Yesterday, the feast of St Therese, the Fraternity received a most extraordinary gift: His Eminence, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, sent us a first class relic of our co-patron, Blessed John Paul II, ex sanguine, from his blood. The Cardinal, as you know, was Blessed John Paul's personal secretary and friend, and he looked after the Pontiff in his final illness. To say that we are thrilled is an understatement! The relic will be available for our ministry in the Fraternity and for the veneration of our members, those we work with and the faithful in general. This wonderful gift comes after the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments granted us the Indult to celebrate Blessed John Paul's feast. A sincere thanks to His Eminence for his kindness and generosity.
Since we are on the topic, I want to remind you of our celebration of the feast day. The Fraternity will host a Feast Day Mass in St Mary's Church, Drogheda, on the 22nd October at 7.30pm. The new first class relic will be there and those who attend will be able to venerate it. Everyone is welcome to come and celebrate the feast with the Fraternity, and you can pass on the word to your friends, particularly those who were devoted to the Blessed Pontiff.
Also for those who might be interested - Fraternity members and others, we are planning a pilgrimage to Poland next year in honour of Blessed John Paul. The tentative dates are the 21st to the 29th May 2013. We are working on the details and accommodation at the moment, but we will let you know as soon as things have been finalised. We will probably stay in Krakow, but take tours to the various places associated with John Paul - Wadowice, Czestochowa, Kalvaria, as well as visiting other places of note, among them Auschwitz. So if you are interested make a note of the dates.
In terms of what has been happening - well, what a week! Former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese certainly made the headlines with her attack on the Catholic Church in a radio interview last Friday. Giving us the benefit of her wisdom she said that the Church needs to become more like the Anglican communion and use the synod system to decide, it seems, our beliefs and practices. She seems to resent the role of the Pope as the universal pastor and Vicar of Christ, or at least that role in real terms, she would prefer if the Pope permitted democracy. I wonder if Mrs McAleese is actually up to date with what is happening in the Anglican communion - it is falling apart as the synod system has led to the abandonment of Christian doctrine in favour of relativism. Surely if Mrs McAleese wants us to adopt that system, does she mean she wants the Catholic Church to fall apart and become as irrelevant?
I think this idea shows extraordinary naivety and blindness on McAleese's part. However she had even more objectionable things to say. As I saw it, she implied that the Church imposes obedience because it has lost the argument on various issues, most notably for McAleese, contraception. Ironic this: as she sees Humanae Vitae as a lost argument every day its prophetic nature is being underlined as modern men and women dig even deeper holes for themselves, sexually, and continue to undermine the stability of relationships and family life.
The former President also believes the Church has it wrong on homosexuality. In fact, and here is the most offensive thing she said, she blames the Church for the mass suicide of young men in recent years because of its teaching on homosexuality. This is despicable and deeply insulting: there is no evidence to back up McAleese's claim and her comments are unacceptable and deserve, I think, a formal rebuke from her bishop. Now the former President has her own agenda on this issue - homosexuality is a personal issue for her family, but making such groundless and dangerous allegations against the Church is disengenuous.
There were many things I found offensive with the interview, but over all I resent McAleese's using her position as a former President of Ireland to give her a platform to attack the Church and to prevent anyone from taking her on: after all if any one of us should publicly rebuke her many will defend her because of her record as President and she knows this. I greatly admired her as President, but I'm afraid my admiration has diminished.
One question I would like to ask her though: if the Anglican Communion is the best model for Catholicism, then why stay in the Catholic Church? At this stage she knows the Catholic Church will not change to suit her opinions, so why not go over to the greener fields on other side of the river? She can use the bridge she constructed during her presidency.
I was sent a rather interesting link yesterday regarding The Irish Times and its objectivity. It seems the paper of record may not be as trustworthy as it would have us believe. Apparently when it reported on the small turn out for a pro-choice rally recently, it was rebuked by pro-abortion advocates, and so the paper revised its figures upwards. So much for journalistic standards. When it comes to pro-life events they are usually ignored by the paper, but if covered the figures are drastically reduced. I see "MediaWatch" in the Alive! newspaper also takes the Times to task, this time over its reporting on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's speech at the MacGill summer school. The paper tried to give the impression that the Archbishop and Cardinal Brady were at variance over the issue of abortion. The Archbishop wrote a strongly worded letter of complaint and accused the paper of "mischevious misrepresentation", and it seems the Archbishop is quite correct in his assessment.
And as we're talking about Archbishop Martin, I see he is trying to get a new system of sacramental preparation going in his diocese - a welcome development, I think. For too long the sacraments were given just because you were in a certain class in school regardless of faith or practice. To refuse First Communion or Confirmation to children of unbelievers brings the wrath of parents and media on your head. I know of one case where parents refused to have their child baptised, but still wanted her to receive First Communion: they did not want her to be a member of such an abusive Church, but still wanted her to "have her day out with her friends", and they had plenty of support for their position. Madness! As priests we can do very little since the programmes and the actual system is set in place by the bishops: we can only supplement it with sound material and do the best we can to try and get people to Mass and to practice the faith. However a new approach is needed and hopefully Archbishop Martin's initial steps will help usher out the old and bring in a new, more evangelical and responsible system.