesney to Donegal.

He wrote on a document, outlining that he would prefer a move to Tipperary.

The Ombudsman concludes that in relation to the Claudy bombing, senior officers were wrong not to pursue their lines of inquiry, which would have implicated or eliminated Fr Chesney from the investigation.

He says that the investigation had been compromised by officers seeking the government's assistance through its engagement with senior figures in the Catholic Church.

He describes what happened as 'a collusive act'.

Weekday Mass in the Latin language

St Kevin's Church in Harrington Street offers a Mass in Latin every weekday morning at 0800.

Today there were 11 people present for the Mass which is celebrated at a side altar in the main church.

The main gate on Synge Street which leads to the main entrance to the church is closed with notices telling people to keep out. There are automatic gates controlled by a pin pad.

To gain access to the church one has to enter through a pedestrian gate on the South Circular Road.

There are prayers said in English at the end of the Mass which were omitted in the 1962 missal.

The priest dons a black three cornered hat during the short walk from the altar to the sacristy.

The adult altar server touching the vestment, the black hat on the credence table. All the quiet words.

Why pray in a language that most likely is not understood by those attending? Is Mass in Latin some sort of statement?

Today's Mass was celebrated in dignity and quiet. But, and surely there is a 'but' to it. It must be the stuff of a great study/book.

When the priest did turn to the people on the first occasion he looked at the congregation but on all times after that he made no eye contact with anyone.

Is this what cults are about?

Grammar at Trinity College

Yesterday on RTE1 Radio the deputy provost of Trinity College in Dublin when talking about CAO offers said at one stage ".... have rose...".
Is that where we are?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Germn ICE crashes near Lamprecht

AN ICE train of German Railways travelling between Frankfurt-am-Main and Paris hit a dust cart near Lamprecht in the Pfalz on Tuesday.

The high speed train had 300 passengers on board. 15 passengers were injured, some seriously. One coach was derailed.

That a high speed train could be in such a collision with only one coach derailing and no fatalities is a great statement of the safety of modern railway design.

The section of track is closed and Frankfurt Paris traffic has been diverted over Strassburg.

Irish Rail charges €2 fee for laser card

The week that Irish Rail is condemned for its careless maintenance programme it raises its fares.

Up to now if you bought a ticket on the internet using a laser card there was no charge. This week that is no longer the case and passengers now have to pay €2 for every laser card transaction.

And not a single whisper about it in the media. A two euro increase on a €10 fare is a substantial hike.

But an Irish Rail insider has confirmed to this blog that the rail company will shortly be offering very attractve fares on their website - even 'free fares'.

As for Irish Rail's fare structuring policy - it is simply daft and inequitable.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Every address tells its own story

John A Murphy has a letter in today's Irish Times Letter which the reader is given the correct spelling and meaning of the spot where Michael Collins was killed. In another letter on the same page Rónán Collins MD writes that Senator Twomey’s letter of disapproval is backward and parochial. Both letters appear under the heading, ‘Address at Collins Commemoration’.

Rónán Collins gives as his address, Thorncliffe Park, Rathgar, Dublin 14. You can’t be in Rathgar and Dublin 14 at the same time.

John A Murphy points out that the mBláth distortion is ‘misplaced pedantry’.

While it might be misplaced, it certainly is not pedantic to include Rathgar in a Dublin 14 address. It is incorrect but tells an important social story

The hurlers and the bishop and his ring

RTE last evening filmed an hour long programme on Ireland's ten greatest ever sports persons. Vincent O'Brien, Roy Keane, George Best were among the 10. The winner was Padraig Harrington.

Also included in the list was Cork and Glen Rovers star hurler Christy Ring. The film showed exploits of all 10 sports people. We were shown extracts from Ring's All Irelands. And then the amazing clip of All Ireland hurlers kneeling down and kissing the ring of the bishop.

How we are all children of our time. What crazy and servile things do we do today that we will be shocked by in 50/60 years time?

Crazy dress and in Latin to boot

A cleric, presumably a priest, all dressed in black top to toe, wearing a 'cornered hat with tassel' is asked going into church what's on. He replies Mass. The Mass will be in Latin. He was asked why Latin and replies, "Because that is the mother tongue of the church". The questioner continues by pointing out that he is a member of the church and Latin is not his mother tongue to which the cleric replies, "it is a sacred language".

The chap was young and looked decidedly odd. Some days later a member or a religious congregation was overheard saying that there is every chance that the 'church' could well become a cult.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Vatican knows things we don't know

And all the talk about the resigning bishops, who are not resigned.

The usual suspects the usual comments.

But who are the people in the Vatican who make the decision?

It is generally recognised by the CIA, MI5, BND and Mossad that the Vatican has the best secret service agency in the world.

They know things we don't. What does the Vatican know that we don't know?

Why is it that there is not a word of the story re the two Irish bishops on the Vatican website? At least not to be found on either the German or English pages.

Just an afterthought, what has all this got to do with the Gospel and the preaching and living of the Good News among the people of God?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A rail daft promotional fare

In late July Irish Rail celebrated 150 years operations at Birdhill station and the oldest man in the village unveiled a plaque. Beside the station is a small idyllic garden. The station must have the quaintest and finest entrance of any station anywhere. It is a real gem.

Irish Rail say they are offering promotional fares on the line, that is the Limerick Nenagh, Ballybrophy to Dublin line. Yet, if you go on the internet to buy a ticket, it is significantly cheaper to travel from Dublin to Cork or Kerry than it is to Limerick via Birdhill.

Quite likely this line has never in its history made a profit.

Over the last year or so we have become critical of the people who manage our banks and our country. Not a word about our railway managers. Why?

Call to women to miss Mass on September 26

The article below appears in today's Irish Times. An interesting idea. Another idea might be if churchgoers decided for a number of Sundays to pass the collection plate.

On Monday last I stood outside the cathedral in Thurles and stood in awe as I looked at the property owned by the hierarchical church. And it's similar in ever town, city and village in Ireland.

In recent weeks a church is being repaired in Kerry and the work is being done because of crass inefficiency and simple laziness by church authorities. It is also breathtaking arrogance. The people will pay for the job. Really terrible.

AN 80-YEAR-OLD woman is organising a one-day boycott of Sunday Mass “by the faithful women of Ireland” next month.

Jennifer Sleeman from Clonakilty in Cork said she wants “to let the Vatican and the Irish church know that women are tired of being treated as second-class citizens”.

She has called on the Catholic women of Ireland to “join your sisters on Sunday, September 26th. On that one day boycott Mass. Stay at home and pray for change. We are the majority. We may have been protesting individually but unremarked on, but together we have strength and our absence, the empty pews, will be noticed”.

She said: “Whatever change you long for, recognition, ordination, the end of celibacy, which is another means of keeping women out, join with your sisters and let the hierarchy know by your absence that the days of an exclusively male-dominated church are over.”

She told The Irish Times she had chosen the date of September 26th as her 81st birthday was three days previously, on the 23rd.

She said she looks at her “children and grandchildren and see no future for the Catholic Church. Some of the grandchildren go through the rites of sacraments but seldom, if ever, visit a church afterwards. Some of my children are actively looking for a meaningful spiritual life but they do not find it in the Catholic Church.”

But, she said, “I must except my eldest son who is a monk in Glenstal Abbey, another place that helps me keep some shreds of faith.”

She noted her son, Fr Simon, was supportive of her in her action.

Over recent Sundays, Ms Sleeman had been to the Church of Ireland in Clonakilty, to Mass in Knocknaheeney, and back to the Catholic Church in Clonakilty. “I felt so welcome in the first two and just wondered what I was doing in ‘my own church’ [Clonakilty],” she said. “Since then I have been to the celebration of the Methodist Church’s 150 years in Clonakilty, another joyful and welcoming occasion.”

A former Presbyterian who converted to Catholicism 54 years ago, she said: “I am not a cradle Catholic. I chose to join as an adult helped by meeting a wonderful priest . . . but I now wonder did I do the right thing?” She has found that “somehow I have grown up but the church has not”.

The sexual abuse scandals “horrified me. I find I belong to an organisation that seems caught in a time warp, run by old celibate men divorced from the realities of life, with a lonely priesthood struggling with the burden of celibacy where rules and regulations have more weight than the original message of community and love”.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A kind, quiet man who was murdered

Cyril Moran was a kind, quiet and inoffensive man.

While living in Sligo in the mid-1980s I knew Cyril from his visits to the Dominican church in the town.

He was regularly about the place. From what I can remember, he helped the late Brother Philip Kerrigan in 'church operations'. We knew each other to say hello and say kind words to each other. We might even have been friendly enough to pass the odd smart comment to one another.

On Sunday afternoon I discovered Cyril was the man, who had featured in news bulletins. He had been beaten up. And then later in the evening I heard on the news he had died.

Cyril Moran was murdered.

To see his photograph in today's newspaper, the photograph of a murdered man is simply shocking.

May God give him peace.

Friday, August 6, 2010

News is what someone wants to suppress

Wikileak’s online release of Afghanistan war logs throws up interesting information on the war in Afghanistan.

In The Irish Times of Saturday, July 31 in the Weekend section, Davin O’Dwyer writes an interesting piece on the issue and goes on to talk about secrets and lies in the internet age.
He says, “In a democracy, a major obstacle to continuous warmongering is pubic opinion, which can be more easily manipulated if the public is deprived of all the facts”. Elsewhere in the article he tells his readers that President Obama has indicted more people now for leaks than all previous US presidents put together.

Anyone who has seen the film ‘A Very British Coup’ will have a little understanding of the power of secret service agencies. One is often tempted to ask what real power do the elected politicians in fact really have.

O’Dwyer quotes Lord Northcliffe: “News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising”.

In Ireland Nama is not subject to freedom of information requests. And not a word of protest.

He also argues that the scope for government secrecy to conceal wrongdoing is far greater than for an individual – there are many more victims of government sanctioned war than there are victims of serial killers.

And how has the church managed to hide its secrets? All the current scandals that are enveloping the church maybe has far more to do with how secrecy is handled than anything to do with the crimes and wrongdoing.

O’Dwyer finishes his article by pointing out how Lord Northcliffe well knew there will always be somebody somewhere wanting to suppress information. And Davin O’Dwyer wisely says that it is how the information will be revealed and how the somebodies will try to suppress is, is what is changing so dramatically.

Is it all as cynical as that? Probably

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A terrible anniversary

Tomorrow 65 years ago, August 6, 1945, the US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

An island of two laws

The article below appears this week in all the Irish regional newspapers of Independent News and Media.

By Michael Commane
I think it’s true to say I have never dodged on my television licence. This year it was due in February.

I hold my hands up and say that it took me some months before paying it. But there were reasons for not paying it promptly. I had had a change of circumstances and had been missing from the house for some time. Added to all those reasons, I genuinely kept forgetting to go down to the Post Office to pay the bill.

For months back I had noticed the TV ad licence on radio. The ads had amused me, as they were quite funny, even if they contained questionable grammar. But as time went on and I began to get warning letters about not paying my TV licence the ads became more and more menacing.

Then one Saturday I arrived home to find a threatening letter, warning me to pay up and that an inspector had called while I was absent and he would be back again.

All the warning and scaring worked. The following Monday I went down to the Post Office and paid the TV licence, which was backdated to the date on which it had fallen due.

At one stage I had thought of writing to them and explaining that I have been a paid-up customer all my life and that this current hiccough happened because of a number of circumstances. I was annoyed with their callous, unfeeling approach. They had been quick enough to make me feel as if I were a petty criminal. I’m sure if I were hard-necked enough I could brazen it out and get away with it. And then it occurred to me what about all our Nama friends and the treatment that is meted out to them. Or what about Senator Ivor Callely? The good senators in the Seanad find that he has been behaving as a naughty boy to the tune of over €80,000. Will the Bertie Ahern-appointed Senator be asked to pay back the money? I wonder how many threatening letters he has received about paying back the money? Have people called to his door looking for the money to be returned?

It’s the law to pay your television licence but surely the normal law-abiding citizens should be treated in a fashion, which is commensurate with their usual or general behaviour.
When the current economic/banking/political crisis hit the fan I felt it quite likely that there could be civil unrest. But as someone pointed out, all of us would have something to lose if we took to the streets and that’s probably true. But there is no doubt about it, there are two laws in this little island of ours - one for the powerful and rich and then another law for the rest of us. Is that why we ere told in the catechism that really it is a valley of tears - at least for the ones who are not in the powerful club?

It must be about a month now since I paid my licence and thankfully, the threatening letters have stopped arriving.

Listening recently to RTE Radio1 shortly after 09.00, there was silence and the silence lasted. And then it dawned on me how often both my radio and television go blank. And at the best of times my RTE One and Two television reception is appalling. And even to receive this appalling reception I have to have an aerial on the roof. And wait for it, in order to receive adequate radio reception I also have an aerial on the roof.

The house is in West Kerry and it has been explained to me that I live on the edge of a reception area. Surely that is simply not good enough. And even with the aerial on the roof, TG4 reception is almost unwatchable. I’m aware that my licence fee does not support TV3, nevertheless, it is a terrestrial station but it is not available to me. Can you imagine if I refused to pay my TV licence on the grounds that the reception was poor what I would be told? Of course it could be all challenged in the courts. But at what price and more than likely the plaintiff would lose. But surely if the State is not keeping its side of the bargain, then why should I be asked to pay up in full?

It is also most annoying that we pay a licence to fund a station that carries advertising and pays inordinate salaries to many of its personalities.

And then just think of all the Nama boys and girls and how they are all swanning about while we pick up the tab and mighty tabs they are.

The little man or woman will always remain the little man or woman and we all need to stop fooling ourselves that it is otherwise.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Where they were on that fateful day

German television station ARD broadcast a programme this evening 'Where were you'. It was a documentary on how a number of people experienced the last days of the war in May 1945.

They interviewed a woman, who was a 12-year-old girl in Bergen Belsen, an 83-year old man who was above the beach at Omaha, who later defected, was sentenced to death, then sent to the Eastern front, captured by the Soviet Army and eventually released in 1950.

A war inflicted on the world because of madness and fanaticism.

Surely a world, which tends towards relativism of thought and philosophy makes far more sense than a world of absolute beliefs.

Does the name Adolf Hitler and the millions who supported his madness and fanaticism not leave one with no alternative but to dismiss all forms of dogma and 'certitude' in whatever hue it is peddled.

Unfortunately there is something seductive about certitude.

A current trend within the Catholic church to pull back on all the 'confusion' that appeared after the Vatican Council will lead to an unspeakable style of church. And that trend is taking place with frightening speed right now.

There is also a terrible hypocrisy being perpetrated by the peddlers of 'true dogma' and certainties.

Ask the woman who was a 12-year-old inmate in Bergen Belsen or the man who spent his 19th birthday at Omaha Beach in June 1944.

Irish Catholic columnist gets it ever so wrong

Is anything at all changing in the mind set of establishment catholicism in Ireland?

In the current issue of the Irish Catholic columnist Breda O'Brien writes on her trip to Rome. Referring to 17th century persecution in Ireland she writes, "Priests were hunted like wild animals and were forced to flee abroad. It puts sneering comments from Ireland's consumerist liberal elite somewhat into context in terms of persecution."

Such a comment is not worthy of the writer. Not a single Irish priest has been criticised because of his faith and work. Priests and the established church have been criticised because of their immoral and illegal behaviour and the subsequent cover up.

And are we not all consumerists and some even part of the elite?

Featured Post

No comment from bishop

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