Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pope Francis prefers a church bruised and dirty

"I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."

That's Pope Francis talking.

It's clear there are many regligious congregations where that sort of talk is not welcome or accepted.

And then the picture of him in today's Irish Times, wearing his 'Dominican attire' and showing off his trousers. Gosh, how that would not be accepted by the laces and candles brigade.

That man would have little chance of preferment in certain religious congreagations today. He'd be kept well away from the commissions, commissioners and the entire panoply of the ruling classes. And he'd certainly be seen as a bad influence on the younger members.

If he is successful what at all will the 'ruling classes' do?

Does Pope Francis know that the verb is 'to tweet' and the noun is  'twitter' Then again does he know the difference between the verb 'to practise' and the noun 'practice'?

On the other hand, the Vatican questionnaire confuses the verb and the noun. And it's a pity the questionnaire for Ireland and the UK did not use English spelling, instead of the US spelling it uses.

Would he seek advice from people who would subserviently agree with him or would he call in people who might tell him he is talking nonsense?

It's the little things that give them away. It always is in life.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The EU, psychiatry, the State through the eyes of 'Alive'

The December issue of 'Alive' offers its readers another dose of nasty inaccurate nonsense.

One headline runs 'EU watching you'. It is about EU regulations on wastage of water.  Elsewhere we read that the EU buys journalists.

In another piece there is a wallop at psychiatry. Then the Minister for Education and The Irish Times are denigrated. Having attacked many agencies of State the free sheet then asks readers to avail of the Government-run  scheme, which allows contributors to a charity to claim back tax for the named charity. How can a free sheet newspaper be classified as a charity?

Surely it would be far better for one's health to be watched over by the EU than the editorship of 'Alive'.

RTE viewers, who are watching 'Generation War' on Sunday evenings, will clearly see how beneficial the European Union has been to all its member states.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Catholic pin-up names

The pin-up names for the institutional Catholic Church in Ireland include Breda O'Brien, John Waters, Lucinda Creighton, Ronán Mullen.

What is it about the Catholic Church that always seems to make it come down on the side of the right wing and reactionary forces?

Has it something to do with an absence of any sort of original thinking? Is it that the church finds comfort in carrying out a conversation with those with whom it feels it agrees?

Maybe the Irish Church is many steps behind Pope Francis. It would appear to be so.

Sunday is World Aids Day

Sunday December 1 is World Aids Day.

RTE's Sean O'Rourke interviewed a man with the HIV virus today. He spoke openly and honestly.

It was in stark contrast to the secrecy and obfuscation that surrounds everything to do with sexual orientation within the Catholic priesthood.

Good or bad?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

SPD members will now vote on last night's agreement

It's now up to the 470,000 members of the SPD to say ay or nay to the agreement reached last night between the CDU/CSU and the SPD to form a new government in Germany.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bishop compares Irish institutional church to Jesus

Below is a quote from a sermon preached at the ordination of a priest in Ireland.

"To be Catholic in the 21st century Ireland is a very different proposition than in the 20thcentury. So much change within and without the Church has changed our context for believing. No longer can we presume the support and sharing of faith  – on the contrary in many quarters hostility is the order of the day. But then that is not new – many pages of the Gospels speak of the challenges and rejection of Jesus’ own words and deeds."

But surely much of the 'hostility' is due to the hurt that the institutional church caused to people. It did this principally through its control and power.

It spent great sums of money, much energy and expertise covering up and not telling the truth.

Is the bishop trying to compare the institutional church in Ireland to the courage and life of Jesus?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Catholic Church and State conspire in terrible injustice

UK and Irish media outlets have given much coverage to the news in the last few days of three women who had been kept as slaves 'without handcuffs' in London's Brixton for over 30 years.

It is now emerging that there are aspects of a commune and a cult surrounding the horrific story.

The Irish State and the Catholic Church conspired with one another to strip young Irish men of their civil rights, who entered seminaries. The State and church did this until 1989.

Up until 1989 if a priest, it may well have appplied to religious sisters and brothers too, was employed and paid tax and social insurance, his social insurance contributions were not reckonable for purposes of pension.

Until 1989 priests paid Class K social insurance. The State considered priests as self-employed.

At the same time the Association of Secondary School Teachers, ASTI, prohibited priests from joining their trade union as they considered them part of management. A wonderful Irish joke.

And to add to the wrong-doing, many religious orders 'suggested' to their men who were teaching in schools not to pay the occupational pension.

This terrible injustice to the person means that men, who dcided to leave priesthood, say in their 40s or 50s most likely found/find themselves without a contributory old-age pension in their retirement.

This is a simple and clear injustice to the person.

What does the State say about this? What does the insitutional church say about this?

The State will wash its hands and the church will write a document on its mission policy to the marginalised.

And once there is no public coverage of the story, neither the State nor church will say a word. On the other hand, if it did/does make the newspapers, 'leaders' in the institutional church would/will immediately run to their lawyers and pay them large sums of money for the service,

Shocking. Gospel values?

But it's even worse than that. There are priests talking cliched nonsense about the role the Catholic person 'the lay faithful, God love us, should play in political life in Ireland.

If it all were not so sad and unjust it would be laughable. But it's important still to laugh at the nonsense that is being spoken. And all said in such pious tones.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Every dog has his day"

Tess on a ramble on Cruagh in the Dublin Mountains today.

Looking on while the jeering and mocking takes place

Did you ever feel people were jeering at you, sneering at you, laughing at you to your face, or worse, behind your back?

That sense of being jeeered at and ridiculed must be one of the great feelings dismpowerment. That impression that people are mocking you. Loneliness, that sense of not being part of the group.

And what compounds it is when others stand by and allow it to happen.

Exatcly what today's Gospel is about.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Michael Harding reviews D'Arcy and Flannery books

"There is a notion in modern philosophy that nothing is absolutely true; things are true as far as they go, but it is in negotiating our way through the day that we become human. Catholic theology has no truck with such relativism. Catholic theology is mostly a medieval construct; it deals with 'absolute truth' as that which is substantial, immutable and eternally true."

That's a quotation from Michael Harding's review of Brian D'Arcy's 'Food for the Soul'. The review appears in today's Irish Times,  Weekend Review.

The review also considers Tony Falnnaery's 'A Question of Conscience'.

Harding finishes with this: "And yet in a strange way D'Arcy is also a subversive figure. Because his obedience, quietude and folksy gentility accentuate the fascist rot at the heart of the institution that would seek to crush him, and Tony Flannery, and all the other loolas of the world who commit the error of thinking for themselves."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Events of November 22

Three things.

On this date, November 22, 1909 my mother was born.

I'm writing this in the same room that I heard of the death of JFK 50 years ago today.

Today I fixed a bicycle puncture.

Who misses Pat Kenny on his morning RTE show?

Radio presenter Pat Kenny has left RTE and in his morning slot he has been replaced by Sean O'Rourke.

Who misses Pat Kenny? Has RTE Radio lost any listenership? Unlikely. Indeed, it would seem that O'Rourke is a better interviewer. The listener now hears more about the interviewee than the interviewer.

It's so often said that people are not indispensable yet it is a 'sin' we all commit.

Something that happens especially with positions of authority and especially so in church organisations. Once someone is in a job a general air is created that they cannot be replaced. In most instances we end up with incompetent people and simply afraid to change them.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A conversation at pedestrian lights on a street in Dublin

The pedestrain lights were red against traffic. I was stopped on my bicycle. A man was crossing and then stared at me as if to say don't you dare go through that red light.

We locked eyes. He kept staring me.

"You think I am going to go through the red light," I asked.

He replied: "Nobody keeps these lights and I was watching you."

"I'm cycling 59 years and really find it impossible to keep traffic lights," I answered with a half-hearted smile.

He now began to smile too.

I went on to say I was addicted to running lights but added that if I could give up alcohol then I could keep the lights and I told him I was off alcohol four to five years.

"I have not had a drink in 35 years and I'm 75 now," he smiled.

A cyclist and a pedestrian in conversation at a pedestrian crossing in Dublin's Camden Street yesterday.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Paul Flowers the banker and the minister of religion

Paul Flowers. The banker and minister of religion.

Paul Flowers surely is a metaphor for that mix of religion, spoof, money and deviant sexual behaviour.

The tighter the hands are clasped, the more genuflections that are made, the more holy sounding words that are issued, then ususally one knows it is terrible spoof.

It's the 'behind the back/scene stuff', the 'cute hoor' syndrome that makes it all so nauseating. That 'holier than thou' attitude. And not to forget the holy sounding voice with the fake intonations.

It is that cocktail of deviant sex, spoof religion and a crazy conservatism that is most worrying.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

More people have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet

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

Michael Commane
A friend of mine had new blinds fitted to the windows of her house in the last few weeks. They look good. She may well have nicked the idea from me as I have similar ones in my house.

She told me that the man who fitted them was a nice chap and the price for the job was reasonable. But he told her that some days earlier he had fixed a blind for an elderly lady. 

When the job was done he told her it cost €250. The woman went for her purse to pay the money and just then the man told her that he had been joking and that the job would only cost €50.00. Joke or no joke, it was not a nice thing to do but it did set me thinking how vulnerable we all are, especially older people.

In the last few days I heard about a man, who was on the verge of giving all his banking details to a fraudster who telephoned him. He was about to give the last digit of his PIN when he suddenly felt uncomfortable and hung up. Electronic banking works but always be careful and never give your PIN to anyone. Be smart.

We are forever and always susceptible to all kinds of fraud and theft. Modern technology has changed the landscape of scams and fiddles. It’s no longer a question of making sure that just your wallet is well hidden and the doors and windows are all secured and locked.

Every day there is a story about electronic fraud. The big story last week was how 1.5 million people had personal details compromised. The number might turn out to be much higher.

Okay, I’m no longer the youngest kid on the block but I think I can still manage electronic commerce. These days most of us pay our bills electronically and do much of our business on the internet. I have to admit that I still prefer to study a facility bill on hard copy.

How at all are older people coping with what is taking place in the electronic world?
I’m thinking of a friend of mine who can’t read. What happens to him when he will no longer be able to go to the Post Office to collect his pension?

November is the traditional month when we remember the dead.

My father died in 2004. He was 95. Up to 93 he was as sharp as a razor yet he never used a mobile phone nor did he manage to get his head around the euro currency.

I remember on one occasion, on my advice, he had his pension paid electronically into his account. He changed it back to the old system within weeks. He wanted to be able to go to the Post Office and collect his own pension.

Maybe it is that I am simply reaching an age where change is not as easy as it was when I was younger. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Right now change seems to jump at some sort of exponential speed that has never happened before.

Are we taking enough care to protect people who are not so computer literate? 

Did you know that more people in the world have access to a mobile telephone than to a toilet?

I’m just reminded. I better check my IBAN and BIC numbers.

In the meantime wouldn’t it be a good idea if our primary schools taught children how to type. Then again, come another few years maybe keyboards will be a thing of the past. 

Who knows?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bishop pays up and criminal proceedings are dropped

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst has paid his €20,000, which means there will be no further proceedings against him for his lying with reference to his first class Lufthansa ticket to India.

It's worth noting that this man was appointed bishop in Limburg to 'clean up' the diocese and restore 'orthodoxy'.

Tebartz-van Elst and all the chicanery surrounding the bishop is the perfect metaphor for so much  of what is laughable and so wrong in the Catholic Church at present.

Can Pope Francis change things?

Freedom of Information Act and religious congregations

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has been criticised for placing fees on Freedom of Information Act applications.

One would imagine that the Christian churches would be in support of people who make requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Indeed, church leaders may even speak in public supporting an open and transparent FoI environment.

The reality is that there are religious congregations, that  refuse to make available to their members their personal files.

In so doing they are breaking Irish State law. And not a whisper from anyone or anywhere. such behaviour is far removed from anything to do with Gospel values or indeed 'truth'.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gurlitts says the 1,000 paintings are his property

Cornelius Gurlitts is adamant that the 1,000 paintings found in his house in Schwaben are his property. In an interview with Spiegel he stresses that the paintings were legally inherited by him from his father.

Interesting claims and counter claims ahead.

One might well ask how much of the world's great art has been at some stage or other stolen from somone, somewhere, somehow.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The words of John Charles McQuaid come to mind

When the Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid came home at the end of the Vatican Council he assured the Irish Catholic Church that nothing had changed and nothing would change.

Of course, fortunately, he got it all so wrong.

There are those today who are saying exactly as the archbishop said.

They too have got it spectacularly wrong. And so must be the prayers of any sensible person.

Revelation on Jerome Murphy-O'Connor!

It turns out Jerome Murphy-O'Connor was 'red'

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pope tells unmarried mother he will baptise her child

From yesterday's Guardian.

Why even atheists should be praying for Pope Francis

Francis could replace Obama as the pin-up on every liberal and leftist wall. He is now the world's clearest voice for change
Pope Francis in Ford Focus
'On Thursday, Pope Francis visited the Italian president, arriving in a blue Ford Focus, with not a blaring siren to be heard.' Photograph: Gregorio Borgia/AP
That Obama poster on the wall, promising hope and change, is looking a little faded now. The disappointments, whether over drone warfare or a botched rollout of healthcare reform, have left the world's liberals and progressives searching for a new pin-up to take the US president's place. As it happens, there's an obvious candidate: the head of an organisation those same liberals and progressives have long regarded as sexist, homophobic and, thanks to a series of child abuse scandals, chillingly cruel. The obvious new hero of the left is the pope.
Only installed in March, Pope Francis has already become a phenomenon. His is the most talked-about name on the internet in 2013, ranking ahead of "Obamacare" and "NSA". In fourth place comes Francis's Twitter handle, @Pontifex. In Italy, Francesco has fast become the most popular name for new baby boys. Rome reports a surge in tourist numbers, while church attendance is said to be up – both trends attributed to "the Francis effect".
His popularity is not hard to fathom. The stories of his personal modesty have become the stuff of instant legend. He carries his own suitcase. He refused the grandeur of the papal palace, preferring to live in a simple hostel. When presented with the traditional red shoes of the pontiff, he declined; instead he telephoned his 81-year-old cobbler in Buenos Aires and asked him to repair his old ones. On Thursday, Francis visited the Italian president – arriving in a blue Ford Focus, with not a blaring siren to be heard.
Some will dismiss these acts as mere gestures, even publicity stunts. But they convey a powerful message, one of almost elemental egalitarianism. He is in the business of scraping away the trappings, the edifice of Vatican wealth accreted over centuries, and returning the church to its core purpose, one Jesus himself might have recognised. He says he wants to preside over "a poor church, for the poor". It's not the institution that counts, it's the mission.
All this would warm the heart of even the most fervent atheist, except Francis has gone much further. It seems he wants to do more than simply stroke the brow of the weak. He is taking on the system that has made them weak and keeps them that way.
"My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centred mindset bent on profit at any cost," he tweeted in May. A day earlier he denounced as "slave labour" the conditions endured by Bangladeshi workers killed in a building collapse. In September he said that God wanted men and women to be at the heart of the world and yet we live in a global economic order that worships "an idol called money".
There is no denying the radicalism of this message, a frontal and sustained attack on what he calls "unbridled capitalism", with its "throwaway" attitude to everything from unwanted food to unwanted old people. His enemies have certainly not missed it. If a man is to be judged by his opponents, note that this week Sarah Palin denounced him as "kind of liberal" while the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs has lamented that this pope lacks the "sophisticated" approach to such matters of his predecessors. Meanwhile, an Italian prosecutor has warned that Francis's campaign against corruption could put him in the crosshairs of that country's second most powerful institution: the mafia.
As if this weren't enough to have Francis's 76-year-old face on the walls of the world's student bedrooms, he also seems set to lead a church campaign on the environment. He was photographed this week with anti-fracking activists, while his biographer, Paul Vallely, has revealed that the pope has made contact with Leonardo Boff, an eco-theologian previously shunned by Rome and sentenced to "obsequious silence" by the office formerly known as the "Inquisition". An encyclical on care for the planet is said to be on the way.
Many on the left will say that's all very welcome, but meaningless until the pope puts his own house in order. But here, too, the signs are encouraging. Or, more accurately, stunning. Recently, Francis told an interviewer the church had become "obsessed" with abortion, gay marriage and contraception. He no longer wanted the Catholic hierarchy to be preoccupied with "small-minded rules". Talking to reporters on a flight – an occurrence remarkable in itself – he said: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" His latest move is to send the world's Catholics a questionnaire, seeking their attitude to those vexed questions of modern life. It's bound to reveal a flock whose practices are, shall we say, at variance with Catholic teaching. In politics, you'd say Francis was preparing the ground for reform.
Witness his reaction to a letter – sent to "His Holiness Francis, Vatican City" – from a single woman, pregnant by a married man who had since abandoned her. To her astonishment, the pope telephoned her directly and told her that if, as she feared, priests refused to baptise her baby, he would perform the ceremony himself. (Telephoning individuals who write to him is a Francis habit.) Now contrast that with the past Catholic approach to such "fallen women", dramatised so powerfully in the current film Philomena. He is replacing brutality with empathy.
Of course, he is not perfect. His record in Argentina during the era of dictatorship and "dirty war" is far from clean. "He started off as a strict authoritarian, reactionary figure," says Vallely. But, aged 50, Francis underwent a spiritual crisis from which, says his biographer, he emerged utterly transformed. He ditched the trappings of high church office, went into the slums and got his hands dirty.
Now inside the Vatican, he faces a different challenge – to face down the conservatives of the curia and lock in his reforms, so that they cannot be undone once he's gone. Given the guile of those courtiers, that's quite a task: he'll need all the support he can get.
Some will say the world's leftists and liberals shouldn't hanker for a pin-up, that the urge is infantile and bound to end in disappointment. But the need is human and hardly confined to the left: think of the Reagan and Thatcher posters that still adorn the metaphorical walls of conservatives, three decades on. The pope may have no army, no battalions or divisions, but he has a pulpit – and right now he is using it to be the world's loudest and clearest voice against the status quo. You don't have to be a believer to believe in that.

Irish diplomat speaks at Murphy-O'Connor funeral

Ireland's Representative to the National Authority of Palestine Ms Dympna Hayes spoke at the funeral Mass of Jerome Murphy-O'Connor on Wedesday in Jerusalem.

Not an episcopal whisper about papal questionnaire

Vincent Nichols the Archbishop of Westminster squirmed and wriggled on a BBC Radio Four interview this morning. He was answering questions on the new papal questionnaire, which is being distributed to Catholics worldwide.

It was interesting to listen to the archbishop refer to the style of the new pope and how he admired and supported it.

Leaders/superiors/bishops/provincials play the same games the world over.

But at least the archbishop is out and about talking about the questionnaire.

Is there a whisper from the Irish episcopal conference regarding the questionnaire?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Copper cabling worth millions being lifted

This evening in Dublin's Fitzwilliam Square Eircom staff were removing copper cable from ducts on the street.

The company is in the process of removing obsolete copper from under the city. It is worth tens of millions of euro and is now being sold off as scrap.

The cable has been replaced by new fibre.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Peggy Rowan supported generations of Dominicans

It was remiss of this blog not to mark the death of Peggy Rowan.

Peggy Rowan's funeral Mass was celebrated in Wolfhill parish church Co. Kildare on Thursday October 31.

Peggy spent over 60 years at the Dominican Priory in Newbridge where she cared for generations of Dominicans. Indeed, her genuine love and kindness protected and saved many Dominicans.

The chief celebrant at her funeral Mass was Jordan O'Brien, who preached a fine and eloquent sermon.

Her love and dedication to so many Dominicans over six generations was remarkable.

Many Dominicans might not have survived without her care and goodness. Certainly many would not have been the people they were without her daily kind attention.

Dominican Jerome Murphy-O'Connor dies in Jerusalem

World-renowned scripture scholar Jerome Murphy-O'Connor died in Jerusalem on Monday.

He had been ill for some time.

Fr Murphy-O'Connor was a Dominican priest. He was born in Cork in 1935 and  joined the Irish Dominicans  in 1953. Jerome spent most of his working life in Jerusalem.

An obituary on Jerome will appear in The Irish Times.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Clerical church out of sync with what Irish people think

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

Michael Commane
‘The Furrow’ is a monthly pastoral periodical that covers current theological and social topics in Ireland and the UK. It is published in Maynooth and edited by Fr Ronan Drury.

The November issue carries an article written by Brendan Hoban, who is a priest of the Killala diocese. He has a wide range of writings, including scholarly works, to his name.

The article in ‘The Furrow’ is titled ‘Disenchanted Evenings – the mood of Irish Diocesan Clergy’.

Have you ever picked up a book and known straight away from the first two or three pages that it was a brilliant read?

That’s exactly what happened me when I picked up Brendan Hoban’s article. I have to be brutally honest and come out with my hands up. The man is saying things that I have been shouting about for years. But he does it in a brilliant way. It’s clear, it’s true and so elegant. There is not one word of pious nonsensical codswallop about it. Not a word of humbug or cliché.

The article is about the state of priesthood in Ireland today with special reference to the world of the diocesan priest.

I am not a diocesan priest. I am a member of a religious order but live on my own away from a Dominican priory. I work as a press officer and journalist. I also celebrate Mass on Sundays in a Dominican-run parish in Dublin.

Hoban’s central theme is that “disenchantment among diocesan priests in Ireland is predictable, understandable even inevitable, given the accumulated wreckage of the last few decades”.

He refers to Michael Harding’s ‘Priest’, written in 1986, which explored some of ‘the hidden space’ in his ‘bleak and disturbing work’. Harding is a former priest.

Fr Brendan admits that at the time of the publication of ‘Priest’ many people including himself, thought it was over the top. Brendan declares that many wise people are asking could there be a connection between the pathological side of priesthood as seen in Harding’s disturbing portrayal and the experience of lived priesthood?

He cites a talk given by a psychotherapist to priests, who spoke about ‘something’ around sexuality and priesthood that needs to be explored.

Fr Hoban sees an uneasiness around the experience of disconnectedness and dislocation in the diocesan priesthood in Ireland today.

Brendan clearly admits he is talking about diocesan priesthood but most of what he says in his article I can also identify as a reality in religious life today too.

He is critical of the method used to appoint bishops in Ireland and he quotes Dominican writer Donagh O’Shea, who refers to the new Missal as “an invented language, spoken or written by nobody in the world”.

He also writes about how Irish theologians can be privately critical of an official document but publicly endorse it. He argues that sycophancy has served us badly.

Fr Hoban calls for recognition of how out of sync the clerical Church is with what Irish people think, feel and believe.

But the Killala priest believes, even at this stage Pope Francis might well offer a renaissance, which will blow across the Irish landscape.

“It is as if suddenly out of the shadows a great light has pointed out a familiar path, a road spurned by those who preferred the certainties of the 19th century to the challenges of the 21st.”

He concludes: “If he gets a fair wind, he could well enchant our last evenings. ‘Who can explain?/ Who can tell you why?/ Fools give you reasons,/ Wise men never try.’”

Thank you Brendan.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Our lives are over like a sigh

When people reach a certain age they begin to wonder what will happen them when they can no longer care for themselves.

Single people who have cared for an elderly or infirm parent will ask who will do that job for them.

The Psalmist: "Our life is over like a sigh./ Our span is seventy years/or eighty for those who are strong./ And most of these are emptiness and pain./ They pass swiftly and we are gone."

And all our fancy ideas.

BBC's Andrew Marr interviewed a painter this morning on Radio 4. At one point she said: "The only way to lengthen our lives is to live for what you love".

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Climbing in Wicklow Hills

Tess on the ascent to Maulin today.

40th anniversary of death of Dominican Conleth Cronin

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the death of Conleth Cronin.

Con, as he was genrally known, was a young Dominican priest, still in his 20s.

He was killed on a Honda 50 returning from a football game in Tallaght. He played for the local Thomas Davis GAA Club.

Con could easily come across as a 'rough diamond' and yet, he was a gentle soul, who was kind, especially to people who often felt lost or bullied.

He grew up on the Curragh where his father was a member of the Irish Defence Forces.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Kristallnacht is a dark episode in Irish diplomacy

Seventy four years ago today the Nazis broke the glass. Kristallnacht gave the Nazis the confidence to go on and do what they did.

The Irish diplomatic mission in Berlin behaved dishonourably on the night the glass broke in Berlin and all across the German Reich.

Robert Fisk in today's 'Irish Independent' writes why he refuses to wear a poppy.

The current issue of 'Alive' yet again denigrates the European Union.

Surely the  European Union aspires to a world that makes far more sense than the Battle of Marne, Kristallnacht or indeed the ideology that is peddled in 'Alive'.

The answer lies in mercy and goodness here and now

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

Michael Commane
Last week the world learned of the horrific deaths of 92 people, almost all women and children, in the Sahara desert. Rescuers said the people had died of thirst after their truck broke down during their attempt to reach Algeria from Niger. An aid worker based in Niger said that the rescue party was very distressed. They had discovered the bodies scattered in small groups around the desert. Many bodies had decomposed. Wild animals had attacked the corpses. These people had begun their journey in hope of finding a better life for their families.

In the days that that horror made the headlines, BBC filed a shocking report from Syria where government troops and rebel forces had managed to empty a town and cause extraordinary mayhem. It was reported that snipers intentionally aimed at the stomachs of pregnant women and women were gang-raped. Another report mentioned how combatants were using rats to terrorise women and children. Even when you discount how each side exaggerates the misdeeds of the other, a picture of indescribable pain and suffering remains. And it is happening today and right in front of our eyes.

There are one billion people in the world today without enough food to eat. The inequality between women and men is universally acknowledge as one of the stumbling blocks to lifting people out of extreme poverty. On our own doorstep too we see instances of poverty and deprivation that we should not accept as inevitable.

It is a terrible abuse of Christian thinking to preach resignation to the poor and suffering by telling them that it will all be put right in the next world. That sort of talk is simply nonsense. Jesuit priest Peter McVerry speaking to Gay Byrne on TV last month stressed that any talk about God, which is not centred on the plight of the poorest and most fragile in society is really pious codswallop. And of course he is correct. But alas it seems to be part of life that there are always people who suffer and experience terrible pain and suffering. It is never ending.

In tomorrow's first reading from the historical Book of Maccabees we read about the martyrdom of seven brothers.

"The king, in a fury, ordered pans and cauldrons to be heated over a fire. As soon as they were red-hot he commanded that this spokesman of theirs should have his tongue cut out, his head scalped and his extremities cut off, while the other brothers and his mother looked on.” (2 Maccabees 7: 4) The Second Book of Maccabees was completed about 124BC. In so many ways, suffering continues and for those on the receiving end of it nothing really changes.

St Paul in tomorrow's second reading tells us that God loves us and in his mercy gives us everlasting comfort. (2 Thessalonians 2: 16) St Paul asks us to pray that God's word will spread everywhere and that we will be protected by God's power from the wicked and evil. It's bold to say it, it might sound unrealistic but as Christians we believe in a new order. Right now we are pilgrims in an imperfect world. We are challenged to bring about a world of peace and justice but that world only can reach perfection in and with God.

In tomorrow's Gospel (Luke 20: 27 - 38) when the Sadducees are trying to trip up Jesus about life after death he makes sure to tell them that he is the God of the living and not of the dead. The Scottish philosopher and theologian the late Donald MacKinnon once said that death is beyond our experience so we can't talk about it. There is always the temptation to talk about what happens after death but God's mercy and love is all about the now.

In living in the now, let's get on with living the mercy and love of God today in such a way that violence of all forms, the madness of war and the stupidity of gender inequality will be relegated to the history books and seen as never the solution to our problems The answer is in mercy and goodness, love and comfort.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Catholic periodical that doesn't know its print run

What at all is it about the Catholic Church and a silly form of secrecy?

Someone called the office of a Catholic periodical in the last days to enquire what the circulation firgures were for the publication.

The enquirer was told by the person at the other end of the telephone that they did not know. However thid did ask the enquirer for her name.

So typical and yet another metaphor for so much of what the institutional  church represents.

Circulation figures for most Irish newspapers and periodical are readily available. The only ones not to hand are those that are trying to lie and obfuscate about their readership.

The old story. The church and secrecy.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Russell argues genuine change needs public support

Yesterday's Guardain carried a full page article written by Russell Brand. It was a follow on to the  interview he did with Jeremy Paxman some weeks back.

The piece, as was the Paxman interview, a criticism of democracy as it is lived in the western capitalist world.

Brand talks about the possibility of being a hypocrite - something that can be levelled at anyone who says anything.

But there is an honesty about the article, there is a a clarity to it that makes it stand out.

In different ways it talks the language of the Brendan Hoban article in the November Furrow. It's the style of Dermot Lane on the ACP site. And light years from all the pious words that seem so meaningless.

It's real. It provokes discussion. It's believable.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The future lies in engaging with the secular world

An extract from a piece written by Dermot Lane. The full text is on the ACP site.

More great writing. Intelligent man.

6. Pope Francis has also retrieved the meaning of what is involved in thinking with the Church: “When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the Pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit”. In this way Francis has retrieved the importance of the sensus fidelium as intrinsic to the teaching-mission of the Church
7. The crisis of faith in Ireland today is far more serious than most Church leaders recognise. This crisis of faith is not something that began with the revelations around child sexual abuse. This crisis of faith had begun prior to the revelations of abuse and the inadequate response of ecclesiastical authorities through the failure of the church to come to grips with the winds of modernity. Modernity arrived in Ireland almost overnight to challenge a church that seemed immune to the challenges of modernity
This crisis of faith will not be resolved by condemning secularisation, or demonising the secular, or berating the ways of the world. The only way forward out of this crisis of faith is by engaging with the secular world as proposed by Gaudium et Spes, by initiating a dialogue between faith and the public square in Ireland, and by attending to “the unquiet frontiers of modernity” (Charles Taylor). Addressing this crisis of faith will also require social and cultural analysis of what exactly is happening in modern Ireland today. In this way faith will be able to find positive points of contact with the secular ( eg, the turn to mindfulness, the search for well-being/wellnes, the quest for the spiritual…) while critiquing the negative aspects of the secular. This analysis will need the help of the arts, philosophy and theology. It is far from clear that the current methods of the new evangelisation in Ireland are sufficient to the task of addressing the crisis of faith.

Germany and its trains

The success story of the billion-euro haul of stolen masterpieces in a Munich apartment all began on  EC 197 en route to Munich.

Customs officials spotted an elderly man on the Munich bound train. Earlier in the day they noticed he had been on the same train out of Munich.

He had €9,000 in his pocket.

And the world is handed back great art stolen by the Nazis.

Note. For train purists EC 197 travels between Zürich and Munich. Technically the train is not part of DB infrastructure but when it is on German track it becomes part of the DB IC network.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"I am for the left despite myself and the left" - Camus

There is much attention given to Albert Camus these days in the media.

The piece below is from Lara Marlowe's article in Monday's Irish Times.

He was born a 100 years ago on Thursday in a remote corner of colonial Algeria. His father was killed at the Battle of Marne and his mother cleaned houses to support her two sons.

It was his teacher Louis Germain, who persuaded his grandmother to let him try for a scholarship to the lycee. Camus later dedicated his Nobel Prize acceptance speech to his former teacher.

Camus recounted his childhood in 'The First Man'. The handwritten dedication to his illiterate mother ran: "For you who could never read this book."

He once wrote: "Heroism is accessible. Happiness is more difficult."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Brendan Hoban's writing is stunningly clear, honest, true

Anyone who has read Sebastian Faulks will be easily and immediately introduced to great writing. Faulks is one of those gifted writers. The reader knows and feels  at an early stage that Faulks is special.

It might be an exaggeration to compare Brendan Hoban with Faulks but reading Hoban one gets away from all the cant, bluff, pious codswallop and nonsense that is currently appearing about priesthood in Ireland today, especially in some religious congregations. There is a clarity, honesty and ease in Hoban's words. It's simply great writing. And true too.

Some time back the then parish priest in Cahersiveen, now Bishop of Cloyne, wrote a letter to 'The Kerryman' about views I expressed about priesthood. I hope the bishop will carefully read Brendan Hoban's article in the current issue of 'The Furrow'.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Not a matter of negativity or positivity but truth matters

In the current issue of the Furrow  Brendan Hoban  writes on 'Disenchanted Evenings - the mood of Irish Diocesan Clergy.'

The article comes highly recommended and should not be missed.

Brendan Hoban is a priest of the Diocese of Killala and lives in Moygownagh, Ballina, Co Mayo.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Remembering John James O'Gorman on a wet Luggala

Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the death of John O'Gorman.

John was probably one of the finest Irish Dominicans of his generation. He certainly was a man of integrity.

He and I walked the hills and roads of Ireland.

To commemorate John's death this blogger climbed Luggala in County Wicklow today. The conditions were terrible. Rain and wind. But it was fantastic too.

We saw many deer and also got a great view of the Guinness estate.

A former work colleague joined me on the walk as did Tess, who features below. Apologies for poor quality pictures. The other picture is of the Guinness estate taken from the side of Luggala. Tess chased deer on two occasions but they were too fast for her.

It's now 'custom and practice' that this blog republishes an appreciation of John, which appeared in the Irish Times in the days after his sudden and untimely death.

JOHN James O’Gorman was born in Blarney Street, Cork in 1945 and attended the North Monastery Christian Brothers School. He was one of their brilliant young men, obtaining a scholarship to UCC. But instead of going on to university he joined the Dominican Order in September 1962. He was professed the following year and ordained a priest in 1969.

John O’Gorman stood out as a shining light. Most of all he was a man of absolute integrity, but he was also endowed with brilliant intelligence. After priestly ordination he studied postgraduate theology in Rome and remained at the Irish Dominican community in San Clemente as bursar.

He spoke Italian like a Roman – or so said his neighbours on the Via Labicana. But he was not happy with Rome and the Roman scene. His first love was always science and mathematics. He began postgraduate work in maths while still in Rome. Father J.M. Heuston, a brother of John Heuston of 1916 fame, himself a fine mathematician, admitted that he had never before met someone with such mathematical talent. John came home to Ireland in 1976, moved to the Dominican Community at Newbridge and did his H.Dip at Maynooth. Without any formal degree in mathematics, he blazed a trail of brilliance through Newbridge College. Students seeming destined to produce average turned in spectacular performances.

By the time of his last year at the school, there were two streams in sixth year doing Higher Level Maths in the Leaving Cert. But John was also there for the not-so-clever. Anyone who sat at his feet in Newbridge will remember him as a brilliant and fair teacher. John was endowed with both a practical and speculative intelligence.

In the early 1980s he began to develop an interest in Computer Science and did a Ph.D, in computing at the University of Limerick. This led to a career in lecturing at the college, a job he greatly loved. He is the author of two books on computing and was in the process of publishing a third.

He was meticulous in everything he did. While mathematics and teaching were his first love there were other sides to this faithful son of St Dominick. He walked every by-road of Ireland, climbed to the top of every mountain and had a knowledge of roads, rivers and mountains that was simply breathtaking.

John also took his theology seriously, had a profound knowledge of the Bible, and was familiar with modern theological thinking. But he was never at home with his priesthood. In the mid-1980s he requested permission to resign from priesthood while remaining a Dominican. The Order granted his request.

Most of all John was a dear friend, someone who was always there to give the best of advice and help. He had absolutely no time for show or pretension and lived the simplest of lives. He never lost his Blarney Street accent. He carried his intelligence easily and never used it as a tool to lord it over anyone.

Above all, any signs of obfuscation annoyed him intensely. He had little time for people in authority who attempted to take short-cuts and he had no mercy for Dominican superiors whom he felt were not living up to their responsibility. He was a member of the provincial council of the Irish Dominicans and took his responsibility very seriously.

He was a true democrat, moulded by the constitutions of the Order, so when he felt superiors or communities were lack-lustre living out their calling to St Dominic, he had no hesitation in letting people know his views. He was in some ways a private man but was always there for his friends and he would go to any distance to help and support.

John was a physically fit man who could walk up to 20 miles a day. He took good care of himself. Yet he died in his room in the Dominican Community in Limerick on the evening of Sunday, November 3rd of a massive heart attack.

He is survived by his brother Andrew, sister-in-law Emer, niece Fiona, nephews Rory and Mark, and his Dominican brothers. I have lost a dear friend. May he rest in peace.
Michael Commane

Friday, November 1, 2013

Whistle blower Snowden willing to travel to Germany

German Green Party Bundestag member Hans Christian Ströbele met Edward Snowden in Moscow yesterday.

As a result of the meeting it has been learned that Snowden is willing to come to Germany and be a witness at a parliamentary commission.

A political conundrum for the German Government. Germany has a bilateral agreement with the United States regarding the transfer of wanted people.

And if Snowden leaves Russia he automatically cancels his current asylum agreement with the Russian Federation.

Could he not do a conference call with the German Parliamentary Commission?


Uproar about Revenue not a whimper about private sector

In recent days the Irish Revenue Authorities have mailed home owners regarding the payment of next year's Local Property Tax.

Indeed, the letter may well be conplicated and not at all as clearly written as it should or could be.

There has been wall-to-wall coverage of the letter and it has been a field day for talk radio with all the usual sob stories.

In these same days the privately owned communications company UPC has mailed or emailed its cutomers with bills. These bills are well nigh impossible to follow or understand and they also give misleading information. The infomration is so misleading it could easily lead the customer to believing something about the bill which is not the case.

Not a word, not a whimper from the public about this bill. And not a word from talk show hosts.

Why is that?