Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Neither bishop nor priest has exclusive rights on God

The column below appears in this week's IN&M regional newspapers in Ireland.

By Michael Commane
A sermon given by the bishop of Raphoe Philip Boyce at Knock received some coverage in the media last week.

It was reported that Dr Boyce referred to a godless and secular society.

The bishop is reported to have said that the Catholic Church is experiencing a testing time, having been rocked by the barbs of a ‘secular and godless culture’ on the outside and the ‘sins and crimes of priests’ within.

I did not see the entire sermon, so maybe I am at a disadvantage, but in what is reported there is no mention whatsoever of the monumental cover-up that the church perpetrated. It is that cover-up that has made people so angry and even mad. And understandably too.

Bishop Boyce talks about the ‘sins of priests’, it is unfortunate there is not a word about the sins of bishops and their cover-up.

Reading the report of the sermon in the newspaper one would get the impression that the institutional church is being attacked by a godless world and a more godless media.

It would be interesting to ask Dr Boyce who is the church. Surely the man realises that all of us who have been baptised are church and so many of those baptised in Ireland are right now feeling great anger with their church.

Essential to an open and healthy democracy is a free media.

Newspapers, television and radio are messengers and if they tell falsehoods then one has the right to sue. Every one of us is entitled to our good name and no media can damage that in a democracy and get away with it.

What exactly is a “godless culture and a secular society”?

I don’t for a minute believe I am living in a ‘godless culture’. Of course I see and experience nasty things. People can do terrible and wrong things. But people also do great things.

Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union tried to develop godless cultures but to talk about modern Ireland being a “godless culture” is crazy and in many ways devious, nasty too. It’s alarmist and in some ways playing to a particular gallery.

May I tell you a story that might throw some light on what I am saying?

A former work colleague of mine, who was baptised and grew up in the Catholic faith now sees the panoply of Irish Catholicism as an irrelevancy for him. Sometimes he gets angry, especially when a new scandal surfaces.

For the last three years I have been parking my car outside his house and every Thursday evening on my arrival back in the town he kindly has the car waiting for me at the rail station.

He does it with a smile. Every now and again I give him a bottle of wine for his kindness. I certainly feel respected by the man and there certainly is a fellowship, a camaraderie between us. I’d even go as far as saying it in some ways imitates or suggests the presence of God in both our lives.

I leave my car outside that man’s house because I was refused entry to the garden of a religious community with which I have links.

Not in a million years would I expect anyone in that house to leave my car for me at the rail station.It would never even cross their minds.

When Bishop Boyce preaches about a ‘godless culture’ I really wonder what he means.

Was he simply talking about people who share different views than he, people who feel alienated from an institutional church that really does not get the message?

Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion of Mary said that, “We are all called to be saints”.

Priests and bishops certainly have no exclusive rights on the mystery and wonder of God. And it is about time they took that reality on board.

It is extremely dangerous language to talk about a ‘godless culture’.

I for one find it disrespectful and unhelpful.

The presence of God is to be seen all around us. It is our privilege to help bring about God’s presence in all its challenging manifestations.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Run Luas link over Grand Canal

Dublin Bus estimates that 85 per cent of its 117 million passenger journeys per year could be subject to delays of up to 10 minutes, particularly on cross-city routes, if the Luas city centre link goes ahead.

The Railway Procurement Agency has put forward plans to join the red and green lines through the city centre.

Why not join the two lines with an overhead rail between Charlemont Bridge and Inchicore, running over the Grand Canal. It could be a great feature too.

Bishop launches broadside on 'secular arrows'

In today's Irish Times Bishop of Raphone Philip Boyce is reported to have said that: "the church is attacked from outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture, rocked from the inside by the sins and crimes of priests and consecrated people".

Bishop Boyce mentions nothing about the sins of bishops.

Does Bishop Boyce not realise that had the 'secular and godless culture' not exposed all that we have heard and read, we might well still be back in the 'golden age' when priests felt untouchable.

These words of Dr Boyce as reported in today's Irish Times are not helpful in any discussion in discovering the truth.

It does not at all follow that a secular world is firing 'arrows' at the church. It might well have reason to fire arrows at the institutional church and many of its bishops.

Bishop Boyce has to know about the privileged position bishops and priests held in Ireland in the past and indeed still hold.

Bishop Boyce has to know about all that was shovelled under the carpet for years upon years.

Did Bishop Boyce ever speak out in the 'good old days' in the name of truth and Gospel values?

Bishop Boyce's comments as reported in today's Irish Times are glib and indeed inaccurate.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Neglect never ever works

This piece appears in this week's INM regional newspapers in Ireland.

By Michael Commane
Most of us have experienced the pain of a bad toothache; how awful it can

Neglect your teeth and as sure as day follows night, will come terrible
pain: gum, eye, ear, the face itself. The only cure? Go to the dentist. In
future? Lesson learned. Look after those teeth.

The London riots and much of the subsequent commentary reminded me of the
toothache-and-the-dentist analogy. Neglect at your peril.

Anything that is neglected runs riot on us. In this case, literally. But
when it is our fellow human beings who are, themselves, neglected anything
is liable to happen.

Yes, the rioters in the UK behaved as thugs. Of course, goodness and badness
exist. But, surely, we as responsible human beings can play that vital role
in making sure that people feel cherished, respected. And yes, loved. In our
imperfect world, surely we can see to it that goodness gets its chance to

Tomorrow, visit any maternity hospital in Ireland. Call on the new mothers.
Examine their charts, check their backgrounds, lifestyles. Immediately, the
odds would be clear on what their new sons or daughters would be doing 20
years from now.

Of course there is freedom and individual choice and responsibility but our
environment and background play an enormous role in shaping us. Our families
and schools can make or break us.

It is not a question of throwing money at people but one of treating them
with respect and dignity. That is the message of the Gospel. Love one
another. It’s a difficult message with clear opportunity.

Brute force, curfews, zero tolerance and more time in more prisons will
never ever solve the problem. They are the reflex response. The quick fix
demanded and provided. But they are simply a response. They are not a

On Saturday I had my own brush with this zero-tolerance mindset when I
called to a Dominican friend. We had planned to have lunch together after
Mass, but a young woman called and asked him for help. He responded
immediately. Feeding her, listening to her, driving her to a hostel. On the
way, he discovered his mobile phone was missing. He asked her if she had
seen it to which she replied, no.

Later I sent a text to the phone. Within minutes a man called back: he had
the phone and would return it. Relief. All contacts saved! A few minutes
later I met him on the street accompanied by the young woman and another
woman. The only chance of getting the phone back? I had to pay.
Unwillingly, I called my friend, the phone owner, to the scene. After some
negotiation, 20 euro secured the return of the phone.

It was a real rollercoaster of kindness, nastiness, apparent sorrow,
conniving and deviousness. But it’s life. And by the looks of it, those
three were experiencing a tough life. It was certain they had not been to
school at Clongowes or Glenstal. They had probably left school at 12 or 13.
Even if I had had the urge to use a ‘different approach’ with them it would
have served no purpose. The damage had long been done.

Interestingly, that same week, a friend left his phone in an exclusive cafe.
A haven for what my friend, a mother herself, calls the Yummier Mummies. He
tried the number. The phone was answered by a well-spoken woman. Again
relief! Yes, of course, he could have it back. Just meet her in
such-and-such a car-park. But there was the little matter of 50 euro. Phone
and cash exchanged. She drove off in her jeep. Greed and opportunism. Pure
and simple. Here, every privilege. No excuse.

Neglect. As sure as there is a sky over us, those three sad people I met
have never experienced the nurturing, the love, the respect that we human
beings deserve. And because they have not, we are all - and will be - the
less for it.

Frank Duff life story

Any readers of this blog comments on Finola Kennedy's 'Frank Duff'? If so, much appreciated if this blogger could have them.

Ulick O'Connor in his review of it in 'The Sunday Independent' made reference to Archbishop Ryan not allowing Mass to be celebrated in Legion of Mary hostels.

Presumably Ulick O'Connor has got that wrong as Archbishop Ryan offered a full apology to Frank Duff.

John C McQuaid was the offending prelate.

Frank Duff's 1930s Ireland was a different Ireland to where we are now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Is it all closed and lacking transparency? Tell us

"We are not going to get open, transparent answers from the Catholic Church."

A comment from Andrew Madden on RTE1 Radio lunchtime news today.

Andrew Madden was suxually abused by a priest of the Dublin diocese.

If his comment is untrue, then the Irish bishops should respond and correct it.

If it is true, what is to be done?

This is all appalling. What is worst of all is the silence right across the church. And even sadder is that the silent men think they are being so clever.

Shocking but also revealing.

The faltering and sad words of a bishop

John Magee's interview last evening adds to the sadness of the Irish church.

His words and behaviour are the product and result of an organisation that has perfected the art of talking out of both sides of its mouth at the same time.

One might ask are all large organisations as 'daft' as the institutional church appears at present?

So many bishops are stumbling and faltering over words it is difficult to know what they are saying and for what it is they stand.

That John Magee should say he is willing to meet victims is painful, sad and really silly. Who cares what John Magee does now?

A far more important question is how was this man ever appointed a bishop in Ireland.

The rule seems to be a 'safe pair of hands'.

If that is the deciding factor, then clearly a new strategy is urgently required.

These men not too long ago spoke with such certainty about all things concerning God and morality - always nebulous and nuanced topics - yet they knew exactly how to frame and formulate it all.

Were they, are they just simple spoofers?

Anyone who has been confirmed or ordained by a bishop must sit back and wonder.

Watch how they will tell us all the wonders of the new English translation of the Missal.

In public it will be all wonderful words. Privately it will be another show.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In spite of rumours Irish diplomats are alive

Garry Redmond, President of the Students Union of Ireland should be told that Irish diplomats are not dead.

Corpse and corps are two different words and pronounced differently.

So much for the great Irish education system

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev

Twenty years ago tomorrow Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was put under house arrest in his summer residence in the Crimea.

That same day this blogger was in the former GDR town of Saalfeld. When local people heard the news they were concerned and the presence of Soviet tanks on the streets caused worry and foreboding.

In March Gorbachev celebrated his 80th birthday in London at a gala evening in the Royal Albert Hall hosted by Kevin Spacey and Sharon Stone. An eccentric array of singers performed.
The highlight was a performance on a large screen of Gorbachev singing a Russian love song.
He laughed. "If necessary I'll become a pop singer," he said. "Raisa liked it when I sang."

Bachmann knows too well what she is doing

There is a photograph in today's Irish Daily Star of US presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann. Bachmann is closely associated with the Tea Party.

Why did Bahmann allow such a photograph to be taken?

The similarities between Tea Party supporters and the right wing within the clerical Catholic Church are certainly worth noting.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gay Byrne and the mad people in Brussels

TV personality' Gay Byrne's comment that Ireland is being run by 'mad people in Brussels' is an unfortunate comment.
Worse still is the comment of a senior Fianna Fail TD that Mr Byrne had 'his finger on the pulse'.

This is Ireland back at its old parochialism - what we do best.

Was Mr Byrne and the senior Fianna Fail TD saying that when the EU was giving us pound for pound building our institutes of technology, our roads, our rail carriages.

Mr Byrne's comments are appalling and actually racist.

Does he realise how many of the 'Mad Brussels' people are Irish? The mad Irish.

Hopefully he will decide not to run for the presidency.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A wall springs up around Berlin

Fifty years ago on Saturday the Berlin Wall was built.

It stayed in place 28 years.

Police were the ones to open fire

It has now been revealed that the young man shot dead in London by the Met did not fire any shot. The only people to use a weapon were the police.

It appears the Met are not too great at telling the truth.

Probably none of the thugs behaving in a thuggish fashion can offer high ranking police weekends in exclusive spas.

If people are neglected it is inevitable they will become thugs. And it will be even worse if the thugs see how their police behave towards them.

The looters and thugs have been observing the relationship between the Met and Murdoch's empire.

London violence is a social bushfire

The London riots are shocking. But so too iare the responses from the media and politicians.

And it could happen in Dublin, Cork, Limerick. We have close to half a million people without work.

Surely there is a link between years of neglect and this outbreak of violence.

Just some few weeks ago we saw how the police were in the pocket of the Murdoch press. And that's the murdoch press that the Cardinal Pell compares favourably to the Irish press.

London has no head of police as he had to resign for cosying up with Murdoch.

We read every day of the crass selfishness of the rich. That selfishness is simply filtering down to those who have been neglected.

The US is spending $85 million daily on its wars.

Neglected people can download all that information on their smart phones.

It takes the British prime minister three days to come home from his Italian holidays and still no sign of the Mayor of London.

How many of the looters and rioters have been at pubic school or a so-called 'elite' university?

The words used in media headlines this morning are ironically so similar to the words the Syrian government use when referring to their protestors.

Of course it is thugery. But why?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

US Tea Party people called 'mad'

A respected commentator on US affairs remarked today on RTE 1's Sunday Morning Show that the US Tea Party people are mad.

That's the word he used.

And so too are the right wing in the Catholic Church. The perfect word - 'mad'. But dangerous too.

Drinking tea does not confer infallibility

Fr Brandan Hoban's comments on Fr Vincent Twomey as reported in yesterday's Irish Times give hope to our church.

He said that the new priests' association does not share in the Irish media's presumption that having tea with the pope once a year confers by osmosis some kind of creeping infallibility on Fr Twomey or anyone else.

He went on to say that the new missal "has more to do with living in the past than ministering in the presence or preparing for the future".

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cardinal Pell critical of Irish media

In the current issue of The Irish Catholic Rory Fitzgerald interviews the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell. In the interview the cardinal says: "The main atheistic influence in Australia is in the media and academia. However, I don't think the Australian media would be in the same league as the Irish papers, in terms of being anti-Catholic".

It is worth noting that most Australian media is owned by one, Rupert Murdoch.

The cardinal's 'swipe' at the media should not be allowed go without a comment.

When the media kowtowed to the Irish church did George Pell complain.

We are fortunate to have a press that is more or less free.

The broadside at the media and academia is not worthy of the cardinal. That's the sort of comment made by despots and dictators who are criticised by the media.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The wonder of a great holiday

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

By Michael Commane

It’s holiday time.

As a child, I spent my holidays on my granduncle’s farm on the Kilkenny-Tipperary border.

Looking back on those days now, it was idyllic.

Before we set off from our home in Dublin, I remember tidying up the car, Dad checking the oil and tyre pressure. Mum would have a picnic prepared for the journey. Sometimes we stopped on the Curragh to have our meal, on other occasions leaving it 'til later.

Usually, there would be some sort of dispute as to who would sit in the front: my brother wanting the prime seat, so, too, did my sister. Being the youngest, I was always in the back and in the middle. I was able to stand on the cover of the transmission-rod that ran back to the wheels. Standing there, it gave me a better view. In retrospect, I’m sort of baffled as to why Mum was not always in the front. That’s mothers for you.

They were great holidays: bringing in the hay, collecting eggs from the henhouse. While my brother and sister learned to horse-ride, I never managed it. Instead, I played about in the farmyard. On one occasion, my sister on a pony, I on a bicycle, went to the village of Crosspatrick, where we bought four Woodbine cigarettes. Later, we lit up in the henhouse. I was 10. My mother appeared and caught us at it. My first and last cigarette. Thank God for that: my mother was a smoker, later developing cancer of the larynx.

One day, I carved my name on a tall birch tree. Is proof of my delinquency still to be found?

In the late 1960s, the farm was sold to the Land Commission for approximately £20,000. A fabulous house with over 150 acres. All gone. At least, gone, out of my family.

50 years later, on my weekly rail-trip to and from Dublin, my mind strays back to those halcyon days as the train speeds through Thurles, Templemore, Ballybrophy. Now, watching people heading off on holidays, I’m always curious where they ‘re going and what they will be doing.

50 years ago Dublin Airport was a quiet spot – generally known as Collinstown. Today it’s the gateway for large numbers of people heading all over the world, whether on holiday or business. A short 20 years ago, it was unthinkable for most of us to go to Rome or Berlin for a weekend. These days, at work on Monday, I often hear people talking about a weekend in Milan or Paris. The summer holidays mean many head off for places as far away as Vietnam.

Maybe it’s a sign of getting older, but I’m less inclined now to fly off and away. There’s so much to see and experience at home in my own place. Last Friday I called on a friend, who lives in Limerick. On the Saturday morning, we went on a walk around the city. We retraced the streets Frank McCourt writes about in Angela’s Ashes. Later we went around by the Treaty Stone and visited the old Dominican priory, St Saviour’s in Barrack Street, built in the 13th century. It was my first time to see the monument recalling the Limerick Soviet in Clancy’s Strand overlooking the weir at Curraghgower.

While we were there a man was about to go fishing in low tide. The Shannon is tidal as far as there. A beautiful spot. I wonder what he was thinking. Looking at the man in the distance, with his fishing rod and wearing waders, it was clear he had a purpose. His was a stride, not a step. He knew what he was about.

Though too-cold a day for the end of July, it was great to be free, simply having the time to saunter, visiting out-of-the-way places I'd never seen before. It’s intriguing to observe people. I’m often tempted to stop and talk to strangers. I wonder what people are thinking, doing. What the hell it’s all about.

Of course it’s great to observe other cultures and people. But it’s fascinating to take a snapshot of our own people; of how we think and behave. I’m forever amazed how it  -  we -  all hold together.

It does. We do.

That’s the wonder.

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