Friday, September 28, 2012

Schmidt and Gauck speak great words

This week former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and the current Federal German President, Joachim Gauck, spent 90 minutes talking to Maybrit Illner on German television.

Helmut Schmidt spoke so passionately about the importance of the European Union. He argued against the holding of a referendum on any aspects of the EU. Spoke so eloquently about representative democracy.

He noted his respect for Jacques Monet and he recalled asking Monet for advice on two occasions.

And then, almost with no context, he spoke about a Germany that had murdered six million people, and that in Poland.

Both men stressed the importance of never forgetting what the Germans did.

Helmut Schmidt must be Europe's outstanding person and has been so for over 40 years.

When asked if he was impressed with this or that, he quickly pointed out to be impressed with people and ideas is not at all the issue.

Jokingly, when talking about the importance of a united Europe he said that we should all speak English and then quipped with a large smirk: "but the French would never allow that'".

Joachim Gauck, the former Rostock pastor, too spoke most eloquently.

Both ment stressed the vital importance of the EU concept.

And as is always, all rules were allowed to be broken so that Herr Schmidt could smoke.

Two wise and great men.

Ninety minutes of fascinating television.

German opposition chooses candidate

At a press conference in Berlin this afternoon SPD's Sigmar Gabriel has announced that Peer Steinbrück will be the SPD's candidate in next year's Federal German elections

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The story of a little girl

A former Magdalene Laundry 'inmate' on RTE's Morning Ireland today told some of her story.

At that time young men all over Ireland were studying moral theology.

They were the days when the Catholic Church was 'strong' in Ireland.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kind words can be a great help

Kindness and friendliness of staff at NRH is palpable.
The column below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
It’s over 20 years since I first met Tom. Tom is not his real name. At the time he was in his teens and when I got to know him he had been involved in some minor petty crime. We met on a regular basis where we read English together. He had missed out much of his early education so, with his cooperation, we did some catching up together.

Some months ago Tom was involved in an accident where he lost one of his legs from the knee down. It was a horrific accident and he is a lucky man to be alive.
I visited Tom, who is now in his 40s, in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire last week.

I had been to the NRH about 25 years ago and I remember on that occasion being greatly impressed with what I saw. Again on this visit I was positively struck with everything about the place. The work that is done there to rehabilitate people, who have suffered the most terrible of injuries, is simply awe inspiring. And like in all hospitals, the kindness and friendliness of the staff is palpable.

I walked into that hospital a healthy man with the use of all my limbs. Indeed, I had driven there on my motorbike. I left it with all sorts of feelings: how fragile we are, how precarious our lives are, how fortunate, at least up to now, that I have been to experience such good health and never to have been involved in a horrific accident.

Tom showed me the mechanism that had been attached to his leg to which the prosthesis is to be attached. Initially I had trouble looking at it. But Tom took it in his stride and is adapting well to his new lifestyle. And that too had impressed and amazed me. I simply cannot imagine that I would be so brave and accept such a disaster in as ‘easy’ a fashion.

But there was something else about my visit to the NRH that made it special.

Chatting to Tom I did pass a quick comment to him that when he came out he would have to behave himself and avoid getting into any trouble. He looked at me and in simple and straight words asked me if he had ever been unpleasant, rude or not nice to me. I told him that he has never been anything but correct and polite to me.

“See, if people treat me with respect, I will show them respect,” he retorted.

Of course we cannot do damage to other people or their property to suit our own needs. It’s never acceptable to be gratuitously nasty to another person. But Tom’s words set me thinking. If we all could manage to respect each other, would our world not be a better place? I guess it would be.
Kindness can go a long way. Its absence can cause mayhem.

A few days later I was back in the neighbourhood of the NRC and called in to visit Tom again. This time I had more time to listen to his story. We all have our stories and there are those who will argue that we can’t blame everything on our past. Each of us is responsible for her/his actions but gosh, our history, our past plays a major role in who and what we are.

Luke 6:31 comes to mind: “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. If we all did that or at least tried to do it our world would be a better place. And if I tried doing it I’d be a lot better off too.

Friday, September 21, 2012

RTE kills past participle

RTE reporter on RTE News at One today: ".... She would have went....".

And that from our national broadcaster.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Living the Gospel in the everyday

"They didn't talk about God, they just did God."

Words spoken by Emma Spence at the funeral service for her father and two brothers at Hillsborough, Co. Down.

The three men died in a tragic accident at the slurry pit on their farm.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The things we miss in front of our noses

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

By Michael Commane
Out walking with a colleague and accompanied by my dog Tess on Monday in Co Tipperary, Tess went missing in a wooded area. Suddenly we heard a loud flurry of feathers. At first my friend thought it was a pheasant but it was far too large to be a pheasant.

And then we realised it was a peacock. A fabulously coloured bird in a terribly excited and agitated state trying to escape from the clutches of my dog. I froze for a second or two while my colleague berated me for being such a clown.

The last thing I wanted was my stupid dog to kill a peacock. After all I was on private ground and presumably the peacock was the property of the owner of the land. And besides that, I simply did not want my dog killing the bird.
My previous dog had, over a number of years, killed five or six hens, a guinea pig and a pet rabbit. She had cost me a lot in 'blood money' and she had done no good to my already 'flawed reputation'. So under no circumstances did I want Tess to head down the same road. I have Tess for just over a year.

She is about six-years-old and so far, at least since coming to live with me, has committed no heinous crimes. As far as I know, she is not a murderer. Under no circumstances do I want her to get a taste of blood, hence my panic and scare on Monday.

There was a lot of coming and going. The peacock managed to get on to a tree branch. At that stage all Tess could do was growl. And then to my consternation the peacock was back on the ground, running, walking, waddling, whatever you call it, with Tess in hot pursuit. I could do nothing. In total panic I turned away.

Tess and peacock best of mates
And then seconds later to my complete amazement and bafflement, I saw my dog Tess walk along side by side with the peacock. It looked as if she was accompanying the peacock and they were the best of mates. Tess went hunting again for a short time in the nearby lake before coming back to us. Of course from that moment on she was on her leash. No more freedom for her on this land.

How glad I was that the peacock had escaped with his life.

It certainly set me thinking about nature. Tess is a labrador, so it might well be in her nature to hunt and raise birds but not to kill. But since she has no training in the art I was mesmerised with her seeming kindness and benevolence on Monday. But most of all was I a relieved man.

The following day I told my story to a friend of mine, who in his younger days was a keen hunter, and he expressed surprise that Tess did not kill the bird. But another person told me that labradors have two ways of dealing with prey; one is ‘soft-mouthed’ and corresponds with Tess’ antics. Phew, I even feel more relieved having heard that.

Later that day driving back to Dublin with Tess as quiet as a mouse in the car I kept thinking about the wonder of nature. Maybe I was also saying to myself how little I know about a reality that's within metres of every step I take.
It also made me conscious of how we run around the place missing out on so much. At least I do. We travel to all parts of the world and talk about the great things we see and do. And just look what's on our doorstep.

Okay, at first I was frozen in fear but the sight of that peacock, the wonder of the whole thing really was amazing.

It's so easy to miss what happens right in front of our noses.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Spain complains on Ryanair 'practice'

German news this evening carries a story about a Spanish complaint concerning Ryanair. Ryanair have had four emergencies in five days in Spanish airspace.

The Spaniards have lodged a complaint with the EU Commission.

And not a word on the the Spanish complaint on RTE Six O'Clock news.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

More odd English and a sad result

And at Doncaster today the great Aidan O'Brien kept saying 'listen' when he was not saying, 'I should have ran a pacemaker'.

But so sad that Camelot did not win and do what Nijinsky did in 1970. And what a pity too that young Joseph did not pull it off.

Had Camelot won today, Aidan O'Brien would have won all five English classics this year.

They seem an amazing team, with mother too.

Policeman uses 'odd' words

A senior Irish policeman said on RTE Television news yesterday when talking about a crime: "Informaiton coming to our disposal."

A helping hand

The piece below is the Thinking Anew column in today's Irish Times

By Michael Commane
Two experiences in recent weeks have made me sit up and think about the influence that faith, belief and prayer have in our lives. In the scheme of things they are small events, nevertheless significant.

Walking my dog in a park, a young boy approached on his bicycle. Some paces earlier I had met a neighbour and she and I were walking in the same direction. Suddenly I heard a yelp. My dog had run against the boy's bicycle. My immediate reaction was to criticise the boy for cycling too fast. The woman with me immediately and instinctively asked the little boy if he was okay and if he had hurt himself.

He was fine, so too the dog, the little boy apologised and cycled off.

Some days later, again out walking with the dog, Tess is her name, I spotted a woman walking in a determined way. I looked to see where she was going. And then I understood. A man was huddled up on the ground some metres away from her house entrance. I got talking to her and she told me that she had noticed him there earlier and was now going to offer him some food and something to drink.

I had passed the man and had not even noticed him.

Both those events made me ask many questions. Maybe at a fashionable and topical level I ask myself how much better off the Catholic Church would be with a greater female involvement right throughout its ranks.

But at a deeper level it set alarm bells ringing in my own head. I have no idea if either of those good women believes in God, if they are members of a church, or if they ever pray. But I do know that they were genuinely interested in people who were weak and fragile at that particular moment. And I, a so-called minister of religion, berated one of the people and passed the other without even noticing that he was lying there in most unpleasant circumstances.

In tomorrow's second reading from the Letter of James we read: "If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, 'I wish you well: keep yourself warm and eat plenty', without giving them these bare necessitites of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead." (James 2: 15 - 16)

One does not need to be a biblical scholar to appreciate what is being said here. Of course it means that if we are to be followers of Jesus and live the Christian belief then we have to be there in solidarity and empathy with those who are weak and fragile.

Surely all our praying has to be about putting us in touch with God and being in touch with God is inseparably linked with being people-orientated, especially those who are most in need of our support and love.

There can be no sense in separating prayer from our everyday experiences, anything else is a sort of aberration that has lost all meaning. Can the pomp and ceremony of liturgical prayer take on a life of its own that might well distract us from what we are about?

Jesus's entire ministry was people-centred becasue it was God centred.

My two walking incidents might well be considered trifling. You know, they are not at all. I have always said when it comes to the real things that matter I would be unworthy to tie the shoes of my parents.

Christianity, above all else, is about loving and respecting other people. Our prayer should help us in that task. That's what all our prayer is about: loving God and our neighbour.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Frightening words of Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King - the appalling
silence of good people
Justice Minister Alan Shatter, opening a conference to mark the centenary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish doplomat, who saved the lives of more than 50,000 Hungarian Jews from the death camps, quoted Martin Luther King: " The greatest tragedy of this generation which history will record is not the vitriolic words of those who hate, or the aggressive acts of others, but the appalling silence of the good people."

In the context of the years of my lifetime, the Ireland in which I have lived and the work that I have done, they are indeed frightening words.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Audit comment draws large readership

It's interesting how the readership of this blog soared in the days immediately after the publication of the church audit, which included the Irish Dominican Province.

An environment of 'unusual secrecy' which seems to have been part of the oxygen that allowed so much wrongdoing and pain to take place within the church, seems to be still evident today.

There seems to be an ingrained 'belief' that if one is 'secret' about something, he is not letting the side down. It's akin to a sophisticated version of the 'Kerry cute hoor'.

And mixed with that is all the sneering and jeering that goes on. That 'clerical gossip' that is alomst impossible to avoid.

So, in many ways nothing at all is changing within the hierarchical church. The question might well be; how long will it be till another scandal 'breaks'. It my have nothing at all to do with child sex abuse.

Of course there is a place for and need of secrecy but surely there must be something wrong with the attitude towards 'secrecy' that can be so easily felt and sensed in the church.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Closure on audit topic - for now

On good advice a post has been removed from this blog.

For the moment there will be no further discussion on the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholc Church in Ireland Report, which was published on Wednesday.

Too many people have suffered, so often covered up in the name of spoof and humbug.

There will, no doubt, be an opportune time to tell the story - unabridged.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blog post removed by author

There was a blog posted on this blogsite earlier today. It has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A story of spoof wrapped in nonsense

In the next days it is hoped to tell on this blog the story of 'Fr Y' - at least some of it - what is known to this writer.

NBSCCCI report published today

It is disturbing this day to hear church figures talk about child sex abuse.

This same church speaks with such 'authority' and certitude on the values of celibacy. Please.

In the next days there will be comment on this blog on the audit that has been published today by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland with specific reference to the Irish province of the Dominican Order.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"What can you do for the church?"

The final sentence in the Martini interview is: "I have a question for you: "What can you do for the Church?"

This is my personal response. I ask that members of religious orders and congregations begin an honest attempt at talking to each other using real words that have meaning and honesty to them.

That people in position of 'leadership' stop hiding behind the words of expensive legal teams.

That we all develop an ability to listen to those who are different.

The stories behind the pictures and words

There is a photograph in the current issue of The Irish Catholic of a priest, dressed in liturgical vestments, giving Communion to a little girl. It seems the little girl is about to kneel. The picture seems to be taken in a field or garden.

In a publication of a religious order, the provinical is referred to as the 'boss'.

What would the late Cardinal Martini think of these two moements in time?

Martini's sensational words

Below is the Cardinal Martini Interview
How do you see the situation of the Church?

The Church is tired, in prosperous Europe and in America. Our culture is out of date; our Churches are big; our religious houses are empty, and the Churches bureaucratic apparatus is growing, and our rites and our vestments are pompous.

Do such things really express what we are today? ... Prosperity weighs us down.

We find ourselves like the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus called him to become his disciple. I know that it’s not easy to leave everything behind.

At least could we seek people who are free and closer to their neighbors, as Bishop Romero was and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador? Where among us are heroes to inspire us? We must never limit them by institutional bonds.
Who can help the Church today?

Fr Karl Rahner liked to use the image of embers hidden under ashes. I see in the Church today so many ashes above the embers that I’m often assailed by a sense of powerlessness. How can the embers be freed from the ashes in order to rekindle the flame of love?

First of all, we have to look for those embers. Where are the individuals full of generosity, like the Good Samaritan? Who have faith like that of the Roman centurion? Who are as enthusiastic as John the Baptist?

Who dare new things, as Paul did? Who are faithful as Mary Magdalene was? I advise the Pope and the bishops to look for twelve people outside the lines for administrative posts [posti direzionali] – people who are close to the poorest and who are surrounded by young people and are trying out new things. We need that comparison with people who are burning so that the spirit can spread everywhere.

What means do you advise against the Church’s weariness?

I have three important ones to mention. The first is conversion: the Church has to recognise its own errors and has to travel a radical journey of change, beginning with the Pope and the bishops.

The scandals of pedophilia are driving us to undertake a journey of conversion. Questions about sexuality and all the themes involving the body are an example of this. They are important for everyone, at times they’re also too important. In this area is the Church is still a point of reference or only a caricature in the media?

The second is the Word of God. Vatican II restored the Bible to Catholics. ... Only someone who receives this Word in his heart can be among those who will help the renewal of the Church and will know how to respond to personal questions wisely.

The Word of God is simple and seeks as its companion a heart that is listening. ... Neither the clergy nor Church law can substitute for a person’s inwardness. All the external rules, the laws, the dogmas were given to us in order to clarify the inner voice and to discern the spirits.

For whom are the sacraments? They are the third means of healing. The sacraments are not a disciplinary instrument, but a help for people at moments on their journey and when life makes them weak. Are we bringing the sacraments to those who need a new strength? I’m thinking of all the divorced people and couples who have remarried and extended families. They need a special protection.

The Church maintains the indissolubility of marriage. It is a grace when a marriage and a family succeed.

The attitude we take toward extended families will determine whether their children come near to the Church. A woman is abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion who is concerned for her and her three children. The second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not only the woman, but her children, too, will be cut off. If the parents feel external to the Church and do not experience its support, the Church will lose the future generation.

Before Communion we pray: “Lord, I am not worthy … ” We know we are unworthy. Love is grace. Love is a gift.

The question whether the divorced can receive Communion would have to be turned upside down. How can the Church come to the aid of complex family situations with the power of the sacraments?

What do you do personally?

The Church is two hundred years behind. Why is it not being stirred? Are we afraid? Afraid instead of courageous? Faith is the Church’s foundation – faith, confidence, courage.

I’m old and ill and depend on the help of others. The good people around me enable me to experience love. This love is stronger than the feeling of discouragement that I sometimes feel in looking at the Church in Europe.

Only love conquers weariness. God is Love.

I have a question for you: “What can you do for the Church?”

Monday, September 3, 2012

Even cardinals are beginning to speak out

When an Italian cardinal makes wry comments about cassocks and all the other nonsense then surely it is time for people to listen and take action.

What's happening in the church has nothing to do with Gospel values but so much to do with the bahaviour of men with serious sexual issues.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Martini criticises the clerical arrogance

What follows is taken from Reuters.

The former archbishop of Milan and papal candidate Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said the Catholic Church was "200 years out of date" in his final interview before his death, published on Saturday.

Martini, once favoured by Vatican progressives to succeed Pope John Paul II and a prominent voice in the church until his death at the age of 85 on Friday, gave a scathing portrayal of a pompous and bureaucratic church failing to move with the times.

"Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous," Martini said in the interview published in Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

"The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation," he said in the interview.

In the last decade the Church has been accused of failing to address fully a series of child abuse scandals which have undermined its status as a moral arbiter, though it has paid many millions in compensation settlements worldwide.

Martini, famous for comments that the use of condoms could be acceptable in some cases, told interviewers the Church should open up to new kinds of families or risk losing its flock.

"A woman is abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion to look after her and her children. A second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not just the mother will be cut off but also her children."

Names tell stories about their writers

Breda O'Brien in her article in yesterday's Irish Times writes on the abortion subject.

When she refers to TD Clare Daly on the first occasion she calls the Dublin TD 'Clare Daly TD'. Every reference after that is simply 'Daly'.

All references to the Archbishop of Dublin are either Archbishop Diarmuid Martin or Dr Martin.

It's the small things that tell the reader so much.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

RTE reporter breaks all the rules

In an RTE report on Radio1 this morning on the current US football visitors to Ireland, the reporter commented that many of them went to Mass this morning and then added, 'believe it or not'.

Is it not the job of a journalist to report the news? It is not his/her job to make editorial commenrt.

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