Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fewer people learning German in Ireland

As the number of people out of work in Germany sinks, less and less people take German as a subject in Ireland.

It is unquestionable that Germany is the economic driving force in Europe. It is the second largest exporter in the world after China and yet fewer and fewer Irish students are learning German in school. And nobody seems to be concerned.

It is home to the European Central Bank. German companies are in oartnership with a Chinese firm in development of high speed trains throughout China. VW this week signed an agreement to build a factory in China.

Germany and China this week signed in Berlin a €10 billion deal.

Last week Siemens won a €1.5 billion contract to supply 1,200 carriages to upgrade the Thameslink line that runs between Bedford and Brigthon

Ireland is a strange place.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

EWTN claims charitable status

EWTN - Eternal Word Television Network - a US based Catholic tv station claims charitable status, which allows it claim back money from the Irish Revenue.

This is clearly an abuse of the scheme that the Irish State introduced to help charities.

And to make it even worse an Irish archbishop lauds the station in their material which touts for tax-back money.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fourth anniversary of blog

On June 20 this blog was four years old

An encounter with an amazing man

This column appears in this week's regional INM papers in Ireland.

By Michael Commane
I met an amazing man last week. His name is Bruno Cadoré.

Bruno’s mother is French and his father from Martinique in the Caribbean and last September he was elected master of the Dominican Order. I’m not too gone on the title ‘master’ but that’s what the boss man of the world-wide Dominicans is called.

Every nine years the Order elects a new chief and that’s how the story begins for me. Before being elected to the job he was provincial of the French province of the Dominicans. He is 57 and joined the Dominicans when he was 25. Before joining he was a medical doctor and had spent a short time working in Haiti.

Bruno taught medical ethics at the university in Lille before being elected prior of the Dominican community in that city. Before joining the Dominicans he worked as a doctor in Haiti.. It was in Haiti that Bruno first began to understand what Christianity was all about. At the end of his second term as prior he was due to be assigned to Haiti. But then he was elected provincial and then in September was elected master of the Order.

Last week Bruno was visiting the Irish province of the Dominican Order and I had the good fortune of spending over an hour with the man.

If you read this column on a regular basis you will by now be aware that I have a jaundiced opinion of the institutional church and also of many of the people in positions of leadership in the church. Indeed, on a number of occasions it has been hinted to me that I should give it a break and stop making enemies for myself.

It was arranged that I would meet Bruno at the Dominican priory in Dublin’s Dorset Street. I had not been in the house in a number of years and was nervous going in.

For the occasion I had put on a good suit and white shirt and over it was a high visibility jacket as I had cycled from my place of work on the south side of the city. I wanted to look tidy and neat, meeting the head man but no way was I going to dress in clerical gear. Never.

Have you ever had the good fortune of meeting someone with whom you feel completely at ease – someone you feel is carefully listening to you and has all the time in the world for you?

That’s what happened me last week when I met Bruno Cadoré.

He was in Ireland having a look around at the Irish province of the order, introducing himself to the personnel and learning about the work and programmes the province is undertaking. He knows very little about Ireland and knows just a handful of Irish Dominicans.

Naturally our conversation was of a private nature and certainly this is not the forum to discuss the content of our meeting. But I do think I am free to tell you that I met one of the most extraordinary church leaders in my 43 years in the Dominican Order.

I am convinced he listened to me in a genuine and authentic manner. He was simple, honest and above all real. There was none of that spiel from him that is so often part and parcel of people in authority. And to add to that he was the quintessential gentleman.

But maybe I am in such praise of the man because I felt somewhere in my being that he was empathising with what I was saying. And of course there were occasional hints from him that he and I were on the same wavelength. But dare I put words in his mouth.

At times I feel greatly alienated within the church, confused and irritated with what appears to me to be a growing silly conservative trend. The time, energy and money that is being spent on the new Roman missal that is to appear on the first Sunday in Advent is in some small way symptomatic of a mood or tone in the church that scares me. Something else that I find difficult to take is the ever growing popularity of EWTN – the US based TV station that churns out hours upon hours of an understanding of church that I simply cannot take.

And then I met Bruno Cadoré. Later that evening cycling down Dublin’s O’Connell Street I kept saying to myself any organisation that can elect such a man as its boss must have something going for it. I also realised, that with all my feeling of alienation, the order surely had to be my genuine home.

Conscious that I have already said that this is not the forum to discuss the content of our discussion, I think it’s in order to say that Bruno kept stressing to me the importance of our humanity and also the wonder of the mercy of God.

A top class Kerry joke

If you decide to travel by rail from Dublin to Tralee on Friday, July 15 on the 21.00ex Heuston train the internet fare is €10 before charges.

If you decide to travel to Mallow on the same date at the same time on the same train the fare is €26 before charges.

It is the same train.

Anyone going to Mallow on Friday July 15, make sure to buy a ticket to Tralee and simply detrain at Mallow.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Anne Will Show discusses euro crisis

Anne Will is a talk show on German television station ARD. This evening there was a discussion on the crisis in Greece.

German actor, trade unionist and a friend of Greece, Rolf Becker, quoted a comment made by Goebbels that they would if necessary kill the people of Greece like flies. He also reminded the viewers that Germany had made no significant financial payments for the horror they caused in the World War ll.

Gregor Gysi of Die Linke - The Left Party - was critical of the system whereby the banks make money on loaning to Greece without adding one cent to the value of the money. He also argued that because Germany is the second largest largest exporter in the word after China, it needs the euro far more so than the Greeks.

Gysi called for the nationalisation of the banks and not just the collapsed banks. He believes the banks are far too powerful.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Atrocities are the culture of all wars

Because of the week that's in it many German television stations have shown films on the German invasion of the Soviet Union 70 years ago this week.

Vox TV screened a documentary on the behaviour of soldiers in war. The documentary showed footage of horrendous behaviour of soldiers in wars since WW ll. It gave graphic footage of US soldiers killing innocent children in Afghanistan. The viewers were shown US soldiers laughing and jeering as they opened fire on their victims. Another clip showed soldiers taking fingers from the dead and keeping them as 'souvenirs'.

It costs one million dollars to keep one soldier on the ground in Afghanistan.

Friday, June 24, 2011

How not to speak of the mercy of God

In Thursday's Irish Times Rosita Boland writes a story about finding her old catechism book from the 1970s.

What theologians gave this book an imprimatur?

It is a religious workbook.

In one lesson the children are told that God loves everything but that he loves some things more than others. The childen are shown a picture of plants, animals, a non-baptised baby and than a baptised baby. The children are asked to circle the one God loves the most.

Really one word for this stuff - piffle.

Who are the people who gave this 'stuff' the ok?

It's easy to be wise in hindsight. But who are the equivalent people in the church today?

The evidence at hand offers little hope.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Morality and complexity of bus fares

The adult single fare with Bus Éireann from Tralee to Dublin is €25.50. The adult single fare with the same bus company from Limerick to Dublin is €11.00

How can that make sense? Of course it doesn't.

It is another example of the complexity of morality.

Fare dodging is clear enough. So what's this?

Who makes the rules?

It is most probable that the executives of the bus company and those who pronounce on morality seldom if ever use buses. Interesting.

Pedantic and boring words

Words can be great fun. It seems from time to time they lose their meaning. Another sign maybe that everything is in flux.

Why do people talk about a 'new initiative'? And it is growing in use and popularity. Is it just a great example of verbosity. Dictionary definition of verbose is interesting and fits well here. .. to be pedantic or boring, containing an excess of words.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An anniversary with an important lesson

Today is the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Shortly after midnight on mid-summer’s day in 1941 the first of 3.3 million German soldiers crossed on to the territory of the Soviet Union.

It was on the Volga that the war was decided and Paulus and his Sixth Army were dealt a deadly blow. It was at Stalingrad - now Volgagrad, that the first signs of hope were breathed back into Europe.

It was because of that mad war that the leaders of Europe set about the creation of what is now called the European Union.

People who are now in their 50s and 60s are the first generation of Europeans in many generations who do not know what it means to go to war.

Maybe we have had it ‘too good’ but we can never lose sight of what has happened in Europe – war and peace.

The current difficulties – over money – have to be solved. Europe has to get back to the vision of the founding fathers of what was then called the EEC.

Yesterday morning on RTE Radio 1 a painter and writer spoke eloquently of her fears about the advance of right-wing politicians and political parties right now. It distrubed her greatly. It is disturbing.

It is so easy to take for granted hard won life-styles.

The alternative is shocking.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tablet leader hints at worrying reality

The Tablet of June 18 argues that protagonists of the Tridentine form of the Mass are well on the road to branding themselves as incurable misogynists or worse.

It might well be that we are edging towards interesting days.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kindness and gentleness light up the soul

Dublin Literary Award winner, Colum McCann, decided to write the great Irish novel but couldn't because he 'wasn't messed up enough'.

Interesting comment. Often it can be the sad events, the nasty comments, the sneers that can inspire people with passion and energy.

But sometimes too the good days, the pleasant experiences, can be moments of inspiration.

From time to time we all meet people who greatly inspire and motivate us. And those moments too need capturing and even talking and writing about.

And those encounters put into relief so much of the nonsense and humbug people have to endure.

They confirm us in the craziness and silliness of so much but they also give people hope.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bishops should ease off on victim syndrome

Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor Donal McKeown said at Knock, “People of faith see church condemned and mocked no matter what it does. ...And many have lost energy because they feel angry or bereaved at how the Irish church has fallen from its position of integrity and leadership in Irish society.”

Is it as clear as that? The idea that the Irish church was a home of or for integrity and true leadership is questionable.

Just take the Sunday Mass obligation; how many people went to Mass because they perceived to have been told that if they did not go they had committed a mortal sin and were certain to go to hell should they die. Was that leadership, was that a teaching based on integrity?

In schools the beatings that young and not-so-young children received in church-run schools were never a sign surely of integrity or leadership.

When a West Kerry couple attended a funeral in a Church of Ireland church they had to report the matter to the local bishop. What had that to do with leadership or integrity?

So much of the Catholic Church’s teaching in the area of sexual behaviour had little or anything to do with leadership and integrity.

If there are journalists denigrating religion and spirituality in Ireland it would seem it is a result of years of oppression and power that the Catholic Church actually had in Ireland. And surely the Catholic Church does not have exclusive rights on leadership and integrity.

What had it to do with integrity and spirituality that a bishop lived in a ‘palace’.

The lifestyle of bishops has seldom if ever been in keeping with real leadership and certainly never with 'spirituality'. Gospel values?

Is Donal McKeown not aware of the damage and hurt that has been caused?

And if, as reported, the bishop said that, "People of faith see church condemned and mocked.." it is important to point out that not all people of faith think in such a manner.

We reap what we sow.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ireland looking spectacularly beautiful

Said it before on this blog, Ireland is spectacularly beautiful and even more so from the window of a high speed train.

The 17.00 train from Dublin Heuston to Cork has just two stops, Limerick Junction and Mallow. Connection for the Kerry road at Mallow.

We have just left Killarney and the sun is shining down on Carrantouhill. And then the luxury of having an entire coach to oneself. It really is magical.

In Killarney a young blind woman detrained, unusually she had an alsation as a guide and not a labrador.

Such an encounter stops one in their step. Earlier today I cycled from Dublin's southside to Heuston Station and like a child was proud that I did it in 19 minutes - and not going anyway fast.

All the things we take for granted. The young blind woman cannot see the evening sun shine on Kerry.

It is always impressive to see how helpful and kind Irish Rail staff are to people who need assistance.

No doubt that young woman because of her disability can travel free on the State rail company and also bring her guide dog for free. Think of all the airlines which would charge for wheel chairs - they might even charge for the blind stick!

Getting close to Farranfore, the mountains moving back - now an overall view of them. But shortly Brandon will be in view.

And then the Atlantic

Dublin Bikes' employee critical of employer

Is anything ever as it seems?

I have been saying since its initiation that Dublin Bikes is the best thing that has ever happened in Dublin.

Today talking to a member of staff I was horrified to hear conditions of employment.

Any Dublin Bikes' cyclists interested in campaigning for proper conditions for their workers?

Irish Times service in Unitarian church

The few words below is a contribution made by Michael Commane at a service today at the Unitarian church for deceased staff of The Irish Times

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
St John begins his Gospel talking about the Word becoming flesh. Of course he is talking about the Word of God – God.

St John describes Jesus as Word. At the time of Jesus, many Jews spoke Aramaic. As in other Jewish traditions, out of reverence, they did not speak aloud the special name of God that had been revealed to them. (Christians pronounce this word as Yahweh.) Instead they often spoke of the “Word of God”.

Christians place great emphasis on God’s word we talk about the Good News
Words are extraordinary tools.

As a Dominican I belong to an order that has truth as its motto. The Latin word, Veritas
You will see it emblazoned on the school uniforms in Muckross, Newbridge, Ballyfermot and the Falls Road

Having worked with The Kerryman as a sub editor for a number of years and with The Irish News and from my experience as a contributor for this newspaper and INM regionals I am conscious of the power of the word.

But most of all my Dominican priesthood is about preaching the Word – the Word of God. It really is daunting to approach such a subject.

Most Irish people were greatly touched with what Queen Elizabeth and President Obama had to say on their recent visits to Ireland.

Queen Elizabeth spoke genuine words at Dublin Castle and Barack Obama - one of the Moneygall Obamas – is a powerful orator.

People believed their words. There was a genuine link between word and listener.
Words do matter. We tell the truth through words.

People in the newspaper trade are dealing on a daily basis with words – it is what your trade is all about. You trade in words and with words and the responsibility that brings.
Words can lift people up but they can also knock us flat on our face. Words can wind us and wound us.

It is the job of the newspaper to tell the story in as objective a manner as possible. But it is also the job of the newspaper to tell the story to as many people as possible.

You have a high duty of care to your readership and over a long period of time you have shown great courage and commitment. It is something about which you have every reason to be proud.

Today we remember Irish Times staff who have passed on. We also pray for their families and friends.

Every time we speak and write the truth we are making the Word of God present in the world.
Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday - the giving of the Spirit to the world. I’m reminded of Yeats’
Sailing to Byzantium:

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing masters of my soul.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

US carried out 'devil's experiment' in Guatemala

There is a shocking story in today's Guardian about the US authorities infecting an estimated 1,500 Guatemalans with syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid to test an early antibiotic, penicillin.

Little Marta Orellana, an orphan, was one of these young girls.

According to the Guardian, it is unclear what, if anything, was promised to the Sisters of Charity in return for supplying orphans to the tall men in white coats who visited each week from 1946 to 1948.

What at all is it about people in power, people who tell others what to do and how to behave?

Fallada's morphine addiction

Some months ago Hans Fallada featured in this blog.

Just published in English is a Short Treatise on the Joys of Morphinism by Fallada.

It is incredible and simply an amazing read. On the cover it says 'fiction' but it must be the story of Fallada.

Hans Fallada is pure genius

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

There is no shortage of priests in Ireland

The article below appears in a number of INM Irish regional newspapers today.

By Michael Commane
Every time I hear there’s a shortage of priests in Ireland, I find myself shaking my head, saying it’s not as simple as that. In fact, I don't accept there’s a shortage of priests at all.

I was ordained a priest on July 7 1974 - the day the Germans beat the Dutch in the World Cup in Munich. Sometime before my ordination, a wise Dominican suggested to me that I should look to be sent to teach at our school in Newbridge. His logic (and leaving spirituality aside for a moment)? A full-time teaching post would be a great start to priesthood, providing the discipline and rigour of being at work at nine am five days a week.

After post-graduate work in Rome and a stint at both UCC and Maynooth, I was sent to teach in Newbridge. Since then, I’ve been teaching on and off, in addition to doing other jobs. But, from the day I joined the Dominican Order I've been fascinated by, and curious about, the relationship between the priest and work.

Of course, there are priests who work extremely hard; men who are passionate and energised about their life and commitment. But throughout my 43 years in the Dominican Order, I’ve wondered about how work is managed within the institutional church.

Straight off, I believe that the manpower available is, perhaps, not used to its capacity. So, here's my question. How can there be an actual shortage of priests for parish work, when in religious communities across Ireland, there are priests who are, quite possibly, even probably, underused?

Here’s where we need new thinking. No matter how eager or committed, for members of religious orders to work in parishes, they must be invited by the diocesan bishop. From what I know, there’s little if any serious dialogue, on a national level, between bishops and the various congregations and orders, on that or other matters.

Purely in the Dominican context, we have priories around Ireland that could easily be involved in formal parochial work. I know there are many men who would relish this role and be excellent at it.

Some Dominicans might argue that parish work would not be in keeping with the mission of the order. And certainly, there might well be differences between priests in congregations and those in dioceses. But, can the Dominican charism be lived every bit as well, if not even more so, in these difficult days, within a parish structure? I certainly think so. It’s already being done in Tallaght, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.

There is also the issue of communication, with an urgent need for more open and genuine lines of communication between priests and bishops, people and bishops, and bishops and congregational leaders. It seems the only time bishops and congregational superiors meet is when there is a crisis. And that traditional attitude and practice are at the heart of many church problems today.

In addition, are too many of the younger men joining the priesthood today, focusing more on 'tradition' and 'ritual' than on rolling up their sleeves? Esoteric ideas and the correct clerical garb are one thing. But real presence in real communities with real people in real pain, is something else entirely. Imagine being a real and comforting presence in parishes? It could do so much to restore rightfully-shaken public faith in a rightfully-shaken institution?

So before the idea of a ‘shortage of priests’ in Ireland, takes hold, may I suggest that bishops, diocesan priests and religious congregations come together to discuss the real manpower issues within the Irish Catholic Church? It's difficult to imagine that in the Catholic Church in 2011, we can still use the term 'manpower' in its literal sense. But that readers, is an issue for another day.

There are extraordinary people working at the coalface of the Irish church.

With a mix of faith, hope and courage great things could happen within it.

In Gerard Manley Hopkins’ words: “It’s not only prayer that gives God glory but work too. Everything gives God glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty.”

We live in hope.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

EU is all about cohesion

At rail stations throughout Ireland where development work has taken place there are signs in situ informing the public that the projects have been part-funded by the EU cohesion fund.

The founding fathers of the EU made it their business that Europe would never be at war again. They had suffered too much ever to allow it happen again.

The EU is about cohesion.

Maybe we should all stop using the expression bail out?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The mysterious 'Good Friday Mass'

Rosin Ingle in her article on atheists describes Karen Dervan, a 29-year-old musician from Galway as a woman who rejects religion from a rational, scientific viewpoint, but still ticked Roman Catholic on the cenusus form and went to Mass on Good Friday.

Is that basic 'ignorance' the fault of teachers or the taught?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Church culture should never be one of censorship

Yesterday this blogger posted a comment on the website of the English Dominican students' blog. In the afternoon it appeared on the page but this morning it no longer features.

The comment was in praise of a sermon that was given at the funeral Mass of fr Columba Rabbett. The brief comment concluded by pointing out the difference between the style of Br Columba and the fraternity that practises modern-day liturgical lap dancing.

There was an element of fun mixed with criticism in the comment.

For many years now that blog/website along with many other church-style blogs write reams on the importance of the mission of the Gospel and how truth is the motto of the Dominican Order.

But it seems that's all fine and dandy once it complies with their particular understanding of the terms.

Any observer of much of the current church media has to be shocked at how insular and subjective it is. It really is similar to the old communist-style propaganda.

It would seem that the standards of EWTN are percolating across large sections of an ever-growing right wing church.

There are videos on the current Irish Dominican website where everyone speaks with the one voice - no criticism, no alternative voice.

It is delusional as the reality on the ground tells a totally different story.

Is that why there is so much secrecy and anonymity among church establishment members? And then the silence. That silence that can manage to give an air of authority and profundity. Of course it is all tricks and humbug.

Godzdogz is now the second Dominican outlet that shares its views on censorship with the Iranian authorities.

Queen Elizabeth, President Obama and preaching

This appears in today's INM Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
The week following the royal wedding in Westminster Abbey and the beatification ceremony in Rome I wrote a column in this newspaper which might have been somewhat critical of both events.

And then Queen Elizabeth comes to Ireland and by the end of the week I am close to being rated as a royal junkie. Queen Elizabeth is no sooner gone and President Barack Obama helicopters in to Moneygall and there I am again, back at the junkie behaviour - turning on the television the minute I come in from school.

I had less than 90 minutes to prepare and eat a meal, go for a quick run with the dog and pack my bag and yet I made it my business to watch Obama in Moneygall.
I have been trying to analyse it all and why I reacted as I did. But I have a sneaky feeling I behaved in a similar way to tens of thousands of Irish people.

The royal visit has been analysed and every detail of it parsed down to the smallest pixel on the screen. Most of the commentators have argued that her visit was the last part of the jigsaw in normalising relations between our two islands. And certainly that was a significant part of the visit.

Both President McAleese and Queen Elizabeth’s speeches at Dublin Castle were cleverly crafted documents.

Everything Queen Elizabeth did in Ireland evoked positive rational and emotive responses. She seemed as if she really enjoying herself in Ireland.

The commentators kept on saying that this was an encounter between equals.

It was a brilliantly choreographed visit and full marks to all involved in making it such a success.

And the same goes for President Obama's eight-hour whirlwind visit.
Anyone who watched the beatification ceremony in Rome will also say that it was a moving experience.
Whether or not to curtsey to the Queen? And it was interesting to observe those who did? I was puzzled as to why non-UK citizens would do such a thing.

And then the pieces in the newspaper as to how one should address Queen Elizabeth and what is the correct protocol when shaking hands. The newspapers explained it all and no doubt many readers read it with interest.

Hold on a sec. Is this not exactly the same brouhaha the Irish went on with in the 30s, 40s 50s when it came to addressing and greeting bishops, archbishops and cardinals?
And how we rightly laugh at that nonsense now. But just as we have grown up vis-a-vis our relationship with church 'dignitaries' we are falling over one another in learning the 'correct' royal protocol.

Is it that we simply need people to adulate, is it in our bones to offer incense at all sorts of human shrines?

Maybe it has something to do with what both Queen Elizabeth and President Obama had to say in their speeches.

Queen Elizabeth, President Obama and President McAleese spoke words that were respectful and dignified. I certainly found myself feeling as if we were being taken seriously and that Queen Elizabeth and President Obama were enjoying themselves in Ireland. Maybe they also believed what they were saying.

It made me think of the possibility of what seriously good preaching could mean.
Meaningful words, well crafted will always find listeners.

When people wonder and analyse why there has been such a fall off in church attendance in Ireland has anyone ever thought of examining the quality of preaching and liturgical celebration?

It is a complex issue but far too many people have simply grown tired of listening to dull and boring sermons.

And such a pity as it could be so different.

In the column I wrote some weeks ago I quoted the line from the Bishop of London who quoted St Catherine of Siena.

"Be what God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire".

The Gospel is never boring or outdated. It's we priests who mush it up and make a bags of it.
When were you last at the edge of your seat listening in real enthusiasm to what was being said at Mass.

I can still remember listening to a priest in Dublin over 30 years ago. He celebrated Mass in a most dignified and reverent manner and he had people listening to him.

Of course it can be done but it means hard work and genuine faith too.

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The 'Thinking Anew' column in The Irish Times today. Michael Commane Sometimes I wonder has all the pious 'stuff' we have ...