Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Terrorism slows down fast travel gained by jet engine

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
They called it the American Wake. Young Irish people forced to leave Ireland to get work in far off places such as the US, Canada and Australia said good bye to their family and friends before leaving home. They never expected to be back in Ireland so the goodbyes were in a real sense a final farewell, hence the 'Wake'.

Aer Lingus began to fly across the Atlantic in 1958 with Constellation aircraft and then two years later they acquired Boeing 720s, which allowed them fly from Dublin and Shannon to New York and Boston in approximately seven hours.

The introduction of the jet plane was the final nail in the coffin of the American Wake. The world was getting smaller and people were finding it easier and quicker to get back home.

I went to Rome in 1974 and knew when I was flying out from Dublin Airport that it would be a year before I'd be back home.

Nothing is simple and the pendulum goes back and forth. The jet engine facilitated our fast travel but terrorism is now slowing it down.

These days Rome is one of the many cities which is a weekend destination for large numbers of people.

The world has become a small place and in one sense there is no longer anywhere on the planet that is 'exotic'. Airplanes and cheaper fares mean the world is our oyster.

If we can't physically be on the other side of the world we can have instant communication with anyone anywhere in the world. Back in 1974 I couldn't phone home without having to go through an operator. The letter from Dublin was one of the highlights of the week.

The first years of the Eurovision Song Contest was sensational television because it was our first time to see live what was happening in far off paces. That was an essential ingredient to the magic of the event. It's passé today.

A colleague of mine is just back from a weekend in Dubrovnik. He wisely pointed out how it is somewhere that was once geographically, politically and culturally so far away and now it's a hop-step-and-jump away. Easily 'doable' over a long weekend.So the world is our oyster. Or is it?

The Euros begin in Paris on June 10. Thousands of Irish people are planning to travel to France to support both Irish teams. Yet there will be many who have decided not to travel in fear of being victims of a terrorist attack.

These days anytime I travel abroad there is somewhere at the back of my head a lingering fear that I could be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Of course it can happen anywhere, anytime.

As the world becomes that global village we are forced to reconsider where we can and cannot go. I doubt if many people are going to Syria this year and favourite holiday destinations such as Turkey and Egypt are being crossed off the places-to-go by many people.

Even the intrepid adventurer might be slow to trek across Afghanistan. I knew someone who in 1977 bused it from the Indian border to Iran.

So too with all our modern communication. At least in western democracies there was little chance that our letters were being read. These days we have no idea who is scanning our emails or reading our SMSs.It seems it's part of the human condition that there's
always a snag somewhere.

Robert Burns' lines come to mind: 'The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.'

No perfection on earth?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Conservative priesthood

This is about paedophilia in the conservative branch of priesthood - The Society of Pius X.

Why would the reader not be surprised?

Google translate should do the needful. Lies, that feeling of superiority, and arrogance are the same in all languages.

It is worth noting how these chaps feel so confident and certain about everything to do with God. They tell people to say their prayers but once they are caught they call in the best and most expensive legal teams. In the meantime and afterwards they really dress up well.

It has to be all a farce. A dangerous one too.

Why not we?

Incorrect or do the rules of grammar change?

Surley it should be the nominative case?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Irish Dominican speaks to Islamic scholars in Tehran

On Thursday Irish Dominican Paul Lawlor spoke to a group of Islamic scholars from Qom at the church of the Irish Dominicans in Tehran, the capital city of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Paul, who speaks fluent Farsi, spoke to them for over an hour about Christianity. They expressed great interest in the topic. It was a special moment in Christian Islamic relations.

Paul Lawlor with Islamic scholars at the Irish Dominican priory in central 
Tehran. Paul is on the left, wearing a Dominican habit.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Lady Gaga and Communion

Today's 'Irish Times' Thinking Anew column.

Michael Commane
When anything to do with the Eucharist gets media attention it's mainly 'negative' material or else stories that are really peripheral to the sacrament.

A couple of scenarios come to mind: when a celebrity or a well-known Catholic receives Communion in a non-Catholic church and then the annual dress-up day when we see and read about young children making their first Holy Communion and some of the practices that surround the day.

There is also the phenomenon of people receiving Holy Communion who are 'deemed' ineligible to receive the Eucharist.

Lady Gaga was in the news some weeks ago when she posted a story on Facebook praising a Fr Duffell for saying that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but the food that God gives us.

Perspicacious of Lady Gaga to quote the wise words of her favourite priest. 

We don't often hear sensible or real words about the Eucharist in the public forum.

Tomorrow is the feast of Corpus Christi or the Body of Christ. According to Canon Law it is one of five days in the year when a diocesan bishop is not to be away from his diocese unless for a grave or urgent reason.

In tomorrow's Gospel St Luke (9: 11 - 17) tells us how the disciples of Jesus were able to feed a large crowd with five loaves and two fish. It certainly is a remarkable achievement.

Without in any sense taking away from the 'traditional' meaning or understanding of the Eucharist surely it is important to try to place the Sacrament in the context of the world in which we find ourselves. In other words to make an attempt to giving it meaning for people who think of it only in terms of Communion dresses and how it can create controversy.

The Catholic Church believes that Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist. That the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.

What exactly does that mean for the majority of people who particiapte at Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi in Catholic churches around the world?

Yes, it means that Christ is really present. But Christ is not physically present in the same way that I am sitting down writing these words. Christ is present sacramentally in the Eucharist.

But consider the meaning of the word 'Communion'? Surely it is about people living in communion and harmony with one another. And like all the sacraments, the Eucharist is both a sign but it also helps bring about the reality of that sign.

Maybe part of the miracle in tomorrow's Gospel is the fact that the crowd realised that there was a large number of people present so in order that everyone would have enough to eat they had to make it their business to share the little they had.

Imagine if that ethos prevailed in our society, in our world. Can we really feel easy receivng the Eucharist while at the same time allowing one billion people on our planet live lives close to destitution?

The Eucharist is about communion, commuion with God, but that means communion with one another.

Is there really any point in 'looking up' towards heaven if we do not play our part in bringing about the beginnings of the kingdom of God in this world, in the here and now in which we find ourselves living out our daily lives?

Well done to Lada Gaga for quoting Fr Duffell in pointing out how the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect. Indeed, it is anything but. Instead it is part of that sacramental story of the church to bring a broken and fractured world into the arms of an all-merciful God.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gorki's relative in Dublin

Maybe an intersting piece of information for some readers: the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Ireland, Maxim Peshkov is a relative of the Russian/Soviet writer Maxim Gorki, (Alexi Maximovich Peshkov) who died in 1936.

'Guests travelling on the 17.00 service please.....'

Long long ago we were passengers when we travelled by bus, train or plane. Then we all became customers. That change probably came in the era of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Aer Lingus is currently running an ad in the Irish media where the reader is told: "91% of guests who flew with Aer Lingus.........."

And now we are guests.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dublin murders

In the last few days Irish media is talking non-stop about the murders that are happening.

Journalists, gardaí, lawyers have been talking about everything except the why.

Surely it's as clear as day the oxygen that feeds all this horror is poverty and deprivation.

Irish society created this horror.

The politicians are telling us that they 'visited' the area. Stomach churning.

Unemployment rate in the inner city? Number of school-going children going to Germany or France or Italy this summer to improve their language skills?

The talk on the radio and in the newspapers is simply insulting, annoying too. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

'The sense of an ending'

The last bits and pieces of the Redemptorist home at Marianella on Orwell Road.

It might all be gone by the end of the day.

At midday the building had been leveled.

Churches and service

.... whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you shall make himself slave to all.

Those lines from Mark's Gospel are being read in churches around the world today.

Do churches 'do' service? They may be adept at doing  preaching, talking-down, pomposity, gobbledegook but service?

In an interview some weeks ago on RTE television Jesuit priest Peter McVerry said that the institutional Catholic Church comes between God and people.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

You can throw it on the bus and train, pedal it too

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Last week in a national newspaper a columnist wrote a piece criticising cyclists for breaking the law. He argued that cyclists must stop "peddling excuses for rule-breaking"

Since the introduction last July of fixed-penalty fines for cycling offences 600 cyclists have been fined. Three hundred  were caught going through red lights. Another 125 had to cough up for not having a front or back light while cycling after lighting up time. 

Seventy people were fined for cycling  without due care and consideration.

The basic fine is €40. After 28 days it goes to €60. On non payment it's to court and the possibility of a €2,000 penalty.

Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party, while admitting cyclists should keep the law, thinks the figures are somewhat on the high side.

Cycling has become extremely dangerous. Many cyclists are travelling too fast and too dangerously. Motorists need to show more care towards bicycles and there is need for more cycle paths and better ones too.

The Bike-2-Work scheme has proved a great success but it means there are many inexperienced people out on bicycles.

But that's the way it is, so we simply have to get on with it and do the best we can. When cyclists break the law they should take it on the chin, pay the fine, get back up on the saddle and cycle in a safe and proper manner.

Some months ago I bought myself a fold-up bicycle. It is sensational and why I waited so long to buy one I simply cannot understand.

Right now I'm sitting on the 11.00 ex Heuston Cork train on my way to Castlegregory in West Kerry.

I left home in south Dubiln at 10.20 and cycled to Heuston Station. Was at the station at 10.45. Yes, it is very tempting to cycle along the platform but it's against the by-law and also, I have been caught doing it. 

I have been converted and now wheel the bicycle to the train door. In less than 60 seconds the bicycle is folded and within another 60 seconds it's neatly packed on a luggage rack at the end of the train coach. 

And guess what? It travels free. It really is an amazing facility. Some time back Irish Rail stopped taking conventional bicycles on trains between certain hours. Also, to take an 'ordinary' bicycle on a train you have to pay dear for it.

When I arrive at Tralee it's the bus for the first 18 kiolometres and then cycle the next 10 kilometres. And if by chance I get a lift from the station, again simply fold up the bike and throw it in the back of the car.

It is a magic piece of engineering. Cycling around Dublin is great fun. If it begins to rain, the traffic is congested or you simply get tired, then you can just jump on a bus with the bicycle under your oxter. Again, buses take it and take it for free.

Most of the fold-up bicycles have seven gears and they are ideal for cycling anything up to 20 kilometress. After that an 'ordinary' or regular bicycle makes more sense.

It's that freedom to jump on and off trains and buses with it that makes it so special.
There is never any need to lock it as you can  carry it into most places with you. You can get a bag for it and simply carry it over your shoulder.

Yes, the rain and wind are a problem but there's no cover or umbrella with a conventional bicycle.

A fold-up bicycle is the way to go.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Snowden on Drake case

From today's Guardian.

“When I [Snowden] was at NSA, everybody knew that for anything more serious than workplace harassment, going through the official process was a career-ender at best. It’s part of the culture,” Snowden told the Guardian.

“If your boss in the mailroom lies on his timesheets, the IG [Inspector General] might look into it. But if you’re Thomas Drake, and you find out the president of the United States ordered the warrantless wiretapping of everyone in the country, what’s the IG going to do? They’re going to flush it, and you with it.”

RTE's wrong pronunciation

Why does RTE radio and television continue to mispronounce the name of the far right-wing Austrian presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer?

All RTE needs do is turn on German or Austrian radio or television to hear his name correctly pronounced. Or for that matter, listen to BBC.

Why do we so often and so easily copy the US, even when they are wrong?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bishops meet ACP

This from the Association of Catholic Priests.

Interesting to see the ACP team who met with the bishops and good to see Tim Hazlewood at the table with the other impressive men.

It's a start.

Bishops meet with Association of Catholic Priests

Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly (Cashel & Emly), Bishop Ray Browne (Kerry), Bishop Philip Boyce (Raphoe) and Bishop Denis Nulty (Kildare & Leighlin).

The ACP was represented by Tim Hazelwood (Cloyne), Brendan Hoban (Killala), Dermot Lane (Dublin), Sean McDonagh (Columban) and Gerry O’Connor (Redemptorist).

The meeting began with a joint prayer by Archbishop O’Reilly and Sean McDonagh.
The meeting was jointly chaired by Bishop Ray Browne and Gerry O’Connor.

The future of the Catholic Church in Ireland
Dermot Lane, on behalf of the ACP, made a submission about the critical situation facing the Catholic Church in Ireland.

He listed the many problems we faced; decline in practice, decline in vocations, etc. and suggested that people were asking “what’s the plan to deal with the crisis?”

The Church was at a cross-roads, he said, and we could get stuck at the cross-roads unless we decided to respond proactively. He suggested that as a Church we needed to initiate a process in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and in the spirit of Pope Francis who was a beacon of hope and possibility.

Whatever we decide to do, he argued, should include three strategies:
(i) to realistically ascertain what the present situation is by gathering precise data on the present situation, the resources available to us and what needed to be prioritised;
(ii) to train lay men and women for ministry;
(iii) to underline the importance of bishops, priests and people working together.
The proposal of the ACP is that a National Synod be organised that would move from discussion and consultation at parish level to diocesan level to national level. The ACP is ready and willing to further this proposal through ongoing engagement with the Bishops’ Councils for the Clergy, for Faith Renewal and Faith Development, and for Liturgy.

This proposal would put flesh on Pope Francis’s encouragement of a synodal Church, pursuing a synodal process. In other words the Church would become a listening Church, an inclusive Church, that through active participation and involvement could generate new energy, enthusiasm and hope.
The important point, Dermot Lane concluded, is that the process of engagement is central as it presents a model of Church where everyone works together.

A lively discussion followed on the present situation of the Irish Church, the forces militating against it and the possibilities for the future.

The ACP delegates asked that this proposal for a synod be presented to the Irish Bishops.

Well-being of priests
Brendan Hoban told the meeting that the ACP was becoming more and more aware of a growing problem around the well-being of priests.

Many priests were struggling as a result of huge mental and physical pressure from a variety of sources: age resulting in a decline of energy and enthusiasm; isolation; ever-increasing work-load; ever-increasing demands of ministry; low morale; despair as vocations decline so massively; little free time; ill-health; and a lack of confidence in dealing with difficult emerging social issues in parish work.
At present many diocesan priests, unlike in the past, lived unhappily alone without the support-systems they needed in their declining years.

Younger priests were distressed by the reality they faced: increasing work-loads; few vocations; wondering whether or why they would stay with priesthood; the difficulty of saying Mass when so few of their peers attend; and the difficulty some experienced of even attending meetings with older priests with whom they had little in common.

A discussion followed on how difficult a challenge the ‘care of priests’ is, how difficult bishops find it, and what might be done.

There was a general perception that many were struggling, that some were at risk and that often appearances can be deceptive as priests who were unhappy often kept themselves under the radar.
The discussion turned towards the stress engendered by a fear of false allegations of sexual abuse. It was clear that many cases were badly handled, that many priests had lost faith in the goodwill of their bishops, that supports demanded by canon law were not always made available to priests, that some priests were very badly treated and had suffered much. Several instances were quoted. One case, which left much to be desired, was described in detail.

It was pointed out that many priests believe that their bishops would not be supportive of them if an allegation was brought against them. The ACP made the point that effective protocols were one thing but how they were implemented was another and that sometimes, even in neighbouring dioceses, there was a huge variety of practice.

The bishops pointed out that many of the problems were associated with the early years when bishops had very little advice available to them but that new protocols were expected which should improve the overall situation.

‘Silenced’ priests
Seán McDonagh suggested that the case of Ireland’s ‘silenced’ priests needed to be dealt with.
Pope Francis had recently said that every problem didn’t need the magisterium of the Church to deal with it. The present process, where an ethos of secrecy dictated that an accused individual wasn’t dealt with directly, didn’t know who his accusers were and didn’t even know when a process was initiated, made him feel ashamed of his Church. He instanced one case that appeared recently on the ACP web-site.

On behalf of the ACP he asked the bishops to take up a position on the priests who had been silenced and to develop a more just and respectful process for dealing with such cases as they arose. The men involved had given life-times of service to the Church, were deeply respected and their continued treatment was regarded as a source of great scandal by many Catholics in Ireland.

Laudato Si
Seán McDonagh said the encyclical Laudato Si was a great gift for the Church and that the promise and possibilities emanating from such an impressive and historic document needed to be taken seriously.

Young people were fascinated with it and it could be an effective evangelical influence in raising questions of faith for them. The wisdom of the document needed to percolate down to parish level. We needed, as Pope Francis said, ’to be attentive to the reality of creation’.


  • There was a long discussion on how to translate Pope Francis’ concern for the poor to direct action at parish level, the role of the St Vincent de Paul and the need to focus attention on this gospel reality.

Former minister warns of extremist elements in Israel

Former Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya'alon has resigned as governemnt minister and member of the Knesset.

He warnes that Israel has been taken over by "dangerous and extremist elements".

Within the last month Ya'alon defended a senior army general who compared recent trends in Israel to pre-war Germany.

The Weimar syndrome is stalking the world right now.

The Trinity

Today is the feast of the Trinity. One of the major events in the Christian churches.

If you think about it everything in our lives is done in 'relationship'. Though maybe US English has hijacked the expression 'in a relationship' to have one specific meaning.

Imagine if Putin had a good relationship with Obama would the guns be blazing in Syria?

If the Austrian electorate had a good relationship with their politicians would they be electing far right Norbert Hofer today to be their next president?

Good, life-giving relationships mirror in a tiny way towards the reality of the Trinitarian God.

An exciting idea.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Reading or not at Mass

On RTE's Morning Ireland programme yesterday Ken Curtin, a member of the Soical Democrats and a reader at Mass at St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh, explained how his name no longer appears on the roster of readers for Mass.

He told Morning Ireland that his name 'just disappeared'. On further investigation he was told that his views on the Eighth Amendment and on the Marriage Equality referendum deemed him ineligible to read at Mass.

He made the point that the first he heard about the decision was when his name did not appear on the roster.

As to whether or not Mr Curtin should be allowed read is one issue but to do it in such a way as alleged by Mr Curtin is never acceptable. But alas, that so often is how the Catholic Church operates.

Curtin has asked to have a meeting with the bishop, William Crean.

Another 'problem' in the Diocese of Cloyne.

Why do so many people think there is something 'sly' and 'nasty' about how the institutional Catholic Church works?

Friday, May 20, 2016

RTE's Prime Time

Last evening's Prime Time on RTE 1 carried an item on pharmacies, prescriptions and State payment.

It was a shambolic report. Figures were thrown out with speed, almost impossible to understand.
People were interviewed and the viewer was never told who they were.

It was terrible and it woud be interesting to know who came away learning anything from the item.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wordy documents

Is it the case that the more dysfunctional and broken an organisation is the the greater the prompensity is for it to produce wordy  and lofty-sounding documents?

When people 'trade' in God does it give them pompous ideas about themselves?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

LUAS industrial dispute

The next Luas shutdown is on Friday.

The strike trundles on, with anger growing on both sides.

Who owns Transdev/Veolia? What's the annual salary of Transdev/Veolia's Irish managing director Gerry Madden?

How interested is Transdev/Veolia in its workers or in the general Irish economy?

Who is currently pulling the strings in the tactics of Transdev/Veolia and where are they based?

US Defence Secretary first openly gay man in the job

The new United States Secretary of Defence, Eric Fanning is the first openly gay man to be appointed to the position.

The honesty surrounding sexual orientation must surely be admired.

All the dishonesty that goes on and then the ensuing anger, frustration and fear when people hide their orientation.

It is a chronic problem within the churches. And the damage that's done.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Whingeing seems to be Ireland's best small industry

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Last Friday week a young woman knocked at my door. It was clear she was agitated. She quickly told me that she was worried about a man living in a house across the road. She explained that she had looked through the stained glass window in the hall door and thought she saw a figure lying in the hallway.

I went over and yes, it seemed as if there were someone on the floor. Another neighbour called the emergency services.

Within five to eight minutes a fire tender arrived. Gently and kindly they asked one or two questions but with great speed they had the door open within seconds and yes, inside, on the floor of the hallway my neighbour lay dead.

Quickly a Garda car arrived followed by a doctor and then the body was removed to hospital.

The man had lived in that house most of his life. After school he had gone to university, where he studied Spanish, English and history. He taught in Ireland and Spain for a few years. 

As a boy he enjoyed playing football. But over the last many years he has lived a solitary lifestyle. He was in his late 50s and was regularly seen out walking. He seldom if ever acknowledged a greeting when one passed him on the road.

He was a kind man and was generous to anyone who called to his door looking for help.

It was my first time to see at close range the emergency service in operation. I was amazed and flabbergasted at their modus operandi.

They were at the scene within minutes and they did everything so quickly, so gently and so kindly. They used a battering ram to break down the door but they did it in such a professional way that little damage was caused to the door and hardly a sound to be heard.

There must have been four or five of them on the job and each one knew exactly what to do. And then when the Garda arrived they complemented one another with such ease.

A garda sat me down and asked me about the man. I was struck by her kindness and gentleness but all the time so professional.

It was a highly efficient operation. Impressive.

I was in a state of shock for the next day or two. As it happened two days later I had to officiate at a tragic funeral service, which meant I may have been more tired than usual when I turned on the radio to hear a person moan and groan about some particular aspect of Irish life. And then a large number of complainers called into the show. It sounded as if they were feeding off one another.

That's what's great about the radio. You can turn it off, which is exactly what I did.

I began to think of the Garda and the firemen and the great job I saw them do.

Of course there's much to complain about in Ireland but is there not a surfeit of complaining at times. Is it possible that it has become a small industry? Are we living in an era of entitlement?

I'm not slow to criticise. Maybe I've learned a lesson.

I consider myself most fortunate to be able to write this column and say thank you to our fire service and our Garda, whose members I saw do a great job. Thank you. It was that mix of efficiency and kindness that impressed me. And all done without any sense of fuss.

Monday, May 16, 2016

John O'Reilly OP RIP

Dominican priest John O'Reilly died yesterday at a nursing home in Claregalway.

John was born in 1929, joined the Dominicans in 1957 and ordained a priest in July 1963.

Before coming to the Dominicans he was a primary school teacher. His skills in teaching came to his aid when he was later teaching in Newbridge College.

John was a brilliant teacher. He had that great gift of being genuinely interested in his pupils which complemented his art and skills in his subject. And Irish was his 'thing'. He was the perfect Irish teacher. Always thoroughly prepared and always totally on top of his subject.

In my first year teaching in Newbridge College I was given a first year German class and John taught that same class Irish. The boys loved him but they also knew that they were there to learn. Yes, good fun in class but never a hint of a second of indiscipline. And they knew that too.

After their Junior Cert we compared results. Top grades in Irish.

The previous year, academic year 1979/1980, I was a probationary teacher in Newbridge College, doing my H.Dip in Maynooth. It had been 13 years since I had looked at a word of Irish.

In order to qualify as a registered post-primary school teacher it was necessary to pass an oral examination in Irish, the Ceard Teastas.

John was my tutor/mentor. It meant a few walks around the bog. Job done. I passed. Entirely due to John's assistance. And the laughs we had walking around the bog.

In the 1970s John was a memebr of the Dominican community at St Mary's Priory, Tallaght. While there he spotted those who were interested in music and he set about teaching them how to play the organ.

According to a well-respected musician, John O'Reilly was the finest organist with whom he ever worked and the most outstanding organist of his generation in the Irish Dominicans.

He was always there for people. 

His funeral Mass is at midday on Wednesday, May 18 at the Dominican Church, The Claddagh, Galway. Burial at Rahoon cemetery.

A good priest. A great school teacher. A kind man.

Peter McVerry SJ on RTE

Fr Peter McVerry was guest on Gay Byrne's The Meaning of Life on RTE One television last evening.

He spoke about his work and his attempt at understanding God.

It was excellent television and McVerry was superb, inspiring. And not the slightest hint of pious gobbledegook.

A Jesuit talking sense and a source of inspiration.

Well worth watching on the RTE player.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Karl Lehmann retires

Cardinal Karl Lehmann has retired as bishop of Mainz.

Lehmann is a former chairman of the German Bishops' Conference.

He was ordained a priest in 1963 by Julius Döpfner and was an assistant to Karl Rahner.

He is considered a leading German theologian and over the years has had 'quarrels' with the Vatican.

On one occasion he was critical of how 'anonymous' people had influence in the appointment of bishops.

Jürgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool FC, paid tribute to Cardinal Lehmann on this evening's ZDF news.

Lampooning commissioner Hogan and minister Ross

Irish Times' Miriam Lord has a clever name for new Transport Minister Shane Ross - Shane, South Dublin's Winston Churchtown.

And she quotes from the French daily Liberation to tell readers that Phil Hogan is no friend of French farmers:

Hogan's office is a caricature with five of its eight members from Ireland but no French.

Johnson's despicable words

In today's Telegraph.

Insulting and absurd and such an insult to so many victims of  the Holocaust, the millions killed. Shocking and sublimely distasteful. And he will most likely get away with it. The right wing always does.

Also, well worth reading this: http://gu.com/p/4j88m/sbl

In a dramatic interview with the Telegraph, he warns that while bureaucrats in Brussels are using “different methods” from the Nazi dictator, they share the aim of unifying Europe under one “authority”.
But the EU’s “disastrous” failures have fuelled tensions between member states and allowed Germany to grow in power, “take over” the Italian economy and “destroy” Greece, he warns."

Right left split

The division between left and right seems at times to be close to becoming violent.

Listen any day to US radio stations; Bazil; the Brexit debate and now they are mentioning Hitler; the churches; the Catholic Church; religious congregations.

Palpable hatred.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Polish Foreign Minister dismisses EU concerns

Derek Scally interviews the Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski in today's Irish Times.

The foreign minister dismisses EU criticsm of the conservative reform agenda of his government.

Waszczykowski expresses concern about Russian "activity under the Baltic Sea and in the air, as well as in the militarised Russian exclave (sic) of Kaliningrad".

Kaliningrad/Königsberg is Russian hence surely not the concern of Poland?

But is there such a word as 'exclave'? Yes, there is, and it is that portion of a state geographically separated from the main part by surrounding alien territory. Exactly what Kaliningrad is. It was named Kaliningrad in 1946 after the Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Jesuit talking sense

On RTE 1's Sean O'Rourke programme today a priest was talking about the housing shortage in Limerick and what it must mean to be homeless and the trauma it causes.

He was articulate and sounded wise and kind.

Not a word about God or any of the 'holy stuff'. No navel gazing, nothing about the importance of belief, the meaning of life or why he was a priest.

But he is a Jesuit and he happens to be the parish priest in Moyross. Fr Tony O'Riordan SJ.

A breath of fresh air and so far removed from the pious gobbledegook.

Fr Simon Roche OP

Fr Simon Roche died in Limerick on Monday and was buried in Cork on Thursday after Requiem Mass in St Mary's Priory, Pope's Quay Cork.

Simon was born into a famous milling family in Limerick in 1934, joined the Dominican Order in 1953 and was ordained a priest in July 1960.

He spent many years working in the Dominican-run seminary in Nagpur in India. From India he moved to Dominican HQ in Rome where he was an assistant to the Master of the Order, Irish man Damian Byrne.

At that time two other Irish men, Flannan Hynes and the late Malachy O'Dwyer were on the general council of the Order, supporting the Master of the Order.

It meant four Irish men were working at the Dominican curia in Santa Sabina. They became known as 'La Murphia irlandese'.

On completion of his term in Rome Simon returned to Ireland taking up residence in Cork, living in both Pope's Quay and in Ennismore.

He worked in the Dominican-run parish in Ballybeg in Waterford from where the Dominicans have now walked away. Simon was also novice master.

He died in a nursing home back in his home town, Limerick.

He was a tall, stooped man, patrician in style. His years in India added an almost 'guru' touch to his character. He had a great sense of humour, could be a rogue too. He was a man devoted to speaking the truth.

Simon Roche was a wise and kind man.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

As cute as an American fox

From the National Catholic Reporter

Fox News Philadelphia reports that a pastor in the Camden, N.J., diocese is spending a lot of time with a woman friend. (Full disclosure: I am a former director of communications for the diocese.) 

Seems like a parishioner didn't like the situation so he called up the television news station. They responded with a full stakeout. 

Wonder what the story conference was like at the Fox station to justify the hours put into this story, as well as the amount of time devoted to it on-air. The diocese is said to be investigating.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A woman talking sense

From Global Sisters Report: 

"The future of religious life will be decided on the peripheries where Christ is in agony," said Sr Mary Sujita in a plenary address to a triennial meeting of the International Union of Superiors General. 

"It will not be decided on the number of sisters we have. Let us be clear on this."

Another earth?

NASA's Keppler telescope has found more than 1,200 new planets.

Ellen Stoffon, NASA's chief scientist said yesterday:

This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another earth.

And the things we talk about, get excited about, fight about, the things that end up killing millions.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fr Tony Flannery talks at Féile na Bealtaine in Dingle

This week's  INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Dingle was a busy place over the May bank holiday weekend.

It was the venue for the 23rd year of Féile na Bealtaine festival.The organisers told me that every event was close to full.It was the brainchild of the late Mícheál Fanning, who was a local GP and a poet.

I had the good fortune to meet his daughter Ruth with her three-week-old baby daughter Orla at the festival.Ruth was at the door of the courthouse on Saturday with babe in arms welcoming guests, who were attending the interview with  Redemptorist priest Tony Flannery.

The festival authorities had asked me to conduct the interview with Fr Flannery.

The courthouse is an old forbidding building and I certainly would not like to be heading there to face justice. I was nervous enough about the interview ahead.

I had familiarised myself with Fr Flannery's case and had read his book 'A Question of Conscience'.Fr Flannery is one of a number of priests in Ireland who has run into trouble with the Holy See's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for views he has expressed on a myriad church issues.

Fr Flannery would be the first to say that he is not a professional theologian. Over the years he has written in various church publications, including the Redemptorist magazine 'Reality'. The row with Rome began over an article he had written in 'Reality' concerning the origins of priesthood.

But that row has now developed into a full-blown war between Fr Flannery and the CDF. He has been 'silenced' by the Holy See. He is not allowed administer the Sacraments.

There are always two sides in a row. But there are aspects to this row that throw up all those issues which seem to alienate so many people from the Catholic Church.
When the dispute first erupted Fr Flannery was more or less treated like a small boy. The Vatican dealt with the Superior General of the Redemptorists in Rome and reading Fr Flannery's account of things the Redemptorist boss handled the case badly.

And then there is all the silliness of anonymous complaints going to the Vatican.  Fr Flannery says that he received letters, which were not written on headed notepaper from the CDF.

During our interview Fr Flannery was critical of the Irish bishops and the current papal nuncio. He said that there has been no communication between any of the Irish bishops or the papal nuncio, who is the Holy See's ambassador to Ireland.

He has a good relationship with the Irish Redemptorists, who support him.

During question time former Senator Brendan Ryan pointed out that over 100 people had paid €10 to attend the event. He said that people were interested in their faith and church and that if change were to happen in the church then it would have to come from the people.

Four days later I was in a church and spotted the different titles on the nameplates on confession boxes.

But I was struck with the titles. After one man's name was CC, after another OP, CC. One man had nothing at all after his name. Two had Fr before their names and  two others had Rev. in front of their names, with one of them giving himself the title V Rev. and then PP, VF after his name. In case you may not know, VF stands for Vicar Forane.

Journalist Vincent Browne wisely said that once we give people titles we give them power over us.

I keep saying to myself: the church just doesn't get it. Does it?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Politician talks nonsense

On Prime Time this evening politician Stephen Donnelly spoke about Ireland having an almost unique situation. Subject matter was water.

Important his politics is better than this nonsense.

Austrian Chancellor resigns

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann resigned today.

What's happening?

Public holiday in Russia

Seventy one years ago today Marshal Georgii Zhukov accepted from Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel the unconditional surrender of the German Army.

Today is a national holiday across the Russian Federation.

The Western allies signed the surrender protocol in Reims on May 8. Stalin felt somewhat upstaged by the signing so the Soviet Union organised a second signing, which took place at Red Army HQ in the Berlin suburb of Karlshorst. It was signed late on the evening of May 8, which meant it was after midnight in Moscow, hence May 9.

Most trains travelling between Berlin Schönefeld Airport and Berlin stop at Karlshorst. The museum is well worth a visit.

More rounding up than down

Keep your shopping receipts for one month. You will discover that the rounding up/rounding down is in favour of the store.

A member of staff at a large supermarket chain has admitted that the rounding up/rounding down system is in favour of the company.

How to avoid the system, pay with your debit/credit card.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A comment posted which contains serious content

A reader has posted a comment to this blog. The origin of the comment is anonymous.

It has become grudgingly custom and practice for some time to publish comments attrirbuted to anonymous contributors on this blog.

The comment received today is of serious matter and needs consideration before publication.

If the person who sent the comment identified his or herself it would make it much easier to publish the comment.

The author of the blog is sympathetic to the comment and is also interested in publishing the downloaded article,which accompanies the comment.

Pious gobbledegook

A Catholic priest on a religious website says that friendships of their nature are shortlived.

What terrible nonsense and what an insult to people.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Daniel Berrigan

This blog made no reference to the death of Fr Daniel Berrigan on Saturday, April 30.

Today's Irish Times carries an obituary on the great man. He was 94.

The obit cites what he said of his father: "an incindiary wothout a cause," a subscriber to Catholic liberal periodicals and the frustrated writer of poems of no distinction.

"We grew inured, as the price of survival, to violence as a norm of existence. I remember, my eyes open to the lives of neighbours, my astonishment at seeing that wives and husbands were not natural enemies."

He believed the church condoned his father's treatment of his mother.

He was a Jesuit priest, who played a significant role in changing US policy on the Vietnam war.

A shining light. A great man.

Margot Honecker is dead

Margot Honecker died yesterday in Chile.

She was education minister in the GDR between 1963 and 1989 and the wife of Erich Honecker.

Margot Honecker was born in Halle an der Salle in 1927, joined the Nazi youth organisation, Bund Deutsche Mädel (BDM) and in 1945 became a member of the Communist Party (KPD).

As a 15-year-old girl she met Erich Honecker, whom she later married.

She was critical of Gorbatchow and Solidarity in Poland. Held fast to her Communist beliefs and argued that those who were shot while attmpeting to leave the GDR should never have attempted to escape.

She was not the favourite person of many teahcers in the GDR and was indeed ridiculed by the ever-growing opposition to the East German State.

Some years ago she gave an interview to German television in which she expressed her regret for the demise of the GDR.

Friday, May 6, 2016


A new word for some of Ireland's new TDs.



Nigel Lawson for Brexit

Former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson was a guest on BBC 1's Question Time last evening.

He is campaigning for Brexit. He argues the EU favours the rich and powerful and he lives in France.


Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary was also on the programme and he was on the Remain side.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Rebuilding those fences

BBC'S Newsnight programme last evening aired a short film on what's going on now in the EU. It was one of a series, which will be continued this evening.

It interviewed a Hungarian border guard who was on duty on the Hungarian Austrian border the day the first snippets were made in the wire that was the Iron Curtain. On that day he made the decision that no shots were to be fired at the approaching crowds.

He is now a retired man and believes it is time for borders to be re-erected.

It made for profoundly sad viewing.

There is Brexit looming. A far-right person is in contention to be the next Austrian President. France and Le Pen, the AfD in Germany, it's happening everywhere.  What's Vladimir Putin thinking?

Donald Trump might well be President Trump next year.

On a rightwing US radio station yesterday the presenter said that it does not matter who is the Republican candidate to defeat Hilary Clinton. He said that the Rebulicans had only one objective and that is to defeat Clinton. And there was a violence in his tone.

All the retrenchment, a return to ways that brought such pain and suffering are also evident in the churches. Maybe churches simply monitor the mood of the times. The self-importance.

The ideals of the EU are being so attacked from so many sides with such ferocity it seems almost impossible that the centre will hold.

A sense of Weimar happening all over again?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Priests and their titles

Name plates on confession boxes in St Conleth's parish church in Newbridge, Co Kildare.

Surely a powerful metaphor.

David Quinn on just war

In an article in the current issue of The Irish Catholic journalist David Quinn argues in favour of the church maintaining a just war theory.

In the article he writes that had Britain and France not declared war on Germany when Hitler invaded Poland, Nazi Germany would not have invaded France in 1940. Instead they would have been free to head east and would most likely have defeated the Red Army.

There is no maybe, no probably, David Quinn clearly states that Hitler would not have invaded France.

How can he be so sure? How does he know what Hitler would  or would not have done?

Is David Quinn also an expert on the Red Army and the Soviet Union? Does he know what happened on the Volga?

It sounds preposterous.

If all the ifs and ands...... but had the leaders in State and church worked for the genuine good of the people in the Weimar Republic would Hitler have been given the oxygen to be who he became.

Sean Heuston's walk from Richmond Barracks in 1916

Sean Heuston, along with a number of other leaders of the 1916 Rising, was executed on May 8, 1916.

To mark the occasion there will be an event in Richmond Barracks on Sunday, followed by a walk from the barracks to Kilmainham Gaol, where the executions took place. The walk will retrace the steps of the executed men on May 8, 1916.

Refurbished Richmond Barracks is due to open to the public next month.

The Christian Brothers used the building as a school fro many years.

The text below is placed on one of the school desks in a room, which has been restored to its classroom conditions.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pot calls kettle black

The current issue of the freesheet 'Alive!' carries an article on how the EU wastes money with no one knowing where the money is going.

Is that not a perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black.

The money the church wastes, the money religious congregations waste.

Does anyone know anything about the finances of 'Alive!? Does anyone know anything about the finances of the church and religious congregations and how they waste money?

What tax does the freesheet 'Alive!' pay to Revenue? It runs an ad on page five looking for contributions. Is tax paid on this money?

Reading the May issue of the freesheet 'Alive! is a horrible experience and it is difficult to understand how church authorities stand over the freesheet? Or is it that this is the real colour of the Catholic Church?

The crass bigotry of the editorial, the freesheet's denuncation of Irish Catholics are just some of the articles in store for the reader this month.

How it insults individuals and organisations is shocking.

The President of Ireland is referred to as Michael Higgins, also as Higgins.

The Catholic diocese of Limerick published a card-sized promo on the 'Year of Mercy'. On the front there is a quote from Pope Francis:

"No one can be excluded from God's mercy'.

Careerism and sycophancy breed incompetency

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Say a particular class in a school does badly every year in the Leaving Cert in some subject, which is taught by one specific teacher. It wouldn't be long before the school authorities and parents would be questioning the competency of the teacher. 

It would be most unlikely that the students in that particular class were weak students every year.When I hear church people bemoan the state of the church in Ireland I can't help but ask myself if there be a problem, why has it happened.

Okay, church attendance has seen a decline right across the developed world.

Church people will argue that 'secularism' has extended its 'nasty fangs' and people have walked away from church practice.

There will be those who will say we have lost our sense of God. If so, why? Is it as simple as that? I don't think so.

Before I write another word I have to come clean and say that I have never been in a position of authority within the hierarchical church.

Secondly, when  my late father would hear me criticise the management class within the church he would turn to me and say: "Michael, they can't all be getting it wrong."

He had a point but from where I stand, there is good reason to think that there is a chronic problem within the leadership of the church, and not just in Ireland but right around the world. That's some statement to make. It sure is.

Of course it's not just in the church that there are cases of inefficient and incompetent managers. It happens everywhere but within the church there doesn't seem to be any checks and balances.

Who are the people who manage and control the Irish church? At top are the archbishops and bishops.

What sort of management training and skills do they have? Who appoints them? To whom are they answerable?

Within religious congregations there are provincials, some of whom are elected and others appointed from a higher authority.

Since the election of Jorge Bergoglio three years ago I have been fascinated how church leaders seem to quote so easily the words of Pope Francis.

But before his papacy the same men were quoting in the same euphoric terms the words of Pope Benedict and before Benedict it was the words of Pope John Paul. Something suspicious there.

No doubt all good and wise popes. I can't help but smell a tad of sycophancy in the tone emanating from all those princes of the church.

I can't help but suspect so many of them have come from the school of careerism, an art in which they are so well versed. And it's the same within religious congregations.

Has it really been possible for a man, who thinks for himself, to be elected or appointed to a senior job in the church in the last 50 years?

It would seem that during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict there was a tendency to appoint 'yes-men' as bishops around the world. It was as if they did not want strong independent bishops, who might question things. They wanted nothing to do with subsidiarity. And we are paying the price for that today.

Where there is an indulgence of sycophancy and careerism in an organisation there is always the danger that incompetency and inefficiency will have a greater chance of gaining a foothold.

And to add to that it would seem that jealousy is never too far away from the mindset of the cleric.

But then there is the Holy Spirit. At least Alleluia for that.