Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Germans say no to Missal

The German bishops have decided to abandon the new German translation of the Missal.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, pesident of the German bishops' conference said that several English bishops had appealed to him for help and he himself had tried to pray some of the newly translated English prayers but found the language "simply unacceptable".

The Opening Prayer in yesterday's Mass, the feast of St Ignatius of Antioch is a case in point. The opening sentence has 41 words and is close to gobbledegook.

The Irish bishops accepted this Missal without a whimper. It tells its own story.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

John H Newman believed in an inclusive church

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Monday October 8 in Catholic liturgy was the feast of John Henry Newman.

The Englishman has links with Ireland in that he was the brains behind the Catholic University of Ireland, which later morphed into University College Dublin.

He was born in 1801 into an English Anglican family, taught at Oxford and ordained an Anglican priest in 1825.

In 1845 he converted to Catholicism, ordained a Catholic priest in 1847 and later made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879.

Many unusual aspects to his life, one being that he became a cardinal without being ordained a bishop. But did you know that a cardinal does not have to be an ordained priest, or indeed, a man.
Newman was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham in 2010.

Reading up a little about Newman last week I discovered that he was a strong believer in the laity having a far greater say in the life of the church. Indeed, he was not just referring to practical matters but he also felt that on issues of dogma laypeople had a role to play.

Interesting indeed. Apologies for using the term ‘laypeople’ I think it is a horrible word. A layperson is normally someone who knows nothing about a specific subject. 

When it comes to medicine or electronics I’m a layperson as I have no qualifications or accreditation in those areas. So, why in heaven’s name do we call Catholics who are not ordained ministers ‘laypeople’?
It often occurs to me that far too much in the Catholic Church depends on a small group of clerics who have inordinate power and control.

Take for instance an Irish parish: if the parish priest is a hard-working, good and holy man then it is most likely that the parish will be a living Christian community, where people play an active role in the life of the parish.

On the other hand, take a parish where the priest has lost interest, is tired, has not got the skills to deal with people and then on Sunday has not the ability to hold the attention of the congregation. Priests, like anyone else can annoy people.

It is inevitable and as natural as day following night that people will say bye-bye church. And that happens, it has been happening for a long time in Ireland.

Once the parish priest is not rocking the boat, it is most unlikely that a bishop will do anything to try to change the situation.

A parish council can and does help parish life. But the trouble with many parish councils is that they are made up of people who are slow to challenge the parish priest. 

Bishops usually visit parishes for confirmations and then the custom is that they meet a selected group of parishioners.

There is need for far greater communication between priests and their bishops or provincials. And between bishops, priests and people. I mean real talking and listening. 

If a priest is not interested in people, then what at all is he doing in the job?

We have a fabulous network of parishes in Ireland. We have great people living in them. I can’t help but believe that far too often a clerical church has helped hijack too many Christian communities. Eventually people speak with their feet and say bye-bye.

Communities thrive when people genuinely feel a sense of belonging. Solutions are staring us in the face. The answer lies on the ground, not in dogma.

Being kind, offering a genuine listening ear, a willingness to be part of a team goes a long way in building community.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trains running or not?

Did Irish Rail run or not run trains this afternoon?

These pages from Irish Rail's timetable page and their Real time ap appear to tell conflicting stories.

As can be seen, both screenshots were taken at 17.28.

But compliments to all the services that helped ameliorate the damage of Ophelia.

On Channel 4's 7.00 News  RTE's Ciaran Mullooly said that the authorities " took 80,000 out of  the city [Galway] today". Did he really say that? It seems he did. Maybe he meant took them off the streets.

World Food Day

Today is World Food Day.

A third of all food produced in the world is wasted.

Every household in Ireland wastes €700 worth of food per annum. The country bins one millions tonnes of food every year.

Forty four per cent of the food the United States produces is not eaten.

One billion people or one in seven of the world's population have not enough food to eat.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

An Ireland of inequality

Web Summit founder Patrick Cosgrave said yesterday that when it comes to income inequality Ireland is at the top of the list in the developed world, ahead of Chile.

According to Cosgrave figures of two years ago show that only five per cent of Irish people have a gross salary of €74,000 and one per cent earn a gross salary of €144,000 or more.

Approximately 1.2 million people in Ireland earn less than €30,000 per annum.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The promise of hope

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

Michael Commane
Right now, in the UK Theresa May is trying to outdo Jeremy Corbyn in the promises she is making to the electorate and stay in power.

It's the nature of politics to woo voters and offer them new horizons, promising the sun moon and stars. 'New politics' claims it's different but when it comes down to winning seats in a parliament, political parties always offer hope. There are times when that hope can be realised but, often, political parties offer a hope that is not and never can be fully realised.

It goes with the territory of being young to be idealistic. All of us have hope for the future but young people especially have an all-conquering ability to hope. 

In the first reading tomorrow (Isaiah 25: 6 - 9) from the Prophet Isaiah, who was born in about 765 BC/BCE the prophet tells us that "The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek; he will take away his people's shame everywhere on earth, for the Lord has said so."

And elsewhere in that reading we are told that "the Lord is the one in whom we hoped."

Placing our hope in the Lord - is that wishful thinking or is the Lord the only 'person' in whom all hope resides? One of those imponderable questions. Yet people of faith accept that in God our salvation is found.

October 3 was a public holiday in Germany. It's the day the country celebrates German unification. This year the country's president Frank Walter Steinmeier in an address in Mainz spoke of how since the fall of the Berlin Wall less visible 'walls' now divide the country.

He said that September's election had exposed walls "without barbed wire and death-strips but walls that stand in the way of our common sense of 'us' ".

When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down 28 years ago followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union the world for a short while genuinely believed that we were heading for halcyon times. At least I did.

Borders were thrown open; indeed, it was the cutting down of the barbed wire border between Austria and Hungary that in many ways symbolised the beginning of the end of the division of Europe. That broken border ultimately meant the collapse of the Cold War.

The miserable cynic, the most unconvertible pessimist had to be excited, had to have hope for the future. We were certainly heading for new and positive times.

Twenty-eight years later it all seems like a dream gone bad.

And 24 years before the Berlin Wall fell, the Second Vatican Council concluded. In the years that followed the Council, Catholics were promised and hoped for an open and living church with love and mercy replacing rules and control.

The post-Vatican church was a vibrant place to be a young Christian and a young priest. There was no limit to the possibilities of the journeys that lay ahead.

Slowly but surely that hope was in so many ways extinguished. And the church of today is limping along, influenced by a new breed of “culture warriors” for whom the number of candles on an altar is far more important than a real and imaginative dialogue with people who see no worthwhile purpose in believing or hoping in God.

Pope Francis is trying his best to get back to the spirit of the Council but he is encountering powerful opposition.

It's part of the human psyche to live in hope, to believe that better times are ahead. Alas, even when it does happen, it all seems ephemeral and certainly never lasts too long.

In tomorrow's reading Isaiah tells us: "See this is our God in whom we hoped for salvation; the Lord is the one in whom we hoped."

It seems putting all our hope or too much hope in any human organisation eventually is doomed to failure.

On this the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses it's worth quoting the man: "Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that one could stake one's life on it a thousand times."

That certainly is assuring and gives one purpose, confidence too to hope in God.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Vladimir Putin's Russia

BBC Two is currently screening 'Russia with Simon Reeve'.

In last evening's programme Simon travelled from Crimea to St Petersburg via Moscow.

An ardent Russian supporter in Crimea is now beginning to have second thoughts about the annexation of Crimea.

In Moscow he spoke with a young woman whose apartment is about to be demolished. She is objecting and as a result of her peaceful activity has lost her State job.

Reeve said that since the collapse of the Soviet Union every day three villages across Russia are abandoned.

It sounds an extraordinary statistic. 

Orthodox Church views are on the rise in Russia and Reeve believes that Putin has been a big player in returning the church to its position of power.

The programme ended at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, which was stormed during the 1917 October Revolution.

Reeve concluded the programme pointing out that maybe nothing has changed in Russia as there is an all-powerful tsar, in the name of Vladimir Putin, in charge of this vast country.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dealing in billions

Ireland's interest bill on borrowings is down from €7.5 billion in 2014 to €6.1 billion.

How much is a billion, is it a thousand million or a million million?

These days it seems Ireland and the UK have moved away from the million million to a thousand million for an understanding of a billion.

So, Ireland's interest bill is down from €7000,5000,000 to €6000,1000,000.

The Telephone Support Allowance, which comes into effect in June 2018, is €2.50. It will be given to people with State Pensions, who receive a fuel allowance. In other words, pensioners, whom the State considers to be financially vulnerable.

Can an organisation or a person who deals in €1000,000,000s, really understand what €2.50 might mean to a poor person?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Two friends chatting in a  porch at a Dublin church.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Steinmeier at San Clemente

German President Frank Walter Steinmeier visited the Irish Dominican church and excavations on the Via Labicana in Rome yesterday.

Ireland wastes one million tonnes of food every year

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Have you noticed the advertisements that Tesco are currently running on food waste?

They are eye-catching.

Tesco is promising in its adverts that by 2020 'no good food will go to waste in Tesco Ireland stores'.

In another advert they tell the reader that they became the founding partner of FoodCloud in 2013 and have since then donated four million meals to those in need. That works out at the company donating 40,000 meals each week from their stores.

Tesco are not the only food outlet involved in making customers aware of the scandal of food waste.

Aldi have partnered with FoodCloud, a not-for-profit organisation which aims at addressing the problem of food waste and food poverty. By partnering with FoodCloud, Aldi stores donate surplus food to charities and community organisations. Other supermarkets too are championing the cause.

On Tuesday of the week before last there was a sentence in the Gospel reading at Mass which read: 
'Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and do not have a spare tunic'. (Lk 9: 3)

It set me thinking about the amount of food we waste. The statistics are shocking. So it was great to see those Tesco ads.

In Ireland every year we throw out one million tonnes of good food. It means that every household wastes €700 worth of food on an annual basis.

It's worth noting that one in eight people in Ireland experiences food poverty.

Across the European Union 100 million tonnes of food is binned.
Not for me to interfere in the internal affairs of the United States of America, still it's worth noting that forty four per cent of all the food they produce is never eaten.

While we in the developed world waste obscene quantities of food, of the seven billion people on the planet, one billion have not got enough to eat. It sounds crazy and it is crazy.

These figures are simply shocking and scandalous. What are we doing about it? What am I doing about it?

While it is great to see the supermarkets being concerned about food waste it seems there is some ambiguity about how they market their produce.

How often  do we see advertising campaigns offering buy-one-get one-free or buy €X amount of groceries and you get a 'free-gift'. It's as if the supermarkets ignite a behaviour in us that wants us to fill our fridges and shelves and really they're not too worried what we do with it.

Of course they want to make profits for their companies/shareholders. Still, supermarkets need to be more responsible in their marketing and how they go about selling their produce.

Have you ever noticed how supermarkets design their stores in such a way that so much of the 'rubbish food' is displayed in the most strategic areas?

Shoppers are easy prey in supermarkets.

We never have a problem blaming someone else for all our woes. But if this column makes one person waste less food this week then honestly I'll be chuffed with myself.

Do you know how much food you waste? When did you last bin food because it was gone bad?

We should be wasting nothing. Imagine the hullabaloo that would emerge if every household was ordered to pay euro-for-euro for the food they waste? There would be national outcry. Yet these same households quietly and easily bin €700 worth of food on an annual basis. And even pay to bin it.

Wise words from Pope Francis: 'Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.'

Monday, October 9, 2017

GDR national anthem

Below is a link to the anthem of the former German Democratic Republic.

Fine words and ideas.

It might be apt in this the month of the 100th anniversary of the October revolution.

A personal encounter

The editorial in the current issue of The Tablet.

The original disciples did not come to recognise the divinity of Jesus Christ as a result of reading a theological textbook. 
They did so by reflecting prayerfully on their personal experience of his life and discussing (and no doubt arguing) amongst themselves about what he had said and how and why he had died – and what came after. 
Their example is still valid and effective today. People come to faith in Jesus Christ by encountering him through the reading of Scripture and in the life of the Church, and asking themselves, in prayerful humility – who is this man? 
In reaching their answer they are helped by other people’s similar experiences and other people’s responses. This grounding of faith in a personal encounter is central to the message of Pope Francis, and indeed of the Second Vatican Council.
It is an insight which brings to life the familiar words of the council’s decree Gaudium et Spes, which declares that “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” 
It is our human experience and our encounter with Jesus Christ that gives the Church its agenda. This is especially relevant to moral teaching. And that is where friction occurs between faith handed down and faith interpreted through the lens of experience.
This friction is well illustrated by the gradual but fundamental shift in Catholic perceptions of homosexuality. It also applies to the vexed issues surrounding the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion. 
The faith as handed down, for instance by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, describes homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered”. But ordinary Catholics have come to realise – by experience – that homosexual men and women are normal human beings with the normal human need for intimacy and love. 
This experience says that to label them “intrinsically disordered” is insulting, demeaning, and not true. There is nothing wrong with them, but something wrong with a theological account that requires Catholics to set aside what their sincere moral intuition and observation of creation tells them.
The traditional distrust of experience sometimes causes Catholics to question the faith “handed down”, as over church teaching on contraception. Better understood, the point of intersection between faith shaped by tradition and faith moulded by experience could remake Catholic teaching on sexuality into something affirmative rather than negative. 
This is what Pope Francis was aiming to do with his two synods on family life and the resulting papal document Amoris Laetitia, where he warns against “an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations”.
As the theologian Richard Gaillardetz writes in this week’s Tablet, the neo-scholastic logic-chopping of the pre-Vatican II era, still favoured by some theologians, provides the basis for the allegation that Pope Francis’s teaching is leading people into heresy. 
Yet, as he points out, “divine revelation, the Council taught, comes to us not as a set of propositions but as a person, Jesus Christ, and is given to all the people of God. Its discovery is the task of all believers...”

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Three Dominicans

Today is the anniversary of the death of three Irish Dominicans.

Patrick McCarroll died in Cork in 1978, Raymond Maher in Waterford in 1980 and Bertrand Farrell in Dublin in 1997.

All three men were characters, each in his own individual manner.

Pat McCarroll was killed while driving his Honda 50 in Fermoy heading back to the priory in Pope's Quay in Cork city. There was torrential rain on the evening the accident happened.

Pat, who was from Northern Ireland, was by trade an engineer and before joining the Dominicans had acquired his pilot's licence.

He spent many years teaching theology in Tallaght before being exiled to Cork.

In his years in Pope's Quay he gave all his energy, time, skill and kindness to the weak and poor.

He was a great man who was extremely kind.

New Luas line

The cross city Luas line will shortly be in operation.

While it will be technically possible to travel from Saggart to Broombridge or Sandyford and onwards passengers will have to change at Jervis or O'Connell Street.

Why was it decided not to run through trams?

And surely it should have been so designed that passengers could transfer from one line to the other at the same stop. Could a common stop not have been built on Abbey Street, or indeed a stop at the junction of Abbey and O'Connel Street?

The current design means that people will have to walk some metres to change trams.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ignored and disrespected by those elected to lead

An excerpt from the editorial in the current issue of 'Spirituality'.

An interesting read indeed.

One of the glaring deficiencies of Church practice in recent times is the failure of leadership to respect the individual. Consider the number of priests silenced or removed from office because of their expressed views, and without being afforded an opportunity of defending themselves.

There are also memebrs of religious orders, who profess obedience to a fraternal and democratic way of living, ignored and disrespected by those elected to lead.

Failure to respect the individual undermines the whole organisation and leads to paralysis of mission, and weakens the mandate and witness of the Church.

Friday, October 6, 2017

English Dominican to talk on the relevance of God

A letter presenting itself as a filial correction of Pope Francis for reputed errors and heresies has been signed by over 60 Catholic clergy and scholars, including most prominently Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the breakaway traditionalist Society of St Pius X group.
Thomas Crean, a member of the English Dominican province, is one of the signatories of the letter.
He has been invited to give a talk in the Dominican Priory, St Saviour's, Dublin on November 2.
The title of the talk: 'Is Christ really a king - The relevance of God in present-day politics'.
It seems the Irish province of the Dominican Order is now more aligned to the St Pius X group than it is to the thinking and direction of Pope Francis.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Liam Cosgrave

Liam Cosgrave, who died yesterday at the venerable age of 97, was a kind man.

To observe the attention he gave to his wife in the final stages of her life was inspirational.

He regularly attended religious services in The Dominican Priory in Tallaght.

Over the years he got to know a number of Dominicans and would often speak with great warmth about the late Fr Jerome Toner.

He had a great sense of humour.  On one occasion after the financial crisis and politicians were in the doghouse after shaking his hand he suggested I go and straightaway wash it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Finbar Kelly OP, RIP

Domincan priest Finbar Kelly died in a nursing home in Kilkenny on Tuesday.

Finbar was the quintessential gentleman.

He was born in Kilcullen, Co Kildare in1925, joined the Dominicans in 1944 and ordained a priest in 1951

Finbar was one of four Irish Dominicans who studied in Oxford after World War ll. They were joined by a  number of German Dominican students including Rüdiger Ortmeyer and Germanus Lensker. Lensker served on the Russian front. Having been wounded near Moscow he made his way back to Germany, walking long distances. He later experienced a flattened Cologne. The city had been so severely bombed that he was unable to find or recognise familar streets.

The other Irish Dominicans with Finbar in Oxford were Leonard Boyle, Austin Flannery and Fergal O'Connor.

The project was to heal wounds and help bring people on opposing sides together.

Finbar studied at University College Cork and began his priestly ministry teaching in Newbridge College from where he also attended Maynooth College where he obtained his Higher Diploma in Education.

He spent a number of years in the Dominican Priory in the Australian capital Canberra, where he was chaplain at the Dominican-run university residence.

In the early 1970s he was prior at Holy Cross Dominican Priory in Tralee.

Fr Finbar Kelly was brother of the late Jimmy Kelly who was CEO of the Electricity Supply Board.

Jimmy joined the ESB by chance, having gone down to the Pigeon House Power Station with a pal for a spin and was offered a job on the spot. He became CEO in 1970.

Finbar had that great ability of making one feel at home in his company. He was genuinely interested in people.

Being kind and gracious came naturally to him.

At the time of his death he was assigned to the Dominican community at the Black Abbey in Kilkenny where he had lived and worked for 27 years.

May he rest in peace.

Theresa May's bracelet

Who's the face on the bracelet Theresa May wore during her never-to-be forgotten speech in Manchester today?

Feast of St Francis

Today, the feast of St Francis is World Animal Day.

Steinmeier talks about new walls appearing in Germany

Germany celebrated yesterday the Day of German Unification.

Twenty-seven years ago the former German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany.

The main event of yesterday's celebrations took place in Mainz where German President Frank Walter Steinmeier spoke.

He said that since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, less visible "walls" now divide the country.

The election exposed "large and small cracks" in German society, he said, calling on lawmakers to work together to fight any return to nationalism.

"On September 24, it became clear that other walls have arisen, less visible, without barbed wire and death-strips, but walls that stand in the way of our common sense of 'us'," Steinmeier said.

Steinmeier a former leading member of the SPD was foreign minister before being elected German president in March. 

He said that "behind these walls, a deep distrust in democracy and its representatives is being fomented."

The president also called for a national discussion on migration — one of the main issues that arose during the election — adding that this would mean creating new guidelines.

"In my view, this means not simply wishing away migration but ... defining legal admission to Germany, which regulates and controls migration by our stipulations," Steinmeier noted.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Our fragility is scary

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
It’s just a little over a year since I started working as a hospital chaplain. It’s been a life-changing experience and every day there is something new to learn. The kindness, the goodness, the love that I get a glimpse of on a daily basis gives me a little insight into the potential of the human spirit. People do amazing things.

But I have also come face-to-face with how fragile we are. Things can change at the blink of an eye.

We can easily think we are masters of our lives. What a silly thought. Our lives hang by a thread.

Earlier this month a friend recounted how he had come across a motorbike accident. He arrived on the scene shortly after it had happened and saw the dead man on the ground with his leg sheared off. 

It was a horrific experience for him. As he spoke to me I was aghast with the event. It forcibly brought home to me our fragility. And yet we can easily distance ourselves from such horror, thinking that it could never happen to us. I was close to being that man.

Monday September 25 was a fabulous day in Dublin. The perfect Indian summer type of day.

Full tide in Dublin was at 14.15 so I decided to head for a swim at Seapoint. I hadn’t been on my motorbike for some time so decided to don the gear and bike it to the sea.

Getting there by motorbike makes it so easy, no traffic jams and then when you arrive you can park the bike right beside the water.

Okay, that initial getting into the water requires a moment of bravery/madness but once in, honestly the water was balmy. It was a perfect September day for a swim. Indeed, my father always believed that September was the best month to swim in the sea as the water still has the heat of the summer in it. There’s something in that.

Back into the motorbike gear and heading home. I was a little nervous as the bike had done some ‘spluttering’ on the way out and I had to be home for an appointment later in the day.

It would take me about 20 minutes to get home. I’m no Evil Knievel so with the bike sounding a bit dodgy all I wanted was to get home. Perish the thought of the bike breaking down in the middle of the road.

On the way home I pushed the visor on the helmet up over my head.

At a busy junction the lights turned to green and I pulled off, which meant accelerating and just as I did the visor fell back down on to my face. It slipped in such a way that the perspex part was not flush with my eyes so I was left completely blinded. 

I had to stop the bike immediately, not having a clue if there was a car right behind me and no idea where I was on the road. It was an unbelievable moment of horror and for a second or two I was sure I was a ‘gonner’.

I later saw there was a car right behind me and luckily she or he was driving carefully and slowly. 

Even now, a week later thinking about it, I am scared. I was incredibly lucky – unlike the unfortunate man whom my friend saw.

In the blink of an eye our lives can be changed for ever. It’s as if we hang on by a thread, and most of the time never realising it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Bishop apologises

I wish to apologise for contributing to any misinformation, or indeed for causing upset to anyone, concerning use of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines.

My intervention was in response to concerns which I had received about HPV vaccines from parents wishing to make the best health decision on behalf of their children, and from young people alike.  My intention was solely motivated to protect people from the HPV.

I was not fully informed about the vaccination programme and I can see now how HPV vaccines can contribute greatly to lowering the rate of cervical cancer.  As I have learnt, possession of full information is paramount on this vital health issue.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan is Bishop of Waterford & Lismore.                                                       

Catholic Communications Office Maynooth:

Berlin's Opera House reopens on Wednesday

Berlin's Staatsoper opens its doors on Wednesday with a production of Schumann's 'Scenes from Goethe's Faust.

The building on Unter der Linden was originally completed in 1742 by architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff.

The opera house was modelled on the style of an ancient temple and was at that time the largest opera house in Europe.

It burned almost to the ground in 1843 and was subsequently rebuilt in the original style.

During the Second World War, it was severely damaged on two occasions.

After the 1945 bombing, architect Richard Paulink was tasked with restoring it to match the original 1742 version. The result was an unusually opulent building for the then capital city of the German Democratic Republic.

For both the 1942 and 1955 premieres, the Staatsoper selected Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg" – a fitting musical ode to the venue.

The renovation this time, which took four years longer than planned, cost €400 million.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

More Labour voters in UK

From yesterday's Guardian.

More than twice as many voters under the age of 45 think Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is now “on their side”, compared with those who believe the same about Theresa May’s Tories, according to new polling that will send shockwaves through the Conservative party.
The survey for the Social Market Foundation (SMF) by Opinium shows it is not just voters in their teens and 20s but also those in their 30s and young middle age who now believe that the Tories do not speak for them.
The data, published as the Tory conference opens in Manchester, comes as senior ministers and MPs call for a fundamental rethink of the party’s offering to younger parts of the electorate following its catastrophic result in the snap general election called by the prime minister in June.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hoban on Cullinan

Fr Brendan Hoban's letter in The Irish Times today.

Sir, – In reference to Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan and the HPC vaccine, David Harte comments that “a person in a position of respect questioning the opinion of qualified medical personnel without any relevant qualifications is not good”, and Dr Niall Breen suggests that the bishop’s comments “were at best ill-advised and at worst extremely ignorant” (September 28).

Both are surely correct. What needs to be said too is that such interventions are a source of excruciating embarrassment to Catholics who, after all that has happened, have to witness Catholic bishops still imagining that their position confers knowledge and expertise on issues clearly beyond their competence. – Yours, etc,

Remembering Kim Philby

A new exhibition celebrating the life and work of the late MI6 officer and Soviet agent Kim Philby has opened in Moscow.

As a member of the Cambridge Five group of spies, Philby supplied secrets to the Kremlin throughout the 1940s and 50s before he moved to the Soviet Union in 1963.

Among those at the opening of the exhibition was the head of the Russian FSB. He  spoke of Philby as a man who was a convinced Marxist and a passionate believer in communism.

Kim Philby died in Moscow three years before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Ryanair in crisis

An article in today's Guardian paints a most worrying picture of Ryanair.

Clerical cant

Fr Tim Hazelwood, a priest of the diocese of Cloyne, appeared on the Joe Duffy Show yesterday.

He gave an account of the trials and tribulations he encountered when an anonymous person made false accusations against him.

Tim Hazelwood is a fine and honourable man, indeed an outstanding person.

During his long, personal and at times emotional account of his ordeal he mentiond those who helped and supported him. On a number of occasions he referred to the great help he receved from the ACP - The Association of Catholic Priests.

During the interview he never once spoke of his bishop.

With few miniscule exceptions the Irish Catholic Church is void of any sort of leadership. Bishops and provincials seem to be men whose strongest charateristc is to say yes to authority.

Too many of them seldom if ever engage in any significant way with their priests. There is little or no dialogue or communication outside a sham formulaic nonsense.

Too many of them give the impression of being small careerists, who can't engage in any sort of encounter outside the clerical cant.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ryanair best joke in town

The first item on BBC's 10 O'Clock News this evening was the Ryanair debacle.

The head of the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK admitted that he was 'very angry' with the behaviour of Ryanair.

For many years Michael O'Leary has been at the top of the queue in casting scorn on so many Irish practices.

His Ryanair must now be the hottest Irish joke in town.

The bishop's comment

The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Phonsie Cullinan is quoted in today's media as saying:

"But debate is good once it is responsible".

The bishop needs to be told that within the Catholic Church there are institutions that don't have any debate, they don't allow it, they don't want it and they will be unkind to those who try to debate. They certainly don't want opposing voices.

Chapter and verse can be supplied to the bishop.

The changing of the guard

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble is to become the new speaker of the German parliament.

He has been a member of the Bundestag since 1972 and finance minister since 2009.

The Labour Party conference finished in Brighton yesterday with an inspirational speech by party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

According to latest polls in the UK the Labour Party now has a four-point lead.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The food we waste

Today's Gospel reading (Lk 9: 1 - 6) might help to remind us that one million tonnes of food is watsed every year in Ireland at a cost of €700 million euro.

Every year 100 million tonnes of  food is binned across the EU.

Forty per cent of all food produced in the United States of America is never eaten.


From next June women in Saudi Arabia will be permitted to drive cars.

For many years Saudi governments and the country's kings have been in favour of women driving.

It has been the clerics in the country who have been opposed to women driving.

Many clerics in all countries and in all religions are a strange breed. And how is it that their favourite topics are the same old chestnuts.

The steam train

On this date, September 27, 1825 a steam locomotive ran between Stockton and Darlington. It was the first use of steam in the world on a public railway.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Labour dream

Imagine if what's happening in the British Labour Party happened in some of the institutions of the Irish Catholic Church.

No harm to dream.

Ireland's alcohol problem

Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column, Tuesday/Wednesday, September 26/27.

Michael Commane
On the Sunday of the All-Ireland Football Final I was on a quiet train. It's a lovely experience to travel surrounded by empty seats. But of course not profitable for Iarnród Éireann.

The emptiness and loveliness suddenly changed.

Two stations on from where I boarded, the train filled with hens and stags.

Before the train left the station someone was handing out bottles of cider.

My heart sank. Sitting and standing near me were two groups, one hen and one stag. They had been at separate events. Both groups quickly engaged with each other and admitted that they had been drinking heavily the previous night. They were all lovely people, maybe just one or two dodgy jokes or comments but nothing too lewd. Okay, hens and stags knew of the f-word but again, it was only mentioned on a few occasions.

The empties mounted up and the hens kindly accepted the offer of cider from the stags.

They all got off the train before I did. Some were heading straight to the pub to watch the All-Ireland. One man guaranteed me that he would not be sober by nightfall. It's doubtful he was sober at lunchtime.

Then when it came to my station and I got off the train I spotted a big notice in a prominent place informing passengers that it was forbidden to drink alcohol on certain trains. I later saw that Iarnród Éireann have a notice on their timetables about the prohibition of alcohol consumption on some of their services.

A few days before my rail journey a national daily newspaper ran an editorial about the increase in wine sales in Ireland since 2013. It pointed out how 'well' the industry is doing. Last year nine million cases of wine were sold in the country. A standard case of wine has 12 bottles, so we drank our way through 108 million bottles of wine. Wine consumption works out at 28 per cent of the alcohol sold in the State.

In 2015 the Health Research Board did a survey of drinking patterns in the Republic of Ireland. The figures are startling: our per capita alcohol consumption was equal to 41 litres of vodka, 116 bottles of wine or 445 pints of beer per person over 15-years of age.

One in five adults doesn't drink any alcohol in the State, which means the figures underestimate the real drinking habits of those who drink.

These are incredible figures and mindboggling to think that there has been such an increase in the consumption of alcohol.

Have you ever noticed the number of times radio presenters make jokes and facile comments about drinking alcohol, how often they suggest that drinking alcohol is an intrinsic part of every celebration? They think it’s hilarious for people to have hangovers and behave in silly and stupid ways. ‘Shur it’s a bit of craic’ is a comment often made by highly paid radio presenters.

In 2013 alcohol-related hospital discharges accounted for 160,211 bed days in public hospitals. It cost the tax payer a whopping €1.5 billion.

It is estimated that alcohol-related absenteeism in 2013 worked out at €41.2 million.

It's anything but a 'bit of craic'. There is at present a radio ad advising people of the dangers of driving a vehicle the morning after a night out drinking. The lives that are lost, the families that are destroyed, the damage that alcohol abuse does to our bodies and yet we keep on drinking more and more. Why?

Wise words from Shakespeare: ‘I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains’. (Othello).

Monday, September 25, 2017

The 87 per cent of German voters who didn't vote AfD

A lovely piece written by an Irish man living in Germany.

As the results of the German election become clear, the shock is deep among nearly all of my friends. 13% for the AfD, an extreme-right-wing, populist party. 

The 87% who didn’t vote for them feel this as a deep and shameful insult; it seems that 70 years has been long enough for a significant proportion of Germans to forget the lessons of the terrible history of my adopted country.

But I take hope from that shocked reaction of the great majority of Germans. The policies of the AfD are so incoherent, the personal intimate hatreds among their leaders so deep, that there are good chances that they will tear themselves apart in the next four years. 

The fact that the Social Democrats – up to now the junior partners in Merkel’s coalition – have stated that they will go into opposition is also a positive development; it means that there will be a strong opposition and that the AfD will not be leading it.

Right-wing populists offer hateful, simple answers to complex problems. It is now up to the democratic parties in Germany to show them up for the charlatans that they are. In all likelihood, Merkel will lead a new coalition of Christian Democrats, Liberals, and Greens (though those negotiations will be difficult). 

A particularly worrying development is that the fascistoid AfD seems to have achieved more than 20% in former East Germany.

But amid all the shock and disappointment, Germans should realise that 13% is still a small minority. The challenge for the future is to make sure that it doesn’t get larger.

NOTE to the above comment.
Those 'personal intimate hatreds' to which you refer, seem to be a common trend across many ultra right-wing groupings.

Petry not to sit with AfD

Frauke Petry a leading member of the AfD annoynced in Berlin last evening that she will not be sitting with AfD parliamentarians in the Bundestag.

It comes as a great shock to the party.

Petry was directly elected to the parliament, in other words, she was elected under her own name and not on the party list.

The AfD is now the strongest party in Saxony.

In the days of the former GDR Saxony was jokingly known as the 'Valley of the Clueless' as it was the only part of the GDR that could not receive West German television.

Depressing times

Alexander Gauland is one of the leading members of the AfD, which yesterday won over 13 per cent of the vote in the German election.

Earlier this month Gauland said that Germany should be proud of its soldiers in both world wars and people should no longer reproach Germans for World War Two.

Shortly after the election result Gauland said that they would hunt Merkel or whoever is next German Chancellor.

He also said that Germany should be given back to the Germans.

In the last 12 months leading AfD memebrs have made worrying statements about Germany's past.

Depressing times.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Result at 18.12 German time

The three major parties have lost votes. Major gains for the AfD. Big increase in the FDP vote. And good too for the Greens.

But the AfD vote worrying and perplexing.

One of their leaders has just said time for Germans to take back Germany.

The SPD will most likely not form part of the new government.

It will probably be a CDU/CSU, FDP, Green coalition.

German pre-exit poll

German time is 17.53 so no exit polls yet on today's German State election.

This blog forecasts the SPD will do better than the polls have been saying.

AfD will probably poll 10, 11, 12 per cent.

First exit polls in less than 30 minutes.

High wind on Djouce

Yesterday morning Dublin and north Wicklow was threatened with rain. Sometime close to 11.00 the first rain of the day began to fall but its bark was far bigger than its bite and it blew off  out over the sea.

Good news as it meant there was no significant rain while climbing Djouce. But cloud cover was very low.

Djouce can be a windy spot but yesterday it was, at least for me, close to impossible to stand upright at the summit, which is 725 metres.

And then suddenly, on the descent, cloud lifted and some fabulous views, including a clear view of the Vartry Reservoir.

But it was the ferocious wind with a speed of 62 km/h that was the scary highlight of the walk.

   Cloud lifted, wind calmed, down off the mountain.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

In praise of Trump and words on cancer treatment

Over the last few days President Donald Trump has made a number of dangerous and provocative statements. In these days he has also used foul language.

In the September issue of the free-sheet Alive Tom English writes:

"Speaking of the elite groups, just about every day now we get to hear a negative story about Donald Trump from our media masters. These leftists, Democrat-loving oppressors just love to poke fun at the US president.

And then later:

"It's no wonder then that the US president has a pop at the liberal media."

On page nine of the same issue there is a headline that runs: Cancer therapy may do more harm.

It's vocabulary is nasty, inaccurate and hateful. This can have nothing to do with the Gospel of love and mercy?

Every issue makes snide remarks about the European Union.

An insult to the memories of such people as Adenauer, deGasperi, Monet, Schuman, Spinelli.

To praise Trump and cast scorn on the work of Konrad Adenauer gives some sense of the tone of  the free-sheet.

Every page of the September issue has a nasty story to tell.

Page eight runs a headline: 'Irish Times' 'news' warps readers' thinking.

Surely it is far more healthy to be 'warped' by the thinking of The Irish Times than the nastiness of the free-sheet Alive?

And this free-sheet is subsidised by the Irish taxpayer.

Far right Catholics experts at bullying and intimidation

An interesting editorial in the current issue of The Tablet.

Cafod, the overseas aid agency that stands for all that is truest and best in Catholicism in England and Wales, has allowed itself to succumb to a combination of trolling, no-platforming, and the Catholic alt-right – that is, the mad-as-a-hatter version of American Catholicism. It has issued and then withdrawn an invitation to a distinguished American theologian to give a lecture in London – then reissued it after second thoughts – because of the fuss his most recent book might cause.
“No-platforming” means refusing to invite to speak – or having invited, then cancelling – people whose opinions draw strong disapproval. It has legitimately been used to keep academic campuses clear of outright racists or fascists, on the grounds that the invitation itself conveys some support or approval for the speaker’s views. Trolling is the practice of using Twitter, Facebook and other social media to bombard a target with insulting or threatening messages. And the alt-right (or alternative right) is a grisly section of the internet occupied by extremists who reject mainstream conservative ideas, and is usually ultra-nationalistic, rabidly anti-liberal, racist, homophobic and misogynistic.
The latest book by Fr James Martin SJ, Building a Bridge, argues for a dialogue between the official Roman Catholic Church and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics who feel alienated from it. It is a moderate proposal, for each side to enter into a relationship of respect, compassion and sensitivity. What has angered his critics, it seems, is that Fr Martin’s approach is incompatible with the continued stigmatisation of homosexuality and other sexual orientations. But instead of attempting to disprove his argument, on the basis that the best response to bad theology is better theology, these critics demand that Catholic institutions no-platform him. Explaining that the decision had been made after “increasing negative attacks” on social media, the national seminary run by the Catholic University of America in Washington recently withdrew its invitation to Fr Martin to speak – on the subject of Jesus, no less.
Fr Martin reported on Facebook that an invitation to come to London to give a talk to help Cafod launch its campaign in support of migrants and refugees had also been cancelled. Cafod explained that when Building a Bridge was published “and we saw the strength of feeling it generated in some quarters”, they had a duty to consider how to proceed in the best interests of Cafod’s work. “We have recent experience of social media attacks. Responding to these takes a significant amount of staff resource,” they explained. Cafod said it had talked to Fr Martin about another date, but he told The Tablet it was clear to him that he had been disinvited, and that the book – and social media reaction to it – was the reason.
The influence of far-right-wing Catholicism on the Catholic Church, particularly in the US, is out of all proportion to its significance. It succeeds by bullying and intimidation. It is time the Church and all its institutions, official and unofficial, made a firm determination to deal with this poison in the best and only way – to pay it no attention whatsoever. To do otherwise is to allow oneself to be poisoned.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Michael O'Leary blather

Ryanair's Michael O'Leary said these four sentences yesterday:

We do work hard and we expect everyone around here to work hard.

And then later he said this:

They [pilots] are very skilled professionals. But are they worked-hard? No.

At least confusing. All part of the blather.

Bo on Auung San Suu Kyi

Her role is very fragile. 

Democracy is still fragile.

She faces a strong nationalist extremist religious fringe spreading across the country.

Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo on the global stigmatising of Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

David Quinn's world

In the current issue of The Irish Catholic David Quinn challenges the 'liberal narrative'.

It's a 'them versus us' analysis of the changes that have occurred in Irish society in recent years.

The piece is couched in pejorative language. Certainly not an uplifting or inspiring article.

And why is it all the examples are in one way or another linked to sexuality?

Mr Quinn has nothing to say on the advancees that have taken place in our schools. They are not the savage places they were 30, 40, 50 years ago. Nor does he say a word about the rights that workers have today. Of course nothing is perfect but the Ireland of 2017 is a better place to live than the Ireland of 1957.

A vein of nastiness lurks right through the page.

Surely Christianity has a better story to say than this.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Josephine Feehily inspires

The chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily was interviewed on Prime Time last evening.

Anytime she writes or says anything in public she comes across as a most impressive woman.

How many Irish bishops or provincials are close to her calibre in how they manage their dioceses or religious congregations?

It seems leadership in the Irish Catholic church is doomed to destruction in its own clerical noose.

Observing Ms Feehily in her jobs in the public service one has to be impressed by her. She is a person who inspires.

So many church 'leaders' are a source of embarrassment. Not all, but too many.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Effective and humanising to be kind and gentle

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
In response to a column I wrote three weeks ago a reader commented on the violence that was perpetrated in religious-run schools in Ireland. He reminded readers of the brutality that went on in schools and how religious brothers and priests tortured us.

I'm one of those victims. Let me assure the writer I was at the receiving end of some of that savagery. I agree with the letter writer 100 per cent. And not only did they physically and sexually abuse their victims, they also inflicted terrible psychological damage. Look at the sneering and bullying that went on.

How and why did it all go so wrong? But it was not just the mental and physical violence, it was also how we were taught. Most of us did our homework out of fear. We knew that if we did not produce the goods the next day we would be attacked.

Of course there were the good and kind teachers but in general the regime was brutalising. My father who was the kindest and gentlest of people, who was born in 1909, often spoke to me of some of the cruelty he saw and experienced at boarding school.

That violence went on a long time. Of course our generation has not rid the world of violence but at least our schools in this part of the world are managed a lot better than they were in the not-too-distant past.

One of the great moments in Irish education was when corporal punishment was banned and then later made illegal. It was banned in 1982 and it took another 14 years before it was made illegal. I taught before and after the change. Hitting children was and is a barbarity.

How much more pleasant, effective, indeed, humanising it is to be gentle and kind.

And I saw a dose of that last week.

I had arrived at Tralee bus station with my bicycle, planning to take the bus as far as Camp in West Kerry. Also waiting for the bus was a group of young people coming from school. They reminded me of my school days.

The bus was parked at the bay with its luggage side door open. I loaded my bike without asking anyone. So when an inspector appeared I told him. Instead of being officious and full of nonsense, he was polite and kind and indeed told me there was plenty of space.

I was the first on the bus and sat in the front seat. A good place to be as I needed to watch out for where I planned to get off.

For over 30 minutes I observed the driver being respectful , courteous and kind to every passenger who got on and off the bus. He never once failed to say hello and goodbye to a passenger and indeed, watch out for those who were not the most agile.

I explained to him where I wanted to get off. He listened carefully to me and stopped the bus at the exact place that I had requested.

I never met or saw the man before. No doubt he has all the failings of any human being,  just as the teachers who brutalised us also had good points.

But please give me the bus driver any day ahead of those nasty teachers.

I'll remember him for a long time just as I remember those teachers for all the wrong and very different reasons.

An impressive Bus ÉIireann driver. And I have met many of them. 

'My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness'. - Dalai Lama.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Detectorists are everywhere

An article in yesterday's digital version of the Guardian.

It's a wise piece of writing and has a lot to say about where we are. Clever.

Those detectorists could be students, factory workers, locomotive drivers, priests, teachers, social workers, Dominicans.

They could cast their vote for most political parties and the majority of political parties have them as their members.

They could be US citizens, Russians, Poles, British, German, Irish. Almost Everyman. But not quite. At least not yet.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Michael O'Leary's Ryanair

Last Thursday Bus Éireann ran a service at 11.40 from Killarney to Kenmare. There were five passengers on the 55-seater bus, one of whom was a paying passenger, who paid a reduced fare as he was a student.

On the 16.05 service from Kenmare to Killarney a number of people travelled on the bus as far as Kilgarvan. But from Kilgarvan to Killarney there was only one person on the bus, which was again a 55-seater vehicle.

There may well be more efficient ways in ferrying passengers to the more remote parts of Ireland. But it is a public service, something about which the State should be proud. There's more to living than economics and lucre.

Compare that policy/philosophy with what has happened in Ryanair this week.

Imagine what Ryanair would say if Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann or Dublin Bus emailed passengers informing them that some trains and buses would be cancelled because the companies forgot to arrange holidays for their drivers.

It is laughable beyond the extreme. It is also arrogant, indeed nasty and exceptionally mean. Surely the rawest face possible of capitalism at its meanest and dirtiest.

Another Irish joke, the style of joke that up to now Michael O'Leary has got great fun from.

Yesterday Ryanair had no-one available for comment.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Forgiveness can easily have us walking on eggshells

This 'Thinking Anew' column The Irish Times today.

Michael Commane  
It's commonly believed that the big alienating issue surrounding Christianity, especially for the Catholic Church, are matters dealing with sexuality. And there's something in that observation. But issues surrounding forgiveness might also create the occasional hiccup.
Tomorrow's Gospel (Matthew 18: 21 -35) is the familiar story of Peter asking Jesus how many times must he forgive his brother if he wrongs him. He asks Jesus should he forgive him seven times. Jesus answers: "Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times"
In the first reading tomorrow from the book of Ecclesiasticus we are told to "Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you".

Easy to talk about forgiveness, easy to sit and write about it. Living it is another matter.
Recently a homeless man died on the streets of Dublin. It made national headlines. It was later discovered that he had a criminal record, including crimes of indecent assault. In this newspaper last Saturday Simon Carswell observed that "the focus was no longer on how he died but on how he lived".
Some weeks earlier there was a controversy over the celebration of an anniversary Mass for a man who had murdered his children and wife. The opponents to the Mass argued that the man did not deserve such a focus.
Nowadays on the conclusion of a serious court case we sometimes see and hear the relatives and friends of victims express their strongly held views on the sentence handed down to the guilty party. 

Of course,  people have to pay for their crimes. That's a given. But in the vocabulary of Christianity,  forgiveness is always part of the wider story.
And that's the central theme in tomorrow's Gospel reading. We have been asked to 'forgive from the heart'.
Easier said than done.

I’m a priest and in my theology studies there was always great emphasis placed on the redemptive aspect of the suffering, death and resurrection of  Jesus. God became man to save us. 

The sacraments are about giving life and the sacrament of reconciliation is where God forgives us our wrong-doing. And, at least according to any Christian theology worth its name, there is no sin, no wrong-doing beyond the pale. We have always been told that there is no sin too great for God to forgive. Indeed, it's a core value of the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.
For example, the demands of justice which do not allow paedophile priests back into active ministry should not be confused with a lack of forgiveness.

It goes without saying that crime is heinous, but of course there are grades of evil/wrongdoing/badness. All sexual crimes, especially against children and vulnerable adults are particularly heinous. But as a Christian it is not possible to say they are unforgivable. If it is, then the entire edifice of Christianity needs restructuring. 

Medical evidence shows that paedophilia is recidivist. Paedophiles cannot be cured. That makes it abundantly clear that priests who commit such crimes must and can never be allowed work in priestly ministry. And that's exactly what the church did not do in the past. 
But has the church not got an obligation to perpetrators of all crimes to offer them forgiveness when and if it is asked for?

Forgiveness can be messy, it might cause great discomfort for large organisations and their lawyers.

We understand but we do not condone the behaviour of  people who are hurting behaving in a revengeful way outside courtrooms when sentences are handed down. Shouldn’t we be concerned when a church which speaks so loudly about forgiveness treats its priestly perpetrators of heinous crimes as outcasts?
It's easy to write and talk about forgiveness. But if we are really to say anything meaningful about it and try to say something of worth about it and tomorrow's Gospel, we will inevitably be walking on eggshells and entering a most dangerous territory.

"Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times'.(Mt 18: 22)

And, of course, forgiving never means condoning.