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

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.

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What's in a name?

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