Monday, March 31, 2014

Breda O'Brien's reference to van Elst makes little sense

Breda O'Brien in her column in Saturday's Irish Times writes about the Catholic Church's progress on child protection and argues how the church is dealing with the matter in a detailed and forensic way.

She cites the appointment of Marie Collins to the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Half the members of the new commission are women, including Hannah Suchocka, a former Polish prime minister under Lech Walesa.

Breda writes in her article: "Here in Ireland, we had Bishop Jim Moriarty resigning because he “failed to challenge the culture”, not for any personal action that harmed a child.

"However, that was his personal decision. Bishops have not always been held to account by the Vatican for active failures in child safeguarding, although it was possible to remove the so-called Bishop of Bling, German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who had carried out lavish renovations costing some €31 million."
Does Ms O'Brien know something about Tebartz-van Elst that the rest of the world does not know?The bishop's story has nothing at all to do with the topic Ms O'Brien is writing about  in her article."
It is, at least, worrying but also most confusing and maybe misleading.
Clerical child sex abuse is a most difficult topic. If the churhces have done a lot in recent years, they have hidden far more over far many more years. 
One might ask is the postion in the churches today as healthy as Ms O'Brien might think?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Two former German Chancellors support Russia

Former German Chancellor and much revered 95-year-old Helmut Schmidt has criticised the West's Crimea strategy and described Russia's annexation of the peninsula as 'completely understandable'.

He made his comments in Friday's 'Die Zeit'. Helmut Schmidt saw service on the Russian front as a Wehrmacht soldier in World War ll.

Another former Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, also has criticised the EU's attitude towards Russia on its Crimea/Ukraine policy.

Before leaving office Schröder signed off on the development of a gas pipeline direct from Russia to Germany under the North Sea. The pipeline is now in operation.

And as Kerry reroutes his plane to meet Lavrov in Paris to discuss the Russian/US/EU crisis, Tess gets to the top of Moanbane on Saturday. Moanbane is in Wicklow and stands at 703 metres. Mist on the mountain yesterday and the only way to navigate was by means of a compass and map.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Laws do not make a just, compassionate society

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

Michael Commane
The first few times you watch it, it has novelty value and it does give you a different take on the story.

Over the last few weeks RT - Russian Television - has given wall-to-wall coverage of the ‘terrible atrocities’ being meted out to Russian speakers in Ukraine.

We are told that 97 per cent of the people of Crimea voted to return to Mother Russia.

But after a week or so one realises that the station is spewing out propaganda. It may well be that the people in Crimea feel more Russian than Ukrainian, but it can’t be as black and white as RT portrays. 

It is accurate to say that the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych was illegal and there is the view that the vote in Crimea on Sunday March 16, 2014, was somehow legal, though I’m sceptical about that. But wrong doing has been done by all sides. And I have spoken to Russians who are are delighted to see Crimea return to Russia. However, it is expected that nations adhere to international agreements.
Watching and listening to RT one gets the impression that the magic word ‘legal’ is being used to justify everything that is being done. Once a person says something is legal it seems to give it great authority. And so too when one uses the word ‘illegal’ or the term ‘against the law’, there is an immediate sense or feeling that someone has done something unacceptable.

Indeed, legality is a term that many try to hide behind. And it is always a great threat to hold over someone. To tell someone that they are breaking the law can be most intimidating. Most of us don’t like to have a brush with the law.

In modern democracies there is always a healthy tension between the legislature and the judiciary. In tyrannies ‘the law’ is used as a blunt and brutal instrument.

On the first anniversary of the election of Jorge Bergoglio as pope much has been written about changes made in the first 12 months of his papacy.

In an article in The Guardian newspaper, columnist Andrew Brown wrote: “The temptation for observers is to look at the policies of the church and ask which of these he will change. But policy in the long run matters less than culture; written rules matter less than unwritten ones.”

In tomorrow’s Gospel (John 9: 1- 41), Jesus restores a man’s sight. Someone moves from darkness to light. When the Pharisees realise what has happened they are confused and look for every reason to lessen the extraordinary event that has happened.

They cannot accept that Jesus could do something like this: “This man cannot be from from God: he does not keep the Sabbath”. (John 9: 16). They throw the law at him. They show him the rulebook to clarify that this is simply not acceptable.

Of course for the efficient day-to-day running of any society laws and regulations are required. But laws have never made a society. Indeed, far too often despots and tyrants have made laws and hidden behind laws in an attempt to legitimise their behaviour.

Maybe in the church there has been an over-emphasis on rules and regulations. It’s worth noting that St Thomas Aquinas puts prudence as the most important of all the virtues. And prudence is part of no legal codex.

Surely it is the underlying atmosphere or culture that pervades a society that matters most. That’s the building block, that’s the foundation on which we place our trust. Law is used to support that culture or atmosphere.

For Christians that means our genuine love for God and one another. Our love for God and our fellow human being can never be something that comes about as a result of a command. Guns at the ready, dark balaclavas and jackboots might impress for a while. But in the long run they are destined for failure.

Rulebooks on their own are vacuous. Love lasts. A pope who helps deepen our power to love will have done a great job.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Archbishop Justin Welby hopes to prevent a schism

From Thursday's Guardian

Archbishop of Canterbury signals end of C of E's resistance to gay marriage

Justin Welby says when gay marriage is legalised on Saturday, church should show 'the love of Christ for every human being
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury hopes to prevent the schism in the Anglican church over gay marriage from spreading to the UK. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
The Archbishop of Canterbury has signalled that the Church of England will mount no more resistance to gay marriage among churchgoers.
Gay marriage will be legalised from Saturday with dozens of ceremonies planned around the country for one minute past midnight. This passing of the legislation caused deep rifts within the church.
"I think the church has reacted by fully accepting that it's the law, and should react on Saturday by continuing to demonstrate in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being." Justin Welby told the Guardian.
His comments mark a shift in tone, if not substance, from a letter from the bishops last month that attempted to forbid the clergy from marrying same-sex partners, and which led to a furious backlash from supporters. At least seven clergy couples are preparing to marry in defiance of their bishops, though none are known to be planning a public ceremony.
The global Anglican church is deeply split on the issue and Welby is trying to prevent the schism from spreading to the UK, where some conservative evangelical congregations are threatening to leave the Church of England if it compromises its opposition to gay sex by blessing civil partnerships.
He hopes to finesse the problem via a series of "structured conversations" with the aim of reaching a more civilised disagreement.
There is pressure on both sides of the issue, with some members preparing to publicly support the new legislation.
This is driving some opponents of gay marriage into a frenzy. The Reverend Andrew Symes, the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, said in a blog post last week: "When I first started suggesting the idea of calling the church to pray for the nation on March 29th, I was told in no uncertain terms by senior evangelical Anglican leaders that this would send out a negative message."
He went on to say: "We can't be certain about the direct link between bad weather and the gay marriage legislation"
Some clergy are offering to bless same-sex marriages despite their bishops opposition. The Reverend Andrew Cain, from north London, has also announced his intention to marry his partner.

Nature at play

This afternoon walking through Orwell Park I spot a man fishing on the Dodder and then see a trout on his hook. In fishing parlance it must have been a 'two pounder'. a fine big trout.

We got chatting, I told him as a child and a young 'fella' I fished at that spot.

Out of the blue he asked if I'd like the fish. I could not believe my ears. Ran home, with the fish wriggling in my clenched fist.

It's now all prepared for dinner. Thank you fisherman.

Went back out on my scheduled walk and at Rathfarnham Bridge two swans at play.

HR plays important role in any working organisation

Dr Hilmi Kurt-Elli, a senior design engineer at Rolls-Royce's aero engine facility at Dahlewitz in eastern Germany, claims that he was dismissed for raising safety concerns with the chief executive, John Rishton.

Rolls-Royce says that Kurt-Elli was not sacked for blowing the whistle, but for his unreasonable attitude and the total breakdown of his relationship with colleagues and senior executives.

Rolls-Royce's HR department has told a tribunal in Nottingham that Kurt-Eli's allegations are extraordinary.

The presiding judge  said on Tuesday: "Rolls-Royce say you made unfounded allegations about your work colleagues leading them to believe you could no longer work in the organisation. If we decide it was because of the protected disclosure, they are in trouble."

Kurt-Elli is seeking compensation of £450,000 from Rolls-Royce.

Anyone following this case, indeed, anyone who lives in the world of labour will be conscious of the importance of organisations having adequate HR facilities in place.

Is there a diocese or religious congregation in Ireland that has a professional HR department in place? Most likely not.

And so often contentious issues have little if anything to to with theology or teaching but everything do do with style, personality, hunches, misunderstandings, jealousy, careerism, laziness and inefficiency.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A glimpse at an older Scargill at Benn funeral

Among those who attended the funeral service of Tony Benn at Westminster today was the former miners' leader Arthur Scargill.

Back in the early 1980s Arthur Scargill was regularly in the news as the Yorkshire miners went head to head with the Thatcher government.

He was almost a daily feature on the then 1pm ITN News.

In those same days the FTSE hit the 800 mark.

At the time I was teaching in Newbridge, the ITN News was during school lunch break.

The Scargill battle and the health of the FTSE became topics for 'fun bets'. Taking part were three of us, maths and science teacher, Canice Murphy and another maths teacher, the late John O'Gorman.

Over 30 years ago.

The mines closed, the FTSE soared.

The woman behind the German iPhone voice

In Hollywood film 'Her' a man falls in love with a computer voice. But according to German Spiegel magazine that also happens in 'real life'.

German iPhone voice Heike Hagen in a Speigel interview speaks about her experiences and how men have complimented her. But she explains in the interview why she does not like hearing her own voice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bling bishop banished

Germany's 'bishop of bling' resigns. Pope Francis has formally accepted the resignation of a senior German church leader suspended over his alleged lavish spending, the Vatican says.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst had been informed about the spiralling costs of the work being done on his residence in Limburg. The commission found that he was responsible for what happened.

George Pell's behaviour leaves much to be desired

Anyone following the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse currently in progress in Sydney will get a glimpse at the behaviour and attitude of the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell.

The arrogance is breathtaking, the vast sums of money, the pomp, that 'holy nonsense' and this man has priests, people, all over his diocese doffing the hat at him.

His words and demeanour at the Commission bear little resemblance to so much of the 'clerical pronouncements' the cardinal archbishop has made in the past.

How come all these bishops, cardinals, provincials knew/know exactly what God is thinking on all matters of sexuality? It now turns out they are fumbling, incompetent and arrogant men, trying desperately to run from the cameras of world opinion. Is it a question of the light versus the darkness but in reverse?

Might he be chastened? Unlikely.

After his testimony, Cardinal Pell is expected to leave Australia for Rome to take on a new senior role at the Vatican, which includes responsibility for preparing the Vatican's annual budget, as well as financial planning and enhanced internal controls.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Archdiocese of Sydney has assets of over one billion A$

The article below is from today's Sydney Morning Herald.

The Catholic archdiocese has paid out eight million Australian Dollars to victims of clerical child sex abuse.

Cardinal George Pell is one of Pope Francis' advisers.

Drink costs €7b and is the reason for 90% of trouble

Alcohol abuse in Ireland costs the State €3.5 billion a year but if the adverse effect on others were factored in, it is possible that the cost could be double.

A garda in a city centre station, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that 90 per cent of 'trouble' and 'violence', excluding the world of drug/criminal activity, is as a result of the abuse of alcohol consumption.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What's on the web

Readers may be interested in viewing

Pious cliches and lucre

What is it about right wing religious literature that always has somewhere or other on the page/leaflet a request for money?

And have you ever noticed the words used - 'donation', 'offering'?

One can read pages of cliched pious words and then that request for money. Real money but certainly phoney, unreal 'holy thoughts'.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Jesus the Jew asks a Samaritan woman for a drink

In today's Gospel Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink.

Educate a man and you educate a man. Educate a woman and you educate a family.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Snow on Sorrel Hill

Weather forecast for Leinster today was scattered showers, some heavy. But did the Met Office mention snow?

On Sorrel Hill, 599 metres/1070 feet this afternoon the flaky snow 'stuck'. Winter temperatures. And when it was not snowing the hail was heavy.

In between snow and hail, blue skies and amazing views, the sun shone on the Blessington Lakes.

Mullaghcleevaun had a sprinkling of snow too.

A cold day on Sorrel Hill.

And Tess all the time on the lead. Sheep dotted on the mountain.

Gay Byrne speaks prophetic words about organisations

Broadcaster Gay Byrne, who is also the chairman of the RSA, spoke on radio today about the two garda whistleblowers, the words used by Garda Commissioner Callinan and what Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said during the week.

He gave a polished performance.

Mr Byrne pointed out that all organisations as they grow in size, importance and time will always do their utmpost to protect the organisation. He said it did not matter whether it be the Garda Siochana, Aer Lingus, Guinness, all organisations inevitably protect the organisation.

In the case of the Garda he said that he had noticed that they genuinely believe that all information they procured was their's alone. "They believed they owned it," he said.

Mr Byrne spoke most eloquently.

He never mentioned church organisations but his words fitted perfectly for the churches.

And the added problem with the churches is, they have generations upon generations to support their behaviour.

How do the churches treat whistleblowers? How do they react when someone blows the whistle? How easy is it for someone close to the institutional churches to be a whistleblower?

Gay Byrne spoke prophetic words today.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Minister mangles language

Junior Minister Brian Hayes said on the main news on RTE 1 this evening that "competition is the essence of life".

One could not make it up.

Email at the Irish Times

The Irish Times has changed from e-mail to email. It was inevitable.

English Dominican is new Archbishop of Liverpool

Dominican priest and Bishop of Nottingham Malcolm McMahon has been appointed the new Archbishop of Liverpool.

The Archbishop-elect was provincial of the English province before his episcopal appointment.

Before joining the Dominicans he worked as an engineer.

Law, Burke and a member of the Legionaries of Christ

From today's Irish Times.
The former Cardinal Archbishop of Boston Bernard Law, who resigned from the post in 2002 amid allegations of cover-up in the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations, was one of the main guests at a special St Patrick’s Day lunch in Rome’s Irish College.
Another guest at the top tabe at the dinner was controversial Cardinal Raymond Burke, currently prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, its Supreme Court. Last December Pope Francis omitted to re-appoint him to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops.
The College trustees are Ireland’s four Catholic archbishops, the Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary and Archbishop of Cashel Dermot Clifford.
Also a guest at the lunch was Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton. However, his spokeswoman said last night he “was not aware of other guests attending.”
Another guest at the St Patrick’s Day lunch was Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity and a member of the Legionaries of Christ whose founder Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado was denounced in a Vatican 2010 document. It said Fr Degollado was “devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment” which allowed him to abuse young boys unchecked for decades.
Last night Fr Ciaran O’Carroll, rector of the Irish College in Rome, confirmed that both cardinals and the bishop were lunch guests at the Irish College on Saint Patrick’s Day.
“They attended along with other prelates, academics, politicians, diplomats, students and numerous members of the Irish community in Rome. All were in attendance to honour the national patron saint and this reflects the College’s long tradition of welcoming hundreds of guests and visitors on each Saint Patrick’s Day.”

Cycling with his Mum at Portobello with no stabilisers

A little five-year-old boy at Portobello Bridge cycling alongside his mother at 08.20 on the first day of spring.

A helmet and no stabilisers.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

No one owns God's Word

A sentence in tomorrow's Gospel; "I say to you: the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you and given to a people who will yield a harvest."

Those words are a powerful reminder that no one group has exclusive rights on the 'Word of God'.

Does that not mean that all talk about God has to involve dialogue?

Surely listening to people in the workplace, on the street, doing our daily shores is a far more refreshing, authentic and uplifting experience than being taught how to 'evangelise'.

Are the churches honestly willing to listen to the spirit of God as it is lived in the community?

Garda Commissioner is asked to withdraw remark

It is indeed sensational that a member of the Cabinet should ask the Garda Commissioner to withdraw the remark he made about the two Garda whistleblowers.

Leo Varadkar has asked the Commissioner to withdraw his remark. He is also reported as saying there is little point in Commissioner Callinan apologising unless it is a genuine and heartfelt apology.

The comments of the Transport Minister are courageous and inspiring.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The cat that helps sell over one million books in Britain

Hodder abd Stoughton has said James Bowen has sold more than one million books in Britian.

In 2007 Bowen, who was living in sheltered accommodation and recovering from drug addiction, found an injured cat, who seemed to be saying to him, "help" and 'sort yourself out".

He nursed the cat back to health, called him Bob and the two became a regular pair as James busked and sold the Big Issue in London.

Bowen's book 'A Street Cat Named Bob' has sold in 30 countries and has topped charts in US, Brazil, Portugal, Turkey and Germany.

"I think I've opened people's eyes to things they never understood properly, I never thought I would turn my life around and be the voice of people who can't be heard," he said.

He points out that having Bob with him when he was busking gave him a chance to interact with people and people would give him more of a fair hearing.

James Bowen has written three books.

Surely at least one book in a dog?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The black art of propaganda eventually grows tedious

Anyone who is watching Russian Television, RT, these evenings must grow tired of the crass propaganda that is peddled.

Maybe on the first evening it is amusing, even fun but then slowly but surely it becomes shocking, obscene. Lie after lie being told.

That's not to say that the Crimea case is not complicated. And as former UK ambassador to Russia, Sir Ivor Roberts, has argued, Crimea will never return to full Ukrainian sovereignty. But the spin of RT is most annoying. The station paints a picture that everything that Russia is doing is correct and wholesome.

Anyone who paints such a picture is involved in the black art of propaganda. Anyone anywhere who says that everything is great and wonderful can never be telling the full truth.

Catholic Church websites? Of course an exaggerated comparison but one is forced to grow tired of so much of the so-called good news that is peddled on church websites. The reality is far from what it says on the tin.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tony Benn's diaries are an inspiration to be courageous

This morning BBC Radio 4 replayed Tony Benn reading from his diaries. It will be continued tomorrow morning.

He is a genius. He describes visits of his grandchildren and falling asleep while he is babysitting.

But he also has the courage to criticise the leadership of the Labour Party and he does it in such wonderful words. And remember it was the Labour Party he loved. He saw the party as being hijacked by career opportunists. He speaks about incompetent leaders.

Listening to him would give one the confidence to criticise, to criticise aspects of leadership within the Catholic Church in Ireland.

What in God's name would Tony Benn have had to say had he been a member of a religious order or diocese in the Catholic Church in Ireland?

What would he have said about their methods of communication, their expertise at cutting people down, ignoring those who disagree with them?

Alas, it's too late to ask him. But his words will surely give people courage. And what at all would he say about the phoney silence? All the phoniness. The incompetency.

It's heartening to remember what his mother told him: "Kings are rulers, prophets are teachers."

Prophets in the Irish Catholic Church?

St Patrick's Day is a brand with worldwide recognition

The piece below is from today's Rollebon Press Sunday Letter. It is reprinted here by kind permission of Rollebon Press, Tallaght.

Michael Commane
Brand names are in many ways the magic of our times. Companies spend millions of euro and expend extraordinary energy and creativity building up and then protecting a brand.

Volkswagen, Coca Cola, Tommy Hilfiger and even our own Kerrygold are all world-famous brands. The very sound and sight of the name creates an air of quality, reliability, but above all trust.

When a company knows its name, its brand evokes a trust with people it then knows it is a world leader. Companies spend years building a brand name.

Back in 1985 I was crossing from West Berlin to East Berlin. Germany was still divided and the border crossings between West and East Berlin were the most formidable frontier crossings in the world.

Just as I went through the final security check at Friedrich Straße the East German guard wished me a happy St Patrick's Day. Needles to say I was greatly surprised, indeed, shocked. We ended up chatting to one another, something unheard of at those crossing points.

It was St Patrick's Day and a Sunday and I was on my way to celebrate Mass in the Catholic cathedral in Bebel Platz.

I was chuffed that a border guard in the Communist GDR knew who Ireland's patron was. I was proud too.

The Irish State has branded this day in a clever and marketable way. It's the day when our Government Ministers travel the world to sell Ireland. It would be an unwise and silly marketing team that would remove the Shamrock from the tailplane of an Aer Lingus aircraft.

In current parlance most of us refer to the day as 'Paddy's Day'. Indeed, to talk about 'St Patrick's Day' can even sound 'old fashioned'. Strange how style and fashion can influence how we think.

But today above all is an Irish Christian feast, recalling the man who is reputed to have brought the faith to Ireland.

March 17 is both a holy day and a national holiday.

Soon after his ordination as bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy in a lecture he gave in his new city stressed that Ireland today with all its anger for and alienation with the Catholic Church is never far away from its Christian tradition.

There is such a wealth of tradition in our faith that it would seem really shocking if we dismissed it out of hand because of bad behaviour and mismanagement within the institutional church.

In the second reading at Mass today (Philippians 2: 6 - 11) St Paul in his letter to the Philippians writes how all creation is in awe of Jesus Christ, who is Lord and God. Paul tells his readers how Jesus humbles himself, even to the point of death. And this man happens to be God.
Yes, it requires faith to accept the divinity of Jesus. But how many aspects of our lives depend on leaps of faith. So much to do with love and trust requires us to believe in the other person.

Our Christian faith has stood the test of time. Placing Christ, the one who humbled himself, at a central place in our lives makes sense. It suggests we give more time and thought to the other person. It reminds us we are not alone.

In St Patrick's Breastplate we read:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, (100)
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Marketing companies would give their right hand for a 'brand' as fantastic as St Patrick. We should do our damnedest to retain it.

James Harris OP - an Irish Times appreciation

The piece below appears in today's Irish Times

Michael Commane
Jim Harris was an original. But above all he was a kind man, who had a gift for supporting those on the margins, those who depended on the help of a wise companion.

James Harris was a Dominican priest, who died suddenly at 75, sitting in the Dominican church in Newbridge, on Saturday February 22.

He was born in Caragh, Co. Kildare in 1938. His father Tom was the first Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare, serving from 1927 to 1957. Jim’s mother was Hannah O'Sullivan from Aughacasla in Kerry.

Their son was a boarder at the Dominican-run Newbridge College and from there joined the Order, making his first profession in Cork in 1958.

He studied philosophy and theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Tallaght, completing his theological studies in Rome. He did a BA and H.Dip in Education at UCG, before taking up a teaching post at Newbridge College, where he taught Latin, Geography and Religious Studies.

Jim had a mischievous sense of humour, often used to mock the status quo. On one occasion while teaching in Newbridge he set a Latin exam. On one side of the paper was a Latin text to be translated into English, on the reverse side another text, this time an English text to be translated into Latin. Not all the students realised it was the same text.

After Newbridge he moved to Galway, where as prior, he oversaw the building of a new priory.

With the job completed he moved to Athy, again calling in the architects and builders to build a priory beside the Dominican church on the Barrow.

He spent 18 years in Waterford, where he rebuilt a new priory and was a loyal supporter of the St Vincent de Paul society.

So much of his generosity was done in the greatest of confidentiality.

While he enjoyed his teaching and building projects, Jim excelled in his kindness and support of those he encountered. And that was a large number of people, whether past pupils, friends, family, but maybe above all, those who needed a shoulder on whom to cry.

The underdog, the person in trouble, knew they had his ear.

He was ordained a priest on July 12, 1964 but coming from a republican background he never admitted anything special about the day.

He had a wide interest in sport. His first love was rugby. Many of his contemporaries tell great stories of his adventures on the field.

He is survived by his sisters Annie and Kitty, brothers Michael and Sean. His sister Betty, a nurse, sustained serious injuries in Nigeria while working as a lay missionary. Betty died in 2008.

He is predeceased by his sister Mary, who died in 1994 and his brother Joe, who died in 1951. Jim's mother died in her 105th year.

Jim touched the lives of many people with his grace.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tony Benn and his mother

A commentator on Tony Benn: "Give him a platform and all he wanted to talk about was his mother."

It was his mother when one night reading the Bible said to him that, "kings had power and prophets were teachers".

A sentiment that remained with him all his life and greatly influenced his thought.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The mist cleared right on the peak of Lugnaquillia

Lugnaquillia lies right in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains and is the second highest peak in Ireland, the highest in Leinster.

The peak lies due south west of the Glenmalure river and valley.

The forecast for the day was good - due to be the best of the holiday weekend. But mist came and went during the day. Fortunately at the top the mist cleared. Table Mountain, Mullaghcleevaun, Tonelagee and Duff Hill were all visible. Indeed, at one stage the sun was shining on the cement surrounding the reservoir on Turlough Hill.

And not a bother to Tess. But the planned route had to be abandoned and plan B put in operation. At the first gate a 'friendly' sign read, 'No dogs, on or off leads. Dogs will be shot on sight'.

Who would want to risk it. So we changed our routed. Fortunately, Coillte is far more hospitable and friendly towards walkers with their dogs than that 'sign person'. And of course Tess was on a lead.

We ascended via the North Prison.

It was Tess' first time on the Lug. My second. The last time was 42 years ago when we cycled tom Tallaght to Donard and made our ascent from the Gen of Imail. And after our descent, back on the bicycles and home to Tallaght.

How fortunate we were to have been introduced to such wonder. Indeed, it complemented the theology of the day. And maybe the mountain in turn complimented that brand of theology.

Today too, it was a place of wonder.

And if you still think in feet, Lugnaquillia is 3,039 feet up into the sky.

Pope Francis is planning a revolution to outlast him

In an article in Thursday's Guardian, columnist Andrew Brown wrote of Pope Francis: 'In his first year Francis has done all he can do. He must ensure his successor cannot undo all his progress.

"The temptation for observers is to look at the policies of the church and ask which of these he will change. But policy in the long run matters much less than culture; written rules matter less than unwritten ones."

A wise observation.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Death of Tony Benn

Harold Wilson said of him that he immatured with age.

When he retired from parliament he said he wanted to spend more time in politics.

He once quipped: "When you think of the number of men in the world who hate each other, why, when two men love each other, does the church split."

He said kings were people of power, prophets were teachers.

The man who surrendered his hereditary peerage, and then went out and won a Westminster seat  for Bristol, Tony Benn, died today some time before 07.00. He was 88.

He was an MP for over 50 years, an eloquent orator, who spent his life on the side of those on the margins.

Even if one disagreed with any of his policies, one could be nothing but inspired with the man.

His wife, Caroline, his life-long soulmate predeceased him. They married in 1949 and she died in 2000.

His son, Hilary was a Cabinet Minister in Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's governments.

Enoch Powell said that all politics ends in failure.

Benn left his mark. They'll be reading Benn when Wilson, Callahan, Blair and Brown will have been long forgotten.

I listened and observed the man for over 40 years.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Death row inmate released in US in first week of Lent

Black man Glenn Ford was released from prison in Louisana on Tuesday.

He spent 30 years on death row. He had been wrongly convicted of the murder of a white man.

Mr Ford is the 144th death row inmate to be exonerated in 40 years int he US.

Alabama, California, Florida and Missouri are among the states in the US, that are currently speeding up the process of executions. They are also whittling down the resources to appeals.

What does the Catholic Church in the US, around the world, have to say about this barbaric behaviour?

At the beginning of Lent church websites were inundated with 'holy ideas' for the Lenten season. Has there been a word spoken by anyone in the church about executions in the United States of America?

Then again, not a word on right-wing US radio stations on the release of Mr Ford.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Soros commends European Union on Roma support

In an interview on BBC Radio 4 this morning George Soros spoke about the plight of the Roma community. He spoke in sympathetic terms and pointed out  the positive aspects of the relationship between the EU and the Roma community and how the EU has done so much for the well-being and dignity of the Roma people.

The charity and humanity of the man was in such stark contrast to so much of what one reads, hears and sees in so many right wing media outlets when they are attacking the EU.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The death of a railway man

Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT, died of a heart attack this morning.

He's the man who brought the London Undergound to a stop in recent weeks.

His brother, Richard said: "He never drove a car, he lived a life of the average guy in the street and that's a rare thing these days."

But it's clear enough what he meant to say about his dead brother.

Ken Livingstone said of Crow: "He fought really hard for his members. The only working-class people who still have well-paid jobs in London are his members.

Ed Miliband said that Crow was a major figure in the labour movement and was loved and deeply respected by his members.

'Wishy-washy liberalism' preferable to fanaticism

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

Michael Commane
On Ash Wednesday a Protestant friend of mine called and asked me would I go with him that evening to a Solemn Eucharist – Ash Wednesday service in St Bartholomew’s on Dublin’s Clyde Road.

I was delighted to go. It was my first time at a service in that church and it was my first time to receive ashes from an Anglican priest. Indeed, it was my first time ever to be in an Anglican church on Ash Wednesday.

It was a prayerful occasion, solemnly celebrated with fine music. A priest from Jerusalem gave the sermon, which was most appropriate for the day that was in it.

After the service, which lasted over an hour, my friend and I were talking about differences between the Protestant and Catholic religions.

I pointed out that so many of the prayers were familiar to me. The same prayers we say in Catholic churches.

It set me thinking about differences and divisions between peoples and how it always seems to happen that somehow or other fanaticism rears its ugly head, no matter how noble the cause.

About a year ago I bought myself an internet radio. A fantastic buy. It means you can listen to any station anywhere in the world. After Christmas I accidentally tuned in to ‘Patriot Radio’ in the US. It has left me utterly dumbstruck. It is non-stop, wall-to-wall right wing propaganda. Every few minutes it finds an opportunity to say the nastiest things possible about Barack Obama’s new health care plan.

It calls US Secretary of State, John Kerry, ‘Potato Face’. I have never in my life heard such nasty radio. And it’s relentless. I have surprised myself how I keep tuning in. It’s so wild there is an entertainment value to it. From all the evidence to hand I would consider this hate radio.

But that sort of fanaticism exists right across all walks of society; politics, the churches, nation states. And what is really worrying about it is that it always seems to have the ability of gaining momentum, gaining traction, to use modern jargon.

It’s so easy for that fanatical genie to be released from the bottle and then there is no stopping. Just look at history. Millions are maimed and killed. For what?

The lead picture on the front page of a national newspaper last week showed pro-Russian protesters in a show of defiance during a takeover of the regional parliament building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

They all looked vicious and wild. They really looked scary.

Then on page two of the same paper there is a picture of Ukrainians rallying in the eastern city of Kharkiv to protest against Russia’s incursion into Crimea. This time most of the people in the picture are women. They look so peaceful, almost as if they are praying.

How true, the first casualty in war is the truth. Of course there are rough and vicious people who feel more Russian than Ukrainian but there are also gentle and kind people who feel they have more in common with Russia than Ukraine.

Whatever about the rights and wrongs of what is going in Crimea, those two photographs have to be a great example of crass western propaganda.

And what is most annoying about all forms of fanaticism is that it is always the poor and uneducated who are manipulated and fooled to suit the plans and conniving of the great and powerful.

On the way home from St Bartholomew’s I was thinking that not so long ago people were led to believe that it was ‘sinful’ to visit a Protestant church.

There might be a lot wrong with ‘wishy-washy liberalism’ but please, give it to me any day before any and all forms of fanaticism, which seems to be in the ascendancy right now.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Creidim, Legionaries of Christ and the Dominicans

Dominican Camp, Knockadoon in Co Cork is hosting this summer a Creidim six-day course on the words of the Creed.

Creidim is a 'Faith Development and Youth Leadership Programme' organised from Clonlost Retreat Centre in Killiney.

Clonlost Retreat Centre is owned by the Legionaries of Christ.

The six-day course is being organised by Onexone Ministries, which is a non-profit foundation committed to supporting, preserving and improving the lives of children in the US, Canada, Haiti and Africa.

According to the flyer, advertising the six-day course, Onexone Ministries is an initiative of the Dominican Order.

The flyer features a picture of the Master of the Dominican Order, Bruno Cadoré.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An RTÉ One special on Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado

This evening at 9.30pm RTE One is screening  'A Would You Believe?' special on the  Legionaries of Christ and their founder Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado.

It is an amazing story. Anyone who has ever tried phoning their HQ in Dublin's Sandyford will be aware of the congregation's sublime understanding of how to practise the art of obfuscation.

Tip of an iceberg in the world of what we waste

In the past this blog has highlighted the amount of food that is wasted every day in Ireland and in the world.

But it's not just food that is thrown away. Some people seem to have developed a compunction to throw away perfectly working gadgets.

Last week in Greater Dublin at a Bring Bank on display was a vacuum cleaner in perfect  working order. Also a table lamp - all that was missing was a working fuse.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Irish speed camera vans make an awful lot of money

Next time you drive past a camera speed van on an Irish road remember this.

Go Safe, the company that operates the camera van network for the Garda Siochána in the State, made approximately €50,000 profit a week in 2012.

They are no longer publishing their figures.

In a speed offence court case in Clare yesterday a spokesperson for Go Safe refused to inform the sitting judge what leeway is given to offending drivers. The judge dismissed the case.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dominicans in Ukraine

There are five Dominican communities in Ukraine. They are in Kiev, Lviv, Yalta, Czortkow and Fastowie. Yalta is on the southern tip of Crimea.

There are two men living in a flat in Yalta.

States, power and weaponry

Last year the United States spent €461 billion on military spending. This year China plans to spend an estimated €140 billion on arms and Russia is spending approximately €40 billion.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thirtieth anniversary of death of John M Heuston OP

Thirty years ago today Fr John M Heuston died in the Dominican Priory at San Clemente in Rome.

John was a scholar, with a special interest in mathematics. He was an eccentric man but terribly kind.

In so many ways he was 'light years' ahead of his time.

His brother, John, took part in the 1916 Rising and subsequently executed. There is a bust of John at Heuston Station. He worked for the railway before his execution.  In 1966, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, CIE renamed all it rail stations after people linked to the Rising and Kingsbridge was renamed Heuston Station to honour John Heuston.

Until approximately 1998 older locomotive drivers continued to write 'Kingsbridge' in their log books.

When Michael Heuston joined the Dominican Order he was given the name John, hence the confusion with names.

The young Dominican novice was given permission to visit his brother in Kilmainham Gaol shortly before his execution.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The views of two strong German women on Russia

The piece below is from today's IrishTimes. It is an interesting insight into an aspect of what is happening in Ukraine/Crimea/Russia.

It is fascinating to hear these evenings on German television the names of such places as The Crimea/Die Krim, Donetsk/Donezk, Russia/Russland, Moscow/Moskau.
Derek Scally
For the 14 years they have known each other, Angela Merkeland Vladimir Putin have gotten on like cat and dog. Their public remarks strain the limits of diplomacy, their private phone conversations are blunt.
Yet on this prickly, imperfect relationship hinges the outcome of the Ukraine stand-off.
During a weekend of telephone diplomacy, Merkel told Putin he had “breached international law with his unacceptable intervention in the Crimea”.
With President Barack Obama, meanwhile, she insisted the international community remain united but restrained.
Her officials deny Berlin’s strategy is about appeasingRussia, supplier of a third of German energy. They bristle at US claims that the Crimean crisis is another chapter of Berlin fence-sitting, like its infamous 2011 abstention from a UN vote on military action in Libya.

In public Merkel officials refuse to comment on White House spin of her weekend remark to Obama that the Russian leader was “in another world”.
Privately, though, they are livid, insisting Merkel does not view the Russian president as deluded, just operating in a different reality.
Putin and Merkel know each other’s realities better than most. Among Putin’s happiest memories are his spell as a KGB agent in 1980s Dresden; Merkel was such a good Russian student in East Germany that she won a trip toMoscow in 1969. After their first meeting in 2000, Merkel joked she had passed the KGB test by successfully holding Putin’s gaze.
Today the German leader finds herself translating on the fly between Washington and Moscow. While Russia rattles the chains on Crimea, and the US reacts with sanction threats, Berlin has proposed a fact-finding mission to examine claims and counterclaims in the Ukrainian conflict.
Fearful of the diplomatic lines going dead, Germany has also flagged, and Putin accepted, a contact group between all capitals.
Helping shape Berlin strategy is Social Democrat foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier. While his former boss Gerhard Schröder memorably described Putin as a “flawless democrat”, Steinmeier is of another view. He does not view diplomacy as an end in itself, and last month warned his fellow citizens that “Germany is too big to just sit on the sidelines and comment on world politics”.

For now Germany believes isolating Russia will be less effective than turning Putin’s energy back on himself. On Ukraine that means forcing him to move first – the classicZugzwang strategy in chess – in the hope he will back down.
The strategy may yet fail but Germany has something others don’t have in a stand-off with Russia: public credibility and Putin’s ear. While just 3 per cent of Russians respect Obama, a 2012 poll indicated one in five respect Merkel.
The last German woman to make such an impression on Russia, and whose portrait Merkel keeps on her desk, was Catherine the Great – the woman who took Crimea from the Ottoman Empire.

A world with many faces

Yesterday's Irish Times carried a picture of pro-Russian advocates in a parliament building in eastern Ukraine.

Etched across the faces of some of the men was terrible anger, violence and hatred.

Nothing at all to do with their pro-Russian sentiments. More to do with that side of our humanity that can make us angry and violent.

Imagine what it could be like if we were all genuinely kinder and more understanding to each other.

The world can indeed be a harsh place, a place full of conniving, duplicity, sneering and dishonesty. Raw ambition too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Noel Meade OP had great love for South America

Noel Meade, an Irish Dominican, died this morning in Galway.

Noel was born in Limerick in December 1942. When he was nine the family moved to Dublin, where he attended Coláiste Mhuire, secondary school, which at the time was situated in Parnell Square, close to St Saviour's Dominican Priory.

He made his profession in the Dominican Order in September 1961 and was ordained a priest in July 1967.

He was one of a group of Irish Dominican students, who studied theology in the United States.

Noel spent over 30 years working with Dominicans in South America, ministering in Argentina, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

Along with working in parishes, he concentrated  much of his energies on giving weekend retreats. He also gave catechetical courses to people with disabilities.

In recent years he has suffered ill-health. Just some few weeks ago, on his discharge from hospital, he helped out at the Dominican priory in Limerick, where he linked up with Jordan O'Brien. Both men worked together in Argentina.

Two years  ago he worked as a simultaneous interpreter at a conference of North European Dominicans in Mainz, Germany.

Hospital signage and car parking tell a great tale

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

Michael Commane

I often call to people in hospital. Hospital visitation takes on a routine for me. I am normally going on a planned visit, taking my time, in no rush and usually on the bicycle.

I have often been puzzled with some of the signage or lack of it in hospitals but eventually, at my ease, I ask someone how to get to my destination. And lifts too can confuse me; is there a difference between Level 1 and Floor 1?

On a number of occasions visiting hospitals in emergencies or visiting hospitals which are not familiar to me I have often found myself greatly confused and disorientated. And the signage in the hospital has not at all helped my disorientation, indeed, it has confounded it.

Every time I exit a hospital lift it takes me a good 60 seconds to work out which direction I should go. Recently I found myself in such a situation and again was bewildered by the hospital signage. This time it was an emergency visit.

Having visited the sick person I went back to my car. The car was parked for approximately 30 minutes I jump in and drive to the barrier. The first 20 minutes was free so alas the barrier was not moving. It meant I had to go back to a pay station pay my money and eventually head off out of the hospital. What about hospital car parks where visitors have to pay in advance and there is the possibility/threat of clamping?

It was all fine and dandy for me. My thoughts were with the ill person I had been visiting and family. In the scale of things my worries were zilch.

But I have been thinking about it all since then. The 30 minutes car parking cost me €2.50. Again, there is an aspect to that that is really unimportant.

But what at all must it be like for someone who is rushing to the hospital for the first time to visit a close relative who is seriously ill? Someone for whom the hospital is a completely new experience?

The idea of cashing in on people who are in a frazzled and fragile condition sounds close to a form of abuse. In a way it seems like exploiting people when they are trapped. People are going to be slow to say anything about having to pay a few bob so as they can visit the sick. It sounds mean to say a word about it.

And then what happens if you are visiting the hospital for days on end? Does it mean that you are paying out not insignificant sums for parking every day? Certainly, the people most affected by such a tax are the poorer people in our society. Is that right? It would be interesting to know where all the revenue from car parking goes.

I mentioned my minor ordeal to someone and she pointed out that car parking fees stop people abusing the system and keep it free for genuine visitors and people using the hospital. Surely hospitals could develop a system whereby visitors are treated in a kinder and friendlier way. €2.50 for 30 minutes sounds steep to me.

I have noticed how many people are now leaving their cars on the public roads outside hospitals. This in turn can cause danger and hazard on the road. And of course it adds to the inconvenience of those visiting the sick.

Isn’t it strange, we can go off and park our cars in most shopping centres without having to pay or worry about running over our time and yet when we go to visit the sick and dying we are asked to pay up and shut up too.

Surely another Irish solution to another Irish problem.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Catholic chaplain speaks out of turn on national radio

On the Sean O'Rourke Show this morning a chaplain at Blanchardstown Hospital was interviewed. He gave a detailed account of John Gilligan's arrival at the hospital on Saturday evening.

Surely the man broke every rule in the book speaking on national radio about a patient.

And RTE gave the impression they had an 'easy target' to talk.

Will John Gilligan now be in a position to sue the State and the HSE?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A day full of hope

Yesterday, March 1 was a specacular day in Dublin. Everything about the day smelt, looked and hinted on good days ahead.

It was bright at 06.45 and stayed so close to 18.30.

One could feel the heat of the sun, even if just for a short few minutes in the morning.

And every day from now on it's only going to get better.

It must be the best time of the year.

Hope. Even if it is all later shattered.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What this blog said about Ukraine on January 31

Russian talk shows suggest their troops go to Ukraine

More and more Russian talk shows are advocating Russian troops should go to Ukraine to calm the situation.

What an irony it would be if it happened in these days.

RT Russian Television said today, March 1, that Viktor Yanulovich was elected President of Ukraine and that the elections, overseen by international observers, were deemed to be fair and valid.

Is it not remarkable that on March 1, 1942 the Red Army began an offensive in Crimea. Seventy two years ago today.

Today in Sevastopol and Simferopol people were shouting on the streets insults at the EU. They were also telling 'Nazis go home'.

RT reports this evening that far right 'terrorists' in Ukraine have asked 'militants' in Chechnya to support them.

Russian Television is calling the new government in Kiev a Putsch Regime. One commentator says that Obama has once again been out manoeuvred.

The station is also pointing out that Ukrainian politicians are now making veiled nuclear threats. It is also reported that in the last two weeks 150,000 Ukrainians have applied for Russian citizenship.

"The Duma backs Russian military stabilising force for Ukraine."

So said RT this afternoon.

Possessions not the measure of who or what we are

Below is the 'Thinking Anew' column in today's Irish Times. Page 15 Weekend Review.
Michael Commane
Some  people  say that we should never worry about the things of this world, instead concentrate on the next.
Whatever your “take” on this, it’s factual to say that there are people who perceive that God is all about the next world and has nothing to do with the here and now.
 tomorrow’s Gospel (Matthew 6: 24 – 34) Jesus tells us not to worry about the things of this world. And he gives examples from nature and suggests that we can take a hint or two from the birds, “they do not sow, they do not harvest and do not store food in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them”. And in a similar tone he cites the flowers in the field, who “do not toil or spin” and yet they manage to grow.
It would be close to nonsensical to say that there is not a tension between the notion of a God “out there” and God who is present in our world. Everything to do with faith involves tension, complication, unease.
People have human rights. As Christians we can only be ashamed that there are one billion people in the world without enough to eat.
But we have also to be ashamed and critical that we live in a country where over 12 per cent of the workforce are unemployed, where people are left waiting on hospital trolleys for hours on end.
Can a Christian sit easily knowing that some have far too much and others far too little?
Of course we have an obligation to care for ourselves and see to it that we live in a society that seeks the common good.
Parents have the privilege and obligation to care for their children, to educate them and set them on a road whereby they can reach their full potential.
It would be unwise for working people not to make sure to plan ahead so that they can live in dignity in their years of retirement.
The assistant manager of our national soccer team, Roy Keane said wise words immediately after the Saipan incident: “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.”
Accurate and so true. And no one wants to fail. No one should fail.
But there is always that $60,000 question: when is enough enough? Maybe it is an impossible question to answer. It certainly seems wrong that so few have so much and so many so little. But no matter how much we might have or not have, it is important that we realise that all our material possessions are never the measure of who or what we are. And it certainly is a mistake so easy to make. We do it all the time.
When we are confronted with issues of health we are inclined to say that ‘our health is our wealth’. And that certainly reminds us how we can spend so much time and energy concentrating on issues which, in the end, seem like sand falling through our fingers.
Visiting the sick, listening to the experiences of people who suffer various forms of pain and suffering, always remind us how fragile we all are. Indeed, a glimpse into suffering and pain can be moments of grace.
Over the last five years we have seen so many worlds turned upside down. So much of what was taken as the gold certainties of life have collapsed. We have run from one seeming security to the next, always hoping that we had found ‘that magic safety’.
We never do. But in the meantime we can allow ourselves to be challenged by the Word of God. We can try to be more at ease with the world about us and marvel in the greatness and goodness of the world, all the time hoping and praying that in some way or other it is a sign or a pointer to the greatness and goodness of God.
All creation is the handiwork of God. We are in process, on pilgrimage, focused on all aspects of God’s creation.