Sunday, September 29, 2013

Vote No on Friday and reform Seanad Éireann

Next Friday Irish people will be asked to vote in a referendum on the future of Seanad Éireann. We will also be asked to vote on a proposal to vote on a new court.

In yesterday's Irish Times writer Theo Dorgan puts forward good reasons whey we should keep the Senate.

In that same newspaper Breda O'Brien also is opposed to the aboloition of the Upper House. but she suggests people vote  No and then write the word 'reform' on their ballot paper.

Such an act will render the ballot null and void and should not be contemplated.

Abolishing the Senate will centre all power in the Dáil. It would give a party with a large majority far too much power.

It seems this referendum has come about as the result of a political throw-away comment and then it was felt it needed a follow-through.

These days we are forever being told how well the Germans do things. Might those same politicians ask why and how Hitler came to power.

While the German Senate, the Bundesrat, is very different to our Seante, not in a million years would a democratic Germany even think of abolishing the Bundesrat.

Something extraodianry lazy and non-consequential about the Irish.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ranicki obit and Nazi flag story in same newspaper

Today's Irish Times carries an obituarty of German literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who died on September 18. His death was mentioned on this blog on September 19.

In today's obit there is a sentence, worth noting:

"From school in Berlin onwards, he retained a fear of barbarism, but that fear was "joined by happiness". and his declared fear of some things German "by the happiness I owed to things German".

Ranicki was a Polish German Jew who experienced life in the Warsaw ghetto.

On another page in that same newspaper there is a story of Dutch MPs wearing badges with Nazi links.

The Dutch Freedom Party is organising an alliance of right-wing parties to fight the May European elections.

The alliance will include the National Front in France and the new Alternative for Germany Party (AfD). The AfD won 4.8 per cent in last Sunday's German elections. With another 0.2 per cent, they would now be sitting in the German parliament, Bundestag.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Right wing blog publishes long 'worrying' letter

When  people say that the media is 'misinterpreting' what Pope Francis is saying they might stop and think again.

The  piece below is the introduction to a letter on the latest post of the Rorate Caeli blog.

Santità, mi scusi: An Open Letter to the Pope on His Statements to Civiltà Cattolica

Your Holiness,

I am sure it will not displease you if I address you in this way I saw that everyone is writing to you. Permit me to address you as well for some questions that lie in my heart.

After I read your recent statements, the most recent being those included in the “interview” given by you and released by Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., I must admit that I was very surprised, and some distressing doubts welled up within me. These doubts have enveloped me like a noxious weed that weighs down and takes away air and light, those things that have been until today my knowledge of doctrinal certainties.

These understandings I have gathered preciously and have followed for many years in careful listening to the Gospel and homilies. The other morning, leafing through national daily newspapers, I saw that all in unison, and in a quasi-triumphalistic tone, they were announcing in headline fashion the “End of the interference” of the Church in the life of people. Obviously, then and there, thinking that this was an artificial collage of your words ad hoc just for the headlines, I wanted to read the whole interview. Unfortunately, after reading it, I was able only to take note that there had been no misunderstanding, at least on the part of the journalists, with respect to what Father Spadaro wrote.

John Cornwell places hope in Jorge Mario Bergoglio

A great article in Wednesday's Guardian by John Cornwell. Great because exactly how this blogger has felt about the church since John Paul II became pope.

The last paragraph of the article:

" Pope Francis' powerful admission that even 'His Holiness' is a sinner, and that the Church of Rome is manifestly fallible and vulnerable to the point of collapse through its own faults and complacency, may shock the traditionalist faithful. But it may signal the beginning of a slow and painful restoration of moral authority both within the Catholic Church and beyond."

Elsewhere in the piece he writes"

"The pope's interview is set to create tensions in the church's right-left divide. The liberals, now with Francis on their side, argue that Catholicism should be collegial, pluralist, ecumenical, inclusive, engaged with the secular world and other faiths. Their image of the church is of a pilgrim people on the move.

"The conservatives promote a triumphalist church, which Francis clearly rejects. They deplore the loss of ancient liturgy and Latin; they are sticklers for the rules, especially on sexual morality, and prize top-down authority over individual conscience. They are quick to see the least criticism of the church as defmation. Francis clearly has the conservatives in mind when he says that the church 'has locked itself up in small things, in samll-minded rules'."

Might Pope Francis really put a stop to the madness that is happening in the Catholic Church right now?

It has to be the prayer of every right-minded person of good will.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Browne in praise of Francis but with some inaccuracies

Vincent Browne in his Irish Times column yesterday talks of Pope Francis as being an honest, clear and welcome voice of decency, something that is welcome.

However in the piece Browne also says that Pope Francis reiterated a rebuke to the US Religious, previously issued by his predecessor Benedict XVI: the sisters were tinged with feminist influences, focused on ending social and economic injustices and not sufficiently on abortion.

Where did Vincent get this idea? Pope Francis said something very different than this. Indeed, he told the US sisters not to bother about the most recent reports issued by Roman officials.

A better sense of accuracy would be helpful.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Ulster Bank train that never leaves the station

Ulster Bank is currently running a television ad about how customers can carry out banking while on the go.

They explain how one can even bank while travelling by rail. They talk about how one can even bank while on the 07.15 to Galway.

There is no 07.15 service to Galway - from anywhere on the Irish Rail network.

Bad ad. Silly idea.

Why German Federal Chancellor is so well known

'Mutti' with a finger in every pie.
A bit of fun on a dark autumn day in Dublin.
If Angela Merkel stays Chancellor for her four years and then resigns she will be the first Federal Chancellor to leave office at her own bidding.

One reason to think again about abolishing the Seanad

If the referendum to abolish Seanad Éireann is passed it means that all Government ministers will have to be TDs.

At present the Taoiseach is permitted to appoint two ministers, not the Finance Minister, from the Seanad.

Surely a reason to think again about abolishing the Upper House of our parliament.

Labour is running an ad calling for  'One Parliament'. Are there two parliaments in the State?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The magic of an internet radio delivers the world

Below is this week's INM Irish regional newspaper column.

Michael Commane
When I was a child, probably 12 or 13, I would often spend hours changing the dial on the radio in search of far away stations.

Back in the 1960s our radio at home had medium, long and short wave bands. With the exception of the then Radio Éireann the majority of other stations came in as a blur.

The reception on Radio Luxembourg was quite clear on the long wave and for some strange reason I found myself often listening to Radio Moscow.

It was a question of trying to pick up stations in far off places. Occasionally I managed to tune in to Vatican Radio.

I can still remember sometime in the early 1970s being able to pick up BBC Radio 4 via the TV cable that came into the house. It was magic.

Over the years there was the gradual move to VHF or FM radio. Today RTE has disappeared from the medium wave.

Indeed, there are parts of the country where one needs an outside aerial to receive RTE Radio on the FM band.

Last Saturday I bought an internet radio. It has to be the best toy I have ever purchased. It is an amazing machine. But is the accompanying manual difficult to follow. Who writes these things?

So far I have tuned in to about six or seven stations. Every one of them is as clear as a bell.

I have no idea how it works. In order to have an internet radio one has to have wifi connectivity. Yes, of course you can download an app on your smart phone and pick up stations anywhere around the world.

But there is something about having a radio beside your bed that you can tune into any station in the world. It even has an old fashioned dial on it.

I lived in Berlin in the mid 1980s and these nights I can hear about traffic jams in Tegel or Steglitz or I can tune in to Radio Kerry and listen to what’s happening in Abbeydorney.

What must it be like for Irish people living in Sydney or Quebec, who can tune in to RTE and hear those familiar voices and accents? It really is modern magic.
Yes, I imagine most Irish people living away from home are skyping. But it must be an amazing relief, especially for parents, to be in touch with their children via Skype.

I can recall living in Rome in the mid 1970s, no cheap flights home, not even a direct telephone link to Ireland. Is there such an ailment as homesickness these days? Certainly it can’t be as extreme as in days of old.

Having the world of radio on your ‘wonder machine’ allows one to listen to BBC Radio 4 on a Sunday morning when they have the most interesting of religious programmes. I recently heard an interview with the former Chief Rabbi in England, Jonathan Sacks. In that programme he said that he was against gay marriage but quickly added that he would prefer to say nothing about the subject out of respect for all the homosexuals who were tortured and murdered by the Nazis.

On Sunday night I was able to listen to the German election results as they came in. I could even tune in to the local station in Berlin and hear who the new parliamentarians were in the district in which I lived.

I'm still not too familiar with the hi tech of the ‘wonder machine’ but so far I have not tuned in to Radio Moscow, although I do intend doing so.

And just the other evening I was trying to pick up Vatican Radio, but believe it or not, in spite of the dial showing the words ‘Radio Vatican’ nothing was to be heard.

I wonder is there some sort of parable in that for me?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Comparing a letter from a pp with what Pope Francis says

In May 2012 the then parish priest of Cahersiveen, Billy Crean, wrote a letter to The Kerryman in response to a column I had written. He subsequently sent a copy of his letter to the provincial of the Irish Dominicans, at the time Pat Lucey.

Billy Crean is now Bishop of Cloyne.

Below is the letter in full, which was sent to The Kerryman. The letter was edited by the newspaper and the letter did not appear in its entirety.

Anyone who has read the interview with Pope Francis is prompted to ask what might Pope Francis have to say to this letter, especially his  wise words on 'certainty'.

Below the letter is the column to which the then pp, Billy Crean is referring. Unfortunately the letter has a number of inaccuracies, nor is it a constructive or friendly letter.

Dear Editor,
It is with regret and considerable sadness that I am obliged to address some issues raised by your columnist, Michael Commane OP in a recent issue  (9th May '12)

He speaks of not being familiar with the world of the diocesan priesthood.

I write as one who served as parish priest in the Parish of Castlegregory/Cloghane for seven years, where Michael Commane resided for all of that time. During those years I sought to work co-operatively with him.

Michael, though a priest of the Dominican Order, has for many years lived outside any Dominican Religious Community (sic). he is, in ecclesial terms, a 'freelance priest'. This arrangement is clearly agreed between him and his religious superior. I respect it but I do not understand it's (sic) rationale.

Michael has been in priesthood for all of 40 years, as he has stated in his column. Is it not extraordinary that a man who has had the privilege of formation in the Dominican theological tradition, not just in Ireland but also in the Angelicum University in Rome, run by the Dominican Order, should expect a 'Mommy' or 'Daddy' religious person to engage with him personally on the great Christian Mystery of the Resurrection and other religious questions?

Surely, he, intelligent and gifted as he is, ought to be reaching out and assisting others to grapple with the issues of faith and spirituality rather than bemoaning his personal concerns.

I particularly take issue with his perpetual denigration of the diocesan priesthood. The men who serve in our parishes are genuine men, imperfect as we all are, who serve according to their best lights. It is deeply offensive and unfair for someone in priestly ministry who has chosen to 'suit himself' to criticize (sic) so severely those who have committed themselves to communities to which they were asked to serve and said 'Yes.

Yours sincerely,
William Crean
Diocesan Priest
Church Street,
Cahersiveen,
Co. Kerry.

This is the column to which the letter writer is referring.

By Michael Commane.
I can well imagine if anyone sees the name of Cardinal Seán Brady in this column they might well decide to move on and read something else.

I can understand so well. I found myself doing it when reading newspapers over the weekend.
Nevertheless, I'd like to make a few comments on church issues in this column, using the Brady controversy as a springboard.

I can hear people say that it's time the Catholic Church was closed down. I understand that. I can hear people say that this is yet another attack on the church. I understand that too.

My head is in a tumble. Turmoil reigns. But let me stop there for a second. My head has been in a tumble for long before any of this 'stuff' began to emerge.
I belong to a religious order, the Dominicans. I know little or nothing about the world of diocesan priests.

But I have always felt and thought that among priests there is a 'group think' thing that is profoundly unhealthy. All that gossip that circulates as to who will be the next bishop here or there is childish and painful.

But maybe that has happened because of the curious way in which bishops are appointed.
There is a problem with how authority, discipline and communion/fellowship
work within the institutional church.

There could be well an opinion abroad which seems to think that the church is one big monolith. It is anything but and right now it seems in serious difficulty.

I am a priest close to 40 years and never once has a superior or a bishop sat me down and asked me what I might think about church teaching on the divinity of Christ or what my views are on the resurrection. Indeed, I have never ever been asked what I think about the central issues of my faith.

It seems to be all taken for granted. And once a man is ordained a priest it is quite likely that he will never once in his priestly life be requested to attend a retraining course or study the most recent scholarship in biblical or theological research.

Yes, there are a myriad courses available for priests to attend so that they can up-skill themselves in theology, philosophy and pastoral care. I don’t think it is inaccurate to say that the vast majority of priests, once ordained, are almost a law unto themselves, that is, unless the proverbial hits the fan. Priests manage to run their own little fiefdoms in Ireland.

All the discussion at present surrounding controversy in the church concerns issues related or connected to sex, anything at all that might in the most tenuous way be linked to sexual issues: married priests, women priests, gay priests, and then the daily barrowful of horrific material dealing with clerical child sex abuse and the cover up.

There seems also to be an element of paranoia with church officialdom/bureaucracy concerning authority. Somehow or other it seems always linked to matters concerning sexuality. And yet a priest could interview a 14-year-old boy asking him the most outrageous questions and leave his father outside the door.

Who allowed those questions to be asked? Who compiled the questions? Any organisation that would allow such questions to be asked to a minor would seem not fit for purpose. And there it is again: the church seems to have an unhealthy attitude to all things to do with human sexuality. Had a woman been in that room that day those terrible questions would not have been asked.

Is it that when it comes to do with sex the church feels that if the genie is
let out of the bottle the world will fall apart and the centre will not hold?
These days we are still celebrating the season of Easter. As Christians we believe that Christ has risen from the dead.

What does that mean for you and for me? I’d much prefer that we would be discussing the various and different views and interpretations of our belief in the resurrection than so many of the topics that are not central to our faith.

On radio last week I heard a caller comment that if a priest has different views than the pope then he should leave and set up his own church.

Our Christian faith is a nuanced tapestry and to try to turn it into a ‘yes Sir no Sir’ command structure suggests an appalling vista, which would do great damage to the universal church.

In the meantime I’d love a bishop or a congregational superior to give me a call and ask what the resurrection means for me and how do I preach about it.

Former Dominican novice says secrecy is cancerous

RTE newsreader and pscyhotherapist Michael Murphy said on radio this morning that 'secrecy is cancerous'. Later in the programme he said that secrets destroy people.

He was not reading a news bulletin when he said this.

Michael was a Dominican novice and his uncle was the Dominican priest Albert O'Beirne. Michael is a past pupil of Newbridge College.

Who were the Dominican deans in Newbridge when Michael Murphy was at the school?

His book is being launched by Anne Harris this Thursday in Dublin.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mathematically a Red Green Red coalition is possible

Results coming in fast and furious.

It seems now it would be possible, at least mathematically, to have a coalition made up of the SPD, The Greens and The Left. But before the election the SPD gave a promise that they would not enter a coalition with The Left.

But say such a coalition happened then 'aspects' of the former SED would be back in government in Berlin.

That really would be the irony of ironies.

Everything is possible in politics.

Merkel orders celebrations tonight business tomorrow

In Konrad Adenauer Haus  Angela Merkel thanked her team for the overwhelming victory.

"I thank my husband for putting up with me. We will decide tomorrow in our meetings when all the results are conclusive how we will go about forming a new government but tonight let's celebrate," smiling.

With an element of strong coaxing her husband emerged from the sides to acknowledge her thank you.

Merkel might form a Government with The Greens.

The SPD made a terrible mistake not to run Hannelore Kraft, Premier of North Rhine Westfalia, as their chancellor candidate.

Germans say yes to Merkel but in a grand coalition?

Early in the German results but it looks as if the FDP will not make the five per cent and so will not be in parliament and not in a position to partner the CDU/CSU in government.

So, is it heading for a grand coalition? It could be a CDU/CSU SPD government.

The AfD, the new anti-euro party, is hovering at 4.9 per cent. The AfD have attracted votes from all parties, even The Left.

It is the first time in 20 years that the CDU have managed to get over 40 per cent of the vote. It is a significant victory for Angela Merkel.

It is the worst results for the FDP since 1949 and the first time in the history of the Federal republic that the FDP will not be in parliament.

The Greens have lost ground and may now have less seats in Bundestag than  The Left Party. Die Linke may now be the third largest party in parliament. This party, led by Gregor Gysi is partly formed out of the old SED, the government party of the former GDR.

Surley the magic of living is in the little things we do

"Whoever can be trusted in the little things can also be trusted in great ones:...."

That's a line in today's Gospel from Luke.

Isn't it always the small things that tell the tale. Not to bother with a toothache, to let that septic finger fester. Eventaully big trouble hits.

Caring for the little things always pays off. Being genuinely kind to people in the day-to-day living of our lives makes all the difference.

Genuine kindness always pays off.

Friday, September 20, 2013

It's a simple manoeuvre from one queue to another

How can one be spared the pomposity of many of those speaking about the pope's latest interview?

Did RTE really have to go to the US to talk to a theologian about Pope Francis' interview?

It is interesting to watch and listen to the nomenclature explain how wonderful it is what the pope is saying.

This time last year, this time 10 years ago they were telling us how right and proper it was that it was the function and right of the Vatican to keep a close watch on national churches.

Has an Irish bishop or an Irish theologian of a particular persuasion ever compared the church to a field hospital after a battle?

It is amazing how the ruling classes always manage to fit the role.

Francis' wise words of advice to the spoofers

Pope Francis on certainty.

If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key.

If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself.

The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble.

Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.

Pope Francis sees the church as a field hospital after battle

The quotation below is from Pope Francis' interview.

The image of the field hospital is such an image. Can you imagine the short shrift clerics would receive in that hospital if they expected to swan about in their immaculate clothing with everything in a perfect state and spouting pretentious words, meaningless 'lofty' sentences. Can you imagine what the real workers would say to them? Can you imagine what the sick would have to say and how they would look at them?


The allegory of the 'field hospital ' is simply brilliant and says it all. And it is said by the Pope.


"The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pope Francis talks about finding a new balance

This from Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has criticised the Roman Catholic church for becoming “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception and said he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.

In the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, Francis used remarkably blunt language as he sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told Fr Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” said Francis.
“We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

Marcel Reich-Ranicki dies in Frankfurt-am-Main at 93

Marcel Reich-Ranicki died in Frankfurt-am-Main on Wednesday. He was 93.

Born in the Polis city of Wloclawek of a German mother and Polish father. At a young age his mother sent him to her brother's fammily in Berlin so as he could leran German.

He was one of the last Jews to be able to do his Abitur - final school exam, which he sat in 1938.
He was moved to the Warsaw ghetto as a young man where he met his future wife. In the midst of that terro and evil he read Goethe and Schiller.


The novelist Günter Grass once questioned Reich-Ranicki at a literary conference. “What are you really — a Pole, a German or what?” Grass asked. “I am half Polish, half German and wholly Jewish,” he replied.
He later said that the statement was untrue, that he felt himself an outsider everywhere. It was a lifelong tension with his own identity that energised his work.
On one occasion he was awarded a literary award. He turned up for the big evening and then refused to accept the award.
He was one of the most powerful cultural figures in postwar Germany.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

One hundred per cent positive response for RTE Belvedere programme


Getting into Belvedere

Many readers of IJN will have seen the two television programmes, screened by RTE at 9.35 p.m. on successive Mondays, about Belvedere’s Social Diversity Programme. Every year through this programme Belvedere offers almost 10% of its places to boys whose families, due to financial and social barriers, could never otherwise afford to attend the school.

Applicants for the school's Social Diversity Programme (SDP) are selected purely on the basis of economic and educational disadvantage and not for their academic, sporting or musical abilities. The school sees its commitment to the bursaries as a living embodiment of the school's Jesuit ethos and the importance it places on social justice.
Director Kim Bartley was granted access to the inner workings of Belvedere College SJ and to the lives and homes of five families who hoped to gain one of the coveted bursaries. The cameras followed all their journeys as they made the transition from primary to secondary school.

The personal stories of The Scholarship, captured on screen over two years, give an insight into how one school endeavours to make a difference. It was easy to identify with the boys who had set their hopes on Belvedere, and were coping with problems stemming from being poor, immigrant, with crippled parents, or absent fathers. You held your breath as Stephen, son of parents in the travelling community, decided towards the end of his first year in school to “come out” to his classmates with the story of his background, of which he was proud – and his relief at the supportive response of his school friends.

The teachers we saw were cheerful and good listeners, the boys uninhibited and trusting. You felt Belvedere would be a good place in which to learn. P.S. RTE reported a rare phenomenon after the first programme: the viewers' response to it was 100% favourable.

Maybe a telling post from the Rorate Caeli blog





The piece below appears on the Rorate Caeli blog. There certainly must be people in the Vatican who scratch their collective heads and wonder about it all. It's interesting to compare this picture with other  pictures on the Rorate Caeli blog. Indeed, well worth reading some of the entries. Entertaining too.

Is this where our church is?

Francis on Liberation Theology: "That's what Müller thinks!"

Unreported by Vatican Radio or L'Osservatore Romano regarding the Pope's partly closed-door meeting with a part of the Roman clergy yesterday was the following, mentioned by Sandro Magister in his Italian blog:

Abp. Müller and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez


While making one of the five questions presented to the Pope and speaking of the centrality of the poor in pastoral [action], a priest made a reference, in positive fashion, to Liberation Theology and to the understanding positions, regarding this theology, of Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller.

But when he heard the name of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Francis did not let him end his question, and said: "That is what Müller thinks, that is what he thinks."


Monday, September 16, 2013

Always an inclination to support the home team

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

Michael Commane
Don’t we always take the side of the home team? Come hell or high water most of us think right is on our side.

Walking my dog on Monday a lady was not happy with the fact that Tess was off the lead. Tess is a Labrador and unusual for Labradors, on occasion she has been a little obstreperous with other dogs so sometimes I put a muzzle on her.

On the Monday when she was off the lead her muzzle was on. I can only presume the lady who, warned me to control my dog, had not seen the muzzle. Of course a dog should always be on a lead.

For much of the time on that walk I was thinking of the lady and her comment and not at all pleased with her behaviour. ‘How dare she make such a stupid comment’, I was saying to myself about her. All my sympathy was with Tess, my dog.

The previous week I was sitting down watching the hurling final. I know little or nothing about football or hurling but watching it I was stuck to my chair, all the time hoping that Cork would win.

Why was I shouting for Cork? I’m not from Cork and have nothing at all against Clare. Indeed, Davy Fitz fascinates me. So why was I up for Cork? Simply because I spent five years living in the city, I feel I have some sort of ‘loyalty’ to the place. I was supporting the home team.

Can there be such an entity as a neutral individual or neutral group? Of course we all think that right is on our side. How at all do we form our opinions? Does our environment play an undue influence in shaping our opinions and beliefs?

Two weeks ago The Kerryman published a letter in which the writer criticised a column I had written. He accused me of being ‘divisive’. He also wrote a letter to the weekly English periodical The Tablet where he again took issue with my ‘sneering’ at trends in the Catholic Church. I’m fairly certain I don’t ‘sneer’.

Last year a priest, now a bishop, criticised an article I had written. He even wrote to my then provincial.

I consider the letters badges of honour.

There is always the inclination to support the home team. That makes sense in sport, less so in matters of war and peace.

But when it comes to any issue about God there is always the danger that that primal instinct will come to the fore. Some sort of genie is released from the bottle and we are ‘convinced’ right is on our side.

An unhealthy brand of religion seems to give people an importance in their cause. Come hell or high water rings in my ears.
Has it all to do with some small group taking control and then running with the ball as long and as far as they can?

And then the sycophants following them? You may prefer to call them small time careerists. And we foot soldiers nod our heads and feel we are part of the team.

I’d prefer to see all mankind as God’s team. Take a look at the damage that all forms of sectarianism and fundamentalism does. And no-one ever thinks they are sectarian or fundamental.

A friend made a wisecrack and suggested I should buy a muzzle for myself.

The power and influence of BBC's Jeremy Paxman

The power and influence of Jeremy Paxman. Now RTE's David Davin-Power is sporting a beard.

Any pognonophobes at the station?

A wild and inaccurate comment in free sheet 'Alive'

In the September issue of the free sheet 'Alive' the following piece appears:

"It was recently revealed that €8.5m of Irish aid to Ethiopia was given to abortion agencies, much of it when Fianna Fáil's present leader Micheál Martin was Minister for Foreign Affairs."

This is a wild and inaccurate statement. It is also a great insult to Irish donors who generously contribute to the poorest of the poor in the developing world. 

Elsewhere there is comment that Unicef is making an attack on parents' rights.

'Alive' claims charity status and has an ad in the current issue advising readers how 'Alive' can claim back tax from Revenue on donations from readers, who have contributed to the free sheet.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

SPD politician says Merkel has Scandinavian style

One of Angela Merkel's closest political friends is the former SPD mayor of Hamburg and friend of Helmut Schmidt Klaus von Dohnányi. He is the nephew of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor and theologian who was executed by the Nazis at Plötzensee in Berlin. His own father was also executed by the Nazis.

He says of Merkel that she is not a typical German politician, "Merkel has a Scandinavian temperament, she does politics the way the Swedes or Danes do."

Worth pointing out that one of the most popular and successful German chancellors was WIlli Brandt, who sought refuge in Scandinavia during the Nazi terror.

Friday, September 13, 2013

O'Toole writes how Heaney humanises uncertainty

Below is the Thinking Anew column in today's Irish Times.

By Michael Commane
In conversation with friends the topic of certainty came up, specifically in the context of religious certainty.
It was agreed that anyone who expresses certainty about anything, especially in matters of religion needs to be treated with caution.

Some days later I was discussing the story of the Prodigal Son, which is tomorrow's Gospel, with a man in his 90s. We both admitted that forgiveness is a central theme in the story. The conversation moved to the son who had stayed at home and was peeved with how his brother had been so well received when he returned from his days of debauchery.

The forgiveness of the father is a lesson for all of us but the reaction of the peeved brother is a fabulous insight into how ‘incomplete’ the best of stories are.

Everything about our world has the element of ‘incomplete’ about it. Maybe it is the defining difference between mankind and God. We are always in process, we are always thinking and moving and changing. But God is perfection. God is goodness. There is nothing ‘incomplete’ about God. If there were then she/he could not be God. It’s our hope to experience this complete God. We call it heaven.

In the meantime everything about our lives is surrounded by incompleteness. It seems an extraordinary arrogance for anyone to say that their way is perfect. It’s like saying that they have been given an insight into life, which leaves nothing to question, as if everything has been decided by some grand design.

It cannot be like that. The evidence to date tells us a different story.

Fintan O’Toole described the late Seamus Heaney as someone who struggled with contradictions, paradoxes, conflicting impulses.

“His genius lay in his ability to hover between them, to give each side of a political or emotional equation its full weight and proper due without becoming the prisoner of either.”

O’Toole talks of how Heaney humanised uncertainty and made ambiguity rich with possibilities.

Every generation thinks that it has ‘arrived’, found the magic fix to solve all the problems of the world. Maybe that model is particularly true of religious zealots, who believe they have been ‘called’ by God to change the face of the earth. The word ‘incomplete’ is not part of the vocabulary of zealots. For them there can be no room for doubt or uncertainty.

It’s easy to look back in history and see the mistakes that are made. It’s embarrassing too.

The Ireland of the 1940s, ’50s and part of the ’60s were suffocating. There was a blanket ideology to which everyone was expected to subscribe. Those who didn’t were considered to be outcasts or misfits. There was no room for any sort of ‘incompleteness’, especially when it came to matters of religion.

But that’s not to say there is not a blanket ideology in place today. It’s a different ideology.

The late ’60s and ’70s threw up confusion and ‘Flower Power’. In many ways much was in disarray. And it seems now as if there is a new call to return to orthodoxy and especially so in matters of religion. Doubt and hesitancy is beginning to be seen as some sort of weakness, some sort of prevarication that is seen as not being healthy for the community.

Tomorrow’s Gospel is a fabulous example how even when everything seems to be going so well, there is almost the perfect ending, and yet there is something amiss. The peeved brother is sulking in the corner.
That’s life, that’s the way of the world, that’s the way it’s going to be until we reach completeness with God.
In the meantime I remain scared stiff of the purveyors of certainty. No one owns God.

In the meantime all our life-stories have elements of the peeved brother about them. It’s our challenge and our good fortune to spend our time concentrating on the forgiving father, knowing that he is our ultimate goal. In the meantime there will always be nooks and crannies that never make sense.

“Two buckets were easier carried than one.
I grew up in between.” Seamus Heaney.

A coup in Washington without a single tank

Highly recommended. A comment piece in Wednesday's Guardian newspaper by John Pilger titled 'The silent military coup that took over Washington'.

In the piece Pilger points out that Obama has chosen the entire Pentagon of the Bush era; its wars and war crimes.

Last year 6,500 veterans took their own lives.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thank you Sister Eileen Linehan for your letter

The letter below appears in today's 'Irish Times'.

When this blogger saw that it was a letter written by a religious sister the immediate thought that sprang to mind was that the letter would be sympathetic to Fr Flannery. It certainly was not going to be a letter admonishing Fr Flannery for criticising the new Missal.

Another clear example of how, more than ever, our church needs the wisdom and kindness of women. Their common sense too.

A chara, – Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s I have vivid memories of accompanying my mother to the annual parish “mission”. I was too young to comprehend what was being preached. What I do remember is hundreds of women leaving the church in good spirits (the men had a separate week). They had had the good news of the Gospel broken for them and their dignity reaffirmed by Fr Tony Flannery and his retreat team.

As a religious sister for almost 40 years, it saddens me greatly to see good people such as Fr Flannery and many others silenced by our beloved church. I say “many” because, although only a few have been canonically silenced, hundreds (if not thousands) of earnest Irish Catholics remain silent for fear of the repercussions of speaking their truth.

Wouldn’t it be a fitting closure to this Year of Faith if Catholic men and women, lay, cleric and religious, in their efforts to live and spread the Gospel, were free to voice their present concerns regarding the church – a church whose compassionate founder always looked for the lost one, brought back the stray, and bandaged the wounded. – Is mise,

(Sr) EILEEN LINEHAN,
Greenhills Road,
Dublin 24.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tony Flannery's article in yesterday's Irish Times



‘I suppose I am now experiencing something of a crisis of faith’

‘I will have to decide if I wish to stay in religious life’

’The closer you get to the Vatican system, with all its power struggles and careerism, the more disillusioned you can become.’ Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
’The closer you get to the Vatican system, with all its power struggles and careerism, the more disillusioned you can become.’ 
I miss being able to celebrate the Eucharist and I miss being able to preach. I know I can say Mass privately, but I seldom do, since I regard it as a community exercise. I mostly attend Mass with the people.
Having been out of ministry and in conflict with church authorities for an extended period of time has had a significant impact on my perspective on the church, but more fundamentally on my faith and my life.

Decision making
I have come to know a great deal about how the church operates, particularly in its management structures and methods of decision making, that I would probably be better off not knowing.
Sadly I have found it to be true that the closer you get to theVatican system, with all its power struggles and careerism, the more disillusioned you can become. I know that faith in Jesus Christ is more important than any of this, but while I can accept that totally at an intellectual level, it is much more difficult to deal with my emotional responses to it. The church introduced me to Christ, and for my whole life my faith has been lived out within the church, most of it within religious life. So I suppose I am now experiencing something of a crisis of faith.

Motivation
Even while attending Mass, as I do regularly, I sit there listening to the priest struggle with the new translation of the Missal, especially with the opening prayers and prefaces, and I know that whoever was behind this new translation was not motivated by desire to make the Eucharist more meaningful for the people, but instead was driven by a rigid ideological stance that had little or nothing to do
with the teachings of the Gospel.
I wonder at times if some of the people in high positions within the church are more motivated by personal ambition and the pursuit of power than by a commitment to the message of Jesus.

‘Stream of corruption’
Pope Francis’s statement that there is a “stream of corruption” within the curia seemed to confirm what I suspected. I don’t know where all of this will lead me. I am reasonably at ease with it, and willing to let it take its course in my life, if I am given the time to work it out. And if not, then let what will be happen.
In the meantime I have some major decisions to make. I will have to decide if I wish to stay in religious life for what time is remaining to me, while not being allowed to do any form of ministry. I do not know what effect that would have on me long term, but it may be difficult. The alternative would be to move out on my own and try to make a life for myself, but this is, quite frankly, frightening. Would I be able to cope, after living almost my whole life in an institutional setting? Who would look after me in my old age? Would I be very lonely? What about the financial side of it all? These are the real and hard questions that are occupying my mind at this time.
I will face into the future with as much energy and life as I can summon up, and I will make whatever decisions I need to make as I go along.
More than anything else I do not want to waste much more of my time attempting to deal with the Roman authorities in the way I have been trying to do for the past 18 months.

Broken down
I have seen other religious being broken down and becoming embittered by their experience. I will try not to let that happen to me.
I hope that my faith in a loving and gracious God will survive and that it will bring me to a place of peace and tranquillity.

This is a resume by Fr Tony Flannery of the final chapter in his book A Question of Conscience which will be launched by broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy at 6.30pm on Thursday at the Royal Hibernian AcademyEly Place in Dublin

Monday, September 9, 2013

'Unwelcome squabbling from the man who 'sneers'

The letter below appears in this week's The Tablet, issue of September 7.

Unwelcome squabbling
Your news story "Irish bishops criticised over vocations" (31 August) relates how Dominican Fr Gerald (sic) Dunne castigates Irish bishops for their seeming lack of enthusiasm for vocation promotion. Although this makes for interesting reading and may not be too far from the mark, it fails to address the fact that the lack of enthusiasm is not confined to bishops.

Fr Dunne rightly has a formidable reputation in Ireland for recruitment of energetic and bright young men to the Dominican way of life. I had the joy of observing many of these young Dominicans, suitably and proudly attired in their distinctive robes, in action at last years's International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

In the current edition of 'The Kerryman', my local weekly newspaper, Dominican Fr Michael, not for the first time, sneers at what he considers trends among young clerics to wear their clerical habits in public and to praise the new Missal. Surely a house divided is unlikely to attract vocations.
Alan Whelan,
Beaufort,
Co. Kerry,
Ireland.

Dear Mr Whelan,

Thank you for your two letters, one to 'The Kerryman' and then this letter to 'The Tablet'

What to say, how to reply?

Firstly, it would be terribly dishonest of me to say that we were united and all singing from the same hymn sheet. The motto of the Dominican Order is 'veritas'.

This is not the place to discuss how divided we are but may I assure you with 45 years experience I am very aware of how divided the Irish hierarchical church is at present.

I can't see how walking about in fine and 'distinctive robes' on a summer's day in the RDS has anything to do with the state of vocations to the Dominican Order. I'm not at all sure what it has to with the Word of God and telling the world that we are all children of God.

You talk about these men being 'suitably and proudly attired....'. I can't help but think of 'Fr O'Connor' in James Plunkett's 'Strumpet City'.

You say I 'sneer' at current trends. Mr Whelan, let me assure you when it comes to 'sneering', I am down in Division E among the priestly class. Indeed, again from 45 years of experience, I am acutely aware of the 'sneering' and deviousness that is far too prominent among the priests. Of course, it's not universally practised, indeed I have come across the most noble and honourable of men who happen to be priests. I've no idea it they wear the Dominican habit in public. I doubt it.

I write this note watching the RTE programme on the scholarship facility the Jesuit Order offers young boys to its school in Belvedere.

Personally I'd much prefer to see far more positive talk about what the Jesuits do for less advantaged children in our city than to hear about the 'distinctive robes' men wear on a summer's day in Dublin. Actually, clothes have never made me feel proud.

As to the new Roman Missal, some of the Collects have up to 63 words in one sentence. In many cases it is almost impossible to find the main verb. Clauses within clauses make so many of the prayers most difficult to understand. I wonder how many people understand the meaning of 'prevenient grace'?  Would you think most people going to Mass in Beaufort understand the word 'oblation'?


Best wishes.
Sincerely,
Michael Commane OP.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

'Human Traces' by English novelist Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks' 'Human Traces' brings the reader right from page one to an exploration of what kind of beings men and women really are.

A powefrul read. And maybe even better than his 'Birdsong'.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Francis pleads with G20 leaders to lay down arms

Below is a letter from Pope Francis to President Putin.


LETTER OF POPE FRANCIS 
TO H. E. MR. VLADIMIR PUTIN, 
PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, 
ON THE OCCASION OF THE G20 ST. PETERSBURG SUMMIT 
 

 To His Excellency
Mr Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation

In the course of this year, you have the honour and the responsibility of presiding over the Group of the twenty largest economies in the world.  I am aware that the Russian Federation has participated in this group from the moment of its inception and has always had a positive role to play in the promotion of good governance of the world’s finances, which have been deeply affected by the crisis of 2008.

In today’s highly interdependent context, a global financial framework with its own just and clear rules is required in order to achieve a more equitable and fraternal world, in which it is possible to overcome hunger, ensure decent employment and housing for all, as well as essential healthcare.  Your presidency of the G20 this year has committed itself to consolidating the reform of the international financial organizations and to achieving a consensus on financial standards suited to today’s circumstances.  However, the world economy will only develop if it allows a dignified way of life for all human beings, from the eldest to the unborn child, not just for citizens of the G20 member states but for every inhabitant of the earth, even those in extreme social situations or in the remotest places. 

From this standpoint, it is clear that, for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal.  Wars are a concrete refusal to pursue the great economic and social goals that the international community has set itself, as seen, for example, in the Millennium Development Goals.  Unfortunately, the many armed conflicts which continue to afflict the world today present us daily with dramatic images of misery, hunger, illness and death.  Without peace, there can be no form of economic development.  Violence never begets peace, the necessary condition for development. 

The meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the twenty most powerful economies, with two-thirds of the world’s population and ninety per cent of global GDP, does not have international security as its principal purpose.  Nevertheless, the meeting will surely not forget the situation in the Middle East and particularly in Syria.  It is regrettable that, from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, one-sided interests have prevailed and in fact hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding.  

The leaders of the G20 cannot remain indifferent to the dramatic situation of the beloved Syrian people which has lasted far too long, and even risks bringing greater suffering to a region bitterly tested by strife and needful of peace.  To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution.  

Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community.  

Moreover, all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country’s borders.

Mr President, in the hope that these thoughts may be a valid spiritual contribution to your meeting, I pray for the successful outcome of the G20’s work on this occasion.  I invoke an abundance of blessings upon the Summit in Saint Petersburg, upon the participants and the citizens of the member states, and upon the work and efforts of the 2013 Russian Presidency of the G20. 
While requesting your prayers, I take this opportunity to assure you, Mr President, of my highest consideration. 
From the Vatican, 4 September 2013

FRANCIS
 

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