Monday, August 31, 2015

Priests and water charges

ON its Saturday evening news when reporting the anti-water demonstration in Dublin, RTE showed a clip of a priest in the demonstration.

The newly ordained priest expressed strong views that people should not pay the water charges. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bishop's insulting behaviour

Below is an extract from Brendan Hoban's column in the current issue of the Western People.

Brendan Hoban
Does the Irish Church imagine that Tony Flannery would do irreparable damage to its reputation if it allowed him to speak, in a community hall in far-flung Killeagh, on Pope Francis, of all people? Did the bishop think that Killeagh and Cloyne wouldn’t be able to cope with the damage that Tony Flannery would do in one talk? Or was it that he looked over his shoulder to Rome and decided that he had no alternative?
So what did the bishop’s decision achieve? It diminished and possibly angered Killeagh’s Parish Council and their PP. It sent a strong signal that Pastoral Councils, unless they are the voice of the bishop, will be given no say in the running of their Church. It has brought the Irish Catholic Church once more into disrepute in that it showed that other voices have no place in it, even if Pope Francis encourages them in the wider Church. It insulted Tony Flannery by portraying him as some kind of noxious virus. And it shows once again that the people are ahead of the priests, the priests are ahead of the bishops and the bishops, caught in the nineteenth century, are either out of touch or in abject denial.
In football terms, the management are living off the glories of the past, the players on the field are past their sell-by date and the frustrated supporters are leaving the grounds in droves, unable to cope with the final whistle.
Sad.

Happy days

Introductions and smiles

From left: Archbishop Charles Brown,
Cardinal William Levada and Pope Benedict.

Buckley frescoes in Waterford Church

Major renovation work is taking place at the Dominican church in Bridge Street, Waterford.

Scaffolding surrounds the outside of the church and major works are also taking place within the church.

The restoration project is now in its second year and plans are that the work will be finished by spring 2016.

In the sanctuary of the church there are frescoes done by the late Fr Aengus Buckley.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Aengus Buckley, who died in Limerick in 1978. He was 65 years old.

It is also the anniversary of the death of Dominicans Stephen Murray and Joseph Moran.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cardinal Levada arrested for drink driving in Hawaii

Gerard Moloney is a Redemptorist priest. His blog address is www.gerardmoloney.wordpress.com

How do all these men know so much about God?  No doubt Levada would be welcome with open arms into every Irish diocese. Mother Orthodoxy. It's at least funny.

The piece below is from Gerry's blog. It speaks for itself.

Gerry Moloney
I never met the man, nor did I ever have any direct communication with him, but still he, or the office he once held, have had a direct impact on my life.

His name is Cardinal William Levada, and he is former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, known to churchy people as the CDF. This powerful Vatican office is responsible for guarding church doctrine. The now 79-year-old Cardinal retired from this office in July 2012.
Just over a year before his retirement, Cardinal Levada entered my life. I was informed one May afternoon that the CDF was not happy with the way I was editing Reality magazine, and wanted me either to be removed or to function as editor under certain restrictions imposed by them.
To say I was shocked was an understatement. I was surprised that people in the Vatican would be so interested in a small magazine on a small island that they would have gone to the trouble of compiling a dossier of material on its contents. 

I was surprised, too, that they would think I was disloyal or was trying to damage the church to which I had committed my entire life.I continued to edit the magazine after agreeing to submit the contents of each issue to a censor for prior approval.
On the surface, I thought I was handling the situation well. But deep down I was not. 
My hurt grew worse with the passage of time. I felt that what happened to me and to other Irish priests reflected all that was wrong with the church – clerical, hierarchical, bullying, obsessed with secrecy, afraid of debate. It was extraordinary also, and shameful, that the officials involved never dealt directly with the particular ‘heretic’ in question but only with his superiors. And so I never met Cardinal Levada or any of his subordinates.
Last Saturday the unfortunate Cardinal was arrested for drunken driving while on holiday in Hawaii and is due to appear in court next month. The man may be almost as old as my father but it’s hard to have sympathy today for those who drink and drive. 
Cardinal Levada was one of the so-called ‘culture warriors’ – conservative church leaders determined to fight what they saw as permissive trends in modern culture as well as any dissent within the church.
 It may be simply that he didn’t think he was over the limit when he got behind the wheel of his car last Saturday. Or that the journey was short and he thought it would be okay. In any event, he has admitted to an error in judgement, which suggests he knew he had some alcohol in his system. 
Sadly, it would seem that, despite the many campaigns that have been conducted in recent decades warning against drinking and driving, a lot of people of every rank and status, even culture warriors, still haven’t got the message.

Dead archbishop was nuncio in a number of countries

The ongoing story of the former papal nuncio, Polish archbishop Josef Wesolowski has come to a sad and sudden end. Or has it?

The man seems to have a link with Ireland. He was titular archbishop of Slebte, which is in Armagh.

Wesolowski was found dead in his lodgings yesterday. It means there will be no trial.

He was appointed nuncio in Bolivia in  November 1999 and then in 2002 he was appointed nuncio to the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. He moved to the Dominican Republic in 2008.

Are they a lot of moves in a short number of years?

Has there been an investigation into his activities in all these countries? Will the Holy See make it its business to carry out thorough investigations in all the countries where this man lived?

Wesolowski was ordained a priest in Krakow by Karol Woytelia. And the same man appointed him to his first nuncio job.

The archbishop had been charged with all the 'usual offences'.

Wesolowski was recalled to Rome nearly two years ago after allegations of abusing young boys and possessing child pornography. While originally free to roam the city upon his arrival, he had been living at the Vatican under a form of house arrest since Vatican officials arrested him in September 2014.
After a year of living in Rome, the Vatican moved to defrock him. During that time, Wesolowski used his computer to access child pornography. He was facing charges for that, as well.


Although the former diplomat had been laicised last year, the Vatican communication regarding his death referred to him as "His Excellency Msgr. Jozef Wesolowski."

The church and its titles.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Power failure at Cherryville

A power failure at Cherryville Junction this morning meant that trains on the Waterford line were significantly delayed.

Precedence was given to the main Cork line so the points were scotched at the junction in favour of trains running south and west.

Power was returned at approximately 08.50.

Full marks to the driver of the 07.10 ex Waterford. The train was delayed at Athy and as soon as he knew he informed passengers exactly what was happening.

Does Irish Rail not have an auxiliary power supply at Cherryville Junction? Surely it must and if it does, why the delay this morning?

Gone from Vatican

Spotted on the Diocese of Cloyne website.

Rt. Rev. Msgr James O’Brien returning from service with the Holy See, at the Vatican to be P.P. Ballyhea and become a member of the Cathedral Chapter.

Is this another sign of changes being made by Pope Francis?

The titles.

    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    A new word

    A new word has evolved in Germany.

    The German verb merkeln, which means to hesitate, to buy time, to decide by not deciding.

    Clever.

    Angela Merkel is the German Chancellor. She was born in Hamburg but grew up in Templin, in the former GDR not too far from where 'Hans Fallada' - Rudolf Ditzen lived for a while.

    Her father Horst Kasner was born a Catholic but converted to Lutheranism and was ordained a priest. She was in the FDJ - Free German Youth, where she had a leadership role.

    She studied science at Leipzig University.

    Merkel speaks fluent Russian.

    Will the Russians develop a word for 'merkeln'?

    Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    David Quinn and God

    David Quinn writes this week in 'The Irish Catholic' on the controversy in the Cloyne diocese.

    The article is laced with a similar type of  'style' to that of the letter written by the then parish priest of Cahersiveen, Billy Crean to 'The Kerryman' in 2012.

    A quick read of today's Gospel is a healthy antidote.

    Protect us from a church fashioned by David Quinn.

    What is it about the right-wing and their smarminess and how they know exactly what God is thinking?

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015

    Saying hello to people

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

    Michael Commane
    A film that often comes to mind is 'Crocodile Dundee', released in 1986. It proved a worldwide success. It is extremely funny. In ways it’s outrageous but it also tells some interesting tales.

    When Crocodile or Mick Dundee first comes to live in New York he more or less behaves as if he were still living in Walkabout Creek in the Australian Outback. One of the ways that manifests itself is how he says hello to passers-by. On one occasion he even opens the window of his taxi to shout hello to someone and introduces himself as Mick Dundee from Walkabout Creek.

    Of course it’s funny.

    Can you imagine yourself walking down any busy street in an Irish city and saying hello to strangers? People would think it odd.
    Or is it as odd as it might seem?

    For a number of years I was living between a rural village in West Kerry and Dublin. It was taken as the norm to say hello to people in Kerry, even people you did not know. So the days I would be in Dublin I often found myself saying hello to passing strangers. It took me a while to ‘fit in’ to urban living.

    These days I spend most of my time in Dublin. It so happens on weekdays I’m out walking with the dog early in the morning. There are not too many out walking or running at that time but there are a few. I say good morning or hello but there are fewer and fewer responses. Why, because they don’t hear me. Headphones in their ears and they are cut off from the world around them.

    Maybe I am intolerant, maybe I'm a Luddite but the idea of nodding a greeting or an hello to someone in a park early on a summer’s morning and not receiving a reply is bizarre. And it’s even more bizarre because the person has their ears blocked off. They may be listening to music or radio, they may even be in communication with someone in faraway places.

    And then those cyclists, who have the dreaded headphones in their ears when cycling. The stupidity and danger of that.

    I once heard a young woman on the Luas telling the person she was talking to on the phone that the doors of the Luas were about to open and then as they closed she went on to explain that the doors were now closing. Imagine had I turned to her to tell her that the doors were opening and closing?

    Modern sophisticated people might well throw scorn at the likes of Mick Dundee greeting strangers in downtown Manhattan. But just think of the millions of people who are talking to strangers on social media.

    Is it all a matter of following what the crowd is doing? Are we simply a species of animals, which are so easily manipulated? And the people who pull the strings can do whatever they like with us?

    Why is it that we are forever running off chasing rainbows in far-off distant places when right in front of our noses there is extraordinary beauty to behold? Isn't it the English poet John Keats who manages to see the extraordinary in the ordinary things that are about us? A re-read of Keats might do us no harm at all.

    I’m going to continue saying hello to passers-by when out walking my dog early in the morning. It’s a nice beginning to the day to be greeted with a friendly salutation. Surely it’s good to be in touch with our immediate surroundings.

    Monday, August 24, 2015

    Dining at Crumlin Hospital

    Food presented to a patient at Crumlin Hospital yesterday.

    Note the packaging: stylish and sophisticated. Interesting the advice: consume within 90 minutes of purchase.






    Sunday, August 23, 2015

    Unedited letter of Billy Crean to 'The Kerryman'

    In May 2012 the then parish priest of Cahersiveen, Billy Crean, wrote a letter to The Kerryman in response to a column I had written. He subsequently sent a copy of his letter to the provincial of the Irish Dominicans, at the time, Pat Lucey. Most times the best solutions involve people talking directly with each other.

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

    Below the letter is the column to which the then pp, Billy Crean is referring. Unfortunately the letter has a number of inaccuracies, nor was it constructive. Indeed, it was a nasty and mean letter, though not hurtful, rather a badge of honour and especially so in the context of the current Cloyne-bishop Killeagh-parish council controversy. But maybe it's in its own way, prophetic.


    In subsequent INM regional columns there was never any reference made to Billy Crean's letter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    In papers and on radio

    Miriam O'Callaghan, not of RTE fame, has an article about death in today's Sunday IndependentAnd BBC's Fergal Keane also has a piece in the Sunday Independent on death, where he refers to the demise of his aunt Mrs Mary Keane.

    In Yesterday's Irish Daily Star Gerard Colleran writes in his column about comments made by papal nuncio Charles Brown.

    All three pieces are well worth a read.

    Marian Finucane on her show today referred to the 'mishap' at Aachen where the Irish equestrian team failed to win a place in Rio.

    When talking about what the grounds official did she said: "it could happen to a bishop".

    Surely that expression has lost its meaning?

    Saturday, August 22, 2015

    Billy Crean prevents Tony Flannery from talking

    Quotes in today's Irish Times from Archbishop Charles Brown:

    What is being sought is someone, in "the words of Pope Francis. 'Who has the smell of the sheep' ". Someone who will be a good father, pastor, brother to his priests, with everything that implies....
    someone who needs to be able to preach relatively well, and be able to communicate the beauty of the  Catholic faith to his people.... someone who also needs to be able to administer relatively well'.

    Elsewhere he says:

    "I love Pope Benedict. I visit him when I go to Rome. I admire him with all my heart. I've been very, very influenced by him. I feel very, very close to him."

    Elsewhere:

    "I admire these three popes. I've had the joy of working for each of them, and I resonate in different ways with all three of them, but in the end there is only one Lord, and his name is Jesus Christ."

    Today's Irish Examiner gives much space to the story that Bishop William Crean has banned Fr Tony Flannery talking at an event in Killeagh Parish in Co. Cork.

    Before the development of Photoshop it was generally accepted that a picture tells a thousand stories.

    Still, the picture of Charles Brown in today's Irish Times tells its own story.

    The bishop of Cloyne was appointed to the diocese since Charles Brown became the Holy See's ambassador to Ireland.

    What sorts of organisations and institutions and what sorts of people stop people from talking?

    It's so embarrassing.

    Re-reading bishop's letter in context of cancellation

    According to a report in today's Irish Times the Bishop of Cloyne William Crean has ordered a parish in his diocese to cancel a talk to be given by Fr Tony Flannery.

    Below is a letter written in 2012 to The Kerryman by the then pp of Cahersiveen, Billy Crean.

    The last paragraph is interesting in the context of the bishop's decision, indeed, the complete letter makes for interesting reading in the context of today's report in The Irish Times.

    The then pp of Cahersiveen also posted the letter to the then provinical of the Irish Dominicans.

    Sir, It is with regret and considerable sadness that I am obliged to address some issues raised by your columnist, Michael Commane OP in the May 9 edition of The Kerryman.

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

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

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

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

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

    Sincerely,
    William Crean,
    Diocesan Priest,

    Church Street,
    Cahersiveen.

    Friday, August 21, 2015

    Lyudmila Savchuk exposes pro-Putin troll operation

    The Guardian yesterday carried an interesting piece about a Russian troll.

    A court case in St Petersburg exposed a 'company' with an army of bloggers who publish pro-Putin stories.

    Lyudmila Savchuk took a case against her employer for unfair dismissal.

    Savchuk, a local activist, took the job at the facility for two months to expose the trolling operation.

    She was awarded symbolic damage of one rouble. But in taking her case she exposed the pro-Putin blogging operation.

    Any organisation that attempts continually to paint a positive picture of its 'chieftains' needs careful surveillance.

    Thursday, August 20, 2015

    Death of Egon Bahr

    One of Germanay's giants died today.

    Egon Bahr, who was Willy Brandt's right-hand man, was born in Treffurt, near Eisenach in 1922.

    It was Bahr who was the brains behind Ostpolitik. With Brandt he engineered the political thaw between Germany and the Soviet Union. he made it possible for West Berliners to visit their relatives in East Berlin.

    The former journalist joined the SPD in 1956.

    He was Minister for Economic Cooperation between 1972 and 1976. He was later Development Minister in Helmut Schmidt's government.

    Bahr served as a soldier in Hitler's army but was dismissed when it was discovered that his grandfather was a Jew. His father had been 'recommended' to divorce his wife because of her Jewish background, something he refused to do.

    Willy Brandt appointed him his political adviser during his time as Mayor of West Berlin.

    In the 1970s he was often criticised by the Catholic Church. Many German clerics considered him a communist, indeed, some saw him as a spy for the Soviet Union. He was also accused of being a traitor.

    He married Adelheid Bonnemann-Böhner in 2011.

    I have only ever been interested in ‘’Deutschlandpolitik’’. I didn’t become a Social Democrat in order to nationalise  banks. No, I became a Social Democrat because I was of the opinion that Adenauer did not really mean it [that Germany should be reunited], and that Schumacher really did mean it. I was always certain that Reunification would finally be achieved. I never lost that conviction.

    Difference in Catholic beliefs in books and in polls

    Below is an edited and translated version of an  article on a report released yesterday. The report featured on last evening's main German ARD 20.00 news.

    Does it say anything new?

    Students from the theological and social science faculties at the universities of Münster and the Free University in Berlin interviewed 12,000 Catholics in 42 countries, with close to 7,900 of those interviewed living in Germany.

    The poll concerned itself with marriage, partnerships and family within the context of the Catholic faith.

    The results in many cases show the large gap there is between official teaching and how people live their lives.

    In Poland and southern European states there was a majority opinion in favour of church teaching.

    In the majority of countries, especially in Germany the opposite opinions were expressed.

    For the majority of those interviewed, a church marriage is preferred. Nevertheless 80 per cent of German respondents favoured couples living together before getting married.

    A majority were in favour of reform within the church as to how remarried people are treated, especially with rules concerning the reception of Communion.
    Concerning same sex relationships there is a multiplicity of results. In many countries there is a wish for acceptance and blessing. But attitudes towards the traditional church wedding  varies greatly.

    The church's attitude towards contraception was seen by the majority as irrelevant. On this issue a tiny percentage agreed with the official church teaching.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2015

    An ambassador accredited to Ireland calls for a revolution

    Papal Nuncio to Ireland Charles Brown is quoted in this week's 'Irish Catholic'.

    It seems the first part of the quote is from Pope Francis but the last sentence appears to be from Archbishop Charles Brown.

    The quote seems misleading at it appears in the paper.

    "I ask you to be revolutionaries. I ask you to swim againt the tide. Yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture. That's what it means to be a Catholic today in Ireland."

    About what 'culture' is the archbishop talking? Against what 'tide' does the papal nuncio wish us to swim?

    The papal nuncio is also quoted as saying: "The Catholic faith belongs to young people."

    The link below makes for interesting reading

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/13/can-pope-francis-clean-up-gods-bank  - The section on Bertone makes for special attention.

     Is it appropriate for an ambassador to call for a revolution in the country to which he is accredited?

    The current issue of 'The Irich Catholic' carries some interesting pictures.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2015

    Fr Crowe's funeral Mass was a moment of inspiration

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

    An apology. The article that appears in the regional newspapers refers to Fr Crowe's nephew as Jimmy Crowe. This is an error on my part. The man's name is Martin Crowe.

    Michael Commane
    I don't do funerals. By that I mean that I'm not a professional 'funeral goer'. I err on the side of missing funerals rather than on the side of going to too many.


    Last Wednesday a Dominican friend sent me an SMS telling me that Fr Martin Crowe had died. Martin was a Dominican, five years older than I. He was living in our community in Ballybeg in Waterford.

    I didn't know him very well. We had never lived in the same priory. Of course I had met him on a number of occasions  and with 173 people in the Irish Dominican Province it's natural that I should know him.

    Had we ever had a conversation with one another? We certainly had the occasional chat, but we seldom if ever crossed paths. I think I met Martin about four or five weeks ago when we said polite hellos. I remember on that occasion there was a great smile on his face.

    Within a day or two of hearing of his death I decided to go to his funeral Mass.

    I consider myself on the margins of the Irish Dominican Province. I have some close friends within the province but currently I don't live in community and live on my own.

    I decided out of solidarity with Fr Crowe to attend his funeral Mass. When he joined the order there was the practice of giving a person a new religious name. I have always thought the custom was an insult to our parents. In solidarity I decided to go to Ballygarret near Gorey in Co. Wexford to the funeral Mass on Saturday.

    Wexford is unfamiliar territory to me and I had never before been in Ballygarret.

    The Mass was scheduled for 2pm but it must have been close for 2.20 before the hearse arrived.

    The parish church was filled to capacity. I counted 14 Dominicans and there was also a number of local clergy present. Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan attended.

    It was a prayerful occasion. It was liturgy well done, with meaning and dignity.
    The parish choir pulled out all the stops and added enormously to the solemnity of the funeral Mass.

    The Dominican provincial Gregory Carroll in his homily spoke warm words of Fr Crowe. He recalled a woman once telling him that Larry/Martin was a great priest for lame ducks. At the end of Mass Jimmy Crowe, a nephew of Fr Crowe's gave a eulogy in which he filled us in on the life and times of his uncle. 

    He told us how Larry/Martin was the linchpin of the extended family and how he played such a pivotal role in the lives of all his nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. Both he and Gregory spoke in detail of how Fr Crowe always had time and energy to be with people who were fragile and weak and how he supported those who were hanging on by their finger tips.

    After the Mass there were refreshments in the parish hall. It was a pleasant gathering, where people reminisced about the life and times of Larry/Martin.

    Funerals are sad occasions.  Saturday's funeral was a moment of inspiration.
    Before Satruday's funeral I really knew little or nothing about Fr Crowe. I may even have had some pre-concieved ideas about the man. All incorrect.

    Almost by accident I turned up at the funeral and learned so much about a special priest, a special man, who spent so much of his time and energy consoling the weak and fragile. A priest for 'lame ducks'.

    Shame on me but a lesson learned. I hope.

    Monday, August 17, 2015

    Universal franchise

    Why is there such a strong opposition to the campaign of Jeremy Corbyn for the leadersup of the British Labour Party?

    He certainly has brought a new and vibrant dynamic into the election, which begins today.

    To an outsider looking in right now it seems the other three candidates are close to clones of those who went before them.

    Can we only truly call an organisation democratic when it allows for univseral franchise?

    Universal franchise in the Dominican Order? Why not? 

    Sunday, August 16, 2015

    An unacceptable statistic

    Twenty former US soliders or veterans as they are usually called in the United States die from suicide every day.

    And then the numbers they kill on the battlefield and those who are killed by their 'enemy'?

    The horror and madness of all forms of war.

    And it goes on and on.

    Saturday, August 15, 2015

    Surely there's more to this life than the immediate now?

    The Thinking Anew column in today's 'Irish Times'.


    Michael Commane

    In tomorrow's Gospel we read that Jesus is the bread of life, “… come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world." (John 6: 51)


    What does that mean? Does it require a “leap of faith” to believe that, to believe in God, to believe in an afterlife?


    At the beginning of August I was sitting opposite a man at a wedding banquet. We got chatting and early in our conversation it was clear we were getting on well together. He was younger than I, clever and well informed. 


    He told me he was a school principal and then later in our conversation I learned that it seems he was spending most of his free time during the summer reading the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. 


    I know little about Kant but I did know that he was born in Königsberg, which is now Kaliningrad. My friend was not aware of the name change and that what was once a German/Prussian city was now in the Russian Federation.  


    But it seems he knows his Kant. The conversation moved to God and he was most emphatic in pointing out that there is no God nor no afterlife. Was he arrogant? Maybe a little but he spoke with conviction. An interesting person.


    Two days later a 22-year-old young man said in my company that he hated going to Mass. He said it with a mix of boredom and anger. He was on his way to a family Mass, which he was obliged to attend. And most likely he has never heard of Kant.


    In a sea of unbelief what can one say or do? What can one believe? I happen to be a Catholic because it is the faith into which I was born. Anytime I tell someone I will remember them in my prayers I always insist in pointing out that my prayers are “faltering and maybe even dodgy”.


    Is there a God?  Is there no god? It certainly is a profound question. It is something that has exercised the minds of mankind for a long time. It seems to me, to come down on either side with certainty, bordering on arrogance is simply not helpful.


    Christians come in many varieties.  As in any walk of life, there are liberals and conservatives, fanatics and middle-of-the-road class of people. There are those who “go with the flow” and those who have absolute and unassailable certainty.


    Then there are the “experts” and the lawyers who know exactly what God is 'thinking'. I remember how we were told it was a mortal sin if we did not go to Mass on Sunday.


    But then I think of Jesus saying that he is the bread of life. That Jesus is the bread of life and that we have been invited to join Him in that mystery stops me in my tracks.


    Surely there's more to this world about us than the immediate now? There's more to this world than the joy and the pain that is part of our lives? Maybe it is only in God we can truly take our rest?


    That Jesus is the bread of life is at the centre of our faith. And yet is that the experience of people when they go to church and break bread with each other?


    Maybe we need a real conversation, one with another, about what it means to break bread in communion with our fellow Christians?


    There's something deeply unattractive about all forms of certainty. Give me any day the person for whom faith is a struggle and yet can still be inspired by the words of tomorrow's Gospel. 

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    Divorce in Ireland

    At the opening of the Merriman Summer School in Ennis on Wednesday former Supreme Court judge Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness said that the development of divorce law in Ireland in the 1990s had produced a more equal relationship between spouses.

    She said that "the heavens have not fallen."

    Thursday, August 13, 2015

    Corbyn replies to Blair

    Jeremy Corbyn's reply to Tony Blair. Blair who put British boots on Iraq soil said: "Even if you hate me don't take Labour over the cliff edge."

    “We’re the one putting forward ideas, so I don’t do personal, I don’t do reaction, I don’t do abuse. Life is too short and it devalues the political process. I think we should try and enhance the democratic life of this country, not reduce it to that level.”

    We waste 1.3 billion tonnes of food every year

    Before Europe, Britain, Ireland talk about the drain it is on a nation to take more 'migrants', they should remember the following.

    If the amount  of food watsed around the world were reduced by 25 per cent there would be enough to feed the planet.

    Every year the world wastes 1.3bn tonnes of food. Forty five per cent of all fruit and veg and 35 per cent of all seafood is wasted.

    Developed countries waste between 30 and 40 per cent of all all food. Developing countries waste between five and 16 per cent.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2015

    Martin Crowe OP

    Martin Crowe, an Irish Dominican priest, died in Wexford Hospital today. He was 71.

    May he rest in peace.

    German second best

    This year 5,154 students sat the Higher German Leaving Cert Paper compared to 4,722 last year and 2,118 students did the Ordinary Level  compared to 2,135 last year.

    26,798 students sat the French papers this year.

    8.6 per cent of students sitting the Higher Level German Paper received an A1 grade whereas 6.4 per cent of students sitting the French Higher Paper received an A1.

    Why are there so few studying German?

    285 students sat Russian and 70.5 per cent received an A1 grade on the Higher Paper.

    Cycling through red

    There has been much media fanfare about the new fines system intorduced for offending cyclists.

    Every weekday morning between 08.00 and 09.45 legions of cyclists break the traffic lights at the junction of Harrington Street and Camden Street on Dublin's southside/

    There is never a garda presence to stop the trend.

    It's a similar story around the city.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2015

    Francis is a wily old Jesuit

    This week's INM Irish regional newspaper column.

    Michael Commane.
    I came across the following quote from the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin in The Irish Catholic of July 29.

    "...  there are signs within the Catholic Church that some - even young people - are seeking refuge from the challenges of life by adapting ways of the past and are retreating from dialogue with the present into the false security of imaginary better times. Conformist Catholicism is not the answer."

    It set me thinking about a lot of things.

    Maybe it’s to do with growing older, and looking back. Was it Plato who criticised the youth of his day for not showing respect to their elders?

    I was ordained a priest in 1974, Paul VI was pope. The Catholic Church in Ireland still spoke with authority and had real power. But there was an excitement in the air. The church was going to become more a ‘people’s church’ and in far off South America they were talking about liberation theology. 

    When you walked into a sacristy you’d meet the priest who was against all that was happening and then you would meet the man who was excited and delighted with what was in the ether.

    I remember cycling through southern Germany and meeting priests who were so full of ideas. Young people were best of friends with their local priest. And all the time it seemed as if Paul VI was allowing things to happen. 

    Whether he approved or not was not clear but to many it seemed he was going with the flow. More or less. Even in Rome the men in the long cappa magnas were becoming something of a joke. I remember it well. I lived in the city between 1974 and 1976.

    Then they elected this chap from Venice, Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul l. It surely was going to be reform full steam ahead. He spoke a different sort of language than the old guard and he had such a smile.

    The smile didn’t last long and in comes Karol Wojtyla - Pope John Paul II, the man from Cracow. Slowly but surely the real smiles and the real hope began to disappear. We were back to a centralised and authoritarian-run church. 

    And no wonder. Karol’s world had been greatly influenced by the nazis and the communists. How could anyone escape two such brutal political systems without being somehow damaged?

    The appointment of bishops became ever more shrouded in some sort of centralised paranoia. All the time while the secular world gave the appearance of growing ever more transparent the church was becoming more secretive and closed.

    Priests left in their droves. Young people were no longer best of friends with their local priest.

    My generation of priest is today considered by many younger ‘zealots’ as that group of people who failed the church.

    I think it’s just that point at which Diarmuid Martin might be hinting.

    It seems there is now a retrenchment happening and a growing group of people are saying that ‘my generation’ failed so it’s time to return to the safe old ways, even if that means a much smaller church.

    Pope Francis seems to have similarities with Albino Luciani/Pope John Paul I. He smiles a lot. He uses language that is understood by people like me. He wears ordinary shoes and he doesn’t seem to give too much thought to fancy liturgical vestments. But for him to do anything is like trying to turn a giant aircraft carrier out at sea. 

    All those careerist clerics, quietly, secretly lying in wait. God help us. But Francis is a wily old Jesuit. 

    Monday, August 10, 2015

    Motorbike helmets

    Why are the majority of motorcycle helmets in Ireland black in colour? Surely for visibility purposes they should be white or at least a bright colour.

    It seems almost impossible to buy a white one.

    Sunday, August 9, 2015

    Inspiring people

    Yesterday the feast of St Dominic I had the good fortune of celebrating Mass with the Dominican Sisters in Dún Laoghaire. A first.

    Of course, a superficial glance, but often the most lasting of impressions, impressive women. Got talking to Constance/Fionnuala Warde. She told me she spent 40 years teaching in Wicklow. Her smile was infectious. Imagine to feel so energised and real at 91.

    Some days earlier I met 83-year-old Kevin Condon, not for the first time, home on holiday from Australia. Kevin is an Irish Dominican working in Melbourne. A man full of life, fun and roguery. Clearly someone who is in touch with people and enjoys his life and work. But maybe most of all, a man of grace.

    It's nice, consoling too, to meet inspiring people, funny people, people with whom you can laugh. Real people.

    Saturday, August 8, 2015

    Saint Dominic

    Today is the feast of St Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order. 

    He was born in Spain in 1170 and died in 1221.

    Dominic set out with six followers in 1215 to talk about the Gospel in the new developing cities in Europe.

    It would seem he'd have much to say about the world of today and how the Dominicans are responding to that environment.

    Friday, August 7, 2015

    Terence Crotty homosexual story back in the media

    The Irish Dominicans make it on to 'The Irish Catholic' again this week. This time it's the story of the Terence Crotty comment at Mass, which has already been referred to on this blog.

    According to 'The Irish Catholic' the Dominican provincial, Gregory Carroll seems to have written to Patrick Donovan, who was offended by Terence Crotty's words after the Gospel in which it is reported he said homosexuals were 'intrinsically disordered'.

    The provincial Gregrory Carrol is reported to have spoken to Terence Corrty about the issue.

    It is noteworthy that the provinical wrote to Patrick Donovan.

    This sort of 'clerical nonsense' has been coming down the tracks for some time now.

    Had this specific issue not made it to the media, the 'right-wing clerical operation' would trundle on. Had someone not got the common sense to bring Terence Crotty's words to the media would the provincial have done anything?

    What will it be next? Who is the next person to be offended by right-wing clerical fundamentalism?

    In this week's 'Irish Catholic' Mr Donovan is reported to have said that Terence Crotty added: "gay people have little purpose in God's 'greater plan' ".

    Terence Crotty is student master of the Irish Dominican province, an appointment made by the provinical Gregory Carroll.

    Career clericalism or preaching the Good News?

    Tusk has eye on the ball

    President of the European Council Donald Tusk has said that he fears political contagion from the Greek crisis.

    "The emergnce of a common cause between far-right and far-left groups has been a precursor to some of Europe's darkest moments over the past century.

    "It was always the same game before the biggest tragedies in our European history, this tactical alliance between radicals from all sides. Today, for sure, we can observe the same political phenomenon."

    Perfectly said by the former Polish prime minister. And so worrying.

    Thursday, August 6, 2015

    Japan remembers but the world seems to forget

    Hiroshima has marked the 70th anniversary of the moment the city was flattened by an atomic bomb with prayers, a moment’s silence and vows to redouble efforts to halt nuclear proliferation.

    On a sweltering day in the Japanese city, tens of thousands of people lowered their heads and stood in silence at 8.15am, the time the bomb was dropped on 6 August 1945, killing 80,000 people instantly and another 60,000 in the months that followed.

    Doves were released into the morning sky and a Buddhist temple bell tolled as people across Japan marked the anniversary of the first nuclear attack in history.

    On Sunday, a similar event will be held to remember the second atomic bomb, dropped on Nagasaki. More than 70,000 people died.

    Eric Schlosser's 'Command and Control' tells a frightening story of how insecure nuclear arsenal is around the world, in all seven countries that have nuclear weapons. And that includes some terrible security breaches in the US.

    Schlosser argues that we have become far too blasé about nuclear weapons and points out that what was dropped on the Japanese cities in 1945 was a tiny inefficient bomb compared to what is in storage today.

    Wednesday, August 5, 2015

    Letter from Dominican Sisters in Iraq to the Order

    The piece below is from the international website of the Dominican community at Santa Sabina Rome.

    It makes for an interesting read.


    Dear Brothers, Sisters and Friends,
    As we approach the first anniversary of our displacement, we look back and recall the past 12 months. We undertake this recollection to call to mind what the Lord has done for us, and how He accompanied us throughout the night of Aug. 6, 2014 to be displaced with His people. 

    This memory impels us to pray to the Lord so that we might be enlightened to understand His will for our lives during this crisis. Doing so, we would like to share with you our vision, our hope, and also our fears. Taking this as our best opportunity to thank you for being with and accompanying us in our journey, breathing in us the spirit of courage to continue on our way.

    Remembering last August, the words of the Psalm 124: 2-3 come to our mind: “If the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive.” 

    It was really a dark night when we left, not knowing what to take with us or what to leave behind. Christians were everywhere on the road, not knowing what direction they should take. The shadow of ISIS’s hatred surrounded everything, and we understood little of what was happening. 

    When we eventually arrived in Kurdistan, many people were homeless in the street; they were like sheep without a shepherd. After few days in Erbil, we realized that our towns in the Plain of Nineveh had been taken by the ISIS, and our return became a distant and uncertain dream. 

    To add insult to injury, it was not only ISIS that increased our loss and our anguish, but also our non-Christian neighbors, our friends in the neighboring villages, whom we served, taught and gave treatment—they betrayed us in times of trouble and crisis.

    It was not easy to accept the fact that we were displaced people, almost abandoned by the Iraqi and Kurdish governments whose initiatives and acts were not up to the level we expected. The church took the responsibility for us, trying to gather and support the IDPs ((Internally Displaced Persons) who were scattered all over the region of Kurdistan.

    As a community, realizing how dramatic the condition was, we thought of ways to mitigate the crisis and help people with their basic needs. We started our projects with empty hands, but with the help of our Dominican Sisters and Brothers, our friends, and different organizations, we were able to provide the IDPs with food and non-food items. 

    We distributed blankets and mattresses (for 5,000 families); milk, diapers, home ware, towels, soap, and summer blankets (for 10,000 families); shoes (for 740 pupils); 5,000 air-coolers; 600 refrigerators, and 400 water-coolers. 

    Although some of these items were distributed for the IDPs in general, our focus, however, was on the displaced families who rented houses; they are paying significant money for rent and many of them do not have any income.

    Additionally, we thought of children who were lost in the midst of this chaos. We opened two kindergartens where children can come for free, and co-operated with some organizations to open charitable clinic for the IDPs. 

    We have just got a license to open a primary school, also for free; we rented a place and hope it will be for the benefit of the IDPs. The aim of this is to show the IDPs the loving care of the church.

    Having said that, we have to admit that work with and for the IDPs was not always manageable. There were some challenges that really burdened our mission. There are so many IDPs that sometimes we feel as if our work is inconsequential. 

    Also, we were not prepared for this kind of work, nor have we skills to deal with it. Most shocking was the unexpected death of 10 sisters (most of them were in their 70s) in a very short period of time (three months).

    Despite that, our ministry continues to be strengthened by the Lord who blesses our efforts no matter how modest they are. Being occupied with such projects, we do not forget our mission to preach the word of God for our troubled people. 

    Since winter, some of our sisters have been preparing 400 children for First Communion in six groups. The last First Communion celebration was on July 12. 

    Moreover, the sisters will start preparing another 100 children for First Communion in towns and villages in Erbil and Duhok.

    Additionally, sisters continue to go to the IDPs camps to minister: give talks, form groups of young people to have different spiritual exercises, pray with them, arrange Masses (we still remember vividly the first Mass two of our sisters attended at one the IDPs camps when they had no altar to pray, so they used a desk and one of the sisters covered it with her scapular as an altar cover). 

    The main aim of our work is to make sure that IDPs know that they are not ignored or abandoned by the local church.

    Thank God, we have just had our annual retreat conducted by Fr Ifram Saqat, OP who is a Biblical scholar and a psychologist. 

    This helped us to make an interior journey and to recognize kindness, mercy and passion in ourselves and others through forgiveness and reconciliation. We were 68 sisters. They were very blessed days. Hopefully, it will be for the benefit of each sister.

    Now, as IDPs, and with the rest of our people, we do face everyday challenges. We wonder how long this will last.

    Our hearts are filled with sadness and overwhelming grief. We wait but we get nothing, we think but do not understand.

    What is next? No one knows. Where are we going? Everyone is lost. Yes, we do have shelter but our hearts are anxious and the relationships are truly troubled and the reality is bitter. Most elites have already left, and many are thinking of leaving the country because of the unhealthy condition in which they live.

    Hundreds of IDPs are living in small, dark and damp (cubicles) caravans. With the help of Pontifical Mission and Oeuvre D’orient, we are working to provide flats for the IDPs. There is an unfinished building of five floors; we thought of building (146) flats in the second and third floor. We depend on people of good will who help the IDPs live with dignity and hope.

    We ask you to continue to pray for us. And, thank you for being with us over the past 12 months.

    Thank you very much and May God Bless you.
    Sister Maria Hanna, OP

    Prioress