Sunday, November 30, 2014

Leaving Russia out in the cold was never a good idea

Yesterday's Irish Times carried an excellent opinion piece by Conor O'Clery, who is a former Irish Times Moscow correspondent.

Below is a quote from the article.

"Taking advantage of a defeated foe's weakness has unfortunate historic outcomes. After the first World War, the Treaty of Versailles stripped Germany of territory and people. National resentment eventually translated into aggression and militarism and the second World War.

"The 'defeat' of the Soviet Union in the cold war stripped Russia of territory and people. The perceived rebuffs, loss of face and indignities that followed led to the emergence of a combative nationalism, personified by Vladimir Putin."

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said at a conference in Berlin two weeks ago that euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of western leaders and what was once a blister has now turned into a bloody festering wound.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Turkish president Erdogan expresses views on outsiders

"Those who come from outside only like the oil, gold daimonds, cheap workforce, conflicts and disputes of the lands of Islam. Believe me, they do not like us ... They like seeing us, our children die. How long will we continue to tolerate this."

Turkish president Recep Erdogan on the eve of the pope's visit to Turkey.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Verb or adjective?

A number of Dublin Bus vehicles are carrying a Pepsi ad.

The ad's main line runs: 'Live for now'?

Is 'Live' meant as a verb or an adjective in the ad.

A Grand Canal bridge

At Dublin's Latouche bridge at lunchtime.

The lads need advice

A protester outside the Criminal Courts of Justice before the hearing involving water protesters on Wednesday.

And on BBC Radio 4 this morning the British Home Secretary, Theresa May said; "..... he suggested we went along."

An appeal

A personal appeal. In recent days a B Hickey in the UK.contacted this blog. I don't have a contact so could you please forward  telephone number or email address. Of course not for publication. Thank you.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Pope Francis visits Turkey

From today's Guardian.

Pope Francis embarks on one of the most delicate missions of his 18-month-old papacy on Friday, when he is expected to wrestle with the problems of Christian persecution in the Muslim world and tackle relations with Islam in a time of spreading jihadism during his visit to Turkey.
As if that were not enough, he is also expected to deal with the millenium-old schism between Catholicism and Orthodoxy that centred on the city that is now Istanbul.
The fourth pope to visit Turkey, Francis will seek to emphasise his commitment to dialogue with Muslims and other Christians at a time of increased violence against Christian minorities in the region.
He is to make what his spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, described as a very important speech on Muslim-Christian relations on Friday.
While in Ankara, the 77-year-old Argentinian pontiff is also due to visit Turkey’s directorate for religious affairs, or Diyanet, and meet Mehmet Görmez, the country’s most senior cleric. Görmez said he wanted to raise the problem of Islamophobia in his talks with the pope.
“Horrible things are happening everywhere in the Islamic world,” he told Deutsche Welle radio.
“These incidents have negatively affected Muslims not only [in the region], but also in Europe. While all these painful events are unfolding, there are those that argue that the source of these problems is Islam, which leads to injustices being committed against Islam
“We will have to work closely together with the pope on this,” he said.
Francis will also walk straight into another controversy when he visits the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s new palace built on once-protected farm and and forest in Ankara. He will the first foreign dignitary to be hosted at the lavish, 1,000-room complex.
The palace, which dwarfs the White House and other European government palaces, cost of £394m. It has drawn the ire of opposition parties, environmentalists, human rights activists and architects who say it is too extravagant, has damaged the environment and was built despite a court injunction against it.
Erdoğan brazenly dismissed the court ruling. “Let them knock it down if they have the power,” he said.
The Ankara branch of the Turkish Chamber of Architects sent a letter to the pope this month, urging him not to attend his welcoming ceremony on Friday at the “illegal” palace.
A spokesman for the pope brushed off the request. The Turkish government had invited Francis to visit and he would go where the Turkish government wished to receive him, he said.
Among the questions hanging over the trip is whether Francis will pray alongside his Muslim hosts when he visits Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet mosque in Istanbul also known as the Blue Mosque on Saturday.
His predecessor, Pope Benedict, appalled many traditional Catholics when he appeared to do so on his visit to Turkey eight years ago. The Vatican put out a statement saying Benedict had merely been in meditation, though he conceded that he “certainly turned his thoughts to God”.
Francis will be the fourth reigning pope to visit Turkey, and his comes at an intensely sensitive moment for the dwindling Christian communities of the Middle East. Many of the Iraqi and Syrian Christians who have fled their homes to escape the spread of Islamic State (Isis)are currently living as refugees in Turkey.
On Tuesday, Francis appeared to reach out for dialogue with Isis. “I never count anything as lost. Never. Never close the door. It’s difficult, you could say almost impossible, but the door is always open,” he said.
From the Vatican’s standpoint, another important aspect of the visit will be the opportunity to consolidate the papacy’s good relations with the ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew I, the pre-eminent spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians. Francis’s stay in Turkey will coincide with the feast of St Andrew, whose significance for the Orthodox church is similar to that of St Peter for Catholics.
More than five centuries after Greek Christian Constantinople fell to Muslim Turks, the ecumenical patriarch and his aides still live in the city that is now Istanbul. Bartholomew attended Francis’s investiture last year, the first ecumenical patriarch to attend such a ceremony in Rome since the two churches split almost 1,000 years ago.
The pope shares close personal ties with Bartholomew I, who is to receive him at the patriarchate, also known as the Phanar, on Saturday. The following day, which is the feast of St Andrew, the pope is due to attend an Orthodox liturgy before the two men have lunch together.
“We are eagerly awaiting the visit of our brother, Pope Francis,” Bartholomew I said in a press release. “It will be yet another significant step in our positive relations as sister churches.”
Bartholomew I may generally be seen as conciliatory towards the Vatican, but the de facto leaders of the Orthodox church in Moscow are much warier and more hostile.
Interfaith dialogue has not always been easy in Turkey, a country with a 99% Muslim population, but many Christians say things have improved under the government of the Islamic Justice and Development party (AKP).
Erdoğan’s administration has shown partial support for the country’s Christian minorities. A law was passed last year to return property confiscated by the Turkish state to its owners and allow Christian religious classes in schools.
Dr Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, the metropolitan of Bursa and abbot of the Holy Trinity monastery on Halki, the second largest of the nine Princes’ Islands off the coast of Istanbul, is the former main secretary of the patriarchate. He said the last papal visit was overshadowed by the reluctance of his Turkish hosts.
“The Turks tried to put obstacles in our way wherever they could,” he said. “The AKP government still had to face the power of the secularists and the military then, and they were not pleased with the visit of the pope. This time there are no problems at all.”
His main grievance, and that of Orthodox Christians everywhere, is that the theological seminary housed in the monastery grounds since 1844 remains closed after the Turkish government banned all private higher education institutions in 1971. Erdoğan has previously said that no legal obstacles remain to the reopening of the school.
“Can there be a better place to educate true ecumenical staff open to interfaith dialogue than this school?” asked Lambriniadis, who is the first head of the school unable to graduate from it. “This is a theological school in a Muslim country from where high church officials graduate to be sent everywhere in the world. We can educate the kind of religious scholars that we so desperately need today.”

A 21st century bicycle and 17th century vestments

This week's Irish Catholic carries a picture of Archbishop Eamon Martin (page 3).

The archbishop is reported to have tweeted the picture, which shows him dressed in 17th century liturgical vestments, holding a 21st century bicycle.

Would many not say that this picture is at least strange, laughable too?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Swiss vote in referendums

Next Sunday the people of Switzerland will vote on three referendums.

  1. Swiss gold reserves: The proposal would require the Swiss National Bank to have gold reserves of at least 20 per cent of the value of the assets of the Swiss National Bank, and see all Swiss gold currently held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York returned to Switzerland. The popular initiative was started by Swiss People's Party MP Luzi Stammand two other MPs, with the 100,000 signatures required for a referendum obtained by early 2013.  The proposal is opposed by the Swiss National Bank and the Swiss government, as it would limit the SNB's ability to print money. 
  2. The second referendum is the on the abolition of the flat tax system and calls for resident, non-working foreigners to be taxed based only on their income and their assets.
  3. The third referendum is on the Immigration cap: the Ecopop referendum calls for preserving the natural resources by limiting immigration to Switzerland to 0.2per cent per year.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals

The final paragraph from Pope Francis' address to the European Parliament today.

"Dear Members of the European Parliament, the time has come to work together in building a Europe which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values. In building a Europe which courageously embraces its past and confidently looks to its future in order fully to experience the hope of its present. The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well. A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman. A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity!
Thank you"

FAI's John Delaney's singing and his use of English

Whatever about the state of Irish football or whether or not FAI CEO John Delaney has a view on rebel songs, his English seems not to be up to speed.

Below is a reported quote from Mr Delaney.

“Joe McDonnell is a song that has been sang in my presence and I have chipped in and sang on a number of occasions in the past."

Might Assistant Irish Manager Roy Keane join in the controversy?

On the topic of the misuse of words, in a current Dominican publication the word 'dependant' is used, when in fact it should be 'dependent'.

Good news for the day

Anyone who is looking for wise words on the Gospel of the day should check out

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ireland's Tea Party and Trotskyist political coalition

Stephen Collins writing in Saturday's Irish Times argues that so much of what passes for Opposition in the Dáil simply amounts to rejection of necessary taxation measures coupled with demands for unlimited extra spending on socially desirable objectives.

"It is also no accident that the variety of parties and individuals from far left to far right who, at the height of the crisis, advocated policies such as defaulting on debt and allowing banks collapse are to the forefront in opposing everything designed to get the economy back on an even keel..

"The people who would have suffered most if there had been a financial collapse are those who depend on the State for welfare payments pensions or salaries..."

There must be something wrong when the far right and the far left can join in a common cause. The Taoiseach  refers to it as an alliance of the Tea Party and Trotskyist.

The Saturday article makes for interesting reading.

US police shooting

A 12-year-old boy was shot dead by police in Cleveland Ohio yesterday. He was brandishing a fake pistol.

The little boy, Tamir E Rice was an African American.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

From mountains to sea

From the West Wicklow mountatins to the Atlantic waters in West Kerry.

Another great place.

Using computers

The late Dominican John O'Gorman, who died on November 3, feast of St Martin de Porres, 12 years ago, often commented that his fellow Dominicans had more computer power then the US space agency. He was of the opinion people were buying highly sophisticated computers to write letters.

John taught computer science at the University of Limerick.

Since he made his comment no doubt the purchase of computer hard and software has at least quadrupled.

Today at the touch of a button information can be disseminated with complete ease to almost any corner of the earth.

And yet with all this computer technology so many people are left in the dark and hear nothing about what is going on in the organisation.

John was a highly intelligent man, who usually got things right. Alas, he was wrong on this occasion. It seems the computers are not even being used to write letters.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Killarney and Kilkenny

Ever wonder whether it is Killarnery or Kilarney, Kilkenny or Killkenny?

There's a rule. If the prefix is followed by a consonant there is only one 'l', if it is followed by a vowel there are two 'ls'.

There is one exception and that is Killygordon.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Operation Uranus

Seventy two years ago today Operation Uranus was a day old. It was one of the key turning points of World War ll.
It was not just the moment when the Red Army showed it could mount a sophisticated offensive and defeat the Germans, but also the first major sign that Stalin was prepared, at last, to trust his generals.
These were days that Georgii Zhukov's plan to encircle Paulus' Sixth Army on the Volga became operational and ended in success. From here on in it was a race to Berlin.
Uranus lasted from November 19 to 23.

Adrian Heenan OP

Today is the anniversary of the death of Dominican priest Adrian Heenan, who died in Dundalk in 2001.

He was a native of Terryglass, Co Tipperary and was at school at Cistercian College, Roscrea. Back then, Roscrea played Rugby in Leinster and hurling in Munster. The monastery lands straddle both provinces.

There was something droll about Adrian, sometimes he gave the impression of being sleepy. In his old age there was a lovely kindness about him. He was a big devotee of Our Lady.

On one occasion preaching at a Sunday Mass in St Mary's Priory, Pope's Quay in Cork in 1975 he referred to the show hosted by Gay Byrne the previous night as 'The Hate Hate Show'.

Does anything ever change?

Expensive bucket and mop

The world is indeed a funny place.

At the Circuit Civil Court in Dublin yesterday a 66-year-old woman settled her €38,000 damages claim for defamation against Woodies DIY Limited.

She claimed she had been wrongly accused of not paying for a bucket and mop.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Today is World Toilet Day

Today is World Toilet Day, a day to galvanise advocacy efforts around improved sanitation and highlight the plight of the 2.5 billion people without access to sanitation.
Ten million child deaths in children  under five  since 2000 are attributed to a lack of sanitation

Highly recommended is the  “Take the Poo to the Loo”  Take The Poo To The Loo video which Unicef India have made is a short film on YouTube  

For those with children there are two educational games they might enjoy playing: TurdlyWinks and the Toilet Trek Game   Toilet Trek game

The management class and its shocking mismanagement

Approximately two months ago water meters were installed on the road where I live.

Since then I have been monitoring my water usage. Under the original plans from Irish Water a household with one occupier was allowed 82 litres per day free of charge and there would be no standing charge.

I have been using less than 82 litres per day so I would have avoided a charge.

That's now all changed and flat rates are being introduced. Any plans or ideas to conserve water have been flushed down the toilet.

I have also filled out all the required forms, giving Irish Water my PPS number.

What can be said about the people who managed this disaster? How much money has been wasted on printing and postage alone?

Another example of the incompetence of the 'managerial classes'. A near universal reality. It's the importance that they give themselves that is so infuriating.

Below is a column that appeared on this blog and in INM regional newspapers in September.

Irish Water wastes 2.4 million A4 sheets of paper

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

Michael Commane
Irish Water is in the process of mailing 1.2 million households in the State. The package includes an ‘application form’ and a guide or information booklet.

It makes sense that we pay for the water we use. We have wasted far too much of it. Last week my Irish Water package arrived and my first impressions of this company scared the living daylights out of me.

The form that we are asked to complete is made up of two A4 pages. Everyone is sent the form in Irish and English. And the guide book is in both languages. 

I have no problem at all with forms being in the two languages but it seems to me a waste of money that every household in the State is receiving the forms in both languages. Could Irish Water not have included a question asking people if they wanted the form in Irish? And the same with the booklet, instead of printing it half in English and half in Irish, could they not have asked people if they would prefer to receive the Irish copy?

We are living in difficult economic times. Everyone has been asked to sacrifice and for many that sacrifice is causing much pain. And in the middle of all the hardship Irish water is printing approximately 2.4 million forms of which a minimum of 50 per cent will be thrown in the bin. 

That means 2.4 million A4 pages are being wasted. Add to that, the ink and printing costs. I find that a shocking waste of our resources. The 44 page booklet has 22 pages in Irish and 22 pages in English. More waste. Indeed, 26.4 million sheets of wasted paper. Then again, it might be a way for someone to improve their Irish or English. I could think of a cheaper method.

Some months ago Irish Water posted a pack to households about the installation of meters and other relevant information. Could they not have included the current application forms in that postal drop?

It’s no major issue but the postal address on the form I received did not comply with the regulations as per the rules and standards set out by An Post for Dublin postal districts. My address did not include a Dublin postal number. It also included information that is not required.

From October 1 Irish Water will bill householders for water usage. But by this stage all meters will not be fitted, so those who do not have meters will be charged on an estimated basis. The first bills will begin to arrive in early January.

That surely is shoddy practice. Imagine calling into a petrol station to buy petrol and being told the oil company will estimate how much you have purchased and will charge you accordingly. Would you think of migrating to a phone company that estimates your usage for the first few months before they begin to charge you per call?

Our electricity and gas usage is on occasion estimated but the meters are I place and are read on a number of occasions during the course of a year.

Absurd, laughable but that is exactly what Irish Water will be doing for the first few months with a number of ‘customers’.

And all this before we even begin to talk about the charge for water and how it will all pan out. I have been told by an expert that the automatic reading of meters is not as simple as it seems.

PR gurus have decided that we are now all customers. A shocking philosophy.

And why do they want our PPS numbers?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The strange world of Dominican HQ website

Click on the link and read the caption to the picture.

This appears on the international website of the Dominican Order.

Good news in Moscow

Vladimir Putin has asked to meet German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier this evening.

It is most unusual for the Russian President to request a foreign minister to visit him in the Kremlin

Inspiring words from Cupich

Uplifting words from the new Archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich.
Blase Cupich, the new archbishop in Chicago, is one of the first appointments in the US episcopacy made by Pope Francis.
"It should be beneath our dignity as leaders to speak in ways that appeal to the fears and anxieties of people rather than the hopes and yearnings God has planted in their hearts.
"It is not surprising that parishioners, citizens and the public become uneasy and disaffected with community and public life when they see leaders speak in ways that incite fears rather than inspire hope. There is collateral damage in such tactics."

Garda Siochána can never think they are above the law

Below is this  week's INM Irish regional newspaper column

Michael Commane
Tuesday last week I was sitting down watching the RTE 1 Nine O’Clock News. I was about to turn off the television when I half heard something about a report from the Garda Inspectorate. I put down what I was doing and decided to listen and then after the news the Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate, Robert K Olson was interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan on Prime Time.

I could not believe some of the things he was saying. What is it about this small island of ours and how we run our affairs?

Aspects of the Report paint the Garda Siochána as a subsidiary of the Keystone Cops.

The Report noted that the recording of incidents is haphazard, inexperienced gardaí are investigating serious crimes, and there is a lack of oversight of the decision-making process. These are just some of its findings.

And simply watching the interview with Mr Olson I began to wonder what at all is going on at An Garda Siochána.

It often strikes me there are close parallels between the police and priests in Ireland. In the past there was an air of untouchability about both organisations. In many ways they gave the impression they were above the law

Before I say another word, let me clearly state that any time I have needed the assistance of the Garda I have found them most helpful, indeed kind too. I trust our police force. Also, I have some close friends who are gardaí, people for whom I have great respect

From time to time gardaí have been more than decent to me when I may not have been keeping all the rules of the road while cycling.
But an incident comes to mind

Back in 1998 I was commuting on a weekly basis from Belfast to Dublin on the Enterprise. At the time non-EU citizens were moving to the North of Ireland and then travelling to Dublin by rail. It was some sort of scam that was being perpetrated.

Over a number of weeks I noticed that there were gardaí waiting for the Enterprise train at Connolly Station. 

But I also observed they were only stopping non Caucasians. So on one occasion I went up to a garda and asked him why he was being selective in the people he was stopping and what were the grounds for stopping them. I asked him why for example he was not stopping me. 

He looked at me and said: “ F*** off you little bol***” I more or less took fright and ran off as fast as I could. He may well have summed me up in one, but surely that was not the way for him to behave.

In small communities I can imagine people would be slow to report their local garda. Isn’t it generally accepted that if you did so, they would be looking out for you like a hawk and that certainly there would be pay-back time. Is that simply human nature or is that a problem with our police force?

A wise man once said to me that one of the reasons for such a mess with clerical child sex abuse was that the offending priests believed they were above the law, that they were untouchable. 

Probably the same can be said for miscreants in An Garda Siochaná.

Above all other organisations, a police force needs to be monitored in a most vigilant way. Those watching us need to be kept on their toes more than any other group in society.

Well done to the Garda Inspectorate.

And now am I in trouble? Again.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The rudeness of the right

It's 'custom and practice' that the 'right wing' places great emphasis on Catholics showing obedience to the pope.

It now seems that that obedience is selective. Currently 'right wing' groups are showing a rudeness and disdain towards Pope Francis that paints a nasty picture.

Anyone who logs on to the Rorate Caeli blog will be shocked with what is written about the pope.

But the sneering mentality complements the world of anonymity and all that 'stuff and nonsense' that goes hand-in-hand with a most 'unusual conservative' church practice.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Putin gives interview to German TV in Vladivostok

German television station ARD carried a 40-minute interview with Vladimir Putin this evening.

Hubert Seipel interviewed the Russian President in Vladivostok on Thursday.

Although Putin has German, the interview was conducted via simultaneous translation.

Seipel stressed that no theme was taboo.

Putin began by referring to his speech in the Bundestag in 2001 and how while there were negative elements in his deliberations his hope back then was for a positive relationship between Germany and Russia.

He pointed out how in the last decade NATO has extended its bases and added countries to its organisation.  And he also referred to the expansion of the EU. In the same period Russia has not seen a similar military expansion.

"Our ships and planes have every right to be in international waters," he said.

President Putin had no problem talking about the Russian annexation of Crimea. He cited what happened in Kosovo to justify what happened in Crimea.

As to the problems in Ukraine he argued that people in the country have a right to feel they are at home in the place they live and argued for a federation.

While the current sanctions are causing difficulties for Russia, they are also making them become less dependent on foreign imports. He forecasts growth in the economy over the next three years but is very aware of the poor global economic outlook.

He sidestepped as to who is arming the 'dissidents' in east Ukraine. He is worried about a neo-nazi development in Ukraine and feels there is need for much more political dialogue.

He finished the interview referring to the special relationship there is between Russia and Germany.

After the interview there was a debate in the ARD Berlin studios where the German Defence Minister, Ursula van der Leyen pointed out that the countries that joined NATO and the EU did so at the behest of the citizens of those countries. "It was done in an open and democratic way," she said.

Hubert Seipel pointed out that the Russian annual military budget is €90 billion, the US spends €960 billion every year on its military budget.

Sonia Seymour Mikich, Director General of WDR, who spent many years working in Russia, said there are Russians who are worried about what is happening the Rouble but there are others who believe they can get over this crisis like they have done so often in the past.

She pointed out how the break up of the Soviet Union has been seen as a catastrophe for millions of Russians.

"Imagine family members living in Russia now have to get a visa to visit relations in Tbilisi," she said.

Historian Heinrich August Winkler spoke about the long history between Germany and Russia.

Fascinating television.

Burke admits he does not know what the pope means

There is an extended interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke on the RTE website. Joe Little talks to the cardinal for 37 minutes.

In the interview Cardinal Burke says that Cardinal Kasper is 'wrong' concerning his views about marriage and that he has been since he was a young priest. He also says that Kasper misinterprets what the Fathers of the Church say.

On a number of occasions he supports his views by saying that  "many people and priests" support him.

The US cardinal is of the opinion that a broad discussion is "not helpful".

He says that it is not for him to judge if this pontificate is in serious trouble nor does he know what the pope means on a number of issues.

The cardinal gave a talk yesterday in Limerick. The talk was hosted by 'The Catholic Voice'.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bishops' meeting lacks passion and leadership

The article below, written by Jesuit priest Thomas Reese, is taken from the NCR. 

A lack of passion and leadership marked the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week in Baltimore. Their agenda was stale and did not reflect the excitement that Pope Francis' papacy has generated.

The pope has caught the imagination of the world with his emphasis on God's love, compassion, and mercy toward us and our need to respond by loving one another, especially the poor. But most of the bishops' meeting was devoted to mind-numbing housekeeping actions and reports.
The action items dealt with minor liturgical translations, which got some of the bishops excited, but no one else. Should it be "children of Adam," as the committee recommended, or "children of men," or "sons of men"? The committee won. And does the bishop really have to preach while seated with a miter on his head and crosier in hand at the dedication of a church as required by the rubrics?
Meanwhile, nothing was said about the economic plight of the American people, gridlock in Washington, or the wars in which America is engaged. They practically ignored immigration and only gave a few minutes to the topic because the media kept asking why the bishops were silent on the hottest political issue of the day.
There is a significant faction among the bishops and the USCCB staff who do not want these issues emphasized lest they distract from their core agenda -- opposition to gay marriage, abortion, and the contraceptive mandate.
The bishops heard reports on gay marriage and religious freedom, but even these reports lacked the passion that marked these issues in the past. It is clear even to the bishops that they will lose on gay marriage unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, but the political action machine cranks on.
And while there were a couple of new horror stories on religious freedom (a pastor having his sermons subpoenaed and a wedding chapel threatened with fines for not performing gay marriages), it was also acknowledged that in both instances, the local authorities quickly backed down. Meanwhile, the administration and the bishops conduct trench warfare over the contraceptive mandate.
The reports from U.S. bishops who attended the synod on the family were brief and unexciting except for that of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who took the opportunity to attack the media for their coverage of the synod. According to Dolan, everything was hunky-dory at the synod without a disagreement expressed. The media's coverage was nothing like the meeting he attended, he declared.
It appears to be a mortal sin to admit in public that bishops might disagree with each other and argue over church teaching and practice. Needless to say, this ham-handed spinning does not help the bishops' credibility. Dolan got a generous round of applause after his presentation and was elected chair-elect of the USCCB pro-life committee.
More than a year and a half into the papacy of Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops still appear like deer in headlights, not knowing which way to jump. There are no leaders in the tradition of Joseph Bernardin, John Roach, John Quinn, or James Malone who can articulate a vision for the conference in light of the new papacy.
There are no liberals among the bishops, and the moderates are a minority. The conservative majority is divided into two groups: the ideologues and the pastors.
The ideological conservatives make up 10 to 20 percent of the conference, and they are convinced that Francis is sowing confusion in the church where certitude and stability should be the marks of the church. Francis' statement that "facts are more important than ideas" is incomprehensible to them; they believe reality must bend to their theological ideas.
The pastoral conservatives, on the other hand, are simply confused. They were raised in conservative families, went to conservative seminaries, don't pretend to be intellectuals but are loyal churchmen who never questioned anything under the last two papacies. They like Francis, but they are not sure what he is doing. They are in need of a leader who can reassure them and point them in the right direction.
The election of delegates to next year's synod of bishops reflected the makeup of the USCCB.
Archbishops Joseph Kurtz and Daniel Dinardo, the USCCB president and vice president, were elected as expected. Also elected were Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. Chaput had been critical of the confusion surrounding the synod. He will also host next year's international conference on the family. Elected alternates were Blaise Cupich, newly appointed by Pope Francis to Chicago, and Salvatore Cordilone of San Francisco, the bishops' point man on gay marriage. 
If the bishops were totally behind Pope Francis they would have elected as delegates his best friend in the American hierarchy, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, and Archbishop-designate Cupich, his first major appointee. 
A big part of the trouble with the American hierarchy is that the bishops have no one to consult. The conservative theologians, who have been advising them during the last two papacies, are as upset as the ideologically conservative bishops. Since progressive theologians were labeled heretics, kicked out of seminaries, and shunned like Ebola patients, bishops have no one to explain to them how to thrive with the discussion and debate being encouraged by Francis.
Sadly, few bishops would feel comfortable inviting theologians from the local Catholic college over for dinner and conversation, yet that is exactly what is needed.

The Second Vatican Council was a four-year continuing education program for bishops, most of whom came to Rome with no agenda but listened to progressive bishops and theologians. If the chasm between American theologians and bishops is not bridged, the bishops will remain in confusion, and Francis' papacy will fail. 
There were a few bright spots at the two days of public sessions. Perhaps there were more in executive session, but that is not what I hear.
We learned that the chairs of two USCCB entities wrote to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, asking him to use his authority "to protect undocumented individuals and families as soon as possible."
The letter was sent Sept. 9 by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chair of the Committee on Migration, and Bishop Kevin Vann, chair of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, but the conference issued no press release to announce it.
This letter puts the bishops solidly behind President Barack Obama in his dispute with congressional Republicans, who oppose any executive action by the president on immigration.
Another report that should have caused fireworks at the meeting came from Bishop Oscar Cantu on the bishops' prayer pilgrimage for peace in the Holy Land. By the Tuesday evening press conference, the reporters had run out of NoDoz tablets and weren't paying attention when he sided with the Palestinians against the Israelis.
While he acknowledged that there were injustices on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "the reality that we saw on the ground as we visited with both Israelis and Palestinians was that the injustices were primarily on the side of the Israelis." In the recent Gaza war, Cantu said he believed "there were many more injustices on the part of the Israelis" than the Palestinians. He criticized the American media as being "heavily pro-Israeli."
I am not sure the conference as a whole would endorse his comments, but he certainly did not pull any punches. 
The final gem at the meeting was the Mass on Monday evening celebrating the 225th anniversary of the founding of the Baltimore archdiocese. The choir was spectacular, even if the music would have been more appropriate in the 1950s. The bishops concelebrating took up almost half of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has been beautifully restored.
But the high point of the Mass was the first reading from the letter to Titus (1:1-9), which told the assembled bishops to "appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you, on condition that a man be blameless, married only once, with believing children, who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious."
Now there is an agenda item for the next meeting. 
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

Cloud on Black Hill

Tess in West Wicklow this afternoon on Black Hill and then on to the side of Mullaghcleevaun.

Low cloud but the rain kept off. Underfoot was tough going. Gorse, bog and drains covered in the rain of the last two or three days.

Great fun for the dogs but a different story for the bipeds.

Sensational view of Blessington Lakes and indeed right over to the Hill of Allen in County Kildare. That is, when the cloud lifted.

Friday, November 14, 2014

How the church manages to make electronic news so old

There is something 'unusual' about the relationship most church organisations have with the electronic media.

Today Irish Dominican HQ email members  IDI, which is a bulletin that appears sporadically from the Order's HQ in Rome.

What Irish Dominican in mid-November would consider the priestly ordination of a Dominican in the Central African Republic in September an item of current news? And that's exactly the style of the 'current' IDI. And remember this information has been on the Order's web page for weeks at this stage.

Or again this piece of news will really have you sitting at the edge of your seat. It's not too clear when the 'today' is or was. 

"Ninety-five years ago today, the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, fourteen intrepid began the journey to establish a new monastery in the hills of the city of Summit."

Really, is that the best IDI and Irish Dominican HQ can do?

It's worth checking out the Irish Jesuit website. An example of how to use the web.

The wonder of Rosetta

The European Space Agency launched Rosetta more than 10 years ago from Kourou in French Guiana.

Since then Rosetta and Philae have travelled more than six billion kilometres to land on the comet.

The comet orbits the sun at over 135,000 km/h.

A European project

Thursday, November 13, 2014

BBC Radio 4's news report on Bild seems confusing

On the BBC Radio 4 news at 06.00 there was a report of a headline on today's Bild Zeitung.

It was stated that the newspaper ran a headline wich stated that Germany was master  of the world. It was referring to the German scientists working at ESA and the success of the landing on the comet yesterday.

Scrolling through all the electronic versions of today's Bild Zeitung there seems no suggestion of any such a headline.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Poverty destroys faith and destroys the person"

Dominican Gustavo Guiterrez talking in Ottawa on November 7.
This is taken from The National Catholic Reporter.
Ninety percent of liberation theology is linked to Jesus Christ, he explained. With Pope Francis coming from Latin America and his shared experience of poverty in that part of the world, he said, liberation theology is being re-examined.
"At the same time, we must avoid to reduce the teaching of the pope to one theology," Gutierrez said. "I don't accept this. He is speaking about the Gospel."
"Liberation theology is a theology recalling the relevance of the poor for the Christian message, but it is not creating this," he said. "It is enough to read the Gospels, to expect strongly about the poor."
Liberation theology cannot be divorced from the Gospel, he continued, describing it in one manner as a theology of salvation. "At the same time we must pay attention to the moment. 'Liberation' was a very important word in Latin America at that time," he said.
From words that are known and accepted, we say "this is our question, to speak from the liberation from sin, to forgive and so on," he said.
"A theology cannot create another message," he said. "Theology is a reflection about the message [of the Gospel]."
Born in Lima, Peru in 1928, Gutierrez originally studied to become a doctor, but questioned whether he could serve people better as a doctor or as a priest. He chose to be a priest.
Gutierrez came from a poor family and during his teen years was confined to a wheelchair with osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone marrow. As a young priest, in pastoral work in a poor parish, he saw severe poverty as "the most strong challenge to the announcement of the love of God."
In Latin America, a Catholic continent, half of the population at the time was scandalously poor and the love for these poor people was not present, he said.
While Pope John XXIII had spoken of the preferential option for the poor, there was an absence of attention to poverty in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, he said, and led to further reflection.
In 1967, Gutierrez was invited to Montreal to teach on the church and poverty. It was while teaching the course that he began to pull together his thoughts on the relationship of poverty to the Gospel, giving birth to liberation theology. Poverty was not only a social question, he said, but also a theological question.
Gutierrez said poverty destroys faith and destroys the person. "It is always an evil; it is never a good," he said.
He dismissed romantic ideas of poverty, calling it always an evil. In the Bible, however, there are two senses of poverty: material poverty and spiritual poverty as represented by the first Beatitude. Spiritual poverty leads to a detachment from temporal life so as to do the will of God, he said. That detachment may lead to voluntary poverty, but that choice is out of solidarity with the poor, not solidarity with poverty, he said.
Liberation theology reveals how the fight against poverty must be a priority, but poverty is not the only question in Christ's revelation, he said. The fact the poor die before their time must be addressed, he said.

The Irish Catholic and professional journalism

The Irish Catholic dated Thursday, November 13 carries a report on the sacking of Cardinal Raymond Burke.

It's clear that the report has been taken directly from another publication, something that The Irish Catholic does not acknowledge.

Such standards and behaviour from a newspaper that is constantly talking about 'moral values' is difficult to understand or indeed, accept.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Religious practice and the celebration of Sacraments

This week's INM regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
One of the old chestnuts that makes it regularly to the newspapers is the issue of people receiving Communion when they are in second relationships or involved in some other ‘activity’ that is not approved of by Mother Church.

Some years ago a Kerry priest refused to give Holy Communion to a woman who was in a second relationship. It happened at her daughter’s first Holy Communion. It made news right across all media platforms.

Priests are not moral policemen. When a person presents him or herself to the altar the priest i
obliged to treat that person as he treats every other member of the congregation.

After all, no priest is going to ask someone for their tax clearance certificate before administering the sacraments to them. It’s interesting how when it comes to anything and everything to do with sex some priests are suddenly checking all the credentials and paper work.

Some might argue that people have simply lost their faith.

But it’s not as simple as that.

Are we less spiritual today than we were 30/40 years ago

The Christmas lights are in place on Dublin’s Grafton Street. Christmas ads are appearing.

Those of us old enough will remember the ‘good-old-days’ when the Christmas rush began on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

But it’s all changed now. Good or bad? I don’t know.

The purists and the ideologues on all the different sides will express definitive views. The type of people, who today shout that we are all heading for damnation, were probably doing exactly the same 30/40 years ago. 

In one of the earlier episodes of Love/Hate Nidge’s son made his first Holy Communion. It was a big day out for gangsters and criminals. And certainly watching it, it did dawn on me that there was something ‘odd’ about it all. Gangsters and hoodlums partaking in a ‘holy event’.

Has it come to pass that first Holy Communion has become some sort of social event that has nothing at all to do with religion? I am not making any value judgement. I am simply asking a question.

And then it dawned on me that the less attention we give to religious practices the more insistent we are in ‘celebrating’ all the Christian festivals during the year.

Christmas, Easter, all the religious feasts, now receive great attention, baptisms and weddings too. On occasions it can be somewhat embarrassing/funny as there are people in the church who are no longer familiar with what is taking place. Some stand, some sit, some no longer know the responses to the prayers.

And yet today people give far more attention to these events than they did say 30/40 years ago. Children were baptised straight after birth in the quietest of occasions, weddings took place in the morning followed by a wedding breakfast. Confirmations and first Holy Communions were far more discrete.

Things are done differently today. We have seen extraordinary change and development in the world. Social media has us all bamboozled.

Walking down Grafton Street as they were erecting the Christmas lights three weeks ago my immediate reaction was to say, this is far too early. I went off thinking about the commercial aspects of Christmas. Of course that’s what commerce and industry always do. 

Isn’t that the way of the world? But at least I’d much prefer commerce and industry to be messing about with flashing light bulbs than building weapons of war. And that’s exactly what they were doing 100 years ago in the lead up to Christmas 1914. In World War I men had been ordered to kill and maim each other.

Was that generation more spiritual than today’s?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mickens on Burke move

Robert Mickens on the Cardinal Raymond Burke move.

Kasper: "Catholic Church must not be self-centred"

Cardinal Walter Kasper spoke at the Catholic University in Washington DC on Thursday.
"In the centre of Pope Francis' understanding of the church stands, according to his Argentine background, the image of the church as the People of God.  It is an "ancient" understanding, one renewed by the Second Vatican Council, but one that has come to be viewed with suspicion in the West.
Pope Francis' style is not one of "benevolent popularism.
"His pastoral style is based on a whole theology. On the basis of this theology, he's averse to all clericalism. He wants the participation of the People of God in the life of the church. Women as well as men. Laity and clergy, young and old.
"He stresses the importance of the sensus fidei, and says the church must open its ears to the people."
"The Catholic Church must not be self-centred, but instead a church "on the move." And a church that is an "open house," a church of the open God, "presupposes renewal and reform."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Berlin has celebrated

Speaking in Berlin today Angela Merkel called the fall of the Berlin Wall proof that dreams could come true during a ceremony to mark the event’s 25th anniversary. She added that its collapse offered hope to regions where “freedom and human rights are threatened or even trampled on.”
The German Chancellor also made reference to another November 9. On November 9, 1938 the Nazis unleashed their pogrom against the Jewish community - Kristallnacht.

But today's celebrations were all about the peaceful events in Berlin 25 years ago.

Former UCC chaplain's views at odds with reality

At UCD there is a Catholic chaplaincy residence and a chapel. At UCC there is the famous Honan Chapel.

The Irish State pays the salaries of university Catholic chaplains.

David Barrins, who was a Catholic chaplain at UCC for a short period of time, expresses views in today's Sunday Independent, which don't seem to tally with the reality on the ground.

The views expressed are worryingly arrogant.

Sorrel covered in cloud

Tess was back in the mountains yesterday after a long break.

The climb to the top of West Wicklow's Sorrel Mountain (circa 600 metres) was done in torrential rain.

On the walk down the cloud lifted and everyrhing completely changed. Incredible views.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Name on death page

Commane is on the death page of today's Irish Times.

An omen?

How do we build a church today without any walls

The piece below is the 'Thinking Anew' column, which appears in today's Irish Times.

Michael Commane
The late Leona Helmsley is reputed to have said: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes”. The one-liner was identified with her for the rest of her life. No, she did not say it in public. At her trial her housekeeper said she overheard her saying it to someone.
The really rich, the people with “old money”, never talk about their wealth. Indeed, to do so would be the height of impropriety, ignorant too.
Money makes the world go round. Style, learning, sophistication, knowledge, almost all the good things of life are in some way or other linked to money. Or are they? Our schools, our universities, our health system, everything is in some way or other linked to the money that is available to do things.
People with money in their pocket can go to the dentist and have their teeth cared for. That cannot be a high priority for someone who is struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis. At present in Ireland you can have a tooth extracted for free but you pay to protect it.
Analysts point out that the recent budget was kinder to the rich than to the poor. The churches play an important role in charitable works caring for the poor and less privileged. And so they should. It is a central part of the mission of the Christian message. The briefest of readings of the New Testament will show how Jesus goes out of his way to care for the poor and marginalised. And yet most churches are extremely wealthy organisations. The corporate wealth of the Catholic Church at a national and international level is simply mind-boggling. What gigantic sums would an audit of the Irish churches discover?
On the one hand the churches talk about the dangers of riches and on the other they are sitting on extraordinary wealth. And no matter how the churches try to avoid the issue, it is something that never goes away. But everything to do with money and riches is part of the air we breathe. To say otherwise is turning our faces away from reality. It’s attempting to play down the all-encompassing role that riches play in the world in which we live.
The churches are materialistic? Of course they are. Look at their finance portfolios.
In tomorrow’s Gospel (John 2: 13 — 22) on the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, we see the old chestnut turn up again. Buildings and wealth and commerce versus the spirit of the individual person. Jesus runs the money-changers out of the temple and explains that his programme is not about elegant buildings, rather about the soul of the person.
Immediately one can argue that the soul of humanity is often symbolised in architecture and other forms of human creativity – all depending on wealth to create or make.
It was 25 years ago that the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. It cost millions to build and maintain and yet it was the spirit of the people that caused its collapse. 
It’s far too glib to talk about people turning their back on wealth and money. The wealthiest person in the world can also be a profoundly spiritual person. Or can they? It’s dangerous to romanticise any aspect of poverty. And yet one has to admire great philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie and Chuck Feeney.
Maybe all we can do to celebrate tomorrow’s readings is to take a deeper look at the distribution of the wealth of the world, the wealth in Ireland. It’s most unlikely that anyone will say they are overpaid or that they have too much money. But we all know that there are far too many people who are not allowed reach their human potential because of the lack of resources. And that is totally contrary to the Gospel message.
As long as one person is denied basic human living conditions, how can we ever talk realistic words about the Gospel? It’s so easy to talk pious words, clichéd sentiments about the Word of God.
How at all do we or can we come to terms with tomorrow’s Gospel?

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