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.

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No comment from bishop

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