Saturday, March 31, 2012

Everything is seen through left right leanings

The current conservative liberal divide concerning the death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is another metaphor for what is happening in the church today.

It is a most interesting phenomenon.

People seem to lose sight of what the reality is and take sides, which are made on political, ideological beliefs.

Take the new missal - the right will see it as a masterpiece, the left see it as convoluted arcane language.

And the division is growing.

Why is this happening.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The great sin of power

Surely one of the 'big sins' is power and everything to do with power.

And strangely enough it is a very real issue in priesthood - celibate men wielding power.

The long sad story of clerical child sex abuse is closely linked to power.

It would be a strong man of great character who would not succumb to the allurements of power in various pastoral ministries.

All the tricks that are played. And it seems priests are brilliant at playing so many different tricks.

And all that mixed with some sort of fake sincerity and concern.

Or is is all as bad as that? Maybe not, but... .

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ministerial gaffes and a silent church

The Government has not helped the cause in introducing the Household Charge. And the Minister for the Environment has been particularly lacking in media savvy in so many of his comments in recent days.

And not a word from a single church figure as to the pros and cons of the tax. They have nothing to say.

How could they, when probably not a single church property will be paying the Household Charge. As registered charities they will be exempt from the levy.

Surely this needs further examination.

Vatican report is not an explanation

The piece below appears in today's Irish Times. It seems an accurate and incisive account of where we are.

It all might even be worse than the picture Fr Doyle paints.

It's as clear as day people are in jobs to which they are not suited and as a result great damage is being done to our fragile church.

Fr TOM DOYLE

RITE & REASON: THE REPORT on the apostolic visitation reflects an exercise in irrelevancy. The visitors listened but did they hear? The report includes the standard apologies, blame for the bishops and religious superiors, and praise for all the church has done in digging into the clerical culture to determine why the horrendous epidemic occurred.

But in reality, they looked for excuses rather than explanations. This “crisis” is not primarily about sexual molestation. It’s about the obsession with power and the corruption and stagnation of the clerical culture.

The visitors were not about to pierce the protective veil that covers the institutional church, a veil that hides the reason the clericalised church is unravelling and the communion between bishops and people is ruptured. The total lack of accountability by the authoritarian model of the church is the root of the crisis.

The Irish people didn’t deserve the insulting claim that the “shortcomings of the past” caused an inadequate understanding of the “terrible phenomenon of the abuse of minors”. The people named the causes head on: the secretive clerical culture, the lopsided theology of sexuality, seminary training disconnected from reality and the “church’s” obsession with control.

These are not the shortcomings of the past. They are the deadly symptoms of the present. A typical Vatican response to a complex problem it can’t understand is imposing structures that change the surface appearance while the core continues to deteriorate. It’s like trying to solve a hardware problem with a software solution.

The outrageous assertion that the bishops and religious superiors gave “much” spiritual and psychological help to victims is followed by a recommendation that they meet with and listen to victims. That this has to be recommended is a pathetic indictment of their lack of pastoral care. If the leadership’s first concern had been the victims and not the church’s image and power, the course of recent Catholic history in Ireland would have been dramatically different.

The visitation of the seminaries avoided the real issue: can priests be prepared to serve in the real world after years of formation in an unreal world? The superficial recommendations try to recapture a seminary culture that inculcated the toxic belief that priests are apart from others because of their exalted “calling”. Survivors know too well this attitude is a major part of the problem.

The second half of the report tells the real story. The agenda is not that of the victims. The true goal is rescuing the Irish clerical institution from its descent into irrelevance by imposing a return to the model of church as monarchy. The “renewed call to communion” is a thinly covered call to docile, unthinking submission.

Catholics in Ireland are walking away not because they need a “deeper formation in the content of the faith” but because they no longer equate faith in God with childish obedience to a clerical establishment that feeds on control.

The younger generation needs the new ecclesial movements as much as a duck hunter needs an accordion. These are nothing more than agents for the return to a model of church dominated by clerical control where intellectual creativity and theological self-determination are anathema.

The abominable legacy of abuse in the Irish church has nothing to do with orthodoxy and fidelity to the pope. It has everything to do with a destructive clerical culture that sacrificed the innocence of children for the distorted image and power of the hierarchy.

The visitors could not delve into the core issue because to do so would have meant recognition of the dark side of the institutional church. The solutions offered – obedience to the hierarchy and lock-step assent to doctrine – are irrelevant and an insult to the victims whose lives were shattered because of this very model of church.

The words and actions of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin – and Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s laser-sharp assessment of the Vatican culture in his speech to the Dáil last July – are proof the real church in Ireland has accurately assessed the situation. The Vatican could have made unprecedented progress in restoring the church’s image by listening and learning.


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Fr Thomas Doyle is an American Dominican priest and canon lawyer. He has served as an expert witness in a number of civil cases involving clergy sexual abuse before the Irish courts. He was also an expert witness/consultant to the Ferns and Ryan commissions.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Self-deception and absurd beliefs

A programme on German television this evening on the SS was a brutal reminder of what people do and what happens people.

A man who was an officer at Auschwitz was tried in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1964 where he denied all responsibility for what happened at Auschwitz. He argued he worked in a particular 'area' where no-one was murdered or mistreated.

Is it possible he believed that?

At the beginning of the programme an old man admitted that as a 17-year-old with pride he joined the SS. He believed that the Germans were a 'chosen race'.

Two powerful metaphors for Cathoic Ireland.

Truly frightening.

Dubliners take to the sea at Seapoint

Yesterday March and temperatures in Ireland in the 20s.

Significant numbers at Seapoint and many in swimming in the not-at-all-too cold waters. It was indeed

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Talking stress on German television

The theme for discussion on the Günther Jauch Show this evening was how people live with stress. The panel included Ursula von der Leyen, Minister for Work and Social Affairs in the Federal Government, Benedictine abbot general, an FDP politician from Lower Saxony and a rock musician.

von der Leyen, a medical doctor, married with seven children, argued how she has had to learn her way into the job. She stressed the importance of industry looking out and caring for the needs of their employees - the need for structures to be in place to help and protect people in and with their stress.

Nokter Wolf, the Benedictine, spoke of how society is undergoing a seismic change and the need for friends to talk openly and honestly with one another.

It is seldom if ever a similar style programme is to be seen on Irish television. Why not?

Pirate Party win seats in Saarland election

The big winners in today's elections in the State of Saarland in Federal Germany is the Pirate Party, which won more than five per cent of the vote.

It means that now have seat in the State parliament.

Most likely the new government will be a CDU SPD coalition.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No-one should be surprised with Mahon Tribunal

The final report from the Mahon Tribunal has been published.

Why should anyone be surprised with the findings?

It's part of the human condition that people who are in positions of power, authority and influence will manage to live different lives to the rest of us mortals.

Who will stand up to someone in authority? Very few and those who do will be considered disloyal, rude, not willing to appreciate or understand.

It's the way societies and organisations work. One way of explaining it might be the 'bubble effect'. People move into jobs, surround themselves with sycophants and plough on.

Indeed, it must be seldom that top quality people with integrity and vision and a prophetic style influence societies and organisations.

And especially in what we call democracies, people of banal mediocrity, fill positions of leadership.

It's few people who want visionaries in control. That sort of person is called a 'maverick'.

Poor Bertie and Pee Flynn lived in bubbles. We the people put them there and cherished having them there. And it is/was we the people who turned them into gombeen men. Just what we have done with bishops and all superiors.

One might argue that there is a 'sleveen' 'cute hoor' factor within both the Irish church and Irish socitey that makes us especially prone to the 'bubble effect'.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Priests trapped in unforgiving system

Vincent Browne's piece in today's Irish Times is an important moment in Irish journalism.

His topic is Marie Keenan's book, Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power and Organisational Culture.

He refers to it as a revealing book that argues that dominant Catholic culture excludes and isolates clergy with devastating results.

A press conference that tells its own story

Anyone who observed the clip from the press conference at Maynooth yesterday is surely going to ask what at all is going to happen in the Irish church.

And so many are missing the point, and the media quite simply are not at the races.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Celebrity's funeral causes a stir

The controversy/debate over the church funeral of songwriter Lucio Dalla, who was gay, is interesting.

Today's Irish Times carries a report by Paddy Agnew on the story.

Surely the church would never deny a Christian burial to a gay person? If such were its policy large numbers of its own priests would be denied a Christian burial.

As Paddy Agnew admits today, we have not heard the last of this story.

Of course the issue is not whether a person is gay or not. Surely the issue is the lengths to which the institutional church goes to cover up and hide all aspects of sexuality that don't fit it in to its understadning of the human person.

It is probable that in any group of clerics investigating issues dealing with sexuality there are homosexual woman and men memebrs of the investigating teams. And nothing wrong with that either. But the problem comes when these people are 'forced' to hide their orientation.

No real discussion as to what is at 'root' of problem

The final paragraph is a quote from the Roman document released today.

In all the analysis and discussion that has followed the disclosure of clerical child sex abuse, it would seem that when it comes to discussing why it happened and why there was a cover up, there have always been certain areas of interest that have been considered taboo and have therefore not been discussed.

Roman/Vatican documents can often seem obscure and learned but sometimes too they seem to have an ability to air-brush what might seem uncomfortable and embarrassing.

What exactly is at the 'root' of this 'particular crisis'?

In communicating this summary of the Findings of the Apostolic Visitation, the Holy See re-echoes the sense of dismay and betrayal which the Holy Father expressed in his Letter to the Catholics of Ireland regarding the sinful and criminal acts that were at the root of this particular crisis.

Placing an emphasis on communion

The quote below from today's Rome report seems quite significant, especially in a church where there seems to be so little meaningful communion.

The use of upper case letters for certain nouns is unfortunate. And one would imagine a document written for the Irish church would recognise regional spelling practice.

On the other hand, this time of trial has also brought to light the continuing vitality of the Irish people’s faith. The Visitators have noted the exemplary way in which many Bishops, priests and Religious live out their vocation, the human and spiritual bonds among the faithful at a time of crisis, the deep faith of many men and women, a remarkable level of lay involvement in the structures of child protection, and the heartfelt commitment shown by Bishops and Religious Superiors in their task of serving the Christian community.

These are just some of the signs of hope that the Visitators have identified, alongside the various difficulties, in the life of the Church in Ireland. It is vitally important that, at a point in history marked by rapid cultural and social transformation, all the components of the Church in Ireland hear in the first place a renewed call to communion: communion among the Bishops themselves and with the Successor of Peter; communion between diocesan Bishops and their clergy; communion between Pastors and lay persons; and communion between diocesan structures and communities of consecrated life - communion that is not attained merely through human agreements or strategies, but above all by listening humbly to God’s Word and to what the Holy Spirit gives and asks of the Church in our day. Only a united Church can be an effective witness to Christ in the world.


On religious congregations, the report found that all religious institutes should perform an audit of their personnel files, if such an audit has not yet been carried out.

What exactly does this mean? Have individual memebrs of religious communities access to their personal files?

Does the sentiment mean that there is need for a greater honesty and openness within congregations? Does it mean there is about to be a genuine effort to banish the culture of 'secrecy' and 'inuendo'?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

President refers to vote of 22 years ago

The newly elected German Federal President Joachim Gauck gave a moving speech on his election this afternoon.

He began by talking about what a wonderful Sunday in March it was but he was referring to the Sunday in March 22 years ago when the citizens of the former GDR experienced their first free vote.

The assembly ended with the playing of the national anthem.

And the President of the Parliament, mentioned God's name.

Holders of top German posts share common background

Today the German Federal Assembly elects a new Federal Assembly.
There are two candidates, Joachim Gauck and Beate Klarsfeld.

The CDU. CSU, SPD, FDP and Green Party are voting for Joachim Gauck. Beate Glassfeld is the candidate of the Left Party.

It means it's a foregone conclusion that Joachim Gauck will be the next Federal President.

It is significant that both Angela Merkel and Joachim Gauck grew up and received all their education in the former GDR.

The president is elecetd in the Reichstag. The electors are made up of members of the Bundestag and Bundesrat. There are 1,240 voters.

Each person with a vote lines up and casts her or his vote. It is done in alphabetical order and takes over two hours.

It is also worth noting that the new president is a former pastor and the chancellor is the daughter of a pastor. And both Merkal and Gauck come from the north German State of Mecklinburg Vorpommern.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The mission of the cartoonist

Martyn Turner write a piece on the mission of cartoonists in yesterday's Irish Times. A great read.
And he uses the word 'milquetoast', which does not appear in the Collins Dictionary.

Turner adds that he always wanted to 'get that word' into an article.

What does the word mean? Does it mean 'minimum'?

Is it time to bin the book?

11890 Directory Enquiries is currently running an advertisement. A line in the ad runs that because you can now call 11890 for free that it is time to 'bin the book'.

It's a reference to the telephone book and obviously a plan is afoot to stop publishing the annual telephone directory.

Every time the ad is aired many who use the new missal might be tempted to say 'bin the book'.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The new missal gets worse with every prayer

Most of the prayers so far for Lent in the new missal are simply terrible.

But the cheek of these people to spell words, using 'z' whereas all recognised publishing establishments and all newspapers in Ireland and the UK use 's'. Arrogance and cheek and crass stupidity too.

So ignorant of a group of people not to conform to the accepted norms in a country.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Not even a hint of racism can be tolerated

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

By Michael Commane
Over the years I have heard and read about the evils of racism. It shows its ugly head from time to time. We hear stories about how people who have come to live in Ireland have suffered racist taunts.

Out walking with my dog on Friday I passed a door with 'State your name nigger' written across it. It was a goods entrance into an architect’s office. It stopped me in my step and I asked myself what sort of a moron could write something so horrible as that.

I called into the office to tell them what was written on the door. The secretary took note and said she would take action. It was new graffiti as I pass that door every day and I had not seen it before.

Anyone who reads this column will know that I have an interest in all things German. I like Germany and the Germans. But I have walked in evil places; Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Oranienburg. I have seen piles of human hair, gold fillings from human teeth. I have seen a roomful of cases containing the belongings of innocent people who thought they would need the contents for their stay in their new 'homes'.

And all this happened in one of the world's most civilised cultures, the land of Goethe, Schiller, Bach and Beethoven.

The moment we put a name on a group of people, once we single out a religious group, a nationality, a specific culture for a particular behaviour we are walking on terribly thin ice.

It's not a big step to go on and scapegoat a group for all our woes.

It's obviously a terribly easy thing to do. It might even seem to solve problems for us.

That was part of the lure of the evil of the Nazis. They promised to solve so much through their racist policy.
All forms of racism and xenophobia try to lure their listeners into the belief that those being scapegoated are the cause of all our woes.

Certainly we have every right to object to certain or particular policies of the Irish Government. We can disagree with aspects of US foreign policy, we can be critical of Israeli policy towards Palestine. Only on Friday the Israeli air force killed the leader of a Palestinian militant faction in an attack on a car in the Gaza Strip. Of course we can object to that. That's all healthy political debate.

But we can never cast aspersions on entire peoples or cultures and we must never use derogatory terms to describe a group or nation.

Some months ago after the publication of the Cloyne Report it was reported in the media that a Catholic priest preaching during Mass alluded to the fact that our Minister for Foreign Affairs was an atheist and that the Minister for Justice and Defence was a non-practising Jew.

If the priest said what was reported then it was an appalling comment, stupid too. But far worse than that. It was indeed dangerous and the reference to Mr Shatter had all the clothes of racism. It was as if to say, a Jew is one thing but a non-practising Jew was something else. And to say this in the context of the celebration of the Eucharist is really intolerable. Fortunately the priest’s congregation did issue an apology.

Over the last few years a number of murders have taken place in Germany. At the time it was generally believed that the victims were involved in crime.

It has now transpired the innocent victims were killed by neo-Nazis.
It's now Sunday and that graffiti I saw on Friday is still on those doors.

I intend to keep calling to the office until it is removed.

It's important that we never tolerate the slightest hints of any form of racism. Too many people have paid far too much at the hands of racists. And it seems we can never let down our guard in the battle against it.

In times of recession and despair racism moves about like the 'devil prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat'.

We need to be reasonable, kind and compassionate too, and never underestimate the power of truth and logical argument.

It’s not too long ago at all since we were known as the ‘dirty Irish’ or the shop notices that read, ‘Irish need not apply’.

You’d imagine we would have learned from that. Sadly not.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A picture tells a thousand stories even with Photoshop

The Irish Catholic tells another tell-tale story.

On page 9 of the current issue there is a picture of six people. All three adults, two priests and one bishop are named. The three altar servers in front row have no names.

It is terrible and tells so much about where we are as a society when it comes to how we treat our children.

The picture tells us that Dermot Martin is an archbishop and what congregations to which the other two men belong.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Difficult not to think of chairs on the Titanic

On a day in which in the liturgical calendar we read how Jesus throws the merchants and money changers out of the temple it comes to the attention of this blog that a religious community in Ireland is discussing a proposal to move a tabernacle from where it is back to where it was less than 20 years ago.

A theological nicety that would cost a considerable sum of money in an Ireland that has close to 500,000 people out of work.

So many in the institutional church simply 'don't' get it'. Or do they?

Those chairs on that ship 100 years ago.

Friday, March 9, 2012

No sign of comment sent to Occasional Scribbles

A reader wrote a comment for 'Occasional Scribbles'. It has not appeared because it has not arrived in the comment box.

There may be a number of reasons for it not arriving. Why not send it again. Sometimes people not familiar with posting comments on blogs hit glitches in the early stages.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bauhaus in Bron reopens

An informative piece in today's Irish Times of the restoration of a Bauhaus home reopening in the Czech Republic.

Yet again, another reminder of what Nazi Germany did. And here too an insight into the barbarity of the Soviet Army.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Unlimited free travel on trains is too generous

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

By Michael Commane
When you have to live on borrowed money, as we now do, it is difficult to have to swallow some of the criticisms our “benefactors” make of the way we run our affairs. Our “free travel” scheme for older citizens has been something of which we have been justly proud. And when outside lenders tell us our older citizens need to suffer a bit more, before our financial sins are forgiven, this can be very hard to take. But before we let our indignation run away with us, perhaps we should pause and take stock.

For over three years I made a weekly rail journey between Dublin and Tralee. I was working three days a week in Dublin and the other two days in Kerry.

There were many tickets on option. I could buy a five-day return which was approximately €75; a monthly return was around €83. I could also have bought an annual tax saver ticket which would make sense if I was sure I would be making the journey every weekend. And, if I remember correctly, the single fare was something like €68.00. Of course that made no sense at all.

Occasionally I managed to buy a return ticket on the internet for €22 but that meant booking well in advance.

The media has been far too gentle to Irish Rail on its recent fare hike and ticket structure change.

Over the period of time I got to know a number of rail personnel and naturally observed what life is like on the railway.

One thing is sure and that is that rail travel is not cheap but it is heavily subsidised and that means the taxpayer is paying large sums to keep the trains rolling.

We are living in extraordinarily difficult financial times so any way or means the Government has of saving money, then good for them.

I have been on too many trains watching people travel for free.

Before another word, I am extremely grateful to Charlie Haughey and his wife for introducing the 'free pass'. My late father availed of it for the best part of 30 years.

It really was fantastic. He would never have made all those journeys from Heuston to Tralee had he not got his free pass.

I'm just three years away from eligibility for the magic card and of course I am now getting very perplexed that it will be scrapped before I make it to that age, hoping of course, that I will be around for another few years.

Nevertheless, for the life of me I cannot understand why newspaper owners, bishops, archbishops, provincials, former high ranking civil servants, business people should be allowed travel for 'free' while at the same time the State coffers are worse than empty.

And then there is another category of 'free ticket' that mesmerises me. I have seen the fittest of people travel on 'free disability passes'.

I have seen checkers throw their eyes to heaven and comment that it really is a joke the number of 'free' passengers who are using the railway.

There is the whole plethora of staff and people who are in the most tenuous ways connected with the railway who get free passes. It really is a terrible Irish joke.

I can see and hear people say how cruel I am - how dare I take such a wonderful benefit from the old and vulnerable.

By all means, every benefit to elderly and genuinely poorer people should be kept in place if at all possible. But the idea that bishops, provincials, former high ranking civil servants, newspaper barons can travel for 'free' at the expense of the hard pressed taxpayer is simply a madness.

I know a man who has a free pass on the strength of a stab wound he received to his neck. There is no sense to that.

Before a hatchet job is done on the free travel scheme now is the time to do a root and branch study on who is travelling for free and how can the State make a saving without hurting the real poor and those who are fragile and vulnerable.

And before the State makes any decision I suggest Minister Varadkar sit down and talk to the few checkers who are left on the railway and ask them for their views on the issue.
I am often struck, especially in the case of the railway, how the people who run it on a daily basis are never asked for their ideas and opinions and how to make savings and improve operations.

Why not issue pensioners an annual card, which might cost €50 or €60 per year. Maybe a standard €10 for journeys over 160 km. But unlimited free travel might well be too generous right now. Someone has to pay for it and the PAYE taxpayer is paying enough.

I well know we live in a State and are part of a society. We are not just an economy. But if the State and society is to flourish then we can't have crazy customs and odd practices.

If someone tells me I will not get unlimited free travel I'll be annoyed but really, that's not the issue.

There is no real independence without economic independence. If we duck the hard decisions, we cannot complain too much when others make them.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Putin heading back to the Kremlin tomorrow

It's highly likely that Vladimir Putin will receive over 50 per cent of tomorrow's vote and therefore be elected outright new President of the Russian Federation.

The former KGB official in Dresden, former head of the FSB will begin his thrid term as President of Russia.

Putin, born in then Leningrad, knew neither of his older brothers as they died in childhood. His father was injured as a soldier in the Great Patriotic War. He studied law at the University of St Petersburg.

In 2001 Putin addressed the Bundestag - in German.

This evening television cameras showed him visiting an Orthodox church.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Iranians go to the polls today

The people of Iran go to the polls today. Approximately 48 million people have a right to vote.

It might be worth noting that this blog is blocked by the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is it that Mr McCarthy is praising philosophy of All Hallows?

Dublin's All Hallows College, which is affiliated to DCU has announced the appointment of Dermot McCarthy as the new chairman of the board.

The paragraph below is from its press release. Is it that Mr McCarthy is praising the skills-based and action-oriented philosophy of the Vincentians?

"Dr McDevitt observed that Mr McCarthy’s commitment to community involvement compliments the Vincentian skills-based and action-oriented philosophy. He said, “Dermot’s high-level skills, knowledge and experience will facilitate All Hallows in our mission to develop the potential of people and society to work together towards positive growth and change."

Occasional Scribbles wishes Mr McCarthy every success in his new job.