Thursday, June 30, 2016

Boris and I

Boris Johnson in his speech this morning in which he announced he would not run for the top job, concluded with this:

..... I have concluded that person cannot be me.

What at all are grammar classes like at Eton?

Babies in Germany

Last year 738,000 children were born in Germany.

That's 23,000 or 3.2 per cent more than in 2014. 

It is the highest number of births in Germany in 15 years.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Journalism is becoming the preserve of the rich

The article below appears in the June-July issue of theJournalist.

It's funny but tells an interesting story.

VW's US story

Just for starters, VW are to pay $15 billion in the US for the fraud it perpetrated on its car emissions.

More to come. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Vodafone, the missing mast and not a word to customers

This week's INM Irish newspapers' column.

MIchael Commane

This year the talk is all about bins. Last year it was water. But right now the bane of my life is phones.

Over the last few months the signal in my house has disimproved. 

A civil-minded woman on the road emailed residents notifying them that she was having difficulties with her phone signal and wanted to know was it a problem bigger than her phone.

A wise woman. Emails started pouring in. Everyone on the road was having difficulties. And it was not one specific phone provider but everyone, irrespective, who they were with, was having problems.

On a number of occasions I phoned my phone provider, Vodafone. I was promised a return call within five days. It never happened.

So, last week, annoyed, I called. Get through to Egypt. I phone on my landline as the signal on the mobile is too weak and I did not want the call to go down. If my Arabic were as good as the English of the Vodafone representative with whom I spoke, I sure would be delighted. But it was clear English was not his mother tongue and there were moments when I felt I was not being perfectly understood. In such a situation, emphasis, nuances can easily be lost.

The upshot of the story is that a building in the vicinity has been demolished and on top of that building was a phone mast. With the building razed to the ground, the mast is no more.

On my first try, Vodafone was willing to give me a booster mechanism to improve the signal. It is priced at €100 and they would give it to me for €50. I was having none of it. I drew a parallel with my electricity provider and argued what an uproar there would be if a power station were decommissioned and as a result customers lost supply. We agreed to disagree and I requested to discuss my plight with someone more senior.

Vodafone kept their word. The following day I was contacted and asked for specific details. In a subsequent call they admitted that the removal of the nearby mast was the reason for the poor signal in my house. They agreed to add credit to my account and would post me out the booster mechanism free of charge.

It's great fun to win battles like that but it takes a lot of time, energy and maybe even brass neck. But it's worth it.

The lesson has to be that you always have to be ready and willing to fight your corner and for many people such behaviour might well seem odious.

What baffles me most of all in this case is how come Vodafone and the other phone providers had not planned in advance replacing the mast that,   has been decommissioned. Vodafone have told me it will be a number of months before the mast is replaced at another location.

The demolition of the building in question had been flagged for a long time. The dogs on the street knew it was to be knocked. The phone companies surely knew exactly the resultant consequences. 

Why did they not move faster? Wouldn't it have been nice of them to have written to customers in advance to explain what was happening?

The moral of the story is one has to be on constant guard to make sure you get what you pay for. Is that really how it should be? Nevertheless, I have to say thank you to Vodafone. But had I not got a brass neck the signal in my house would be negligible.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Few schools do Religious Education as a LC subject

Only a handful of schools do Religious Education as a subject in the Leaving Certificate.

Why is this the case? Surely it is an excellent way to teach young people about faith, different religions and how they came into existence.

Below is this year's Leaving Certificate Higher Paper, which was held on Friday.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

There are liars and then there’s Johnson and Gove

From the Guardian. A good read.

German tv speaks in glowing terms of Irish fans at Euros

German television ZDF has been euphoric today in praising the Irish fans in France. Former German goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn, spoke about how the Irish fans are the real winners of this year's Euros.

ZDF game analysts have spent over 10 minutes this afternoon talking about the behaviour of the Irish fans, showing clips of their celebrating and how the French police stand by enjoying the fun.

They have been great ambassadors for Ireland.

Fr Gerard Moloney's sad experience with the CDF

Redemptorist priest Gerard Moloney addressed  the organisation 'We Are Church Ireland' in the Milltown Institute yesterday.

Fr Moloney is the former editor of 'Reality' magazine. He is now in ill health, suffering from chronic back pain. He also suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy.  Gerard lives in the Redemptorist monastery in Limerick.

While editor of 'Reality' he came to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Without any discussion or real consultation he was given a month's notice as editor of the magazine. He was told the CDF was not happy with the content of 'Reality'. Eventually it was agreed that he could stay on as editor provided an outside censor approved of all the material in the magazine.

Fr Moloney was instructed to keep all discussion on the matter secret. He was not to mention anything to his family, friends or members of his congregation.

"They were discussing all this without talking to me. Faceless bureaucrats taking anonymous material about me seriously. How can you defend yourself when you don't know you are on trial? It's an unjust and unchristian system," Fr Moloney said.

He went on to say that the CDF never communicates with the person being investigated.

"Looking back on things now, I should have resigned on the spot. Staying quiet was not the right thing to do.

"Imposing sanctions does not make people change their views. Suppressing debate is a sign of an unhealthy organisation," Fr Moloney stressed.

Gerard Moloney is a mild-mannered man. It's clear he has no theological or ideological agenda. He loves his work as a priest and has hope for the church.

The behaviour of the CDF, as expressed by Gerard Moloney yesterday, is simply shocking. Unacceptable too.

Is it good enough for bishops and provincials to allow themselves to be bullied and cajoled by faceless people, secret people?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

'Raymie' Collins OP RIP

Dominican priest Raymond Collins died on Tuesday in Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry.

Fr Raymond, known among Dominicans as Raymie, was assigned to the Dominican Priory in Waterford. He was born in Newry where he had family and many friends. Late last year he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

He was a kindly man with a genuine interest in people. A great mimic, which he could use perfectly to let people know what he thought of those he was mimicking. He was the sort of person you would seek out in a crowded room because you knew he would always make you feel at ease, even important. He had  a special ability to engage with people and he did it in his own style.

Raymie was prior in a number of Dominican communities. People would say that his priorship at San Clemente in Rome brought a sense of kindness to the community. He always saw the funny side to things and never took things too seriously.

He spent a number of years working in Argentina.

Raymond was a boarder at Newbridge College. Three of his class at Newbridge, the late Paudge Duggan, the late Jim Harris and Larry Collins joined the Dominicans. They stayed close friends over the years, especially Jim and Raymond.

Fr Raymond was born in 1939. He was ordained a priest in 1964. Raymie was a kind man.

He was buried today Saturday in the grounds of the Dominican Priory in Newry after Requiem Mass in The  Dominican church in the town. Fr Larry Collins preached the sermon.

Harmony and solidarity

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

Michael Commane

This day last week the first British European Space Agency astronaut, Tim Peake returned to earth, parachuting out of the skies over Kazakhstan. As he and his two colleagues were being escorted away from the capsule a young woman walked beside him and there stitched on to her shirt was a white, blue and red tricolour, the flag of the Russian Federation. A lovely young woman with a great smile. She was there assisting Tim in his first traumatic moments back on earth.

Looking at the group of people, smiling, so delighted with the success of the mission and from many countries, including the US, the Russian Federation and Britain, honestly brought goose pimples to my skin. Cosmonauts and astronauts returning to earth in a Soyuz capsule must be a remarkable moment of human genius working in cooperation, throwing away all the differences that so often cause so much hatred and evil in the world.

It's difficult to equate that cooperation in far-off Kazakhstan with Nato manoeuvres that are currently taking place in Poland.

On that same day Gerry Moriarty in this newspaper reported the story of the soccer-loving Turner family from Northern Ireland, attending all the matches of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the current European Soccer Championships. Their late father, Canon Edgar Turner (96), had bought tickets for the Euros but unfortunately died some weeks ago. Moriarty described him as a man, "who bequeathed his love of soccer to his two children and also a concept of the game as unifying and all-embracing, and a way to experience new countries and cultures.”

The day before the Soyuz landing, the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron and Labour's leader, Jeremy Corbyn stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the Yorkshire town of Birstall to honour the memory of Labour MP Jo Cox, who had been savagely murdered the previous day. Jo Cox in her short time as an MP had made it quite clear that working together in harmony and solidarity is the only way to solve our problems.

Senior Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, writing in 'The Daily Telegraph' referred to her as "a force of nature, a five-foot-bundle of Yorkshire grit and determination, absolutely committed to helping other people".

"I first met her shortly after she came into the House of Commons for the first time last year. She came to see me to talk about international development, the issue she’d done so much work on.

"She said she wanted to set up a new parliamentary group to talk about Syria and the appalling situation there.

"What was so striking about that was that here was a newly-elected Labour MP who had so little time for the petty aspects of party-political life of Westminster.

"She was fearless, utterly fearless. Last year, we went to see the Russian ambassador in London, to give him a rollicking about the terrible way his country has behaved in Syria.

"Jo got the better of him: it was her mixture of charm and steel. Her great passion in politics was helping the poorest people in the world."

In tomorrow's Gospel Luke (9: 51 - 62) tells us how Jesus was not welcome in a Samaritan village because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John hear this they say: 

"Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to reduce them to ashes? Jesus turned and rebuked them..."

Do we ever learn? And yet people like Jo Cox, those scenes on the ground in Kazakhstan, should surely prompt us to listen to the words of Jesus. The flag of the Russian Federation on that young woman, and watching David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn stand side-by-side in the midst of such wrong-doing are images that will stay with me forever.

Friday, June 24, 2016

"Something is rotten in the state of the CDF" Moloney

Fr Gerard Moloney is giving a talk tomorrow at 14.00 at the Jesuit-run Milltown Institute.

Gerard, a Redemptorist priest, and former editor of the magazine 'Reality' wrote recently on the ACP website of the appalling experience he suffered at the hands of the  Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

"How can you defend yourself if you don’t know you are on trial? How can you defend yourself if you don’t know who your accusers are? How can you defend yourself when your fate has been decided even before you discover you have been on trial? It is an utterly unjust and unchristian system.

Something is rotten in the state of the CDF, and while the current people and processes remain in place, nothing will change. Priests, sisters and brothers will continue to be treated as less than human, and will have their lives hurt or broken.

... injustice has a price, and I am paying it every day."

A bad night

Is it not, at least unusal, that people who feel marginalised and alienated, people who feel hard done by the 'elite' have now joined forces with the 'elite' of the right-wing media and voted to leave the European Union?

Has it something to do with populism? Is it a victory for jingoism and smallmindedness?

But there is no question that the Remain campaign was shambolic from the off.

The mood of the UK is in many ways similar to a prevailing tone that is evident across the world right now.

Readers of this blog have often criticised it for how it manages to link all sorts of issues with church affairs.

But there is a link and currently there is an unpleasasant atmosphere of insularism, even jingoism within sections of the Catholic Church.

This week's 'The Irish Catholic' carries pictures of approximately 67 priests.

Another bad night.

de Gaulle's opinion

The French President, Charles de Gaulle, on November 27, 1967 said for a second time he would veto Britain's application to join the Common Market.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Spiegel spots Keane smile

.... And Roy Keane no longer looked enraged/furious.

Sports headline on today's 'Spiegel Online'

Irlands Sieg gegen ItalienZum Heulen

Irlands Sieg gegen Italien: Zum HeulenFotos
Viele Fouls, wenig Chancen: Lange war die Partie zwischen Italien und Irland 
schwer zu ertragen. Dann köpfte Brady den Außenseiter ins Achtelfinale - 
und selbst Roy Keane schaute nicht mehr grimmig. Von Danial Montazeri 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Faults and all, EU is a rock of hope in a fragile world

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
On June 10 the people of Lidice, which is in the northwest of the Czech Republic, commemorated a terrible event. On that June day in 1942 the Germans razed the little village to the ground and killed all 172 men, sent the women and many of the children to the concentration camp at Ravensbrück. Any Aryan-looking children were sent as orphans to Germany.

When they had destroyed the village they sowed grass-seed to make sure the place had been obliterated. German authorities removed the name of Lidice from maps.

They did it in revenge for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, who had been killed the previous month. It was a 'lesson' they wanted to teach the people. Not that anyone in Lidice had anything to do with the killing of Heydrich, who was deputy Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Instructions for the butchery came directly from Hitler.

It is often mentioned as one of the most evil acts of World War II. But the Germans replicated evil deeds right across Europe from Hitler's coming to power by means of election until German surrender in 1945.

How and why did it all happen? Many historians will say that the humiliation of Germany after World War I, the vile poverty and alienation experienced by millions of Germans in the 1920s and 1930s was the perfect setting for a demagogue to arrive on the scene and promise to make Germany 'strong' again.

He was the only man, they believed, who could give them back their pride. They had lost trust in the Weimar Republic. Millions were unemployed. They felt shamed and fooled. Hitler screamed at them that he was going to make Germany and them 'strong' again. It all sounded great.

Every day they read in the papers that the French, the Russians, the English were to blame for their pain, but above, all the Jews. So, according to government policy, bash the enemy and Germany would be back in its rightful place.

Tens of millions of people lost their lives as a result. And from those ashes came the dream of a Europe working in tandem.

The European Union is far from perfect and is in need of reform and change but the idea is inspirational.

Think of how Ireland's accession to the Union has changed the country for the better. Surely we are far less insular in our thinking.

Our students can avail of such programmes as Erasmus where they can study in other European cities. The toing and froing between the peoples of the EU States gives us all a great opportunity to see and experience other cultures and systems. The rights of workers have been improved as a result of our membership of the EU.

While economics are important, it was peaceful coexistence between nations that was the driving force to create a new Europe.

War is insane. 

The EU has brought peace to nations that have been so often embroiled in war.

The European Union is all about subsidiarity and if the Germans have got too powerful then don't just blame the Germans, as the blame can be spread out among all the participants who sit around the table.

For the EU to disintegrate is a shocking scenario. When politicians, wherever in the world, shout and scream about the importance of making their country 'strong' again it really is a scary thought.

I can't help thinking that our world has far too many similarities with the Weimar Republic.

I'm scared.  Demagogues, slick merchants never solve our problems and yet far too often we think they are our 'saviours'.

Monday, June 20, 2016

'Brits in Brits out'

This surely is funny.

Belgian priest first to put forward Big Bang theory

'An Irishman's Diary in today's 'The Irish Times' makes for a good read.

World Refugee Day

Today is World Refugee Day.
In a world where violence forces hundreds of families to flee each day, the UN Refugee Agency believes now is the time to show world leaders that the global public stands with refugees, and it will launch its #WithRefugees petition today to send a message to governments that they must work together and do their fair share for refugees.
The #WithRefugees petition will be delivered to UN headquarters in New York ahead of the UN High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants, scheduled for September 19. The petition asks governments to:
  • Ensure every refugee child gets an education.
  • Ensure every refugee family has somewhere safe to live.
  • Ensure every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution
    to their community.

'Occasional Scribbles'

Today marks the ninth birthday of Occasional Scribbles.

It is read in 166 cities around the world on all continents. The 10 top readership countries last week were Ireland, US, Germany, Italy, UK, Japan, Australia, France, Ukraine, Portugal. It has a significant number of readers in the Russian Federation.

It has its highest readership in Dublin, where it has on average 950 readers.

A new post appears on a daily basis.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Boeing aircraft for Iran

With sanctions lifted against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Teheran has placed an order with Boeing for 100 aircraft.

'Spotlight' tells the story 'The Boston Globe' revealed

Anyone who has seen the film Spotlight will know exactly who it was who did such damage to the Catholic Church in Boston.

'The Boston Globe' has to be complimented for its expose.

The cheek, the crassness, the arrogance, the awful behaviour of senior clerics is told in simple and real words in 'Spotlight', which tells the story of the work 'The Boston Globe' did in exposing clerical child sex abuse in the diocese of Boston.

The conniving, 'the club mentality' and that sense that 'we know best' is cleverly expressed.

It's embarrassing to hear anyone, but especially senior church officials, blame the media and politicians for the demise of church practice.

The arrogance, stupidity too.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Gerry Adams and the missing apostrophe

Back to that apostrophe again.

Here it is again on a Twitter account. This time missing when it should be there.

Gerry Adams (@GerryAdamsSF)
Its nearly that time of the year. Aris.

Germany criticises Nato exercises in Poland

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has criticised Nato military exercises in Eastern Europe, accusing the organisation of "warmongering".

Mr Steinmeier said that extensive Nato manoeuvres launched this month were counterproductive to regional security and could enflame tensions with Russia.

He urged the Nato military alliance to replace the exercises with more dialogue and co-operation with Russia.

Wise words and what Nato is doing in Poland is most regrettable.

That redundant apostrophe in its secular and 'holy' form

Another two examples of that silly redundant apostrophe.

Why do people do it?

The first is from an estate agent in Dublin's Harold's Cross. Would you call here to buy a house?

The second is from an Irish Dominican website.

Please find some photo's of the pilgrimage below:

Friday, June 17, 2016

Finkelstein on politics

You can't take politics out of politics.

Daniel Finkelstein on BBC's Newsnight this evening.

Jo Cox MP

Obituary of Jo Cox in today's Guardian.

The Labour MP Jo Cox, who has died aged 41 after being shot and stabbed in her constituency of Batley and Spen, in West Yorkshire, was a woman who in many ways represented the character and style of the modern Labour party. She was widely viewed as someone who could have been a serious player in the party in the years to come.

Cox combined academic achievement with political experience, but she threw into the mix an understanding of the Labour movement, a profound concern for the issues that affected the country and a personal heritage that qualified her for a career on the front bench.

Elected to the House of Commons last year, she was inordinately proud of winning in her birthplace. She was born in Batley, one of two daughters of Gordon, a cosmetics factory worker, and his wife, Jean, who was a school secretary. Jo herself worked in the same factory as her father, packaging toothpaste during the holidays, having gained a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where she took a degree in social and political studies.

In an interview she suggested that her experience at Heckmondwike grammar school had not prepared her for life as an undergraduate at Cambridge. She readily acknowledged that she had not grown up in a political tradition and she had no understanding of how her birthplace and background would be viewed. “I didn’t really speak right or know the right people,” she said. The experience was quite startling for her, but it equipped her for her future: she would say later that joining the Commons was like “a walk in the park” in comparison.

On graduating in 1995 she took the course of many future MPs by becoming a political adviser. She worked for the former Labour MP Joan Walley, and then after spells as head of key campaigns with Britain in Europe and for Glenys Kinnock, then a member of the European parliament, she joined Oxfam in 2002. There she worked as head of the EU office until 2005, of policy and advocacy until 2007, and of humanitarian campaigning until 2009. In these posts she acquired a view of international politics that would inform the rest of her life and she always spoke powerfully about the experiences she had undergone and the scenes she had witnessed.

Then she became director of the Maternal Mortality Campaign (2009-11), and worked closely with Sarah Brown, the wife of the former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown, another campaigner on that issue. Subsequently she worked for Save The Children and the NSPCC, and was founder and chief executive of UK Women (2013-14).

In the Commons she had established a reputation as an outspoken critic of the lack of a strategic policy in Syria. She believed in the need for a credible policy that protected the civilian population and abstained in the vote on air strikes against Islamic State. She believed that there was a lack of what she called a “moral compass” in British policy. She described the British approach as “a masterclass in how not to do foreign policy” and argued strongly in favour of allowing more refugees into the UK. 
Cox was a modern Labour party feminist. 

She was selected for her seat from an all-woman shortlist and from 2010 to 2014 chaired the Labour Women’s Network. She campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights around the world and was an adviser to the Freedom Fund on slavery (2014) and to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2014-15). In the Commons she was recognised as a woman who could make a difference to other people’s lives and who wanted to change the world to make it a better place.

She nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership last year – one of 36 Labour MPs to do so – but subsequently herself voted for Liz Kendall, who came fourth in the election. She was later criticised for an article in which she explained why she had nominated Corbyn, but not voted for him. It did not damage her reputation in parliament, where she was held to be one of the most popular and potentially successful members of last year’s intake and a beacon for the Labour party’s future.

In the way of people who have mountains to climb, she had pursued such a sport herself. When elected to Westminster, however, her primary sporting activity was cycling to work along the river Thames from the barge on which she lived with her husband, Brendan Cox, and their two children, Lejla and Cuillin.

• Helen Joanne “Jo” Cox, politician, born 22 June 1974; died 16 June 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Boycott the refuse collectors

Refuse collectors Greyhound and Thorntons are to increase their annual service charges.

Greyhound is to increase its annual charge from €59.95 to €169 and the Thornton annual charge will jump from €50 to €104.

How can they do this? Imagine the outcry across the meida and the political classes if workers asked for a similar-style increase?

Other refuse collectors will also be increasing their charges.

This cannot be allowed to happen.

There is a simple solution. Stop using the service. There is a number of Bring-Bank depots in all council areas, which take most domestic waste. They also have bottle banks. 

Set up a compost heap in your garden and make sure to waste no food. And if you have any cooked food left over give it to your cat or dog or offer it to your neighbour for their pet.

It really can be done. Try it.

Deliveroo not that cool

More and more Deliveroo bicycles are to be seen in Dublin.

This is an extract from an article in today's Guardian.

"If you get knocked off your bike there is no sick pay, and the company has no responsibility to give you any work afterwards. I am in the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain and they are affiliated to the London Courier Emergency Fund – they will help you if you get injured, because your company won’t. [Deliveroo says riders engage with it flexibly as freelancers, saying when they want to work. This means they are responsible for their own insurance – but the company is looking into new approaches with insurers].

"I think Deliveroo want to manufacture this image that we are all young, middle-class men who wear trendy clothes, making a little extra cash. But a lot of the couriers are migrants, or working-class people from the local area, and the majority are doing it full- time because they need the money. There are all ages – from 18 to people in their 50s. [Deliveroo says this is not reflective of its fleet and that around 85% of riders use the app to supplement their income.] If there aren’t enough orders in their area, then people get their shifts cut. I don’t know how long Deliveroo can keep its image as a cool tech startup.

"Why am I still here? I like cycling a lot. And what else can I do? I don’t have qualifications. Now at least I have regular hours. And I am interested in the union. Deliveroo riders are getting organised and we are trying to challenge the idea we are independent contractors and fighting for an independent wage."

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Spotting the 'gimmicks'

This week's 'The Irish Catholic' carries a two-page spread on the Irish Dominicans.

In the piece the provinical, Gregory Carroll says: I think the success of the younger guys (sic)  is that they're back doing the basic preaching - they know that maybe gimmicks worked for a while, but people got fed up of gimmicks.

What exactly does the provincial mean by this?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

An open door is surely better than a world of sermons

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Whatever the topic, google it and you will find the information. These days people are writing about every subject under the sun. It means we must be reading it. There is hardly a topic about which there is not something or other written.

But I'd say there is little written on the dynamic of sacristy life.

Lost already?

I'm going to try to explain.

I'm a priest over 40 years. Maybe always living on the margins and certainly never a member of the 'establishment set'. Because I am a priest, and a priest in good standing at that, I often find myself going to liturgical services in churches around the country. It means going into the sacristy to vest. 

Most times it would be an unfamiliar church and I would not know the priest or sacristan attached to that particular church.

It can be an intimidating experience to walk into a sacristy unannounced.

And that initial interaction or exchange happens in nanoseconds.

Two weeks ago I attended the funeral Mass of a former schoolmate. He was the year behind me in Synge Street. But in every other respect he was light years ahead of me. A brilliant pupil. Over the years we met from time to time and that was mainly through a mutual friend.   

He was struck down by cancer far too young. I had visited him a number of times in recent weeks in hospital and then some few days before he died in the Hospice in Dublin's Harold's Cross.

His funeral Mass was in the Passionist church in Mount Argus in Dublin.

As a child I had often been to Mass in that church, I had never before celebrated Mass there. I arrived early and surprisingly the sacristy is at the back of the church. They are usually up at the front, near the altar. It was a woman, who was arranging flowers, who told me where it was.

I'm always nervous walking into a sacristy. Not being dressed in clerical garb doesn't help.

There was an elderly priest in the sacristy in the process of vesting for Mass and there also was another Passionist, who was preparing the altar for Mass.

I introduced myself, said I was a Dominican, was a friend of the deceased and asked if I could concelebrate.

It was that smile that immediately caught me. He greeted me with open arms. We had a few moments of chatting, a laugh or two. He knew one or two Dominicans. He told me that many years ago he had co-signed a letter to the papers with the late Fr Austin Flannery OP.

He was gentle, genuinely friendly and made me feel so much at home. It was a marvellous feeling. And then his few words at the requiem Mass were inspirational.

I came away from Mount Argus a better person.

How often I have walked into a sacristy feeling scared and intimidated. How often I have walked into a sacristy and experienced that awful thing of clerics in clerical mode, looking and behaving in a style that is so alien from the world outside the sacristy door. 

And please don't tell me it has anything to do with 'holiness'. Nothing at all. But everything to do with an unhealthy clericalism that can do great damage to the people of God. It has something to do with that feeling that priests have this idea that they know what's best.

Thank you Fr Ralph Egan. I learned so much about God's love from you in a few minutes. Living Christianity. Inspiring. More effective than any sermonising.

Monday, June 13, 2016

That silly apostrophe again

The headline on the ad (page six of today's 'The Irish Times') suggests there is one buyer making a request. The text implies there are buyers looking for properties.

Which is it? That wrongly-placed apostrophe again.

The fisherman and the heron relaxing on the Dodder

All happening on the Dodder yesterday afternoon close to Rathfarnham Bridge. A man fishing just metres from a heron and such a wonder, just 3.6 kilometres or 14 minutes on a bicycle from Dublin city centre.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Violence in France

This is what they call a football festival.

What is it about human beings?

And notice the faces. Stereotypical 'foreigners'? Maybe in that they are visitors in France?

Note the bottle debris too.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Directors and their 'angst'

Kieran Mulvey has retired as head of the Workplace Relations Commission after almost 25 years in the job.

He said he got more 'angst' from directors than he ever did from workers.

An interesting and telling comment.

Dogs too grow old

Tess back on the mountain.

Maybe it was the heat of the day or that it had been some time since she had done such a long walk, whatever the reason, at the end of the day she was straggling behind for the last few kilometres.

Age? That too, maybe. Estimated age is nine or 10.

And there's no cure for it.

Then again, if she smelled or saw something that interested her ahead, she suddenly forgot her tiredness and could shoot off at great speed.

Psychological warfare?

They learn all our tricks, or is it that we are all tarred with the same brush?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Lidice remembers

On this day 74 years ago, June 10, 1942 the little village of Lidice, now in the Czech Republic, was razed to the ground by Germany.

All 172 men in the village were murdered and the women sent to the concentration camp at Ravensbrück.

The horror was in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich and directly ordered by Hitler.

Another reason why Europe should work in harmony.

Europe needs the EU. Ireland needs it, the UK needs it, Germany needs it, as do Greece, the Czech Republic, all 28 member States.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

William Crean's letter, dated May 2012, Cahersiveen

Conor Brady and Justine McCarthy write in'The Sunday Times' on comments made by Bishop William Crean.

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. But sadly that's not the way many in the Catholic Church operate, especially its senior clerics.

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, also grammatical errors, nor was it constructive.

And you don't have to be an expert in anything to note the nasty tone throughout the letter. 

Fr Billy Crean was pp in Castlegregory while I was living in the village and working at The Kerryman.

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,
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.

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