Saturday, December 24, 2011

No Irish minister in Prague yesterday

It is a surprise and disappointing that no member of the Irish Government attended yesterday's funeral of Vaclav Havel.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Be warned of UPC and Vodafone charges

Be warned customers of UPC telephony.

December 26 is not considered a holiday. Daytime rates apply.

Call charges are as per usual over holiday period

Some Vodafone customers have received disinformation from Vodafone, which is most misleading.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas greetings

A few short days away to Christmas Day.

Telling someone to cheer up might sound kind but really it is such a silly cliche, with very little meaning to it.

Is telling someone to have a happy Christmas in the same league?

Dare this blog wish readers a happy Christmas?

It seems Christmas cards are coming back into fashion. That's nice.

And from tomorrow the days are getting longer. Alleluia.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sometimes we seem surprised when people thank us

The piece below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane

At lunch last week I was chatting to a colleague, who had been working in New York up to a month ago. She is an Irish woman, who has moved back to Dublin with her husband.

Since her return she has been surprised by the 'roughness' of Dublin. "I'd never been nervous or in any way intimidated walking around New York but since coming back to Dublin there have been times when I really have been scared," she said.

She also feels that there has been a significant downward spiral during her five years out of Ireland.

It was interesting listening to her views and it did generate a lot of conversation at our table.

Later that same day I went to visit an elderly man, who had been admitted by ambulance to a Dublin hospital. I asked at the reception where he was.

At first the receptionist directed me to A&E but she thought for a second, checked the computer and told me he had been admitted to a ward. I had been struck with her approach. She was both friendly and helpful. Also, she had time for me.

Going up in the lift I was eavesdropping on two men talking about their experiences in prison. I got chatting to them and they were most friendly. We shared a laugh.

Twenty minutes later on leaving the hospital a frail woman in a wheelchair asked me if I would wheel her out to the avenue where she could have a smoke. It took me a moment or two to understand what she was saying, but once I got the message I began to wheel her out to the open space.

And just as I was passing the receptionist I quietly asked if it were ok to do what I was doing. My receptionist friend positively nodded in a most discreet and diplomatic manner.
Once outside, the lady in the wheelchair lit up and I was off. But just as I was about to get up on my bicycle, I decided to go back into the hospital reception and thank the receptionist, who had at all times been helpful, kind and I'd say too, very professional, in how she dealt with all my queries and activities.

I had to wait a moment as she was talking to someone. As soon as she was finished I thanked her for her help and kindness.

It was all done in a quick fashion and just as I was about to walk off, she asked me if was trying to make some sort of fool of her.

"Are you being serious or are you being cynical?" I went back to the desk and it took me a moment or two to explain that I was being genuine and very serious.

The next day I was back visiting in the hospital. It was the same receptionist, so naturally I went over to her. Both of us laughed and she explained that she actually thought I was being a smart-aleck and trying to make a fool of her.
"I really was so embarrassed when I realised you were being genuine. When I went home I told my husband about what had happened," she told me.

Since my hospital encounter a lot of things have been racing through my head.
We seem to be expecting people to be cruel and nasty to us.

And what a difference it makes when we express words and actions that are kind and friendly.

You know, that could spread like wildfire and wouldn't it be great.

I'll certainly be telling my story to my colleague, who has returned from the US.
A happy Christmas and a prosperous and fulfilling New Year to all readers of this column.

An archbishop and a former priest say some telling words

On Sunday on German television former priest Eugen Drewermann was interviewed about his beliefs, his understanding of God made man.

This morning on RTE Radio Archbishop Dermot Clifford was interviewed in response to the Cloyne Report.

Two contrasting interviews. And well worth streaming

Monday, December 19, 2011

Redacted sections of Cloyne Report made public

Anyone who listened to RTE this evening on the report on the disclosure of the previously redacted section of the Cloyne Report must feel sick in her/his stomach.

In no way ameliorating the crimes committed but it is the arrogance, the 'we know best' attitude, the cover-up of the clerical church that is simply mind boggling.

And all this from a church that continues to mouth so much nonsense about how it knows best when it comes to telling people how to live their lives.

And the bullying practised by far too many priests is simply breath-taking in its arrogance.

Twenty years ago this writer spoke on the issue at an assembly of a religious order. He was the subject of laughter and ridicule.

And in many ways, nothing has changed.

Hour-long interview with Eugen Drewermann

Theologian Eugen Drewermann gave an interview on German television on Sunday where he spoke about his ideas on God made man.

He was most critical of the power of all churches and how they continue in their attempt to control.

Drewermann was a priest of the diocese of Paderborn and six years ago left the Catholic Church.

The interview was screened at 00.45 German time on ZDF. Well worth streaming.

one of Drewermann's heroes is Giordano Bruno.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

German President does a Bertie copy cat trick

German president Christian Wulff is in difficulty.

Allegations that he was involved in 'money issues' when he was premier in Lower Saxony.

And now there is a national debate whether or not he should resign as German President.

Wulff is alleged to have borrowed money from a long-standing friend to buy a house

Suddenly it looks as if Mr Wulff may have taken a lea from one, Mr Bertie Ahern.

Mixed in the cocktail too is a broken marriage.

At one level this is funny. At another not at all. If a second German President resigns within 12 months of one another, then there is a worry.

Is it in some ways beginning to look like Weimar?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Garbiel Byrne expresses shock

Reading the newspapers in New York last week Irish actor Gabriel Byrne said he was shocked at a report that that former archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid was the subject of at least two child sex abuse complaints, although perhaps not surprised.

"If a criminal is in charge of the Catholic Church, what hope was there for the rest of it?" Byrne asks. "It's an endless story."

It is.

If there are files on the alleged crimes of John Charles McQuaid can they be made public?

Allowing people call him 'Your Grace', kissing his ring and then the pomposity of the 'John Charles' title.

Should it not have made sense we were dealing with a spoof and probably worse.

But there were the people who were afraid, the sycophants, and the silly people too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Political resignation in Berlin

Christian Lindner the general secretary of the FDP has resigned.

The FDP is in coalition with the CDU/CSU in Germany.

Gregor Gysi of the Left Party said it was a further collapse of any liberal aspects to the FDP.

SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles said with the departure of Lindner, the FDP has lost not only an intelligent man but the last of its credibility.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Olivia O'Leary speaks eloquent words

Any Catholic, any Catholic priest who listened to Olivia O'Leary's column on RTE Radio's Drive Time on Wednesday, December 13, surely is forced to ask why.

She makes a powerful argument. To dismiss her argument is to dismiss the world in which we live.

When one thinks of the nonsense that is spoken by the church on this issue, all one can do is bow their heads in shame.

If you wish to listen to the piece, here is the link. If this does not work, then you can log on to RTE Radio 1 and it is the Drive Time programme of Wednesday, Decemebr 13, Olivia O'Leary column.

pod-v-13121104m36sdrivetime-pid0-276672.mp3

Plan ahead before getting a pet

The column below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
It’s over a year since I wrote here about my 12-year-old Labrador, Jessie. At the time, I hinted how she was beginning to fail and soon - too soon - I had to put her to sleep. If you've said goodbye to a dearly-loved pet you’ll how I felt. The inevitability and yet the shock of the tears.

The vet was wonderful, showing great respect and kindness. As I left the surgery, he suggested I get another dog. But I was already grieving for Jessie. I felt I’d have to wait to get over my loss.

As it happens, around that time, friends had a six-year-old Labrador they were looking to re-home. After too many lonely days and only some hesitation, I decided to adopt her. And so Tess arrived home.

Tess is not only great company, she gives my life a steady, welcome rhythm. Regardless of the weather, she takes me for a walk twice a day. In the mornings, we’re out before seven. In the evening, by the time I cook dinner, we’ve done a few laps of the local park.

Now, it’s Sunday night and we’re just back from our evening perambulation. During our walk she chased off after another dog so I decided to play a trick on her and hid in a great spot behind some trees. But within minutes, she’d found me. That’s the thing about Tess. She’s impossible to lose, impossible to deceive, impossible to deny. As I’m just thinking about putting on my shoes for our walk, she’s already at the back door. After our almost-year together, she knows me better than I know myself. My friends would say that’s just as well.

This Christmas many people will go out and buy pets. These days it's not just cats or dogs or hamsters on the list but tarantulas, snakes, lizards. The other day in Dublin I saw a young man with a ferret on a lead.

But if you are considering getting a pet or gifting one to someone else, think twice. Or at the very least think and plan ahead. Across the country, animal shelters are choc-a-bloc with pets abandoned by their owners as the financial crisis hits harder. So unless you understand fully what you’re taking on when you take on a pet, for all your good intentions, you could be adding another animal to that sad number.

Last week RTE had a news report on a horse sanctuary in North Cork who restore to health animals who’ve been mistreated. The new arrivals were in a deplorable condition. One of them had been set alight. For fun. The longer-term guests there looked better. They were recovering. All the animals displayed one common sign: an almost-crazed fear of humans. Who would blame them?

When I was a child, we had two dogs at home. Then, I left to study for the priesthood and there followed 30 years without a pet of any sort, unless you counted the mice in the various priories. But then came Jessie. And now Tess . Both, in their innocence and great truth have brought comfort and joy to my life. My late father used to say that if someone is kind to an animal it's more than likely they will also be kind to people.
I believe there’s certain truth in that.

Just as there is in the old saying: a pet is for life. Not just for Christmas. Treat them even half as well as they treat you and you’ll have a long and happy life together. Even if it means gales and sleet at 6.30 in the morning.

Monday, December 12, 2011

People beginning to hoard food items

German television station ZDF INFO screened a frightening programme tonight.

It was a report on people hoarding food items in the belief that Europe is about to expereince social breakdown.

It painted an awful scenario.

Private hospital honours 'His Grace'

Mount Carmel Hospital in south Dublin is a private hospital managed and run by a commercial company.

It was originally owned and run by the Blue Sisters. They built the hospital, which was partly funded by voluntary contributions mainly from people of the Catholic faith.

The hospital has now been sold. What share of the money was returned to the voluntary contributors?

The second irony.

Outside the main entrance there is a mosaic recalling the official opening of an extension to the hospital in 1962. It tells the visitor that "His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid DD" officially opened the extension.

Calling an alleged child sex abuser 'His Grace" and honouring him on a fresco cannot be appropriate.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mount Carmel Hospital in south Dublin was built and run by the Blue Nuns. It is now owned and managed by a private company.

It was and is a private hospital.

The hospital was officially opened in 1960 by the then archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid.

There is mosaic style wall tile recalling the official opening.

Visitors to the hospital can read in large letters that the hospital was officially opened by 'His Grace, Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid..."

Surely it's time to remove such offensive words from a public place.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The life-long challenge of getting to know people

The piece below is the Thinking Anew column In today's Irish Times.

Photographer Mark Condren’s book ‘The Guards’ was launched at AIB headquarters by Taoiseach Enda Kenny last month. It is a challenging collection of pictures taken by Mark travelling with gardaí over a 12-month period. Proceeds are going to Temple Street children’s hospital in Dublin.
 
It was my first time to hear Taoiseach Enda Kenny speak in person. TV coverage of the Dáil chamber had made me think he was boring and staid. All my information had been gleaned through media coverage of what is a formal debating chamber.
 
And then this man arrives to launch the book. His speech was fluent and natural and he soon had us all laughing. He was nothing like my preconception of him. It set me thinking. It is so easy to form opinions and ideas about people without ever attempting to get to know anything about them. Modern media of communications are amazing, but like everything else in life, have limitations. From that encounter I have learnt to withhold immediate judgement on others in public life, when all I have to work with is a TV sound bite.
 
In tomorrow’s Gospel the Pharisees ask John the Baptist, “Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?”  (John 1: 22)
 
John tells them that he is a voice crying in the wilderness and suggests that they prepare a way for the Lord.
 
It’s very human to seek warmth and solace in other people. The other side of that coin might be that we are forever discovering and wondering about other people; who they are, what they think, what they might think of us. Indeed, many people proclaim that they really are not worried or interested in what other people think of them. But you know that deep down most of us, at some level or other, do care what others think about us.
 
Very often people who are intimately connected with one another can be greatly surprised by the thoughts or actions of the other person. We human beings are indeed complex entities.
 
So how ever can we utter the slightest word about God or anything to do with God?  It is a real problem, certainly for me.
 
But tomorrow’s Gospel does throw some light on the mystery of God and it does so in the context of other people. John tells the Pharisees, “standing among you – unknown to you is the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandal.” He is of course talking about Jesus Christ, whom we believe is God.
 
Yes, John is a sign, but just a tiny glimmer in the context of the one who is to follow. The wonder and mystery of God, the first signs of God, are to be found in the people with whom we work and live. The people who say and do good things are signs of God’s greatness. They are signposts of a reality that finds its fulfilment with God in heaven.
 
It's part of the wonder of life that we make it our business to see the value and greatness of other people. And it is in that search that we will begin our journey in seeing God.

I know that I am far too often inclined to dismiss people at the slightest whim. And it is easy too when we are hurt to abandon those we suspect of doing us harm.

Human relations can be muddled experiences. Often we get it all so wrong. But when we do see the greatness and goodness of other people we should realise that in some way or other we are growing closer to God. One can only be a person of God if she or he is genuinely interested and concerned for people.

John the Baptist is a signpost to God, a true role model for every Christian.
Advent gives us a great opportunity to be more open and honest in our relationships with one another. Indeed, a chance to make a genuine effort to know and understand other people, open our hearts and leave behind lazy preconceptions.
 
Michael Commane OP
 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Archbishop who may have been a misogynist

It is most interesting to recall that this man McQuaid attempted to stop women taking part in sports.

Was the man a misogynist? And that all adds up to making a most interesting story.

How widespread is misogyny in the clerical state?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bankers can't bank on computer software

Bank of Ireland launched its new Banking365 website today.

It has crashed and not available to customers at present.

Archbishop McQuaid was no friend of Vatican ll

It is worth noting that Archbishop McQuaid was nervous of the Vatican Council, which he attended.

It is interesting to observe those today in the institutional church who argue that nothing good has happened in the church in the last 40 years.

What to do?

The nonsense of the term 'good Catholic'

According to today's 'Irish Times' Archbishop McQuaid is quoted as getting a 'good Catholic' to talk to a Fr Paul McGennis.

The term 'good Catholic' simply resonates of humbug. It always has.

They spoke about 'good Nazis', 'good communists', 'good Stasi'. And so too they spoke and speak of 'good Catholics'.

Humbug.

In all cases the adjective 'good' can be attributed to those who are subservient to systems and people in charge of those systems.

McQuaid was a dangerous man with a scissors

Today’s 'Irish Times' reports there were two child sex abuse cases against the former Catholic archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, as well as a separate ‘concern’. They were brought to the attention of the Murphy commission.

One complaint alleges abuse of a 12-year-old boy by Archbishop McQuaid in 1961.

It was 1972 when I received the order of tonsure. The silly ritual meant that we presented ourselves to the bishop, who symbolically cut a lock of our hair.

As Dominicans in Tallaght, seven of us who were to be ordained priests in 1974, headed out to Drumcondra to receive tonsure from Archbishop Charles McQuaid.

Almost 40 years later I can still remember the violence of the man. At the time I had long hair. Archbishop McQuaid grabbed my hair in a most violent manner and tore through it with his scissors. I can still feel the heat of the scissors, see his menacing eyes. There was almost a smirk on his face.

He looked holy – to some. To me, he was incredibly sinister.

This man created, organised and ran a Dublin-wide boys' brigade.

McQuaid ruled the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin from 1940 to 1972.

It is not kind to speak badly of the dead but there is great need to make sure that we protect people in society from the madness and evil of people and groupings that can cause harm.

The clericalism that McQuaid epitomised is alive and well in the Irish Catholic church, maybe even in the ascendancy.

The majority of priests in Dublin, indeed, in Ireland were afraid of McQuaid and his creepy ways. Alas those ‘creepy’ ways are so evident in our church today.

And it is not hyperbolic to suggest that the influence of McQuaid is still alive and real in the Irish church.

McQuaid made secrecy and power an art form. It was considered virtuous to be inordinately secret.

Of course he furthered people whom he knew he could control. They would be ‘obedient’ to him. They were.

Sycophants roam all walks of life but there is something about the institutional church, that gives them a special place. Mixed in the nasty cocktail has something to do with sexuality.

And that culture is thriving today in the Irish church and no doubt in the church around the world.

What to do?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

German arms exports reach new high

Germany recorded an all-time high this year in the export of armaments.

The country exported €2.1 billion worth of tanks, guns, submarines and other weapons of destruction.

A government spokesman commented that most of the exports have gone to NATO countries. But they have also exported to countries in the developing world.

Today in Berlin a new head of the BND was announced. Schindler is the new boss.

Prophetic stance taken by Dominicans 500 years ago

The piece below appears on the Dominican Order website. It is written by Bruno Cadoré
Master of the Dominican Order.

Agitations and reports of civil unrest have made the news in recent months and continue to do so in several countries of the world.

In one place, it is the determination to be freed from oppressive, authoritarian regimes. In another, there are groups who are questioning those systems, particularly economic systems, that seem to want to manage the world in spite of the inequality they establish between men and the serious anxieties they create, especially for the young.

Here and there, often forgotten voices are making themselves heard, reminding us that the human being wants to be an actor in his own history, and aspires to freedom and justice. They are opening new horizons of hope for a habitable and sustainable world for all.

It is in this context that, responding to the request of the General Chapter of Rome, we are rereading in all our communities the sermon given to the community of Hispaniola by Antonio de Montesinos.

We remember the prophetic stance taken 500 years ago by those friars who were attentive to the realities of their time; who tried to understand the issues by taking a theological perspective; who sought to root their common preaching in this way.

They wanted to present the Good News of the Gospel from the position of those who do not matter in the “way of the world”. We know that this preaching certainly provoked violent reactions from those whose privilege was threatened. But it also contributed to, on the one side, politicians re-evaluating their own methods and on the other, theologians, by speaking with politicians, taking their part in that decisive debate on the future of the world.

‘Are they not men?’, they cried. In many places throughout the world, brothers and sisters are still asking this radical question today.

The power of this question lies not only in the evidence brought before those who exploit the weak in so many ways. The power is also in that assertion which somehow sounds hollow in contemporary debate: those whom you exploit (or even ignore in the march towards humanity’s future) are not only men but especially they are our brothers. But, this assertion immediately raises the corollary: we are their brothers, or rather, their preachers; we are sent to ask them if they will accept us as brothers. The preaching of the Order is rooted in this fraternity with our contemporaries with whom, sharing in the Word, we desire to meet Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Beyond the memory of an event of which the Order can be proud, the celebration of this anniversary is also a call for us to the responsibility of preaching today. What are the perspectives for us from which we realise the urgency of making the Word heard?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The role of the confessional in clerical child sex abuse

In today's Irish Times Patsy McGarry writes on Marie Keenan's 'Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church'.

He writes how Keenan's book suggests that the confessional might have enabled some child abuse to continue.

Well worth a read - the book too.

Some State pensions tell a nasty story

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern last week suffered a weekly reduction of €80.00 in his State pension. This means he is now on a weekly pension of €2,848.94.

How can Irish citizens believe politicians are interested in the common good when an individual is paid this sort of money out of State coffers?

And there are others on similar pensions.

This must and has to change.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A cruel cut

The cut in Job Seeker's allowance by one third is not at all in proportion to high earners' pension cuts.

Why?

A person who works three days a week and is unemployed for two days and is on the basic allowance loses one third of his/her allowance as a result of today's budget.

If the Dublin Government announced today that no-one can earn more than €100.000 per year and cut all State pensions to a maximum of €50,000, maybe they could be taken as honourable people.

As it stands it appears they are simply another set of political huxters with neither vistion nor care.

News pedlars earning over €2,000 per week

The current row over the salary of a Fine Gael adviser Cieran Conlon puts things in perspective.

Is any pedlars of news worth over €2,000 a week.

We have 500,000 people unemployed.

When one compares the pensions of 'top people' to the life-styles of the poor, then one is forced to argue there is need for change.

It's not good enough to say people are locked into contractual obligations. Why should PRSI employees lose benefits such as dental care?Have they not too entered into contractual agreements with the State?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Standing ovation for Helmut Schmidt in Berlin

Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt gave a sensational address at the SPD party conference in Berlin this afternoon.

His theme concerned itself with the urgent importance of partnership within the EU.

He pointed out that it was far more important for the German foreign minister to be visiting Athens, Warsaw, Dublin than Tripoli and Kabul.

While recognised as a competent chancellor, his party, the SPD, never took him to their hearts. Today in Berlin he received a standing ovation.

The former chancerllor was critical of the commentators and doom-sayers of the euro.

He is 93, was a young officer in the Wehrmacht in Hitler's war. A man who knows what he is talking about. A European to his fingertips.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christa Wolf dies at 82 in Berlin

Christa Wolf died in Berlin today at the age of 82.

Wolf was born in Landsberg on the river Warthe, now Gorzow in Poland, in 1929. She decided to live in the former GDR where she was respected as one of the State's foremost writers.

For a number of years prior to 1962 she worked for the Stasi as an IM - an informal worker, but not employed by them - a snitch in other word. After 1962 she grew more and more distant from the leadership of the GDR but remained a convinced socialist. Was she a convinced communist?

With the fall of the Wall she was opposed to the unification of the two German states.

The works of Christa Wolf and Maxi Wander were the staple diet of Germans, east and west in the 1980s.

Christa Wolf in so many ways encapsulated the pain and hurt, the contradiction, the arrogance and the gentleness of the GDR, a state that never worked. But she was also inseparable from the Federal Republic.

She was a German, born in a Germany that is now Poland, spent 50 years of her life in a German state that no longer exists and was opposed to the Germany in which she died.

Heinrich Böll told Wolf that once a Catholc or a communist you can never rid yourself of your Catholicism or communist.

Christa Wolf was born and died a communist. Heinrich Böll was born and died a Catholic, even if the institutional church did want want to give him a Catholic burial.

Another day of shame and disgrace

More church reports, more audits. The same story, priests perpetrating crimes against children and then the institutional cover up.

It's the cover up that angers people. But is it not ironic, odd, there really is no word for it, that an organisation that has alienated so many people because of its 'strict', sometimes bizarre rules on all sexual matters, has behaved in such a manner.

Someone should whisper into the ears of church apologists to go easy, stay quiet. There is no defence, none at all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Garda cars fitted with magic device

A short personal story.

Driving between Tralee and Castleisland on Monday at approximately 13.45 I noticed there was a Garda car behind me flashing lights. Scared, I pulled over. Two gardai got out of the car - a woman driver and a man in the passenger seat.

I blurted and asked was I speeding. They said no. It was a regular check. I doubted that because of how they stopped me.

The woman garda said that on her records my car was not insured but she did add that the car may well be insured.

I assured them the car was insured and that in fact I had the new policy in the car. It was due to come into operation on December 1.

I was then asked for my driving licence, which I showed.

The woman garda was at all times polite. Her colleague was less so and while in conversation with me was applying some sort of ointment stick to his lips. I was not impressed.

Since it happened I have been wondering why my car was chosen. Many people gave me different reasons - an old car, my criminal looks, maybe I was on the telephone.

No. Many garda cars are now equipped with ANPR - Automatic Number Plate Recognition. The ANPR system automatically identifies cars that are not insured.

My car was and is insured. There was some blip on the radar on the part of the insurance company, which identified my car as not being insured.

Garda cars with a slim black box on the boot lid are fitted with the device. The cars also have a camera in the front windscreen.

A another world from the friendly copper on a bicycle.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Newspaper article paints horrific picture

This article appears on the Daily Telegraph website.

British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expats through the collapse of the single currency, amid new fears for Italy and Spain.

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.

Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.

The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.

A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time.

“It’s in our interests that they keep playing for time because that gives us more time to prepare,” the minister told the Daily Telegraph.

Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructions to embassies and consulates request contingency planning for extreme scenarios including rioting and social unrest.

Greece has seen several outbreaks of civil disorder as its government struggles with its huge debts. British officials think similar scenes cannot be ruled out in other nations if the euro collapses.

Diplomats have also been told to prepare to help tens of thousands of British citizens in eurozone countries with the consequences of a financial collapse that would leave them unable to access bank accounts or even withdraw cash.

Fuelling the fears of financial markets for the euro, reports in Madrid yesterday suggested that the new Popular Party government could seek a bail-out from either the European Union rescue fund or the International Monetary Fund.

There are also growing fears for Italy, whose new government was forced to pay record interest rates on new bonds issued yesterday.

The yield on new six-month loans was 6.5 per cent, nearly double last month’s rate. And the yield on outstanding two-year loans was 7.8 per cent, well above the level considered unsustainable.

Italy’s new government will have to sell more than EURO 30 billion of new bonds by the end of January to refinance its debts. Analysts say there is no guarantee that investors will buy all of those bonds, which could force Italy to default.

The Italian government yesterday said that in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister Mario Monti had agreed that an Italian collapse “would inevitably be the end of the euro.”

The EU treaties that created the euro and set its membership rules contain no provision for members to leave, meaning any break-up would be disorderly and potentially chaotic.

If eurozone governments defaulted on their debts, the European banks that hold many of their bonds would risk collapse.

Some analysts say the shock waves of such an event would risk the collapse of the entire financial system, leaving banks unable to return money to retail depositors and destroying companies dependent on bank credit.

The Financial Services Authority this week issued a public warning to British banks to bolster their contingency plans for the break-up of the single currency.

Some economists believe that at worst, the outright collapse of the euro could reduce GDP in its member-states by up to half and trigger mass unemployment.

Analysts at UBS, an investment bank earlier this year warned that the most extreme consequences of a break-up include risks to basic property rights and the threat of civil disorder.

“When the unemployment consequences are factored in, it is virtually impossible to consider a break-up scenario without some serious social consequences,” UBS said.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nationalism is scary, dangerous too

The column below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.


By Michael Commane
About four or five months ago I discovered a shop, which sells tasty oranges and cheaper too than in any of the big stores.

There was nothing Irish about the shop, neither language nor what was on the shelves. I presumed it was eastern European.

After about two or three visits I got talking to the young woman behind the counter.

She told me she was from Lithuania but of Russian background. I got the message. She was part of the Russian community who lived in Lithuania and was proud of her Russian ancestry. Her grandparents were moved there during the Stalin regime.

With an interest in the battle of Stalingrad, I asked her if her father had fought on the Volga. Of course a stupid question. She was in her early 20s. Not only was her father too young to have been at Stalingrad, so too was her grandfather. But she did have some idea her great-grandfather might have fought at Stalingrad.

Tempus fugit.

So over the months we have become friendly with one another. Always a smile and a topical comment.

The evening of the Ireland Estonia game she was chatting outside the shop with a young man in her own age group. They were both having a smoke.

Curious as I am, I asked him where he was from. And his story was the same. He was living in Lithuania but fiercely proud of his Russian origins.

He stressed that he was shouting for Ireland.

This young man of Russian ancestry was no friend of the Baltic states. Not only that, but I sensed he was almost aggressive towards the people of Lithuania.

And just as I walked away I was thinking a mile a minute. I went back to him and said that far too often people and nations are in rivalry with one another for no reason at all. I went on to point out we are all human beings, with all the traits of human beings, whether we are born on the Volga, on the Liffey or on the Neman.

I added that maybe it is the trick of the capitalist class to have us fighting with one another while they run away with the loot.

This young man, who had expressed his strong links to Mother Russia, maybe even his disgust for the Baltic states, looked at me. A great smile appeared on his face and then he simply said, "You know, you're right".

Of course nothing is as simple as that but the more I think of all forms of nationalism the more scared I get.

Any dogma that says it knows best scares me.

Just last week the world saw the nasty and sinister behaviour of a neo-Nazi group in Germany that has killed at least 10 people in the country over the last 11 years.

The German authorities were blaming the mafia, criminal elements, everyone but a hard core dangerous right wing cell. What is most worrying about the development is that experts are saying that the group must have support in the community to be able to carry out such atrocities and not be apprehended.

It's terrible to think how easily we can all be sucked into a crazy nationalism.

Instead of being loyal to my country I'd much prefer to be loyal and helpful to people - irrespective of their colour, gender, nationality.

Have two horrific world wars not been lesson enough for us? There is something scary about the times in which we live; a mix of crazy right wing thinking with nationalistic tendency would lead us down a terrible road.

While different people and cultures have different characteristics and traits, far too often we shout nonsenses that imply ‘we’re better than the other crowd’.

As Christians we easily say that all of us are made in the image and likeness of God.

It's a question of living that out in our lives.

Collected letters of Maxi Wander

Maxi Wander was born in Vienna in 1933. She and her husband moved to the former GDR in 1958. It was an unusual move, to say the least.

In summer 1976 she was admitted to the Charite in Berlin to undergo an operation for cancer. She died in 1977.

Maxi Wander worked as a secretary, photographer, author and journalist.
Among her best known books is ‘Diaries and Letters’ – ‘Tagebuecher und Briefe’ The short book is edited by her husband, Fred Wander.

It begins with a quote from Eric Fromm, which reads:
Birth is not a once off event, rather a lasting experience. The purpose of life is to be fully born and the tragedy is that most of us die before we are completely born. To live means, to be born every minute. Death begins when birth ends.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kenny meets Merkel on official visit to Berlin

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is on an official visit to Berlin today. He will be received in the Chancellery Office with military honours later in the morning where he will have a meeting with Angela Merkel..

Piece below is from AFP.

Der irische Premierminister Enda Kenny besucht heute Berlin. Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) empfängt den Regierungschef am späten Vormittag mit militärischen Ehren im Kanzleramt. Themen des Treffens sind die Beziehungen beider Länder sowie europa-, wirtschafts - und finanzpolitische Fragen. Irland hatte im vergangenen Jahr Hilfen von Europäischer Union und Internationalem Währungsfonds (IWF) in Höhe von 85 Milliarden Euro in Anspruch nehmen müssen, um seine Banken zu retten.

Nach einem Absturz 2009 und einem Minus im vergangenen Jahr ist Irlands Wirtschaft in diesem Jahr das zweite Quartal in Folge wieder gewachsen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oezil scores for Germany; what say absurd NSU

It might be interesting to know what the twisted minds of the National Socialist Underground NSU thought this evening when Oezil scored in the German 3- 0 victory against Holland in Hamburg.

Interesting to note that German television this evening when referring to the Ireland Estonia game called it Lansdowne Road. Good for them.

And Ireland celebrates its two newly famous septuagenarians.

O'Brien's attack might start a great debate

Denis O'Brien writes an opinion piece in today's 'Irish Times' where he argues that the depiction of him as an enemy of journalism is undeserved.

He has harsh words to say about Eamon Dunphy.

He argues that Dunphy on one occasion wrote a piece in praise of Tony O'Reilly, which Denis O'Brien claims, was at the behest of Sir Anthony O'Reilly.

Mr O'Brien suggests that Eamon Dunphy can do anything he is asked provided he is offered a six-figure sum.

The piece is also a strong attack at the O'Reilly family who are rival shareholders of INM with O'Brien.

Mr O'Brien owns Today FM, Newstalk and the Spin stations. He also owns 21.6 per cent of INM.

It is at least an interesting debate and will certainly be discussed for many years in journalism courses.

Do newspaper proprietors influence editorial?

One billion people are starving

The piece below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
This year Ireland, is giving €669 million in Overseas Development Aid. Hopefully, the upcoming budget will not see the Government renege on its word by slashing vital Development funds.

Recently, a commentator took to radio and television arguing that we spend too much on overseas aid. On the one hand, he argues that money for emergency aid is necessary, on the other, that the development budget needs to be cut. Drastically.

The inter-relatedness of the two issues exposes a glaring inconsistency in his argument. Countries with a sound, adequate infrastructure are always able to manage natural disasters better than those lacking even the most basic services.

I work in the press office of Concern Worldwide. Therefore, I’m not an objective bystander. But from my work with Concern I’ve seen how Aid not just transforms the lives of our planet’s poorest of the poor, but frequently saves them.

One billion people in our world are starving. Today, one in seven of us, won’t have enough to eat. 2.5bn of us exist on less than two dollars a day. Meanwhile in Ireland, every household wastes €2,000 worth of food every year.

Horrific as they are, those images of starving, bloated children with flies colonising their faces, can leave people a bit fatigued. It’s easy to relax into clichés of the suffering of the destitute of the world. Our world. Still, we cannot, should not, succumb.

Not even because of altruism. The hardest head and heart will see that our being bored or apathetic will come back to haunt us as the starving, unlucky seventh of our population migrates in search of food and more importantly, and politically, water.

Part of my job at Concern is to liaise with the media on the work we do: the difference our people make in 25 countries across the globe.

But what of the difference the experience overseas makes to our workers’ lives?
Take Naoise. Not their real name.

Naoise was recently on a working visit to one of the Concern programmes in Africa.
While there became ill. Terribly ill ending up in a hospital in a remote part of the country.

“It was really terrible, the worst that I could possibly imagine. And because I was working for Concern I was given ‘VIP’ treatment,” Naoise says.

“They didn’t have the proper equipment to secure the catheter, so they had to wrap it around a rubber glove to hold it in place.

“One evening, I noticed a cat in the ward. I thought good - no rats. Until I looked again and realised it was, in fact, a gigantic rat patrolling the ward.”

But the rats are the least of it. What must it be like for the millions of us who give birth, are born, are seriously ill or die in these circumstances? For mothers watching their sick or dying children? Those people are not ‘them’. They’re ‘us’. So in terms of aid, then, the responsibility is to ourselves.

Ireland is a light in the developing world. Let’s make sure that despite the difficulties here, that light never goes out. The heart that our new President spoke about so eloquently will always be a giving one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Politicians learn their trade young

Watching Mary Hanafin on the RTE programme 'Crisis: Inside The Cowen Government' I am reminded of my student days. Ms Hanafin and I were in the same H.Dip class in 1979/1980.

Back then my comment on the young Fianna Fáil member was that she reminded me of the Italian politician who, observing a demonstration, read the situation and went out the front door to be at the front.

The following day, observing another demonstration and reading how it was going, opted to go out the back door and again, was at the front of the parade.

We seem to keep our basic instincts.

News changes as it travels - what's new

Interesting how the media works.

The CDU conference in Leipzig is one of the main items on Irish news this evening. It is the third item on the main evening German news.

The German news says that Angela Merkel has the full support of her party on EU policy. The Irish news tells it differently.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Neo Nazi scare in Germany

A scandal breaking in Germany.

It has been discovered that over a period of 13 years at least eight people of Turkish origin have been killed by Neo Nazis.

It is being argued by a number of people that had these murders been perpetrated by a left wing group there would have been a far greater effort made to apprehend those who committed the crimes.

It is believed that three people killed all eight people. Two of the perpetrators took their own lives in Zwickau and a third suspect has been arrested by the police.

The three people were under suspicion for a number of years and managed to avoid arrest. The police were aware that the same gun - a Cezska - was used in all eight murders.

The group gives themselves the name, NSU - Nationalist Socialist Underground.

A Green politician on Guenther Jauch argued this evening that the Neo Nazis believe that what they are doing is what many people in soeicty are thinking but have not got the 'courage' to do it.

The advance of the right wing in state and church is scary.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A GDR intellectual and daughter of a pastor

A wise informed piece on Germany and Angela Merkel in today's Irish Times.

Our greed causes catastrophic damage

Below is the Thinking Anew column in today's Irish Times.
 
The anti-capitalist protestors camped outside the Central Bank in Dublin’s Dame Street, those who have caused the resignation of the Dean of St Paul’s in London and the demonstrators at the New York Stock Exchange might find it difficult to understand tomorrow’s Gospel. They are not alone.
 
St Matthew recalls how a master before travelling abroad gives talents to his servants. A talent was then a unit of currency. The servant to whom he gives just one talent buries it in the ground and when the master returns he gives him back his talent. The other two invested their wealth and made a profit with it. The master was annoyed with the man who played safe and made no profit on the original capital.
 
Every time I read this parable I feel sorry for the man who is castigated by his master for not making a profit. Is it not the case that people who are poorer and less sure of themselves   when it comes to investing money go for the safe option? Indeed, in these times of such economic uncertainty, anecdotal stories of large numbers of elderly people keeping their money under the mattress abound.
 
So, surely it’s understandable why the man who got just one talent buried it and had it safe and sound for the rainy day.
 
The story of tomorrow’s parable forces us to stop for a moment and to think how we squander our talents. It’s an opportunity for us to ask pertinent questions about how so much talent -  in the wider sense  - remains unfulfilled.
 
Of course there are the exceptions and people who come from the most deprived backgrounds compose great music, write exhilarating literature and build magnificent bridges. But they are the great exceptions, and the majority of people who are born in poverty and destitution have little chance of breaking the cycle and achieving their God-given potential.
 
Last week the world celebrated the birth of the seven billionth inhabitant. Of the seven billion people on the planet one billion are starving and another 2.8 billion are living on less than two dollars a day.
 
It would be difficult to believe how any of these people will ever realise their potential. Indeed, it will take the greatest brains and the best good will of the developed world to put a stop to the cancer of death and starvation.
 
And parallel with those horrifying statistics is the fact that we in the western world waste so much. A recent study shows that every household in Ireland wastes €1,000 annually on food.
 
Tomorrow’s Gospel gives us a great opportunity to think about all the talent that is lost in the world because of greed and our bad management of resources.
 
Come to think about it, the anti-capitalist demonstrators might well find tomorrow’s Gospel a type of manifesto that is not too far removed from what they are saying.
 
How can any of us sleep easily in our beds in the knowledge that there is such poverty and waste running side by side?
 
Is it not strange to think that the world markets can experience “bull run” and slumps on what might actually be a rumour or trend? And those same markets seem oblivious to the knowledge that one in seven on our planet has not enough to eat.
 
In tomorrow’s Gospel the master is annoyed with the servant who buried his talents. What would he think of a world in which a billion people never get close to even one talent?
 
A parable sets us thinking; it forces us to ask questions, especially questions that don’t sit easy with the status quo. Jesus, the man of the parables, keeps on assuring us that each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. Surely, if we take the Gospels anyway seriously it has to be clear to us that there are no elites, there are no privileges in the kingdom of God – we are all special – no exceptions. And in order for us to reach our fulfilment, we all have to play our part in helping make God’s face shine in the world.
 
For all seven billion of us.
 
Michael Commane OP

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nadolny credits church for first demos

Writer and actor Petra Nadolny from the former GDR in an interview this evening on rbb television gives special mention to the church.

She points out that in the mid 1980s the only place to protest against the GDR state was within the church.

Nadolny is of the opinion that the GDR state allowed the study of theology so as to show to the world that it was tolerant to people of belief. She also explains how everything in the GDR was image - all was for appearance and everything was a 'game'.

At 18 she joined the SED, hoping to change things

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Recalling a world that collapsed 22 years ago

Yesterday 22 years ago the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. And because of the occasion German television stations are showing programmes on aspects of life in the former GDR.

Yesterday ARD showed a film on what life was like in the notorious women's prison in Hoheneck near Chemnitz.

This evening Berlin Television screened a documentary on what life was like for homosexuals in the GDR.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An important date in German history

Twenty-two years ago today the wall in Berlin came down. It was the end of the SED dictatorship.

Today in Speyer a new synagogue opened its doors. The German President Christian Wulf spoke at the official opening. It was on November 9, 1938 the Nazis burned the former synagogue in Speyer.

Instant communication but slower getting there

As reported on this blog Dublin Bus now has an app for smart phones, which informs passengers the time the bus will arrive at the bus stop. It works.

This morning I travelled by bus on the same route I travelled on a daily basis between 1962and 1967, when not on a bicycle.

This morning the app meant I had to wait less then three minutes at the bus stop. And then on the bus I was able to use my smart phone made easy with the help of a keyboard.

The driver was in constant communication with control and the bus was fitted with GPS.

Modern technology.

It took the bus significantly longer to travel from Orwell Bridge to Kelly's Corner this morning than it did 49 years ago,

Progress? Indeed, a funny old world.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An extraordinary drinking statistic

A study released today shows 57 per cent of Irish adults drink alcohol in a harmful way.

New Dominican bishop in Switzerland

On the Feast of St Martin de Porres, the Holy See announced the appointment of Fr Charles Morerod, OP as the new bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. Bishop-elect Morerod is currently the rector of the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome.

Fr Morerod is expected to be ordained a bishop on December 11 at St Nicholas in Fribourg, with the ordaining prelate being fellow Swiss Dominican, Georges Cardinal Cottier, the theologian emeritus of the papal household.

Fewer and fewer students study German

In 1997 11,385 second level students sat German in the Leaving Certificate Examination. Last June 6,955 students sat the exam in the Leaving Cert.

We sure aer a funny little nation.

Probably no-one in the Cabinet speaks German.

Imagine the impression that would and could be made if our representatives could converse in Berlin or Frankfurt-am-Main in German.

And so little ever said about the curent state of German teaching in our schools.

We seem to be unable to learn from our mistakes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Priesthood - an insider's view

Probably in the early 1990s Kevin Hegarty was removed as editor of Intercom. Since then his name crops up occasionally in the media.

Last month he addressed the agm of the Association of Catholic Priests.

At the time his talk was acclaimed as the highlight of the meeting.

The talk appears in the November issue of The Furrow.

It has to be one of the most succinct pieces of writing on priesthood from an insider's view.

It is a fabulous read. And behind the reality of the gloom and sadness of a dysfunctional church there is a mood of great hope.

Highly recommended, a fantastic read.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More to the headline than meets the eye

In the current issue of the monthly free newspaper 'Alive' there is a side bar on a piece on atheists. If you give it a quick glance you see the words, 'atheists are losers'.

What sort of mentality can write such words? It is painful and sad that there is any link between this newspaper and the Dominican Order.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ireland says ciao to world's top intelligence service

The closing of the Irish embassy to the Holy See in Rome is a significant break for the State.

It is generally recognised by the CIA, MI5, BND, Mossad and many more intelligence services that the top experts in the field are the Holy See.

Is it a good idea that the State closes its eyes and ears to such a service?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Does it matter who done it!

In English what is the standard as to word pronunciation?

On RTE's Morning Ireland today an old-hand said 'advertisement', placing the stress on the 'ise'. It sounds horrible. But why?

It's not that long ago that 'sophisticated' people would laugh at such 'mis-pronunciations'.

Before the presidential election one of the candidates said, 'I learned him', another candidate kept confusing the perfect and imperfect tenses.

Does grammar or pronunciation matter?

It seems people are selective when it comes to passing judgement. Oops, is there an 'e' in that word?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dublin Bus app that tells the truth

People who use Dublin Bus and are owners of a smart phone can download an app which tells them the time the bus will be at the bus stop.

It's magic. Imagine after decades of waiting for the bus that never comes you can now, with the press of a button, know what time the bus will be at the stop.

And ESB has an app which informs you how much it costs to run an appliance for a two-month billing period.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

High winds and heavy rain on Djouce on Saturday

One of the highlights of my time living in the Dominican studium in Tallaght between 1969 and 1974 was the introduction to the Wicklow Hills. Most Thursdays there were walks, some short, some long. On one occasion we cycled to Donard and from there began our climb of Lugnaquilla. All the way to the top and then cycle back to Tallaght. All that in one day.

It must be over 40 years since I climbed Djouce Mountain on one of those adventures from Tallaght, so on Saturday from the top of the mountain there was a great feeling of exhilaration.

It was close to impossible to stand on the top because of the driving wind and rain. The bridge across the river had been swept away in the recent storm. Is it the River Dargle?

It's a relative easy climb, gradual, with the exception of two short pieces. The top is at 725 metres, over 200 metres lower than Brandon.

The exhilaration of walking/climbing mountains is simply amazing.

Forty years ago it's doubtful there was a car park in the vicinity. On Saturday at 11.45 we managed to get the last remaining car space. Wherever the people were they were not all on the mountain and we had the top all to ourselves.

It wouldn't be right to call the top of a 725 mountain a peak! Or would it?

And 40 years ago it was called 'Deuce' but now it seems to be called 'Jouse' No doubt a visit to Google will give the etymology of the name.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dean of St Paul's resigns

The resignation of the Dean of St Paul's today in the anti capitalist protest certainly puts the spotlight on the role of the church in the world.

It seems surprising that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not available on Channel Four News this evening.

Yesterday's Gospel surely forces anyone who comments on Gospel issues to ask where exactly the church stands in its affairs with those with whom it talks.

Watching the clip of Graeme Knowles 'address' the anti-capitalist protesters, one could not but feel that this man was accustomed to people listen to him and give him respect.

But right across society, people in postions of power always and ever believe that their wisdom is the one to prevail. And they have the power to 'implement' their 'wisdom'.

How can a powerful, wealthy church listen to people who are hurt?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Germans are talking more than ever - on the phone

The Germans are using the telephone more than ever. Germans telephoned for 921 million minutes every day this year using both landlines and mobiles. That is five million minutes more than in 2010.

Two thirds of the calls are made on landlines, one third using mobiles.

There are 110.9 million active SIM cards in the country.

And don't forget the humble on-street shores

Today's newspapers report on Dublin City Council's statement that there is a link between Monday's floods and home extensions and paved lawns.

No doubt this is a valid point.

It is worth noting that every street shore between Orwell Bridge and Rathmines is blocked and has been blocked for many months.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'Melancholia' an antidote to trite preaching

The piece below appears in this week's IN&M Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
We were to have gone to another film but it began too late so we went to see Lars von Trier's Melancholia. During the first 15 to 20 minutes I simply wanted to get up and leave. It was most annoying. I can well understand why The Guardian newspaper reviewer referred to the film as tedious.

But I stuck with it and glad I did. It is now almost a month since I saw the film and every time I see or hear the behaviour of people I am forced to think about the film.

Justine, the bride, is ‘specially gifted' from the beginning of the film to realise that everything about the world is pointless - there is nothing to it but 'evil'.

So when the world is threatened by another 'planet' she does not fret or grow surprised.

But she does 'protect' her little nephew by telling him of the pending disaster and then building for him a 'magic cave', in which he, Justine - Kirsten Dunst - and Justine's mother, her sister, go for protection.

The little boy believes he is safe. But of course no-one is safe. The planet Melancholia collides with the earth and the film ends with a great ball of fire.

Melancholia is about the nonsense of life, the world, our perception of our own importance.

For anyone engaged in trying to say anything about the Word of God the film might make some sense. It might well be an antidote for silly, trite preaching. There are no platitudes in this film. It cut away and into everything and at the end nothing is left.

It jeers at all our nonsense, our wealth, our pomposity, our grandeur, all the things that we are so often told are vitally important, the things to which we aspire.

In the last few days I called to a house looking for someone. It turned out it was the wrong address. It was the afternoon and a woman came to the window, it seemed she was still in her nightgown. She was probably in her early 70s. Maybe I am completely wrong but it seemed to me that there was an emptiness about her face. She also looked sad. After a brief few words between us I went away and kept asking myself what life is all about.

We live our lives in a type of isolation. We have no idea how other people live out their lives. And very often newspapers, TV and radio create images for us that have so little to do with what life really is like and about.

Reading extracts from Colm Keena's book on Bertie Ahern again forced me to think of von Trier's film.

Most of us end up believing the package we have been sold. Have you ever heard a capitalist condemn capitalism, a teacher criticise the teaching profession, a journalist blaming the media for our woes? The simple answer is, seldom if ever.

The current presidential election is a brilliant example of people saying nothing. Could anyone dare glean what the candidates really think from their ‘manifestos’. This campaign is a great example of how words and expressed ideas can be so far removed from what’s inside people’s heads.

Do we ever know who anyone is? And so much of what we hear is trite. It's one of the aspects about fundamental-style Christianity, indeed, any religion, that is so difficult to take; do this or that and you will be 'saved'.

It can't be like that at all. Or can it?

Has it ever struck you how most of us go with the flow? The more sophisticated, box cleverer. But we are all bound up in our culture, our environment. And it would be ghastly for any of us to think that we are outside that loop.

While I’m glad I did not leave the film in the first 20 minutes, if has left me with an awful lot of pained and anguished questions.

But surely that’s good.

After all, Christianity stresses it’s God who takes the initiative and we have the possibility in sharing in his saving work.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In a wheelchair and smoking in a TV studio

The great Helmut Schmidt is guest on Guenther Jauch this evening. He is talking about the EU crisis with special reference to the euro.

And what's he doing? Smoking.

Even the Germans break the rules.

Then again, the same Germans were one of the first to break euro rules.

Helmut Schmidt points out how inflation has been kept low since the introduction of the euro but he is concerned about the level of unemployment in some EU countries.

Helmut Schmidt joined the SPD in 1946 and was one of Germany's great post war chancellors.

Schmidt blames the US banking for much of our current crisis and the infamous dictum, 'to big to fail'.

He explains how the US banks had too powerful a lobby influence on US politicians.

He understands why the young people are protesting but he is not sure they will produce results.

He refers to Margaret Thatcher and how in her time the markets became a god.

On the programme with Schmidt is Peer Steinbruck who was SPD finance minister in the grand coalition with the CDU/CSU.

Steinbruck thinks that politicis is right now incapable of playing its proper role vis a vis the banks.

Schmidt sees hope in the EU and believes that in 40 years time the US and China will strive to develop in an EU-style political system.

He speaks of the importance of having a government in the middle and makes referecne to Germans voting for the Nazis and the Communists in the 1930s while all the government could think of doing was saving money.

This evening's Guenther Jauch Show has to go down as one of the great programmes of the century.

Well done ARD.

Friday, October 21, 2011

So close and old-fashioned miles apart

Within metres of one another an elegant woman takes her golf clubs from the boot of her car and a man of a like age to the woman is having difficulty pushing a rubbish bin on to his dust cart.

Two worlds.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

We should have called it the Seven Stooges show

It seems the presidential election has turned into a farce.

It really is cringe material with candidates vying for inanities.

Dana appears with a punctured tyre, Sean Gallagher has a Fr Ted-style account 'resting', Gay Mitchell throws a tantrum in TV studio, Mary Davis' Special K ad is ageing quicker than she, David Norris comes and goes, Martin McGuinness keeps on telling us when he left the IRA and Michael D Higgins promises us he is not too old.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The odd ways people see things

Virginia state house minority leader, democrat Ward Armstrong: "I'm pro-life, pro-gun and I always put Virginia first".

We believe the Spirit dwells in the community

The piece below appears in today's IN&M's Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
It's probably true to say that the majority of people who read this newspaper belong to one of the major Christian churches in Ireland. And I presume that the majority of people who read this column are Catholics.

So have you any idea how your parish priest is appointed? Have you any idea how your bishop is appointed?

Do you think you should have a say?

Do you feel you play an active and meaningful role in the church?

Or should all that sort of 'stuff' be left to the priests and bishops?

Have you ever sat back and asked yourself what the word church means?

These are some of the questions the new Association of Catholic Priests is asking among its members.

The ACP held its first AGM two weeks ago in Dublin's Green Isle Hotel.

Among those who spoke to the group was Monsignor Helmut Schüller, former vicar general of the diocese of Vienna, who is the leader of the Austrian Priests' Initiative.

The Austrian priests are asking their bishops for a far more open and
transparent church, where people and priests speak openly and honestly with one another. They are asking for a church which concentrates less on fear and more on trust in the Spirit and Word of God.

The Austrian priests have taken their case to Rome and at present there is type of stand-off between them and the Holy See.

The Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, the Dominican Christoph Schönborn, has been critical of the group. But latest reports indicate that he is willing to sit down and talk to them.

The new ACP in Ireland has been set up in the context or background of all that has happened in the area of clerical child sex abuse. Priests have felt isolated and let down by church leadership.

But there is also an underlying belief among many priests that church leadership is aloof from people and priests and indeed, after all the turmoil and talk, there is still a clerical elite' that rules from on high, far removed from the tone and spirit of what the Second Vatican Council intended.

Those of you who attend Mass will be aware that a new Missal is being introduced. On the first Sunday in Advent it will be fully in use in all dioceses in the country.

The ACP at their AGM pointed out that the new Missal has been introduced with little or no consultation. They argue that a small conservative group within the Vatican has forced this new translation on us.

There certainly are many strange aspects to the new Missal. The Opening Prayer is now called the 'Collect' - a word that was used before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. A word that has no meaning for large numbers of people who attend Mass. So why use such a word?

Many of the prayers have unwieldy sentences that are difficult to understand. And then there is the issue of exclusive language.
Although the new Missal is supposed to be a considerable improvement on earlier translations as regards inclusive language, it is more than disappointing to find some changes, eg, “for us men and our salvation” in the new version of the Nicene Creed.

Every baptised person is a member of the church and each one of us has a role to play in the church community.

The mission of the church is to make God present in the world and surely that can only be done in the style and the language of the time.

Different groupings within the church might complain and fear that the church might be hijacked. But there is also always the worry that the church could so easily be hijacked by its own clerical class.

As Christians we believe that the Spirit of God works in our church.

Don't ever forget, the Spirit works in and through all of us.

And we owe our loyalty to that Spirit of truth.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spare us from hypocrisy

Below is the 'Thinking Anew' column from Saturday's Irish Times.

I can still clearly remember the event. It was third or fourth class in primary school and a visiting teacher came to talk to us. He was working outside Ireland and was home on holiday. Within seconds of beginning his talk he asked the class about the pronunciation of the word 'often'. Some said the word, pronouncing the letter 't' others said it without the 't'.

He said what he considered was the correct pronunciation and then sneered at those whom he claimed got it wrong.

And now thinking about the incident, while I can remember his plan of entrapment, I do not remember which pronunciation he claimed was the correct one. So from a pedagogical aspect the whole exercise was a waste of time. All I can remember is the nastiness of the experience and the sneering that went with it.

In tomorrow's Gospel (Matthew 22: 15 - 21) the Pharisees ask Jesus whether or not it is permissible to pay taxes to Caesar but it is interesting how the passage is introduced.

“The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap him in what he said."

The sentence is a brilliant insight into the mindset of the Pharisees. One might add, it is an insight into how so many of us can think and behave from time to time.

They're tricky, they hatch nasty and “clever” plans how to catch out this man, who is preaching a message of openness and honesty.

It's easy to point the finger at the Pharisees. They're “away out there” and don't really impinge on anything to do with us.

But when you come to think about it, all of us have our little armoury of entrapments. The word 'Schadenfreude' - taking pleasure in another person's misfortune, gives it a respectability it does not deserve.

How many of us scan the tax defaulters' list when it is published in the national media? You spot someone's name on it, someone you don't like. Certainly it's not for the good of the State that you take “delight”. No, a nastiness in us that needs to be corrected. Alas, it’s another of the negative traits of being human. But just as Jesus was aware of the ‘malice’ of the Pharisees, surely we are on the first step to ‘recovery’ or sanitising ourselves when we have the ability and wisdom to acknowledge such a trait within us.

Trying to entrap people, trying to catch people out is a horrible characteristic. Most of us, I imagine would never publicly admit to such behaviour, but Matthew tells it as it is. So often when we criticise the Pharisees and see nasty traits in them we forget that they really are a metaphor for Everyman.

If we genuinely believe in the Christian message then we have no option but to say that we believe that each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. Every person deserves our respect - no matter how far they fall. The idea of catching someone out, the thought of entrapping someone needs to be banished from our psyches.

Maybe there has been at times an over-emphasis in the church concerning punishment. I certainly have childhood memories of being told stories about damnation that had to be created by someone who really was hell-bent on settling scores.

In tomorrow’s Gospel Jesus is clear that the idea of entrapment is the antithesis to everything he stands for.

Matthew tells us how the Pharisees were surprised with his reply and they simply left him alone and went off.

The next time I am anywhere near attempting to entrap someone I am simply going to recall what I have written here, stop and think of what Jesus had to say to the Pharisees.

It is interesting how Jesus when he tells them that they are trapping him, calls them hypocrites.

Anyone who has ever taught Hamlet to school children will have noticed how young people are so opposed to hypocrisy.

I have always tried to explain that the older we get the easier it is for us to be hypocritical.

The grace of God can spare us from that too.

Michael Commane OP

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sex abuse, media and religion all in a day

The Dana story is all over the newspapers today. The Irish Times gives a detailed account about a child sex abuse allegation against her brother.

There is the story of the man in Longford who sold signed Mass cards being jailed for child porn.

A bishop in Kansas is indicted on charges of failing to report suspected child abuse.

And staying in the US, presidential candidate's wife, Anita Perry blames the media for making slurs against her husband's faith.

Friday, October 14, 2011

German precision has not been gecancelt

German talk show programme on ARD last evening discussed the introduction of foreign words, mainly English, into their language.

Interesting. They use a large number of English words in computer speak.

Few people knew how to spell Email and the past participle of 'cancel' is 'gecancelt'.

No-on on the panel knew what 'cc' was on the email page.

And a language expert joked that one could use the word 'Klaprechner' for laptop.

As a result of the language reform, three consonants may now come together, so it is permissible to write 'Schfffahrt'.

The Germans reformed their language 10 years ago. There is no deviation from the rule.

Could it happen in any other language?

Suggestion for Ryanair advertisment

CityJet is currently running an ad. It goes: It's Mr Nolan and not Seat 12A.
That may not be the correct name or seat number.

But wouldn't a follow-up ad from Ryanair with a pic of the CityJet ad and then with a quote from Ryanair -'Mr Nolan me arse', be clever?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

So much news, maybe very little information

At lunchtime today soccer fans will find out what team Ireland will be playing in the European play-offs.

They will be able to watch on the RTE live stream.

With modern media we have news at our fingertips.

There are people who criticise the media for bringing so much bad news into our rooms.

Were things always so bad or is it that we know about today whereas inthe past we did not know about it.

And yet, at times the media can easily sanitise reality. It's easy to think that everyone else lives a great life.

In so many ways we never have a clue what goes on in homes and inside people's minds.

We have no idea the pain and turmoil that people suffer.

Maybe the word to say is, go gentle on one another.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lars von Trier's Melancholia worth a viewing

Von Trier's Melancholia is currently showing in Dublin's IFI in Temple Bar.

Easy to miss the first 20 minutes and still follow the film.

A reviewer has said it is tedious, which it is but it is also making a statement.

Justine, the bride, is 'specially gifted' from the beginning of the film to realise that everything about the world is pointless - there is nothing to it but 'evil'.

So when the world is threatened by another 'planet' she does not fret or grow surprised.

But she does 'protect' her little nephew by telling him and then building for him a 'magic cave', in which he, Justine - Kirsten Dunst - and Justine's mother, her sister, go for protection.

The little boy believes he is safe. But of course no-one is safe.

The film is about the nonsense of life, the world, our importance.

For anyone engaged in trying to say anything about the Word of God the film might make some sense. It might well be an antidote for silly, trite preaching. There are no platitudes in this film.

The two links below deal with Melancholia

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/sep/29/melancholia-film-review
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/cannes-film-festival/8520943/Cannes-2011-Melancholia-review.html

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Scripture expert lauds priests' association

The piece below is a comment posted by Fr Wilfrid Harrington on the Association of Catholic Priests website,

Though I had, at an early stage, as token of support, become a member of ACP, I had not, hitherto, attended an Association meeting. I did go along to the Greenisle Hotel meeting on Tuesday evening but, mainly, to acknowledge the Association award to my friend Sean Fagan– a great theologian, shabbily treated by the Establishment. What I experienced was heartening: especially the enthusiastic support of the Association by the big attendance of lay women and men — they almost monopolised the contributions. I thereupon decided to attend the Wednesday morning session.

I am one converted by Vatican II. My articles in Doctrine and Life, during and after the Council, bear witness. I have been saddened by the betrayal of Vatican II over the past thirty years. I now know, from our meeting, that Vatican II is not dead. Now I am aware that I belong to a sizable group of priests, diocesan and religious, who still believe in Vatican II. And, happily and vitally, not only clergy, but very many lay women and men.
After our AGM I confidently expect that membership of ACP will grow substantially. We, and our like, will sustain the vision of Vatican II: a Church truly the Church of Jesus Christ.
Wilfrid J. Harrington, O.P.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vast quantities of good food dumped

The Guenther Jauch programme on ARD - German television this evening discussed how we in the western world waste food.

According to the programme, one third of German food product for the home market is wasted.

On the programme was a young 25-year-old woman who takes 'waste food' from supermarket bins in the evening.

Programme personnel accompanied the young woman and viewers were shown bin after bin filled with food in good condition.

One billion people on the planet have not got enough food to eat.

How much food did you waste in the last seven days?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dana and her victim appeal

Presidential candidate Dana insists there is a media antagonism towards her because she publicly admits to being a practising Catholic.

What is it about conservative Catholics that thinks the media is out to get them?

It seems to be a return to the old victim philosophy. It really is another trick to try to fool people.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A web entry that gives an insight into nonsense

Yet another diary entry on the webpage of a province of the Dominican Order. Again, it is in italics

It's embarrassing and tells a great story of simple nonsense.

The next step will be to tell the world it is a 'de ea'.

If the new Roman Missal talks about 'collects' we might soon be reading about 'feria'.

The story of how the same missal upper cases the word 'priest' but 'people' appears with a lower case 'p'. Nothing else could have been expected from these people. And so sad.

Moving the chairs on the Titanic made more sense.

Thursday 27th week
Today is Thursday of the twenty seventh week of the year.

Large numbers attend priests' meeting

The Association of Catholic Priests held their first AGM in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday Fr Kevin Hegarty gave an impressive speech, which received coverage in Wednesday's Irish media.

On Thursday morning Fr Brendan Hoban addressed the meeting where he spoke of the importance of the group speaking in a coherent way, with disciplined purpose.
"If we are pigeonholed so be it but it important that we are a voice heard in the Irish church," he said.

There was an open discussion where people spoke about how the new missal had been introduced without any consultation.

The new missal seems to move away from the language that is spoken by people in their day-to-day communication.

Who knows what the word 'collect' means? What was wrong with 'opening prayer'?

The use of upper case lettering tells its own story.

Sociologist Marie Keenan gave a paper on child sex abuse. She expressed concern with the Irish church's setting up a parallel investigative office on sex abuse, when that task should be in the hands of the Garda alone.

Over 300 attended the meeting on Thursday morning and it was widely accepted that the first AGM had proved most successful.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Confusing singals on organisation's origins

This blog has been critical of some websites of the Dominican Order.

Today's entry from one of those provinces seems quite confusing.

It is in italics below.

Feast of St Francis of Assisi
Today the Dominican Order keeps as a feast the memory of Our Holy Father Francis
.

Hans Kueng speaks out on priesthood

Hans Kueng is quoted in Sunday's Italian newspaper, La Republica: "People are always trhing to deny the correlation between he abuse of minors by priests and the ruling on priestly celibacy but in the end you cannot avoid it".

He goes on to say: " The defining traits of [the Roman system] are the monopoly of power and truth, clericalism, juridicalism, misogyny, a hatred is sex and a profane use of the power of religion."

A former employee of MI5 has said, "I suppose it is strange for me to say this but I am tired of all the secrecy. It makes one so lonely".

Aberrations have a far greater chance of happening in rarefied conditions than in a normal environment. The current form of priesthood and religious life leaves so many doors open for 'unusual' practice.

How priests use and abuse money is a a wonderful subject for a doctoral study. Religious communities paying workers to replace a light bulb!

The crass mismanagement of resources, the waste, the ineffeciency. And all of that during one of the greatest recessions that has hit the western world.

It will be interesting to see what happens at the first agm of the newly formed priests' association in Ireland taking place today and tomorrow in Dublin.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Yet another exciting website entry

Another exciting website entry from one of the provinces of the Dominican Order. Note spelling.

This is really not acceptable or even fair to the organisation.

Entry is in italics.

Friday 26th week
Today is Friday of the twenth sixth week of the year; the Church also keeps the memory of St Jerome on this 30th day of September.

How dare a priest say a word about poverty

Middle class white privileged people have no idea what it is like for those who are poor and are forced to eke out an existence.

How in God's name can a minister of religion say a word about poverty when they are positioned millions of miles away from anything to do with the word.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

And another day of exciting news

Yesterday this blog commented on long rambling sentences on websites operated by the Dominican Order.

The piece below, in italics, is today's entry on the website of one of the provinces of the Dominican Order.

01 January 1970


read more...


The Dominicans take great pride in their preaching and communication skills.

Of course it may not be fair to make such criticism, especially in public. But it is important to highlight the complete dysfunctionality that is being experienced right across the institutional church.

The website issue is small, almost incidental, but it is a powerful metaphor for what is happening.

The public is bombarded with the great pomp and ceremony of ordination and profession ceremonies and all done in such a flurry. One wonders what's behind it all.

There is something seriously wrong.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A terrible tale of evil and terror

This evening German television - ARD - screend a film of what life was like in the former GDR for those who refused to accept the terror of the German Government in East Berlin.

The simple bravery of ordinary people and the nastiness of the institutional people.

It also forces one to realise that between 1933 and 1989, governments in Berlin ruled through terror and the most evil of deeds.

Nothing in Europe in the 20th century can be compared to the terror of what Nazi Germany and the Ulbricht/Honnecker governments perpetrated.

All the money in the ECB/EZB and the Central Banks of the EU could ever compensate for what happened on German soil for from 1933 to 1989.

Done by Germans to Germans.

Anyone who might be interested in streaming the programme - title is 'Jenseits der Mauer'. And it was on ARD, today, September 28 at 20.15 German time.

Long rambling sentences

While it may not be polite to criticise another's writing, it is difficult not to overlook the following sentence.

It is on the home page of the Dominican Order's webpage. An opening sentence with over 100 words.

It is difficult to understand that an organisation that says it is dedicated to 'preaching' can do this sort of thing.

Some of the Order's websites are simply ludicrous - so poor that this blog simply ignores the material - content, grammar, syntax. At times the irrelevancy is embarrassing.

But one would imagine the flagship of the Order could do better than this.

Here's the sentence.


The Master General Fr. Bruno Cadoré decided to reactivate the International Bureau of the Dominican Family with the following objectives: to animate collaboration and coordination of new potential projects among the Dominican Family, in order to make the Gospel be Good News to everybody and everywhere, and to do this together; to foster mutual understanding of expectations of each branch of the Dominican Family; to continue in common the celebration of the Jubilee Novena of our Order, with its annual themes; to discuss any other task that is deemed useful for the mission and life of the Dominican Family today.

And the entry below, from one of the provinces of the Order, really catches the reader's imagination.

Wednesday 26th week
28 September 2011
Today is Wednesday of the twenty sixth week of the year; the Church on this 28th September also keeps the memory of Dominican Saints Dominic Ibanez...

Different words and tones at different venues

It seems Pope Benedict said many things during his four-day State visit to Germany.

In Erfurt he expressed concern for the growing fundamentalism in the Christian churches.

In Freiburg he spoke about the dangers of lukewarm belief. He also made reference to the importance of Catholics staying loyal to Rome.

It is interesting that what he said in Berlin and Erfurt was exciting - he spoke with an openness and respect for the world.

And then in Freiburg it was the 'usual preaching' of dos and don'ts that never inspire.

The audience in Berlin and Erfurt was different from the 'faithful' in Freiburg.

The diplomats and 'church watchers' might have an explanation. but is it all a clever game of chess?

Has all this something to do with a form of relativism? Relativism is something Pope Benedict abhors.

Indeed, a funny old world.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Scottish saying does not tell the full story

This column appears in toady's IN&M Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
When I was a novice, back in 1967, our novice master often quoted a Scottish saying, suggesting if people were to sweep outside their own hall-door, then all would be well and fine.

At the time, it made a lot of sense. But these days, I’m not too sure. In fact, that Scottish saying might not even be all that Christian. For example, what happens with those not able to care for themselves?

I work in the press office of the aid agency Concern and through my job I’ve learned something of what life is like for the billion people around the world who don’t have enough food to eat. I’ve learned, too, something of the heroism of so many people who live their lives on a daily basis against the odds.

Agencies like Concern do extraordinary work in helping the poorest of the poor around the world. Not just sticking plaster initiatives but putting in place long-term programmes that allow people both to claim their dignity, by being responsible for how their country develops and flourishes.

We all know there are serious problems in the Developing World. The current drought in the Horn of Africa is shocking and the response of the Irish public has been truly amazing.
And then last week I read three statistics that quite genuinely made me fall out of my standing. Every household in Ireland throws out €1,000 worth of food every year. That’s the equivalent of €20 a week. As Father Dougal would say, 'that's mad'. And so it is. It’s also annoying and disgraceful. Supermarkets throw out thousands of euro worth of food every week. So also do hotels. And health and safety rules forbid them to give the food away for free or at a reduced price.

The second statistic was 46.2 million. What does it represent? It’s the number of United States citizens who exist below the poverty line. I’m no US basher. But when I saw that figure I simply could not believe it. And then to complement those 46.2 US citizens, the government in Washington spends over €26 million every day on the wars it is currently fighting.

Is the world gone mad? In those ways, I think it is.

Last Tuesday morning, at 01.00 Irish time, officials in the State of Georgia applied a lethal injection to Troy Davis. There has been much controversy about the safety of his conviction for murdering a policeman. Witnesses have retracted their statements. Some have claimed intimidation. And yet, this black American man - a poor man - was killed, in what many think is the world's most sophisticated country. Justice or revenge? Will the Pro-Life lobby take to the streets about this ‘lawful’ killing? I’d love to think so, but I doubt it. Will they have gruesome pictures of the dead man in their newspapers and magazines? I doubt somehow or other.

We all know about the places in the world where life is a hell: children cannot go to school, few have enough to eat. We read about how cheap life is in the ghettoes; in cities where children are routinely rounded up and ‘Disappeared’ because of their appalling crime of poverty.

But when we hear about what passes for ‘life’ in the USA, ‘the land of the free and home of the brave’, then really, all I am able to do is scratch my head and admit that this world of ours sure is a strange place.

Sweep in front of our own doors? By all means. But this time, over 40 years on, let’s not forget our neighbours’.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Powerful pictures from Erfurt

Powerful pictures from Erfurt this afternoon.

Interesting to know what Christian Wulff and Angela Merkel said to the episcopal gliterati in the former Augustinian church.

It was in Erfurt that Willy Brandt spoke to the large crowd as the Stasi looked on.

And then later it was Erfurt born Hans Dietrich Genscher played such an important role in the days and months before the fall of the Wall.

And Erfurt is not too far from the Wartburg where Luther translated the Bible.

Bundestag falls silent for Pope Benedict

The link below is from today's Frankfurter Rundschau. It is on Pope Benedict's visit to the Bundestag. Interesting and enjoyable to read.
http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/papstbesuch152.html

"Anspruchsvoll und nachdenklich" oder letztlich nichts Neues? Die Papstrede dominiert heute die Leitartikel der deutschen Zeitungen - und erhält viel Lob. Benedikt XVI. habe mit dem Herzen gesprochen, meint die Leipziger Volkszeitung. Die Frankfurter Rundschau lobt dagegen vor allem das Geschick des Papstes. [dlf]

The above is from ARD "The Pope's address in Parliament dominates today's editorials and receives much praise.

"Benedict XVI spoke from the heart, the Leipziger Volkszeitung writes. The Frankfurter Rundschau praises the skill of Pope Benedict.

The Pope also said in his speech: " We Germans have seen how power became divorced from what was right ... how a highly organised band of robbers were capable of threatening the whole world."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pope Benedict arrives in Berlin

Pope Benedict arrived in Berlin- Tegel at 10.16 German time.

He has been guest at Schloss Bellevue where he was welcomed by President Christian Wulff.
The President welcomed him home - Willkommen zu Hause Heiliger Vater.

The following paragraph from ARD makes for interesting reading.

Wulff betonte, Kirche sei keine Parallelgesellschaft, sondern lebe mitten in der Gesellschaft. Deshalb stelle sich auch immer wieder die Frage: "Wie barmherzig geht sie mit den Brüchen in den Lebensgeschichten von Menschen um? Wie mit den Brüchen in ihrer eigenen Geschichte und mit dem Fehlverhalten von Amtsträgern?" Damit spielte er auf den Missbrauchsskandal in der katholischen Kirche an und auf die Situation wiederverheirateter Geschiedener, die ihn auch persönlich betrifft.

The Pope will address the Federal Parliament this afternoon. It will be the first time a pope hasa addressed the Bundestag.

The land of the free and the brave - but not for all

This morning at 01.00 Irish time Troy Davis was put to death by lethal injection in Atlanta in the US State of Georgia. The lethal oinjection njection was administered by officials of the State of Georgia.

There are 46.2 million US citizens living in poverty according to a census published two weeks ago.

Soldiers no longer need to lie about who they are

Don't Ask, Don't Tell - the US military's 18-year ban on openly gay and lesbian service personnel - has officially been repealed, ushering in a new era for the country's armed forces.

In a statement on Tuesday President Barack Obama welcomed the end of a policy that he said had forced gay and lesbian members to 'lie about who they are'.

While the US military or indeed any military could ever be considered at the vanguard of 'good practice', President Obama's comment is interesting.

Is what he said true? And if it is what can bishops, cardinals, provincials, archbishops, a pope think of these words?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A lot of talk about unqualified math teachers

The piece below appears in this week's IN&M regional newspapers published in Ireland

By Michael Commane
The schools are all back into full swing and the third level colleges are slowly cranking into action.

Leaving and Junior Cert results are history and it’s back to ‘normality’. At least for most people.

Four years ago I got a call asking me if I would fill in teaching German for a teacher out on maternity leave. It was great to be back in the classroom. When the teacher came back the principal kept me on teaching English and religion. It’s the job I like best and I managed to keep the job for four years.

My luck ran out at the beginning of this school year and due to all sorts of numbers, permutations and combinations I am no longer in the classroom.

I miss it and am sad about it. That’s life.

Because of my own teaching experience and link with the school system I have been listening closely to the current debate going on about the number of math teachers in our schools, who are not qualified to teach the subject.

That sort of a story is grist to the mill for the media. It’s really sensational. And naturally too. The idea that someone could be out there teaching math and not qualified for the job sounds completely daft. Imagine a non-qualified engineer building a bridge or a non-qualified doctor operating on someone. It doesn’t bear thinking.

But as you and I know, nothing is as simple as it looks.

I began full time teaching on the Department of Education payroll in 1980. Teaching with me, were two fellow Dominicans, who were teaching math and science. Two gifted teachers, who gave their students a love of their subject and also produced outstanding results.

One of these men had all the required qualifications and was a brilliant teacher.

The other man was the late John James O’Gorman, who had been a student at the North Monastery in Cork and had obtained a university scholarship on his Leaving Cert results. Instead of taking up the place at university, he joined the Dominicans and later did post-graduate work in theology. On the strength of his theology degree he did his Higher Diploma in Education in Maynooth and then went teaching math and religion.

He had a brilliant mind and his first love was always math and science. But his only qualification in the subject when he set out teaching was Honours Leaving Cert. He later went on to do a doctorate in computer science but during all the years he was teaching at second level he had no qualification for the specific subject of math.

He blazed a trail and between the two men every year there was a string of As in honours math. There were two streams doing the honours course. And close to two thirds of the students came away every year with an honour in math.

Of course John was some sort of exception. But when I hear these days all the emphasis placed on qualifications all I can do is think back to John O’Gorman. He was just a natural and because of all sorts of reasons not relevant here, he never got to study math at university before his post primary teaching.

After his stint at post primary teaching he went on to do a doctorate and spent the rest of his short life teaching computer science in the University of Limerick. And there too he excelled.

Not for a moment am I arguing that people should not be qualified for the task at hand. But, as in so many areas of life at present, maybe we are too quick to lock ourselves into straight jackets.

And that mentality can easily stymie initiative and imagination.

Indeed, there is a school of thought that teachers are born not made. There is something in that.

When it comes to doing an audit in our schools, hopefully those doing the examining will look at the broader picture.
And there sure is a broader picture. Nothing is ever as simple as we think it is. And if we think it is, then really, we don’t know what we are talking about.

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