Monday, April 30, 2012

German politicians will not be at Ukraine games

Germany plans a political boycott of Euro2012 in support of Timoschenko.

April 30 is a date worth noting

On this date in 1945 Hitler was no more. The world and Europe could breathe again. The world was freed from a period of unspeakble evil.

Visionaries came together and began the construction of what we today call the EU.

Sixty-seven years later the Greeks are about to elect right-wing candidates with neo-Nazi slant to parliament. The French are talking about reintroducing border controls for EU citizens. It goes on and gets worse.

Extreme right and left wing politicians are finding common cause.

It all sounds similar to what happened with the collapse of the Weimar Republic.

The myth of the need for a 'strong man' is gainng ground.

And that idea is in the ascendant in the Catholic Church too.

Worrying. Scary.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Easy to create caricatures

Yesterday's Irish Times Thinking Anew column.

Have you ever formed an opinion about someone without having spoken to them?

In tomorrow's Gospel we read that one of the shining characteristics of the “Good Shepherd” is that he knows his own peole.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep”. (John 10: 14 - 15)

I probably will regret saying this, but I have a terrible failing of making up my mind about people long before I have ever justification to do so. Sometimes I might get it right. I can also get it terribly wrong. But is it not true to say that from time to time it is a temptation to which we all succumb?

There is something about the human condition that leads us to believe, without thought, that what we do and those with whom we associate are on the right side of things.

We are often slow to engage in any serious way with people who are differ from us.

No matter where we work, we want to believe that our company, our firm, our movement is in the right. The more senior the position, the more pronounced this becomes.

It would seem we always give precedence to our cause or the institution and then we expect other people to fit into that particular order. How we rate and understand them, sympathise with them depends on our perception of how we think they look on us.

We never know the full story of any person. We might come close to understanding our parents, but even that seems always to come later, maybe when they are dead. Wives and husbands sometimes get to know each other, not always. Scottish author, Douglas Galbraith in his book “My Son, My Son”, describes how he comes home from work one day to discover his Japanese wife and their two sons Satomi and Mokoto have taken off and gone back to Japan.

No one ever gets inside the head of another person. No one ever discovers the complete mystery of the other person, so in that sense it might be possible to say that none of us is ever completely appreciated.

It’s so easy to give names to people and once we do that it’s quite easy to see them in that particular light or shape.

We are forever building people up into images which are so far from reality and we also destroy people by never fully appreciating their good side.
We easily say that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. Easy words to say but do we live it in our lives? It seems so many of us begin our engagement with other people with an arsenal of hunches. We do it with people, we do it with nationalities, we do it with cultures, we do it with religions.

Tomorrow’s Gospel describes the characteristic of the Good Shepherd as being someone who knows his people, knows them for what they are and understands them in the way that they would wish to be understood. But that same Gospel is challenging you and me to think and behave in a similar fashion.

It’s so easy and tempting to create caricatures and stereotypes. It can be so difficult to try to understand the other person and see her or him for who they are and what they are.

Only last week I received a note from someone who has an unwholesome reputation. He has a dubious track record in relationships with other people but there is also a gentle and good side to him, which I have seen and experienced.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that we go easy on wrongdoers but if we did as tomorrow’s Gospel suggests maybe we might encourage the hardest of people to let their good points be more easily seen.

Tomorrow’s Good Shepherd story could turn the world upside down. If it stops us in our tracks of forming stereotypes of other people then it sure is worth reading with care and understanding.

Michael Commane OP

Günther Jauch show discusses Aldi

The Günther Jauch programme on German's ARD this evening dicsussed the 'Aldi phenomenon'

The famous Günther Wallraff was one of the guests on the show.

Journalist Susanne Almann, who writes for Der Spiegel, admitted that she refuses to shop in Aldi.

The company in Germany is divided into Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd. It was established by two Albrecht brothers.

A former manager was critical of the method the company uses in its relationship with its employees. he talked about lists the company uses to note every move of employees.

It is policy with Aldi not to talk to the press or in public.

In the 1970s, Theo Aldi was kidnapped and rescued for a ransom of seven million DM.

Theo Albrecht is dead. Karl is in his 90s.

Aldi insider Dieter Brandes argued that the firm takes great interest in the smallest detail, which allows it sell cheaper than many other chains.

Andreas Staub, a former manager, argued that there is a terrible pressure on employees - always worried that they will lose their jobs.

Aldi pays over the average in Germany.

It was accepted by the panel that Aldi workers are expected to start work 15 to 30 minutes before start time and stay on later after clock out time.

Aldi in Germany is not always the cheapest, especially with toiletries.

CDU MdB (MP) Bosbach questioned how can Aldi sell milk at a price that seems to suggest the producer/farmer has to be paid very little.

Call for football ban on Ukraine

Most of our news comes from the one pot. These days the real news is when someone breaks a story that surprises us.

RTE, BBC, RAI, ARD et al constantly monitor one another.

In that sense it is surprising there is so little on Irish TV screens about the SPD and Green Party in Germany calling for some type of Euro 2012 ban on Ukraine

Friday, April 27, 2012

The 'posh boys' in the church?

Are all 'elites' similar? Probably.

The behaviour of the Vatican at present inclines one to say yes.

Fr Brian D'Arcy is not a theological scholar. He is a priest and journalist, who speaks on relevant topics.

If the media are correct in what is being said, then it simply copperfastens what Suzanne Moore says in yesterday's Guardian.

The 'posh boys' as Conservative MP Dorries calls Cameron and Osborne.

Is it a suitable term for the 'church elite'?

Hardly, in some respects there might be an inaccuracy about such a term when referring to memebrs of the clerical 'elite'.

One does not need to be a theology scholar to observe there is something spectacularly 'different' about so many of the 'Vatican elite'.

An overconfident elite in recession times

In yesterday's Guardian newspaper in the g2 section on page five Suzanne Moore writes an opinion piece on the ruling elite in the UK in this time of recession.

In her excellent piece Moore talks of how the elite classes, or the 'posh boys' as Dorries called Cameron and Osborne, stick together.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The anniversary of an historic meeting near Torgau

On this date in 1945 the Soviet and US armies met on the river Elbe near Torgau.

Italy surrenders. Today is a national holiday in Italy.

Also on April 25, Goering was arrested.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The dos and don'ts of what to do with ashes

There is a report in today's 'Irish Times' that the church says sharing ashes is inappropriate.

Fr Paddy Jones, directeor of the National Centre for Liturgy at Maynooth said that "ashes should be treated with the same respect as the body.

"I've heard stories of ashes being left on a mantlepiece, or distribued among relatives. This is inappropriate," he said.

No doubt when it comes to death, people express style and taste in different ways. Some people do things well, others not so well.

Style tells us certain things about people.

Fr Jones says it is inappropriate to place ashes on a mantlepiece. Is it inappropriate to scatter ashes, say at sea?

Priests and their rules. It can be so tedious at times.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Battersby on WIlliams on Fallada

Great piece in yesterday's Irish Times on how author Jenny Williams discovered Rudolf Ditzen/Hans Falada.
Williams has written a biography on Fallada, titled, 'More lives than One'.

In his last letter to his mother, Ditzen/Fallada wrote this. It is spectactularly fine: "Some part of me has never been completely finished, something is missing with the result that I'm not a proper man, only a human being who has aged, an old grammar school boy ... I know I'm weak, but not bad, never bad. But that's no excuse. it's poor enough at 53 to have become nothing more than a weak man, to have learned so little from my mistakes."

How accurate. And then one is forced to think of the pompous utterings of so many, all those politicians and priests.

Ray D'Arccy and the bad language

The Ray D'Arcy f word on radio and the church asking for a full apology is sure to get a good outing.

According to Ray D'Arcy he attended Mass until he was 28 and then one day a priest, maybe younger than he, during his sermon told people that if they were not suffering they were not good Catholics.

Ray D'arcy told this incident in an interview he gave to Hot Press two years ago.

Would it not be far more helpful if the Irish bishops began a learning experience of what is said in sermons and maybe then we could all have a discussion.

No on should ever use rude or impolite language in news-rlated programmes. But a discussion on what is preached in churches would make far more sense than looking for 'full apologies'.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cycling to Mass at 82

It is a most beautiful spring morning in Dublin.

Unlocking my bicycle earlier today outside the Three Patrons Church in Rathgar, I spotted an elderly man with one of the oldest style bicycles I have seen in years. It was that vintage black bicycle with the Sturmey Archer three speed. As the man was heading out I had to stop him.

He is 82, cycles that bicycle every weekday morning from Clonfert Road in Crumlin to Mass in Rathgar.

The smile on his face, his words, everything about him matched the day that was in it. Maybe even surpassed it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Fagan secrets akin to Dundalk secrets

No doubt the alleged secrecy to which Fr Sean Fagan has been submitted is similar in kind and style to the secrecy to which that little boy in Dundalk was submitted many years ago.

It really is time for some court, somewhere or other to deal with the unjust actions of the people who commit these wrong-doings.

The little people and all their secrets

It is reported in today's Irish Times that the Vatican has advised Fr Sean Fagan that if any word of their latest action against him reaches the media he would be stripped of his priesthood.

Surely this is a case for the Euopean Court of Human Rights.

On the other hand, so many priests are forced to hide their sexuality, isn't it inevitable that so much is hidden and kept secret.

This can have nothing at all to do with Gospel values.

If, what is reported is true, then it is terrible.

Secrets have worked so well for the church in Ireland.

All those anonymous people and their sneering and secrets.

God love them.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Over 800 metres on top of Tonelagee

On Saturday, along with a friend, his dog and mine, we climbed Tonelagee mountain in the Wicklow Hills.

It was cold, strips of snow along parts of the way.

It was a clear day and one could see for kilometres into the distance, north, south, east and west.

In other words it was a spectacular day and a spectacular experience.

And all just less than an hour's drive from the city centre.

My last time on the top of that mountain was probably in the late 1960s, early 1970s.

It hasn't changed!

Surprisingly, we met just four other people, two, who were down at the river and were not intending to get to the top and two Irish Army soldiers.

A pair of boots, heavy socks and some warm clothes, all that's needed to experience one of the greatest of joys there is.

But the most important comodity of all - good health.

Maybe it's age that brings the thought to mind, but there is nothing on this planet as precious as our health. And how we so easily take it for granted.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Germans, the Jews and the Israelis

The Günther Jauch programme this evening discussed Günther Grass's latest poem, which is, by many people, considered to be anti-Semitic.

Germans born before 1928 need a special visa to visit Israel.

Angela Merkel four years ago said in the Knesset, for the Germans the security and existence of Israel is now and never can be negotiable..

The Germans export submarines to Israel.

It was one of those most unusual moments on television when the Germans discussed their relationship with Isreal in such an open manner.

The Germans would dismiss as outrageous words uttered by Catholic priests in recent months, from Ireland to Australia.

Great programme.

Those scary secret servants

It is said the Holy See has the finest secret service agency in the world.

Maybe that's good and bad.

Certainly the nasty secret side of the institutional church is a dark side that is no help in living the Gospel.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Anti Semitism in all forms is intollerable

The Pell Dawkins interview was great television.

Cardinal Pell's remark about the ancient Jews is not acceptable and his comments about the Holocaust were deplorable.

Had he made those comments on German soil it is quite possible the police might well have called him in for questioning as it is a criminal offence to deny the Holocaust or any aspect of its suffering.

This man is the archbishop of Sydney.

And Fr Tony Flannery is forbidden to write on topics that have never killed six million people.

Some months ago a priest spoke in anti-Semitic terms in church. He was later made a prior in a community.

There is something terribly wrong in the church at present. It is shocking behaviour.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It is not at all as simple as it looks

There is an editorial in today's Irish Times, 'Disciplining dissent' concerning the suggestion made by the Vatican that Fr Tony Flannery take himself to a monastery for six weeks to pray and reflect on his liberal views.

It is difficult to understand in any sort of real way what is going on and how the Vatican makes its decisions.

Has it something to do with 'mysterium fidei? Doubtful.

While it is not helpful to use such terms as right wing and left wing, they are real terms that can say things about people.

But it would seem that when commentators use these terms about the church they become confusing and unhelpful in meaning.

On a personal note, in my 45 years in the Dominican Order, people with 'modern right-wing' views have confused and yes, upset me.

I have always been of the opinon that they are unhealthily secretive. Maybe even play games; place great stress on ritual and liturgical performance but a ritual and performance that can easily be put aside when the circumstance and situation requires and or demands.

Many homosexual men, who become priests seem to be scared of their orientation, which is unfortunately understandable in our church, but as a result they become closet gay men, who develop traits that are anything but healthy for themelves and the communities in which they live.
It seems as if men, who are gay priests and afraid to speak of their orientation find their friends among like-orientated people. This might well lead to sub cultures in communities. Can that be healthy or helfpul?

Many years ago while living in Rome, it was difficult not to ask questions about so many of the priests who found work in Roman bureaucracy.

Nothing at all to do with their orienatation but everything to do with homosexual men, who were forced to deny their orientation. It seems to lead to a dishonesty that develops into an unhealthy lifrestyle.

I have seen men lose their lives over this issue. And seldom a word has ever been spoken.

There is an issue here that needs discussion, carried out in honesty and charity.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Angela Merkel pops into Greece

Earlier this week Angela Merkel arrives in Greece on a regular plane at Athens main airport.

At passport control she is asked her nationality. She replies, German.

The official then asks, 'occupation', to which Frau Merkel quickly replies, "no, not at all. coming on a holiday".

First joke to appear on this blog.

A joke about the German leader 70 years ago could have resulted in execution.

We have come a long way.

Technical difficulties remedied

Technical difficulties solved and blog is up and running properly again.

The blog can now be accessed as an app on the smart phone, which makes editing much easier.

Well, not that simple. Difficultiy now accessing comments that have been sent for authorisation.

It must be possible. Will do.

The power of the church is manifest in every brick

Everything is linked to power. From the election in South Ossetia on Sunday to the facade of every religious building.

The South Ossetians received $1 billion from Russia last year and they have a base a military base in the country.

Of course people would be afraid.

If anyone who has ever had to call to a religious building, whether it is presbytery, a priory, a convent, a palace, all are impressive powerful buildings.

And such an interaction immediatley innevitably damages the relationship and of course the dice is on the side of the powerful.

Imagine a poor, inarticulate person engaging with the church? Almost impossible.

It's as glaring as that. The rest is tomfoolery.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Trying to cope with new format

The format of this blog has been changed. At present it seems it is not possible for this blogger to access the edit page using a smart phone.

This means there may not be regular content on the blog.

A conspiracy theorist might be inclined to say that Google have links with the Vatican. Anything is possible!

Rick Santroum lookalikes

Kevin Hegarty writes in today's Irish times about how the church needs to free itself from the calmmy grip of clericalism.

In his last paragraph he talks about the pope's hope to create a minority of Catholic conservaitves who will transform the church.

"To me that sounds like a polite euphemism for an assembly of Rick Santorum lookalikes."

That last sentences catches so much so well.

Thank you Kevin Hegarty.

Capitalism demands that we waste

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

By Michael Commane
I’m not a good shopper, not at all so when I was out in Ikea two weeks ago I was totally exhausted after less than an hour’s ‘retail therapy’. I was buying covers for a couch and chair. I had the adventure planned in advance.

Dublin Bus number 140 goes all the way from Rathmines to Ikea and since I live close to Rathmines, the logistics of getting there were easy enough. Although coming home, carrying the covers on and off the bus was a little tiresome.

See, I told you by nature I’m not a shopper. After the exhaustive 60 minutes shopping I decided it was time for food and headed to the Ikea restaurant.

That’s a clever idea of theirs. I can imagine many people are fit to drop by the time they have had an Ikea experience so they inevitably head for the food store. The food is fine, simple and cheap. I think I paid less than €4 for my lunch. Leaving back my tray in the tray disposal area when I finished I was struck by the number of plates that still had substantial amounts of food on them.

And what particularly struck me was that the portions in Ikea are of medium size, so why all the waste? Nor was it, I imagine because the food did not live up to the gastronomic sensitivities of the patrons. The food was fine.

Every European wastes 280kg of food every year. From farm to fork, 38 per cent of cereal is wasted, 56 per cent of fruit and vegetables, 24 per cent of meat and 13 per cent of milk.

But it seems to be a core principle of capitalism that we dispose of things as quickly as possible so that we can buy new ones. There is a frenetic race out there suggesting we keep buying and buying. That is of course unless the world of banking decides that it’s all got out of hand and they begin to scream for shirt tightening and all sorts of horrible corrective measures.

If you read this column on any sort of regular basis you will realise that I’m a keen cyclist. As a child a bicycle tube would be repaired at least two or three times before it was time to throw it out. These days if one gets a puncture the bicycle shop simply replaces the tube with a new one and the punctured tube is binned.

The average price for the job is €11.00. In vain I have looked for a bicycle shop that would repair punctures. Why would a bicycle shop not repair tubes and then have them ready for use when required and at a much cheaper rate? No, the modern world tells them, it’s not economical to do that.

Simply throw out the old one and replace it with a new one. It must have been in the early 1970s that skips began to become popular.

I remember a wise man commenting that they were the ultimate symbol of the ‘throw-away society’. At the time I felt he was just being an old fuddy-duddy.

But on ‘mature reflection’ I have come to realise how wise he was. This last winter I supplied all my kindling material for my fire from skips I passed while out walking my dog.

But besides what one sees in a skip, the skip has become a powerful symbol for the gigantic waste that has become part of our everyday lives.

Four summers ago I made the acquaintance of a German woman who was far from being down on her luck, indeed, I imagine she was a woman of some wealth. Guess what, when it came to end of a tube of toothpaste, she cut it in two and got another two or three washes out of it.

You might well laugh at it. But when you compare it to our shocking waste, it might stop you in your step and make you think again. It’s the economy stupid. And we are so stupid with all we waste.
In the throes of such waste it’s difficult to grasp that there are one billion people in the world without enough food to eat.

I might ask is there something about the way we live that’s simply wrong and unfixable.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Irish church needs to send 'visitators' to Rome

Imagine if a number of bishops and provincials travelled to Rome and spoke to the relevant people in an open and honest manner, expressing their support for Fr Tony Flannery.

In the past the Dominicans did it concerning their Dutch brother.

The difference it could make.

"Stopping people in their tracks' at prayer

In the current issue of 'Reality' in an article by Triona Doherty, Fr Damian McNiece of the Dublin Diocesan Liturgical Resource Centre says that one of the advantages of the new translation is that it is 'stopping people in their tracks' and encouraging them to think about what they are saying.

Does that suggest we need to change the missal every few years 'to stop people in their tracks'?

But in the end the power aspect has the final say. As all the publishing houses are obliged to use the new translation, the dice is firmly on the side of those who have the money and resources.

Surely there is a story in that too.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Patricia Casey expresses worrying views of church

Today on the Pat Kenny Show on RTE Radio 1 Patricia Casey expressed a very worrying understanding of church.

The woman could well have been a mild spokesperson for the liebral wing of some extreme right wing organisation.

And alas it seems the woman holds views that are currently in the ascendancy.

Shockingly and profoundly sad.

What at all can be done or is to be done?

David Adams' article in yesterday's 'Irish Times' is well worth reading.

The hoi polloi on Good Friday

Good Friday
Forty, 50 years ago if individual shops, newspapers opened for business on Good Friday in Ireland the hoi polloi would have expressed disgust and annoyance.

Today if individual shops, newspapers closed for business on Good Friday in Ireland the hoi polloi would express annoyance and disgust.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Günther Grass upsets Israeli State

German writer Günther Grass has drawn down the anger of the Israeli State in a work that has been published in a German newspaper.

Holy Thursday is a day to support and inspire priests

Pope Benedict today re-stated the Roman Catholic Church's ban on women priests and warned that he would not tolerate disobedience by clerics on fundamental teachings.
The above is a direct quote from the Irish Times web page.

In true humility and as a loyal Catholic and indeed admirer of Pope Benedict is it appropriate for the Pope on Holy Thursday to speak in a way that he allows himself to be quoted in such a manner.

The quote reminds one of all the wrong ways the Irish Minister for the Environment seems to say things. And look at the success Minister Phil Hogan has.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

There's truth in the adage 'the dirty Irish'

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

By Michael Commane
The clocks have gone forward. It’s bright at 06.00 and stays so until after 20.00. Daylight time is galloping and the gods in the sky will keep up that momentum until mid-June when it all begins to work in reverse order.

These have to be the best days of the year. We have had a great run of good weather. I went swimming in Dublin’s Seapoint last Sunday week. There were about 20 of us in the water and there were crowds sitting about. And it was March 25.

I have really been looking forward to this Spring, the long days and hopefully some good weather. Turning off the central heating and spending less on heat is to be celebrated. But it’s never really as simple as that.

How come that every single time there is the possibility of things getting better and improving we have that incredible knack of screwing it all up? It baffles me.

On St Patrick’s Day the trout fishing season began on the River Dodder in Dublin. As a child I fished on the river and caught the occasional eel and trout. The river is a fabulous facility serving thousands of people from Tallaght to Ringsend.

These days out walking along the river I note the spots where I did my fishing. I never graduated to fly-fishing. With me it was the simple worm or spinner. The thrill of pulling a trout out of the river was incredible. Indeed, the thought of it these days has tempted me to try my hand at it again.

But what I have seen over the last few weeks has convinced me that I am far better off staying away from the river.

One would think that anyone who goes out fishing is looking for some peace and quiet, the fun of being in touch with nature and then the added value of catching a fish. But it looks as it is not at all as simple as that.

I’m observing large groups of young people, and indeed not so young, arriving with their fishing gear in one hand and large plastic bags in the other, which are filled to bursting point with cans and bottles of beer.

It really is baffling, the idea of mixing beer with fishing. Is the world
gone mad or is it that I am just getting older and even crankier?

And then out walking early in the morning seeing the debris along the bank of the river I can’t help but wonder in anger what at all is happening.

It’s not just can debris; it’s filth of every sort.

Just last Thursday I was walking in a park after work. The rubbish was beginning to build up, plastic bottles, beer cans, assorted dirt. And then the following morning at 06.30 I was back it the same park and it was spotless.

Obviously local authority staff had already been to work, cleaning up the mess. I certainly don’t envy them their job. But then I began to think how much it must cost to do all this work that could so easily be avoided. You and I are subsidizing the litter louts. To see the brand names on the can
litter is a far cry from the sexy advertising drink adverts.

On another occasion I spotted a mobile phone and keys beside cans and bottles strewn about. Later in the day a parent of the phone owner rang the telephone so I was able to return it and the keys. But it did strike me that I was talking to a very articulate person, whom I imagine was middle class. Anti-social behaviour straddles all classes. And yes, the keys and phone were linked to the empty cans.

It really is shocking to think that people see nothing wrong with throwing cans, bottles and assorted rubbish about without giving a thought as to who is going to clean it up. Have we any sense of shame? Have we any idea how much money and effort it costs the taxpayer to clean up after other people’s mess.

Nature keeps giving us wonderful opportunities and some of us are hell-bent to make a dog’s dinner of it.

Sometimes, indeed, quite often, I think there is something in the adage
‘the dirty Irish.

Still, I’m going to keep hoping and enjoying the best time of year.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Margot Honecker gives first interview in Chile

This evening German television did an hour-long interview with Margot Honecker. Frau Honecker was the wife of Erich Honecker. She was also a minister in the GDR government.

Fascinating television and fascinating information on people who are in positions of power.

This woman was ultimately responsible for the death of people on the inner German border.

She points out that the people who looked for 'justice' were the same people who lived in her neighbourhood as the GDR elite.

Helmut Schmidt in the programme describes Honecker as a man not terribly intelligent, but who was tactical and did what was expected of him.

But in his favour it must be recalled he opposed the Nazis, spent some time in prison.

Margot described him as a very 'closed' man.

Erich Honecker was interior minister when the Wall was built.

Margot comments that Gregor Gysi might well call her husband the top man in a dictatorship but adds that Gysi lived well in that so-called dictatorship.

Frau Honecker argues that the people lived good lives, had good schooling, good health, good job prospects.

When asked about people attempting to escape she argued that there was simply no need for them to leave the GDR. She referred to people who were imprisoned for political reasons as criminal bandits.

Helmut Schmidt said that it would be difficult to have sympathy for the demise of Erich Honecker.

Margot believes that the modern German state is totally controlled by the banks.

She says capitalism and socialism cannot complement one another. For her they are like fire and water.

Under the leadership of Margot Honecker children of political dissidents were forcefully adopted.

This woman is responsible for unmentionable cruelty.

What at all is truth?

The couple's last weeks together in Germany were in hiding, living in the house of a Protestant pastor, Uwe Holmer in Lobetal. The irony of that. To think they spent their entire political lives denouincing religion.

Just a word: is all authority a game played out by powerful people and the ordinary people stooges? Is it any different in the church?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The mighty power of the oil companies

The Günther Jauch Show this evening discussed the petrol/diesel industry in Germany.

The majority on the panel believe that the five major oil companies operate a clever and sophisticated cartel in Germany.
It is fascinating how the individual oil company decided the price of the litre on a daily basis German-wide.

The Federal Government collects €40 billion annually from tax on fuel. It earn 92 cent on every litre.

What chance has little Ireland to say the slightest word to the oil companies?
Below is the 'Thinking Anew' column in yesterday's 'Irish Times'.

Every year we read the Passion account but it is so easy to play the role of spectator, and so it is possible that it might never impinge on us.

The Passion tells the story of the human condition and nothing seems to change.

In Ireland not too long ago it was part of the daily staple to hear that the Irish State and the Catholic Church were the one true way for us to find our national and eternal salvation. And if you did not subscribe to that shocking vision of life you might easily be marginalised, laughed at and bullied. Maybe even worse, there was a lurking belief that the new Ireland had a special relationship to Catholicism and so a unique link with God.

Last week in Ireland we had the perfect simulation of  aspects of the reality that brought about the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. Early in the week we had the church leaders turn and squirm, and just two days later it was the turn of political leaders.

Both groups had been discovered in the court of public opinion to have lied and cheated. The public outrage is not with human failings but rather with the cover up and lies that both groups have been able to perpetrate becasue of their power and privilege.

The story right through the Gospels explains to the reader how the poor and marginalised are brutalised by the powerful and privileged. And that story is particularly redolent in the Passion account of Jesus.

In tomorrow's reading of the Passion, Mark explains over and over how Jesus is bullied, bruised and destroyed by the ruling classes. They use every trick in the book to destroy him. And in the end it appears they succeed.

But this marginalised man is Jesus, the One who has the power of resurrection and actually offers it to us too.

The story of the Passion is the story of Everyman. Why should we expect it to be any different?

The high priests in their 'phalacteries' and the state leaders displaying another style of power and oppulence will always try to keep the small and marginalised person in his or her box. It's the way of the world.

There is always the danger that we place false hope in human beings, no matter who they are or whom they represent.

But like all human beings they too are failed. And we need to realise that. Leadership gives no-one that power or authroity to lord it over others.

Christians, especifically Anglicans and Catholics, believe that Christ is present in the world, especailly through the sacraments and the sacraments are ordered and administered by the institutional church. Priesthood is a participation in the priesthood of Christ but that never gives the ordained priest a licence to abandon the law of God's love. Indeed, it should strengthen the resolve to care for the weak and marginalised.

In the Irish political world, we the people created the gombeen politicians. And Christians too, may well have created the gombeen church apparatchiks.

This Holy Week might be an apposite time to treat the liturgy not as a command performance but as a clear and vivid enactment of what happens when we stop thinking and place far too much power in the hands of all types of priestly classes.

Yes to the sacraments and church but we can never ever sit back and stay passive. While it might be tempting to allow priests to organise in an exclusive way the runnning of our church, it is very far from the story the Gospels tell us. We, the people, are the people of God and have an essential role to play in the effort of bringing about the kingdom of God.

Tomorrow's Passion account is an extraordinary call to all of us to ask critical questions about all ruling classes - spiritual and temporal.

There is no place in the Christian vision for complacency, allowing those in positions of authority to lord it over others. We can never be lured to believing in a silly piosity that turns the ruling classes into gombeen people.

Last week the affairs of church and state showed us so clearly the shocking reality of the Passion.

This Holy Week is an opportunity for us to realise that while we are always vulnerable to corruption and wrong-doing, we believe that the power of the cross and the subsequent resurrection offer us unparalleled hope in our salvation.

The Passion is about the abuse of power. The Resurrection is about our hope in goodness and God is goodness.

MIchael Commane OP

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