Friday, September 30, 2011

No Messing With This Guy!

Who said Saints should be meek and mild?  Okay, I accept that meekness is one of the Beatitudes, the charter of Christian virtue, and it is to be found in all the Saints.  But meekness as enshrined in the Beatitudes does not mean acting like a mouse and cowering in frailty like a shrinking violet.  If it did, then our Saint today would not be among the Blessed at all.

Yes, that's the great St Jerome: the Church's crusty, easily irritated and hot-headed Scripture scholar.  Blessed John XXIII famously remarked, when looking at picture of the Saint holding a rock to his breast, that without that stone (and the penances it symbolised), Jerome would not have been a Saint at all.  I imagine he was gruff and sometimes forbidding, but beneath the surface lay a heart of pure gold and a love as fiery as a furnace not only for God, but also for the children of God.  Holy women like St Paula saw a treasure in him and were drawn to him for his spiritual advice and fatherly care.  So he was not a Saint that could easily be propped up on a pedestal.

That challenges our idea of Sainthood, as it should.  Many think of Saints as pious, ethereal creatures fluttering between heaven and earth.  Some Saints seem like that, but in reality few are.  Jerome is a wonderful example of those who inhabit the rich and varied tapesty of God's Blesseds. 

Blessed John Paul II had a real insight into holiness and Sainthood.  Many of those raised to the altars during his pontificate might not have been considered good enough for beatification and canonisation under previous pontificates, and indeed one of the criticisms directed at John Paul, usually by those of a more traditionalist view, was that he lowered the standards.  Not so, he just realised that the holiness of Sainthood is a greater mystery than the perceived pious plastic statue Saint which had become the norm for many. Such Saints do not exist, of course, but the stereotype in the minds of many does.

St Jerome, like many other Saints, shake us out of that way of thinking.  As does another figure whose Cause for beatification is being considered - Savonarola.  Now there's a man who could never be accused of being stuffy and pious.  If his beatification proceeds it may be a shock to the system of some.  And we all need a shock now and again.

The Servant of God, Girolamo Savonarola

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Holy Archangels

The feast of the Holy Archangels today, a great celebration in honour of the Spirits who protect and guide us.  Of the three we honour today - Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, St Michael is probably the most popular.  That may be because he is seen as a powerful ally in the battle against Satan, sin and temptation - and indeed he is. 

For that reason, I think, we need to promote devotion to him in these difficult times.  The story of the mysterious vision of Pope Leo XIII is well known, as is the extract of the prayer to the Archangel which the Pontiff wrote following his experience, but it needs to be prayed a lot more. 

The image of the Archangel, powerful before God, defending God's people with the power he receives from the Holy Trinity, is a most consoling one.  May he watch over and protect us all in these times.  Let's pray together now -
St Michael the Archangel, defend us in the hour of conflict; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.  May God restrain him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust Satan down to hell, and with him all the wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.  Amen.
And in honour of the other Archangels:

O Blessed Gabriel, Angel of the Annunciation, Servant of the Word, prepare our hearts to receive Christ and teach us how to abandon ourselves to his will.  Guide us on the path to holiness and help us embrace true virtue.  Angel of mercy, strength of God, be our consolation and our help.
St Raphael, blessed spirit of healing, open our eyes to the love of God, and to his mercy.  Be our companion on life's journey and lead us to the refreshment of grace which pours out from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our True Healer, O gentle spirit of peace, O zealous servant of God.
All you Holy Archangels, Blessed Spirits of God, pray for us.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Calling All Londoners!

Proto-Icon St Genesius, patron of Actors, copyright The Fraternity of St. Genesius

News for all our members, and others, in the London area.  The Fraternity has finally completed arrangements for starting a St Genesius Prayer Group in London. 

The Prayer Group, open to everyone regardless of whether they are members or not, will consist of a Eucharistic Holy Hour, with prayer and song before the Blessed Sacrament, followed by Benediction.  It's a simple format, but it works.  During the Holy Hour we will remember those who work in theatre, cinema and the arts, but also the sick, those in need of healing, and for the Church and her renewal.

So, dates, times!  The first Eucharistic Holy Hour will take place in Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane (Covent Garden) on Thursday 13th October at 8pm.  It is hoped that the Holy Hour will then take place on the second Thursday of every month.  So calling all Londoners!  Come and join us in prayer, bring your musical instruments if you have any, and join us in song.

I will like to extend a special invitation to those who work in the theatres and the arts in London to join us, regardless of religious affliation. Prayer will be offered on their behalf, for their needs and intentions, and so we offer an oasis of prayer and retreat on that Thursday evening.

Thursday is, of course, the perfect night for such prayer as it was the day on which the first Holy Hour took place - that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  His disciples fell asleep on that occasion, but we hope to stay awake and watch one hour (or a little more) with him, offering to him in prayer, those who are in need.  Corpus Christi Church is also the perfect place to have the Holy Hour - not only because it is dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, but it is the actor's church in London, and it was there that the Fraternity was "born". 

I would like to thank in a special way the Parish Priest of Corpus Christi, Fr Alan Robinson, who has graciously allowed us to use the church for our devotions.  We will also remember him and his parish in our prayers.

So spread the word!   And yes, there will be a first class relic of St Genesius present at the Holy Hour - so if there is anyone who wants a blessing with the sacred bones of the great Roman actor and martyr, come along.

That's a bit of good news in the midst of all the misery!  Thank God. Please keep it in your prayers. 

News on pilgrimage to Rome coming soon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

News, news, news

I did not got time of late to post - pastoral duties.  But, as I survey the weekend, it has been very eventful in the Church and in Ireland.

The Holy Father's visit to Germany was a triumph: his homilies and talks were wonderful. I was particularly taken with his homily at the first Mass which was very consoling and felt it was a real message for us in Ireland in these difficult times. As you know there is now a push by some in the Church here to break from Rome.  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin revealed that he has received a number of letters asking him to allow people call themselves Irish Catholic as opposed to Roman Catholic.  I'm sure he explained a few things to those making this request.   The Holy Father's homily on the vine and the branches serves as a wonderful response to these requests.  If you have not read the homily, do so.

In the last couple of days RTE has turned its attention to Direction for our Times, based in the diocese of Kilmore, and led by a lay woman, Ann.   Joe Duffy on Liveline interviewed Fr Darragh Connolly, the chaplain to the apostolate, yesterday.  I was in seminary with Fr Darragh and he is a fine man and a good priest.    I listened to the interview online - you can get it here.  No friend of the Church, he is Ireland's "agony uncle" and loves to get his teeth into controversy.  I personally do not find him very objective in his work and it seems to me that he has a chip on his shoulder with regard to Catholicism.  In his interview he brought in the topic of the divorced receiving Holy Communion - a topic that had absolutely nothing to do with the issue being discussed.  I think Duffy was trying to make hay out of the fact the Ann has had a divorce and an annulment and this was a springboard to get at the Church for her refusal to bless irregular unions.   For much of the interview Duffy was antagonistic, and in his later interview with theologian Mark Miravalle he was just as truculent.

As regards Direction for our Times, it seems Sr Briege McKenna's statement has caused a lot of concern - Sr Briege has distanced herself.   She has not given a reason for this, so I cannot comment any more on it. Personally I am not drawn to Direction for our Times - I have read some of the books and I have formed my own opinion, which is my own personal opinion, and I am not inclined to accept that they are authentic. At best, at this stage, I believe them to be personal meditations rather than locutions.  However, I do heed the wise and prudent direction of the Bishop of Kilmore, and he seems happy to allow the apostolate continue and his decision carries weight.  There is a commission examining the claims at the moment, and we await their decision.  That said, a lot of good work is being done. 

As regards the presidential election - the race is on by some potential candidates to secure nominations.  Dana is doingh her best, and I think she will get the nomination.  She has a number of County Councils to visit, and I think four will nominate her. 

Meanwhile David Norris has 18 TDs and Senators backing him - he needs 20.  Failing that he has a number of County Councils considering his application.  Disturbing news is emerging with regard to the skeletons in his closet - it seems he wrote seven letters in attempt to win clemency for his lover who had been convicted of statutory rape of a fifteen-year old boy.  But there are other skeletons: a friend of his, a journalist, has admitted that there a three other scandals in the senator's life - so when will they break?  Plus the fact that members of his campaign team resigned in July over other matters which have yet to emerge.  Is Ireland going to take the risk of giving him the highest office in the land when these scandals may become public and our Republic and the office of President is disgraced?  By all accounts it seems the answer to that question is yes.

More disturbing developments are the antics of supporters of Senator Norris: it seems some are resorting to violent threats and abuse as they try to force public representatives to back their candidate.  One independent senator has revealed that she has received abusive communications from Norris supporters because she made a decision not to sign his nomination papers.  Senator Jillian van Turnhout is chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, and she made the decision not to support him: in all honesty, how could she given the organisation she works for.   I am aware that she is not the only one who has fallen foul of the Norris camp - I have been reliably informed that death threats have even been made to another individual. 

I'm sure Senator Norris would deplore this and these threats by some of his supporters is not his doing.  He may need, however, to distance himself from them and clarify that these people are not representing him or his campaign.

UPDATE:   Dana has secured the nomination: a fourth County Council - my native County, Offaly, has backed her.  

Money, Money, Money

Kevin, our Culture Secretary in the Fraternity, continues his trojan work with the Dublin Film Club.  It starts back this evening for another season.  Our first movie is the documentary Money As Debt 2, dealing with popular economics - very topical in these days.  We'll have a speaker who will enlighten us as to the current financial malaise and how it relates to our faith.  If you are free, come along - its free.  The Club will meet at the Knights of St Columbanus at Ely Place in Dublin at 7pm.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy Feast Day, St Pio

Today is the feast of St Pio of Pietrelcina, more commonly known as Padre Pio.  If ever there was a saint to represent the 20th century, this holy Capuchin friar must be it.  He is certainly the most popular saint of that century and his popularity is far from waning. 

Pio represents that century more than anyone else because in his life, and indeed physically on his body, as he bore witness to the timeless truths of the Catholic faith, he was very much at odds with the prevailing fashions of the time.   A man many dismissed as a medieval oddity, he reminded the brave new world of post modernism that God does exist, miracles do happen and the supernatural is real.  As many called him a fake, Pio, in his obedience to God and the Church, manifested a humility through which God spoke a resounding word to the world.  For one thing he called the world's attention to the mystery of suffering, reminding us that we are redeemed by a suffering Christ as opposed to a radical hippy.  It was on the cross that justice and peace were won for the world, not by means of arms and Marxist ideology.  When many dismissed Christ as a myth, Pio revealed the true Christ by becoming an icon of Jesus in his own flesh.  In his ministry in the confession he taught us that we are sinners and need the sacrament of mercy.  In his mystical offering of the Holy Mass, he revealed the mysteries of the Eucharist and called us to a greater devotion.

St Pio has had an important place in my life and in my family's life for some time.  Our next door neighbours had devotion to him as their little son struggled with cancer.  We were all praying to Padre Pio for the child and he got better - through successful medical intervention, but the assistance of St Pio was obvious.  Pio entered our home, and he helped us in various things.   There was a lovely man from just outside the town, John Joe, who had tremendous devotion to Pio and he became a friend of the family.  He used to visit and tell us all about San Giovanni Rotondo and the other places associated with the friar.  He was the one who informed us that a lady in a town a few miles away from us had been miraculously cured of cancer by him, and that she had seen the friar standing at the foot of her bed: a common phenomenon in healings obtained through Pio's intercession.  These stories were good for us - they deepened our faith and opened up the world of Christianity for us.  Our children should be told such stories, and come to know the saints well.  John Joe has since gone to God - he never saw his beloved Pio canonised - but I'm sure he didn't mind - he is probably up in heaven with the holy friar.

Some day I hope to be able to bring my parents to San Giovanni.  In all our travels we have not got there yet. My dad has a particular love for Pio.  I remember when in Fatima a few years back I bought a wooden statue of the saint for him: he was thrilled - "That was the best present you ever bought me", he said.  That was worth a few brownie points!  Thanks Pio!

Today at Mass in Rathkenny we will celebrate the feast day: we have a special relic - a first class relic of the holy friar - cloth soaked in his blood - and by the looks of it there is a lot of blood on it.  What a wonderful relic for us: the sacred blood of a holy man who shed that blood in union with his crucified Lord, bearing the stigmata for love of his Lord.  He has many lessons to teach us, I pray we will have the grace to open our hearts to hear and live them.

Happy feast day to all of you. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Back To The Catacombs?

Back to where we started?  Christians arrested during Mass in the Catacombs

Remember how the secularists tell us believers that they just want religion out of the public space, but we are quiet free to practice our beliefs privately and behind the closed doors of our homes?  Well, we don't swallow that one nor agree with it, but if were to take the secularists at their own word, we see that they really don't mean what they say: and here is a good example which proves that point: a Californian family have been fined for hosting a Bible study group in the privacy of their own home.  

So now, dear people, did you ever think you needed a permit for a private prayer group at home?  Do we now need a licence for the family rosary?  Perhaps even planning permission for the May altar?  And, God forbid, perhaps even an act of parliament to permit a house Mass!  Ah, the freedom our friends the secularists offer us!  Where would be be without it?  Free, that's where!

On that note: anyone interested in starting St Genesius prayer groups in the home?  Get a few friends together for the rosary, some prayers and friendship?  If so give us a shout:

The Lesson From St Matthew

The call of St Matthew has been a story which has always fascinated me.  Apart from the generosity of the Lord in admitting into his service one who had a notorious past - always a consolation to a sinner like myself as I reflect on my own call to the priesthood; the manner of the call of the Apostle is very interesting.

We all know what happened - it is the story offered to us in the Gospel reading today as we celebrate the Apostle's feast day - and from St Matthew's own hand too.  The Lord simply passes the tax collector as he is siphoning the money from the Jews and calls him: "Follow me", and Matthew just gets up and follows him.  What happened in the heart of this man?  Though we read from St Matthew's own account, he tells us nothing of what led him to get up straight away and leave all to follow Jesus.

Conversion is a most mysterious process - one which happens in the mystery of grace and at the deepest level of our being.  Most of the time it is a long process as in the case of St Augustine, Blessed John Henry Newman and GK Chesterton, but we also have sudden conversions - rare events which shock the protagonist as much as the observer; two of the Apostles experienced such conversions, St Paul and St Matthew.   As those who are converted slowly struggle to take the final step, sudden converts seem to be born fully grown and determined.  Paul needed a time of blindness and a period in the desert, but St Matthew is already prepared to fly into the Lord's service, becoming one of the twelve and being admitted into the secrets of the Sacred Heart.

We will never know, I suppose, what happened in St Matthew's heart - not here on earth anyway, because he may not have known himself at that time: perhaps he only knew that here standing before him was his Lord and what he was offering was much greater than what he had been living up to then.  It may have taken a surge of faith, a leap into the dark as the philosopher Kierkegaard would say, or perhaps there was already a hunger which suddenly found its satisfaction in the one whose voice touched his heart.  It was a personal encounter between Christ and Matthew, an encounter between them in the very core of his soul.

As we reflect on this mystery, though, we might look into our own hearts to rediscover what led us to follow Christ.  Perhaps we had a conversion - I believe all of us must have one, even cradle Catholics - that moment when we hear the voice of the Lord and make the decision to get up and follow him.  Meditating on this today, we might experience that moment again, relive it so as to be renewed in it, for it was a moment of grace.  In these difficult times, we need to harness that moment, perhaps daily, in order to continue to serve and follow him with confidence and hope.  To remember that being a Christian is as much a personal thing as a public thing - we are called to follow the Lord at level of our being, in every moment of our lives - in intimacy and in public witness.  This is why the call of St Matthew is so fascinating because so little is revealed and yet we know that there is so much going on: so too in us.

As he got up and left his counting table, St Matthew did not know what lay ahead, and neither do we; but as he walked behind his Lord he was sure that all would be well as long as he stayed close to Jesus: this is also true for us. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who For President?

It seems everyone is throwing their hat into the arena for the Presidential election next month. Yesterday Dana said she intended to give it a go: fair dues to her.  I do not know if she will get anywhere, the main political parties tend to have things sewn up when it comes to the nomination process.

It was Dana who broke the party-only system of nomination in 1997 when she approached the County Councils for a nomination - under the Irish Constitution to be nominated as a candidate for the presidency one must get either twenty members of the Dail or Senate, or four County Councils to back you.  Until then this right had never been availed of and so Dana was responsible for allowing the local authorities to exercise that right for the first time in the history of the state.  She did very well in that election, coming third.  When she tried to go again in 2004 the political parties imposed the whip on their members in the County Councils, so once again they were unable to exercise their democratic right. 

This time round some Councils have backed candidates, but Fine Gael has imposed the whip to prevent their councillors from exercising their right.  I hope Dana gets the nomination, indeed the presidency might be a fitting reward for a woman who, in her political career, tried to uphold our Constitutional rights - after all, isn't that one of the things our President is supposed to do? 

In the meantime, we'll all come behind our own Caroline McCamley who has announced on the St Genesius Blog, her own intention to run.  No shrinking violet our Caroline would make a superb President of Ireland, there would be no messing there - a woman we could rely on.  So now, I suppose there is no better way to start the campaign than to take up a collection.....


There is a saying that those who wed themselves to the spirit of the age are quickly widowed, and how true it is.  It seems that as I write there are many who are entering the state of widowhood, among them many priests, religious, and even bishops.  One of our bishops who is determined to remain wedded to Christ is Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn.  In a recent interview he has responded publicly to the revolt of some of his priests who want a “reform” of the Church, reform being, in their lexicon, an abandonment of fundamental Church teachings and practices in order to embrace the spirit of our secularist age. As the Cardinal rightly points out if he were to do this he would break communion with the Church and he is not prepared to do that. 

This raises an interesting question – right back at them: have they broken communion with the Church (though they insist “We are the Church”)?  Indeed is it not time for them to reconsider their position and make formal what they are already informally?  May it not be time for those who will not accept the teaching of the Catholic Church to consider a denomination which holds as its teachings what they already believe themselves?  St Dominic Savio’s famous motto, “be true to yourself”, may be the one they need to adopt for themselves. 

We often hear the word “reform” bandied about by those who, in reality, do not want to bring us back to the purity of Christ’s message, but rather a new secularised version which in reality detracts from what the Lord intended to do.  The canon of dissident is normally made up of sexual issues proving time and time again that care of the human spirit tends to come second to the desires of the body.  Instead of trying to embrace a life of balance and chastity, following the example of Christ, our erstwhile “reformers” want to tinker at Christ’s teaching in order to facilitate sexual desire, not in a healthy sense, but in a permissive sense.  Jesus never said “anything goes as long as you love each other”, but our modern thinkers relying on the broadest, most relativist interpretation of the one piece of Christian teaching they accept, “God is love”, have managed to crowd in everything and anything so they can justify any aberration.

They say the Church is obsessed with sex – not so, they only think that because they are the ones obsessed with sex.  If you listen to these reformers when in one of their attacks on the Church you do not have to wait very long before sex pops up in the debate as they decry the Church’s ban on contraception, pre-marital sex, divorce and remarriage and now, homosexuality. 

Even the debate on married priests is not too far away from sex. A friend of mine, who has had more than his fair share of debates with these reformers, has come to conclusion that the debate about married priests is about sex: “They just want the priest to be having sex so then he is no different from anyone else”.  After much thought I think his conclusion is correct.  Celibacy serves as a sign in the modern world to another life, a life of purity and grace.  Celibacy teaches all of us that sex is not the be all and end all of life: it is one part of life, but not all of life – there is more to the human person than sex.  That contradicts the ideological thinking of many, those who see untrammelled sex as the great sign of liberation and freedom – the triumph of “MY will” over the world.  Ultimately it is another expression, the most powerful expression today, of the non serviam.

This is why Bishop Edward Daly, with all due respects to him, is wrong: celibacy is important because it reminds the world that the priest is a man set apart.  While he has the same difficulties and temptations as everyone else – sometimes more, he must strive to become what he has promised to be – his promise of celibacy is the potent sign of this.   A priest is not to be like other men, he is different.  A priest is not his own, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen reminds us, he belongs to God and the Church – so he must never belong to another human being exclusively be it a wife or children. 

Some will say the celibacy rule is already undermined by former Anglicans who are ordained or Eastern Rite priests, but these exceptions do not undermine the rule, but rather draw our attention to it.  These priests do great work, but their first responsibility is to their wives and families, as it should be: the Church, though, needs men whose first responsibility is to a lifetime’s service of the Church: men who even in their own bodies, conform themselves to Christ the High Priest whose bride and only spouse, is the Church.  Call that idealistic, unrealistic, unworkable if you want, but when the critics of celibacy roll out the hard cases to prove their point, the Church can point to millions of celibate, holy and happy priests who devoted their entire lives to the selfless service of the people of God, to prove her point.

It has also been said that the rule of celibacy is preventing many young men from considering the priesthood, and so the Church is being deprived of their ministry.  I disagree with that: if a young man is deterred from priesthood because of celibacy, then priesthood is not for him: it is a life which requires a radical dying to self and so when a man is considering priesthood he has to be prepared to let everything else go. Those priests who are struggling with celibacy are struggling with living their vocation, as all who have embraced a vocation struggle.  Married couples struggle and their struggle can be, at times, worse than that of a priest. 

It is said that the loneliness is too much for a man, he needs a life’s companion.  There are many who live alone and who must deal with loneliness – that single life is not always chosen.  There are people in marriage who are lonely.  A priest must order his life and his day so as to deal with that loneliness.  As for a life companion – the priest should already have one – Christ.  A priest must pray: in prayer he will come to know and love his Lord as his spouse.  Unfortunately some priests put prayer way down the agenda – they are too many other things to do: but prayer must be a priority.  A psychologist priest I know, who has decades of experience of working with priests in crisis, once said to me that when a priest comes to him with a vocational crisis and is thinking of leaving, the first question he asks is: “When did you stop praying?”  Inevitably, he says, prayer has been absent or scarce for many in this situation.

It has been said that a priest should have a family to call his own: he does – it’s called the Church.  One of the joys of priesthood is that you are a member of many families, all of whom take you to their hearts and love you.  Whenever I go out on visitation I am welcomed by my parishioners and others, and they take you right into their homes and their lives.  They trust you, confide in you, love you, because you are their priest – the one who has chosen to offer his life in service for them and is there for them whenever they need him.  That is the way it should be.  A priest has many children whom he must love and care for – when a priest is struggling with celibacy, he should also remember his people who love him for the sacrifice he has made for them.

I have had many debates on this issue, and this stage I remind the critics of the above and then turn to the pragmatic argument: are they prepared to up the offerings in order to provide their priest with an income to support his wife and many children (after all, we’ll be good Catholics, there will be no contraception!)?  When I list out the amount necessary and then the fact that he will not be as free for them as he was when celibate, they go strangely quiet.  The theoretical argument has set them on fire, but when reality hits and it means digging deeper into their pockets, funnily, things don’t seem as simple then. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

We're Safe For A While Yet...

We're safe for a while yet....the blood of St Januarius has liquefied.  This miracle occurs three times a year - or at least the people of Naples hopes it occurs - if it doesn't it spells disaster for the city. The last time it failed to liquefy was in 1980, later the city fell victim to a dreadful earthquake.  Why do I get the impression that this saint is not one to be messed with? 

St Januarius, with St Agatha, is one of the patrons of volcanic eruptions, much invoked in recent years by members of the Fraternity whenever we're packing the bags for another jaunt (read: pilgrimage).  He will be invoked again next year as we prepare for our Fifth Anniversary Pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and Loreto, all going well and Icelandic volcanoes behave themselves.

It's great being a Catholic - so many Saints to invoke for all areas of life, and the odd miracle too. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Of Meat And Holy Things

It is well known that when Catholics abandon part of their faith, its practice or their heritage, the secular world takes it up and transforms it according to its own ideology.  We all know of the example of Gregorian Chant: as the hippy Masses unleashed folk, rock and sentimental pop on the liturgy, burning the old hymnals, the secular world and record companies took to Chant and made a fortune out of the few monastic communities who battled on singing the ancient music of the faith.  When priests and religious dropped black habits and clerical clothes for Hawaiian shirts and collars and ties, young Goths took to black and made it a statement for their lifestyle and beliefs. 

Two interesting stories in the news today remind me of two more Christian practices which many have abandoned but the secular world has embraced.  Fr Ray Burke has a brief post reminding the faithful in England and Wales that the rule of abstinence has returned: from today, by decree of the bishops Catholics in England and Wales are to abstain from meat (and yes, chicken is meat).   This may come as a shock to some.  When abstinence was abandoned, vegetarianism suddenly became a fashion.  When fasting was dropped, we suddenly heard of all these diet and de-tox practices which were good for the body and mirrored the old way of fasting in the Church - bread and water, or in the case of the de-tox - water and fruit.  I wonder if the Irish bishops would consider following their English and Welsh brothers?  After all, Pope Benedict in his Letter to the Irish asked that we offer our Friday penances in reparation for child abuse - reinstating the law of abstinence would be an excellent gesture.  Of course the leaders of the ACP would have stokes if that happened.

George Weigel in his weekly column is urging the Russian Orthodox Church not to pussyfoot on the issue of removing Lenin's body from public display and burying it.  I am reminded of the horror stories I was told of relics and bodies of the saints being buried or even discarded by many following Vatican II.  Skips, rubbish tips and dumps were filled with the bones, clothing and belongings of the canonised and beatified as the liberal theologians told the faithful, in particular the religious, that these things were not no longer needed  - the Church needed grow up and discard such superstitions as the veneration of relics.  As the years passed, though, many of these same people ended up in as practitioners of the New Age worshiping the elements and feeling the power that is in crystals (aka bits of glass or shiny stones).  

In Russia the bodies of the "saints" of the Soviet Union, the mass murderers Lenin and Stalin, were embalmed and put on the display for the "veneration" of the "party faithful" (aka everyone in Russia, whether they liked it or not): a practice learned from us Christians who preserve the sacred remains of our holy ones.  Stalin has been quietly removed and buried - Lenin's body still lies in state, but many want him out and interred.  It seems the Orthodox Church in Russia is hesitant to support this despite the fact that Lenin was responsible for the martyrdom of many Orthodox Christians. 

Thankfully respect for relics is growing again, although the secular world, primarily through eBay, is trying to cash in on this.  It is disgraceful that relics should be sold on the open market, but is is even more disgraceful that relics should fall into the wrong hands.  Relics are sacred and must be cared for - we do not own relics, we are merely custodians and part of that role is making provision for those relics in our care to ensure they are returned to Orders and congregations, or are passed into safe hands.  As for Lenin, well, I think we can bury him.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Triumph Of The Holy Cross

At this Mass this morning, for the feast of the Holy Cross, we had veneration of a relic of the True Cross.  It was a most moving ceremony because all of us know what the cross is like, to some extent, in our lives.  In these difficult times it seems the shadow of the cross has fallen on Ireland and we must carry it in the midst of many trials and much bitterness

That, however, is the call of the disciple of Christ; Jesus tells us we must take up our cross and follow him if we wish to be his disciples.  When Jesus said these words his followers must have been shocked - for them the cross was a horrible method of execution, one which symbolised not only terrible suffering and disgrace, but one which also signified damnation (A curse on him who hangs on a tree: Deut 21:23, Gal 3:13).  They would have been at a loss to figure out why Jesus said this: they understood later after the crucifixion and resurrection.  But for them it signified something awful and indeed for many when the cross comes it is awful, so we need to look at it and see Christ himself.  That is why we Catholics leave the figure of Christ on the cross - when we look at a crucifix our eyes are drawn to the One who hangs upon it and so we do not feel that we are alone - we are there with Jesus - he is with us. 

I love this feast because it is so rich - and consoling.  I have always been fascinated with the story of St Helena heading off to the Holy Land when in her late seventies/early eighties to look for the Holy Places and relics.  She must have been one great lady.  She had it tough in life, she knew what the cross was like, so perhaps this made her strong and kept her active at what then would have been a very advanced age.  Her husband divorced her to marry the daughter of the emperor and improve his chances of getting the Imperial throne for himself.  Constantine her son, however, did not forget her and made her Augusta (empress) when he won the throne, but I imagine he was a tough cookie and Helena may have had her own problems with him: perhaps there was a Monica-Augustine dynamic there too.   Some Christian traditions regard Constantine as a saint. 

Contrary to what some say, today's feast does not commemorate the finding of the cross - that event was marked by another feast on the old calendar on May 3rd.  This feast today originally commemorated the rescue of the relic of the True Cross once preserved in Jerusalem, but carried off as booty by Persian forces in the 7th century.  The recovery of the relic reminded the Church of the victory Christ won for us on the cross, and so this feast, the Exultation of the Holy Cross was instituted.  Blessed Pope John XXIII combined the two feasts into one in 1960. 

All Of A Flutter.....

It seems our MEPs and others are getting themselves in a dreadful flutter, literally, following the remarks made by an EU commissioner concerning the Irish flag.  German Gunter Oettinger has suggested that the Irish tricolour, and the flags of other indebted nations, should be flown at half-mast to symbolise the financial state of their economies and as a deterrent.  Some are calling for his resignation.

I have to smile.  Our MEPs are irate at the insult to our flag and, I presume, the sovereignty it symbolises.  Well, friends, we have no sovereignty - we are owned by the EU and the IMF.  And why so angry?  Our Taoiseach defamed the Pope and misrepresented the Holy See in the Dail: surely if we can hand it out, we can take it too?  It seems not.  Interesting that the suggestion has come from a German: my sources tell me the Germans are not impressed with what the Irish have said about "their Pope".  As regards resignations, why should Herr Oettinger  resign when people who have said and done worse in Ireland are allowed stay where they are? 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was told that the Americans, in their committment to democracy and free speech, allow the burning of the Stars and Stripes in legitimate protest - could be something we might consider here. 

All Going Well

With the last few days being busy I have had little time to post.  Some good news though: the new translation of the Missal - the corrected translation, is going down very well in Rathkenny.  The daily Mass goers know the new responses off by heart - they are correcting me when I slip.  The Sunday Mass goers used the responses for the first time last Sunday and I must say I am impressed - they prayed them with gusto!  No complaints there at all.  After the Saturday Vigil one parishioner said: "Father, isn't the new translation beautiful?"  Overwhelmingly positive.  The Congregational Cards are disappearing - I had to put out a new batch this morning - people are taking them home to read and learn. 

So things are going well here in Rathkenny.  Contrary to the expectations of the critics in the ACP, there is no revolt, just people who are interested in the change, understand why it was necessary and they are just getting on with it.  Perhaps it is a case that I am just blessed with great parishioners (and that's true) but I think my experience is being reflected elsewhere.  Indeed a brother-priest in a nearby parish has been using bits of the translation for a while and his parishioners love it. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Today In The News...

Just when you think things can't get any worse, a new front is opening on the assault on the Church, this time courtesy of the retired Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly.  In his new book he advocates for a change to the rule of celibacy in the Church.  We'll see where that goes.  Given what we are dealing with at the moment, this is most unhelpful.

I was watching last night's Frontline programme on RTE 1, hosted by Pat Kenny.  The topic was the Seal of the Confessional, and it was a most desperate production.  It should really be called "Flatline" because the atmosphere was deadening.  The usual suspects were there advocating that the Church should disregard the Seal: Minister Frances Fitzgerald was leading the attack, with Gina Menzies, Andrew Madden and a guy called Brendan with rearguard action.  On the other side were notables such as Fr Vincent Twomey, David Quinn and Rosemary Swords, leader of the Elijah Fellowship Community in Dublin, whose intervention was powerful and disarming.   Some legal voices were also heard and they pointed out that any legislation which sought to compel priests to reveal confessions would be unconstitutional and thrown out of court.  So at least it was good for the Minister to hear that fact.

Meanwhile another blow has been dished out to Enda Kenny by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen.  He has said that the Vatican was trying to assist the government in its investigations, but the commission established by the government used the wrong channels.  When told what channels to use the commission decided not to use them, and then accused the Vatican of refusing to cooperate.  It seems to me that there may have been another agenda at work here, and perhaps, it seems to me, an opportunity was "created" to show the Vatican in a negative light so as to embellish the report's critique of Catholicism.

In other news, it seems David Norris is thinking of getting himself back into the race for the park - to become the next President of Ireland.  It seems the people of Ireland want him to resume his campaign.  Ironic given recent events: another indication that there is a most unsavoury double standard at work in Ireland today.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering Friends Today

     Peter F. Raimondi

As the world marks the tenth anniversary, many will be remembering relations or friends who perished in the attack on the World Trade Centre. Today I would like to remember the thirty parishioners of Holy Child Parish on Staten Island who died in the disaster.  I was working in that parish in the summers before and after the attack.  Two of those thirty I knew particularly: Lorraine Lee one of our readers, and Peter Raimondi, one of our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  Both were committed to their Catholic faith and were generous in their service of their parish, may the Lord grant them rest, and grant consolation to their bereaved families. 

The list of those who died can be found here. 
For them, for all who died, and for all who have died as a result of war and violence:

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

Out of the depths I have cried to you, Lord:
      Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears listen out
      for the voice of my pleading.
If you took notice of our transgressions, Lord –
     Lord, who would be left?
But with you is forgiveness,
     and for this we revere you.
I rely on you, Lord,
     my spirit relies on your promise;
my soul hopes in the Lord,
    more than the watchman for daybreak.
More than the watchman for daybreak,
     let Israel hope in the Lord:
for with the Lord there is kindness
    and abundant redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all its transgressions.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
     as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Medjugorje Revelations

My colleague Caroline over at the St Genesius Blog has brought my attention to new information on Medjugorje.   Documents from the Communist era in the then Yugoslavia have revealed that the secret police tried everything they could to stop the phenomenon and discredit all those involved in it.  Both RomeReports and Vatican Insider have the story.  These documents have been handed over to the Vatican Commission dealing with the apparitions.  

It may be that if Rome finds the apparitions to be authentic, the discovery of these documents and the dastardly work of the Communist secret police may give the Bishop of Mostar room to reverse his opinion and accept Rome's judgement.  I note with interest that the alleged visionaries of Medjugorje faced a similiar trial as the little shepherds of Fatima and like them they refused to deny what was happening.  Food for thought.....

Row Over The Book

The parish next door, Kells, is looking for its most famous possession back - the Book of Kells.  This is not the first time a campaign has started to have the ancient manuscript returned to the town, I seem to remember a number of efforts in the past. 

The story of the Book of Kells is fascinating.  It is an ancient book of the Gospels, illuminated in the traditional Celtic style - it is one of the most beautiful pieces of art in the world.  The book dates from the 9th century and was begun in the monastery of Iona and then brought to the Abbey in Kells, Co. Meath, where work on the illuminations was continued.  I believe the work is unfinished.   It comprises of four volumes of text and images. 

The book was preserved in the Abbey until the Abbey was dissolved in the 12th century and its church and buildings converted to a parish church; the book remained there in the possession of the parish.  In 1645 when Oliver Cromwell's armies were rampaging across Ireland, they arrived in Kells, the book was discovered and sent to Dublin "for safekeeping".  In 1661 the Protestant Bishop of Meath deposited it in Trinity College where it has remained to this day.  Now the people of Kells want it back, or at least one of the volumes.

The whole affair is interesting.  The question has been asked: who owns the Book of Kells?  I presume Trinity College claim ownership, and so it does not belong either to the state, the people of Ireland or even the people of Kells.   If you look at what the book is and its origins, you see that it belonged to the Catholic Church and was made as a sacred book for use in the Catholic liturgy.   It was, in effect, stolen from the Church.  Perhaps, then, it should be returned to the Catholic Church, I'm sure those who want the separation of Church and state would support that.  I think that is highly unlikely, though usually when treasures are stolen from the Church, few think of ever returning them, and certainly not the state or academic institutions.  If they were to give the book back, they would also have to return the Ardagh chalice and other sacred vessels made and used for Holy Mass but now in state ownership. 

This is interesting given the battle that is going on at the moment over the ownership of a painting by Winslow Homer, Children Under A Palm, the subject of a television programme a couple of months ago.  A gentleman found the painting in a rubbish dump in Cork, kept it for twenty years and then brought it onto the Antiques Roadshow where it was "discovered" to be a Homer, one of America's most iconic painters, and worth a fortune to boot.  People claiming to be its owners have now turned up and are demanding its return saying it was stolen, even though, strangely, they never missed it nor even knew it existed.  The law in Ireland has penalties for those found with stolen goods regardless of whether you knew the goods were stolen or not.  Trinity College knows the Book of Kells is stolen, so......

Back to the story: should the book be returned to Kells?  I'm sure the Parish Priest of Kells would be delighted to have it.  It could be used in the Extraordinary Form for the reading of the Gospel.   I think the people of Kells are correct and they are doing the country a service in drawing public attention to the issue.  I believe they do have an argument when they insist it should be returned and a proper museum established to preserve it and explore it.  We have few decent museums outside the capital, a little decentralisation might not be too bad at all. 

That said, I think we will have to wait until hell freezes over first.  When it comes to antiquities, governments tend to let things be for fear of opening a can of worms.  But it is interesting to see how many things which belonged to the Church have found their way into the hands of governments and institutions in a manner which could be described as illegal. 

Happy Birthday Ma!

O You, O Blessed Mother
we offer our praise and thanks
for, attentive to the prompting of the Spirit,
You said yes to the will of the Father
and brought forth the Son.
on this Your birthday,
our dear sweet Mother
we offer You ourselves
and we honour You,
O Most Blessed Mother.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Time To Reassess Relationships

Prior to the General Election, Enda Kenny with Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Kilmore and others.

With Enda Kenny digging in his heels and refusing to admit he went too far in his criticism of the Holy See, it might be no harm for the Church in Ireland to begin to look again at the relationship with exists between the Catholic Church and the state which is the Republic of Ireland.  Speaking with fellow priests, a number of issues have come up which might need serious consideration.

First is the nature of the relationship between the two.  There is no doubt that for many years there has been an unhealthy relationship between the Church and the state.  Prelates of the Catholic Church had too much power over secular affairs and this has led many to see the role of a bishop in terms of power and control rather than as pastor and father.  A bishop is supposed to govern, teach and sanctify - ultimately  his role is above politics, nor must he let politicians use his office to promote themselves.  As Irish politicians gang up on the Church, they forget that many of them were happy enough to use the Church and to be seen in the company of the local bishop and clergy in order to win the votes of the flock. I saw it myself as recently as the last election when candidates turned up at Mass times to "say hello" to the priest in full view of parishioners.  

The Church is meant to be prophetic, and must have the freedom to challenge secular authority when necessary.  That is very difficult when one is compromised by too close relationships with the people in government.  Being prophetic requires a healthy distance, mutual respect, but also confidence to stand up to the state when necessary.  Separation of Church and state is absolutely necessary, but that does not mean, as secularists and politicians tend to think it means, the Church being subject to the state: she is not subject to the state - she must respect the state, and her members must obey the laws of the state in so far as these laws do not contradict or offend their faith.  However, the state must also respect the Church and her freedom, a freedom that is not confined to any one territory or the gift of any one government: the Church in Ireland, for example, exists within two jurisdictions: the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Given recent developments, it is time for the Church to examine how we proceed.  It may be that under the present government we will have many difficulties with the state and we may have to wait until the present Taoiseach is replaced or until another political party is elected to govern before Church-state relations are improved, that may take time.  But it is time for reflection.  One suggestion that has been made is that it is time for a Concordat between the Church and the Republic of Ireland

Many secularists in Ireland would be appalled at that idea since they think Concordats are signs of a close relationship.  Actually the opposite is true.  A Concordat normalises relationships and puts down in writing the nature of the relationship between the Church and a particular state so there will no longer be any misunderstandings.  It will safeguard the rights of Catholics within the territories governed by a particular government and ensure that the Church does not have undue influence in the state and that servants of the state do not have undue influence in the internal affairs of the Church.   Concordats set the boundaries and that is important particularly when the Church has to deal with hostile regimes as in the case of Nazi Germany, and who knows perhaps even in the case of a Fine Gael/Labour ruled Ireland.  The Church has a good record of respecting its part in Concordats, however problems tend to arise when the state, having committed itself to an agreement, wants to wriggle its way around that agreement, so problems might still emerge if a Concordat is made with an Irish government that wants the freedom to break the Concordat when it suits it.  Strong local bishops would be needed to make sure the state is respecting the boundaries. 

All areas of Church-state relations will come under scrutiny if it is decided that a Concordat is necessary.  One area which certainly needs attention is that of marriage.  At the moment Catholic priests serve as civil registrars or recognised solemnisers of civil marriages - when a Catholic priest marries a couple he does so as a minister of religion and as a representative of the state. Perhaps it is time for us to look at this and see that the time has come for this arrangement to come to an end. 

As in many other countries, even predominantly Catholic ones where the Church and state are on very good terms, Monaco for example, when a couple marries they have separate civil and religious ceremonies. Perhaps it is time for the Catholic Church to adopt that model - to conduct only Catholic ceremonies and let the state conduct the civil ceremony.  In Ireland the Church saves the state a fortune in personnel by the present arrangement and if the Church were to withdraw from this arrangement the state will be required to employ many more registrars to conduct civil wedding ceremonies, which may be costly unless they can persuade certain qualified citizens to do so voluntarily.  That issue of expense for the state is not the Church's problem.  Given that the Taoiseach and the government has many supporters in the criticism of the Vatican, I'm sure many of these supporters will only be too happy to give up their time to conduct civil wedding ceremonies free of charge.  I realise that there may be an inconvenience for couples, but I think genuinely Catholic couples will understand.

There are other issues which need to be examined, among them, perhaps the whole idea of permitting state funerals in the Catholic liturgy, providing Catholic Mass for state occasions and gatherings.  Even, for example, the practice of allowing the Blessed Sacrament to be reserved in the president's residence, a privilege not normally accorded a lay person.  And while the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a chapel, Aras an Uachtarain (the president's residence) is a state property, so there may be an issue of reserving the Sacrament in a place where the Church has no jurisdiction.  A chaplain is normally provided for the president; that can continue I suppose, if the individual president requires one.  All these issues, and more, probably need to be looked at. 

UPDATES: Good article by Rory Fitzgerald of the Catholic Herald on Enda Kenny's speech.  I see Kenny is defending his attack by saying he is a Catholic and wants the Church to be above reproach: if that's the case, he has yet to demonstrate  that he is willing to listen and take on board what the Church has said in its report. As a Catholic is he willing to admit that perhaps he made a mistake and that the Holy See might just be telling the truth?

Garry O'Sullivan has a very good article in this week's Irish Catholic in which he describes Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore's reaction to the Vatican report as "back of the trailer diplomacy".  Thanks to Fr Burke for this link to The Thirsty Gargoyle which has a splendid post on the Vatican's document and the Taoiseach and Tanaiste's response.

Missals Recalled

I got a letter from Veritas yesterday, it seems my Missals, and many others, are being recalled for "quality control issues".   I was hoping to have the blessing of the new Missals later this week, but that will have to be put on hold.  They say that the printer hs accepted full responsibility.

The letter says that a representative will be in touch with me "over the next number of weeks" to have my copies collected and replaced.  That means I will be using my Magnificat for a while yet.  CTS produced an interim Missal - I hear from priests in England that it is awkward, but at least they have something.  Apart from the little booklets CTS and Veritas have produced, there is nothing but the cards.  I notice, as have others, when you go into Veritas the cheaper CTS new Mass booklets are hidden away behind the more expensive Veritas ones: please make note of this if you are popping in to buy one.

There are indeed quality control issues.  I was with a priest friend of mine last evening and we were talking about this.  He has gone through his new Missal with a forensic eye and has noted many, many mistakes.  The one that really drove him nuts was that a number of the musical settings of prefaces for feasts/memorias, are spread over two pages in such a way that one has to turn the page mid note, mid word.  He was demonstrating how awkward this was and actually he was right.  Things like this can be dealt with with a little planning.  Perhaps this is one problem Veritas wants to correct.  I hope so.

On the subject of the Missal, William Oddie has a lovely article in the Catholic Herald Online.  I have to share his joy.  I was visiting some sisters on Monday evening and we were discussing the new Missal, we were all enamoured with the restoration of so many quotations and references to Sacred Scripture.  How could the translators back in the 70's have left out these references?  Were these not the people who were telling Catholics at the time to read more Scripture? 

Anyway, the long track continues.  I hear priests  in the Archdiocese of Armagh have been told by the Cardinal they are only allowed to use the people's parts of the new Missal: that which is on the congregation cards.  The rest: Prefaces, Eucharistic Prayers and Proper are not allowed until the First Sunday of Advent.  That's different from the rest of the English-speaking world.  In our diocese we can go ahead and use them with the exception of the Propers, as is the case in the UK.  Ah yes, there is still a long way to go......

UPDATE:   It seems a flurry of letters have been flying out from Veritas.  After inquiries I hear numerous priests have had their Missals recalled.  Brother priests who read my blog, have you had your Missals recalled?  Also, brothers in other English speaking countries - what are your new Missals like?

Monday, September 5, 2011

They Just Don't Get It 2

A few tit bits.  In conversation with a friend today, as we discussed the government's reaction to the Vatican's response, she said: "The government asked the Vatican to answer questions, and that's what the Vatican did, and now they are not happy because they do not like the answers".  That sums it up well.

Good articles.   The Irish Catholic has a good editorial on the report, reiterating that Kenny's allegations are completely unfounded.    Catholic Culture News also has a good piece on its website.  One of the few voices defending the Church in Ireland as many others are silent, David Quinn has been speaking on a number of programmes: here is his interview on Vatican Radio

They Just Don't Get It

How will the Taoiseach and government respond to the Vatican's report?   Well if the newspapers are any indication, there will be no attempt to pull back on the unfounded allegations thrown at the Vatican.  The Irish Times has an article exploring this.  It seems the media, finally getting over the shock has found its mantra: "the Vatican just don't get this".  The Times's editorial is trying to give the impression of being balanced in its reflection, but fails - as expected.

I think this will be the government's response at the end of the day.  They are shocked, I think, at the Holy See's refusal to take the attack lying down.  Irish politicians and the media have got used to bashing the Church and getting away with it.  Whenever they attack the Church in Ireland, for the most part, Irish Church representatives have been silent and even fearful.  When politicians and media mention child abuse, which they tend to do most of the time when dealing with Church issues, the Church here tends to draw back.  Kenny expected this to happen, but the Holy See was not going to play that game: the truth is on their side and they were going to get the truth out.  As it is becoming very obvious ,as opinions leak out from members of the government, if I may quote Jack Nicholson, they can't handle the truth.  So all we will probably get is the usual liberal mantra, wheeled out when there is no defence: "The Vatican just doesn't get this!"

How ironic, if ever there was a mantra to describe the media and political elite in this country it has to be that very phrase.   What do they not get?  Well first of all they don't get the fact that child abuse in an Irish problem and the incidences of child abuse outside the Church is far greater, as Caroline over at the St Genesius blog points out. 

Why do they not get this?  Because they know that to look at abuse in Irish society will open a can of worms and expose many people, including, no doubt they fear, many of their nearest and dearest.  There is already a cover up of child abuse and protection of abusers in Irish society: we know all too well of the media's attempts to protect certain personalities.  Ironic really, for all the talk of mandatory reporting, I wonder how many of the movers and shakers in Ireland's elite really want it?  It might just put them in a difficult position.

They also do not get that the Vatican is not to blame for child abuse in Ireland. They do not get that Enda Kenny's defamatory speech was wrong, stupid and ill-judged.  They do not get that they are isolating Ireland diplomatically not only from the Holy See, but from other countries that can see the reality of the situation. 

Personally I do not believe the government will take this report on the chin - they will not apologise, as they should.  Enda Kenny will not withdraw his remarks - he sees himself as the great hero of Ireland because he has managed to convince some people in Ireland that what he has said is the truth.  He has dug a hole for himself and he will keep digging, and his party colleagues and coalition partners will be there to lend a hand.  I am sure that many in Fine Gael, and perhaps even Labour, realise that they have gone too far, but by gum they cannot back down: can't let the Catholic Church win this one! 

Archbishop Martin has now challenged the Taoiseach to give full details of the incidents of the Vatican, we must come right in behind him and demand an explanation.  We must not allow Kenny to wriggle out of this. Speaking with many people yesterday at the day's retreat, there are many out there who are deeply ashamed of the Taoiseach. 

UPDATE: On the Pat Kenny radio show Labour's Pat Rabbitte has called the Vatican's response as "pettifogging detail". 

Patsy McGarry of The Irish Times on Pat Kenny show is rehashing old news - well done Patsy, ignore the report, just keep banging on with the old, worn out arguments which have already been answered time and time again.  He's defending Irish bishops and saying Rome stopped them from dealing with the issue effectively.  They just do not get it.  As far as I can see, it seems the Irish media are creating a fog to distract from the Vatican's devastating response.  Surprise, surprise - journalistic standards my eye! 

Oh no! Gina Menzies is on now!  She is defending the government's plan to force priests to break the seal.  She says the Seal is not inviolable because it only came into force in 1215. And this lady calls herself a theologian! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Response

As it is Sunday morning, this post will be brief - I have to give a day retreat in the afternoon and evening, so I may not get a chance later.  A few musings on the Vatican's response to the Irish government. 

I had a quick read of the document, and I have to say it is a fine piece of writing.  First of all I would have to disagree with Eamon Gilmore when he describes it as "legalistic and technical" - yes, it deals with legal issues, but Gilmore's comment seems to me to say that the document is difficult to read and full of technical terms - almost a bluff perhaps.  Well it is not.  It is easy to read and I would urge all of you to read it: it is the Vatican at her best.

A second observation is that this document is devastating in its clarity and argumentation.  In it the Holy See takes the Cloyne Report and the Taoiseach's accusations, examines them in full and then provides a response which reveals the Taoiseach's accusations to be completely unfounded. 

The Vatican offers a plausible context within which to interpret the letter of 1997, a context which seems to have been lost on Judge Murphy, the government and also, sadly to say, on certain victims's groups.  In looking at the question of mandatory reporting, the authors of the document have certainly done their homework and have referred to and quoted from Irish politicians - some members of the current administration, who expressed difficulties with the proposal to introduce the practice, including Michael Noonan, present Minister for Finance, then Minister for Health who defended the then government's decision not to introduce mandatory reporting. 

This is devastating for the present government: for it reveals that as they now condemn the Vatican for reservations about mandatory reporting back in 1997, at that time, when they (Fine Gael, Labour and Democatic Left  - members of whom are now in Labour) were in government from the 15th December 1994 to 26th June 1997, they had similar reservations and took the decision not to introduce it.  This is deeply embarrassing for the government, but also for the Irish state - they have been caught out and exposed us the citizens to international ridicule!  Other governments will be reading this document and they will come to their own conclusion about the ability of those who are running our country, and given that we now rely on foreign aid to prop up our economy, the situation our Taoiseach and government have put us in is very worrying.  Let's hope the paymaster general of Europe, on whom we rely most heavily - Germany, does not take offence at Kenny's careless and unfounded allegations against their Pope.

The Holy See's response also clarifies the quotation from Pope Benedict used by the Taoiseach in his attack, putting it in its proper context - politicians should be careful when they quote both Scripture and Church documents, not being theologians, they are liable to slips in understanding.

That's all I have time for.  We await the government's response.  I noted last night on the 9 o'clock news the RTE was very subdued.  In his report from Rome Paul Cunningham spoke of the possibility of a "thaw" in relations between the government and the Holy See.  There was no interview with a victim which is usually the norm - they spoke briefly to the leader of one victims's group and referred to another.  Joe Little, the religious affairs correspondent, who never misses a chance to bash the Church, was very quiet and circumspect in his commentary.  And the newscaster moved on quickly to another item, no beating the story to death.  I think we can come to certain conclusions about that.

When all this over, I hope we can eventually get back to looking after the victims and then a make a firm commitment to rooting out child abuse not only from the Church, but also from Irish society.  The government can start by setting up an inquiry to find out why 200 children have died in State care in the last ten years, and others have gone missing - gone without a trace.  This fact has been, for the most part, swept under the carpet.  If they died or gone missing in Church care we would never hear the end of it, but since these children were in state care, just silence.....

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Vatican Response To "Cloyne Report"

The Vatican has released its report in response to the Cloyne Report and the accusations of Enda Kenny in the Dail.  Caroline over at the St Genesius blog has the text in full.  Or read it here on the Vatican website.  There is a good summary from the Vatican new service.  The Irish media are revving up to launch its attack.  We await a response from the Taoiseach, who will not be pleased. We also await a response from our bishops.

In summary, a quick digest of the summary:

On the Cloyne Report:
"The Holy See wishes to state at the outset its profound abhorrence for the crimes of sexual abuse which took place in that Diocese and is sorry and ashamed for the terrible sufferings which the victims of abuse and their families have had to endure within the Church of Jesus Christ, a place where this should never happen. It is very concerned at the findings of the Commission concerning grave failures in the ecclesiastical governance of the Diocese and the mishandling of allegations of abuse. It is particularly disturbing that these failures occurred despite the undertaking given by the Bishops and Religious Superiors to apply the guidelines developed by the Church in Ireland to help ensure child protection and despite the Holy See’s norms and procedures relating to cases of sexual abuse. However, the approach taken by the Church in Ireland in recent times to the problem of child sexual abuse is benefitting from ongoing experience and proving more and more effective in preventing the recurrence of these crimes and in dealing with cases as they arise."

On the infamous letter sent to the bishops:
"The Holy See’s Response addresses in detail the various charges made against it, which seem to be based primarily on the Cloyne Report’s account and assessment of the letter addressed to the Irish Bishops on 31 January 1997 by the then Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Luciano Storero, concerning the response of the Congregation for the Clergy to the document Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response (the Framework Document). The Commission of Inquiry asserts that this response gave comfort to those who dissented from the stated official Church policy and was unsupportive especially in relation to reporting to the civil authorities.

The Holy See wishes to state the following in relation to the response of the Congregation for the Clergy:

The Congregation described the Framework Document as a “study document” on the basis of information provided by the Irish Bishops, who described the text not as an official document of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, but, rather, as a “report” of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by Priests and Religious, recommended “to individual dioceses and congregations as a framework for addressing the issue of child sexual abuse.”

The Irish Bishops never sought the recognitio of the Holy See for the Framework Document, which, in accordance with canon 455 of the Code of Canon Law, would have been required only if they intended it to be a general decree of the Conference binding on all its members. However, the lack of recognitio itself did not preclude the application of the document’s guidelines, since individual Bishops could adopt them without having to refer to the Holy See. This is, in fact, what generally happened in Ireland.

The Irish Bishops consulted the Congregation to resolve difficulties relating to some of the content of the Framework Document. The Congregation offered advice to the Bishops with a view to ensuring that the measures which they intended to apply would prove effective and unproblematic from a canonical perspective. For this reason, the Congregation drew attention to the requirement that these measures should be in harmony with canonical procedures in order to avoid conflicts that could give rise to successful appeals in Church tribunals. The Congregation did not reject the Framework Document. Rather, it wanted to ensure that the measures contained in the Framework Document would not undermine the Bishops’ efforts to discipline those guilty of child abuse in the Church. At the same time, it is important to bear in mind the decision of the Holy See in 1994 to grant special provisions to the Bishops of the United States to deal with child sexual abuse in the Church. These provisions were extended to the Bishops of Ireland in 1996 to assist them to overcome difficulties that they were experiencing at that time (cf. Part Six of the Response).

Meeting canonical requirements to ensure the correct administration of justice within the Church in no way precluded cooperation with the civil authorities. The Congregation for the Clergy did express reservations about mandatory reporting, but it did not forbid the Irish Bishops from reporting accusations of child sexual abuse nor did it encourage them to flout Irish law. In this regard, the then Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, in his meeting with the Irish Bishops at Rosses Point, County Sligo (Ireland), on 12 November 1998 unequivocally stated: “I also wish to say with great clarity that the Church, especially through its Pastors (Bishops), should not in any way put an obstacle in the legitimate path of civil justice, when such is initiated by those who have such rights, while at the same time, she should move forward with her own canonical procedures, in truth, justice and charity towards all.” It should be noted that, at the time, not only the Church but also the Irish State was engaged in efforts to improve its own legislation on child sexual abuse. To this end, the Irish Government organized an extensive consultation on mandatory reporting in 1996 and, after taking into account the reservations expressed by various professional groups and individuals in civil society – views broadly in line with those expressed by the Congregation – it decided not to introduce mandatory reporting into the Irish legal system. Given that the Irish Government of the day decided not to legislate on the matter, it is difficult to see how Archbishop Storero’s letter to the Irish Bishops, which was issued subsequently, could possibly be construed as having somehow subverted Irish law or undermined the Irish State in its efforts to deal with the problem in question."

On Enda Kenny's accusations:
"While the Holy See understands and shares the depth of public anger and frustration at the findings of the Cloyne Report, which found expression in the speech made by the Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny, in Dáil Éireann on 20 July 2011, it has significant reservations about some aspects of the speech. In particular, the accusation that the Holy See attempted “to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago” is unfounded. Indeed, when asked, a Government spokesperson clarified that Mr Kenny was not referring to any specific incident.

In fact, accusations of interference by the Holy See are belied by the many Reports cited as the basis for such criticisms. Those Reports – lauded for their exhaustive investigation of sexual abuse and the way it was managed – contain no evidence that the Holy See meddled in the internal affairs of the Irish State or was involved in the day-to-day management of Irish dioceses or religious congregations with respect to sexual abuse issues. Indeed, what is impressive about these Reports, and the vast information that they rely upon, is that there is no support for these accusations.

In this regard, the Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne. Furthermore, at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede the civil authority in the exercise of its duties."
Concluding remarks:
"The publication of the Cloyne Report marks a further stage in the long and difficult path of ascertaining the truth, of penance and purification, and of healing and renewal of the Church in Ireland. The Holy See does not consider itself extraneous to this process but shares in it in a spirit of solidarity and commitment.

In a spirit of humility, the Holy See, while rejecting unfounded accusations, welcomes all objective and helpful observations and suggestions to combat with determination the appalling crime of sexual abuse of minors. The Holy See wishes to state once again that it shares the deep concern and anxiety expressed by the Irish authorities, by Irish citizens in general and by the Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful of Ireland with regard to the criminal and sinful acts of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy and religious. It also recognizes the understandable anger, disappointment and sense of betrayal of those affected – particularly the victims and their families – by these vile and deplorable acts and by the way in which they were sometimes handled by Church authorities, and for all of this it wishes to reiterate its sorrow for what happened. It is confident that the measures which the Church has introduced in recent years at a universal level, as well as in Ireland, will prove more effective in preventing the recurrence of these acts and contribute to the healing of those who suffered abuse and to the restoration of mutual confidence and collaboration between Church and State authorities, which is essential for the effective combating of the scourge of abuse. Naturally, the Holy See is well aware that the painful situation to which the episodes of abuse have given rise cannot be resolved swiftly or easily, and that although much progress has been made, much remains to be done.

Since the early days of the Irish State and especially since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1929, the Holy See has always respected Ireland’s sovereignty, has maintained cordial and friendly relations with the country and its authorities, has frequently expressed its admiration for the exceptional contribution of Irish men and women to the Church’s mission and to the betterment of peoples throughout the world, and has been unfailing in its support of all efforts to promote peace on the island during the recent troubled decades. Consistent with this attitude, the Holy See wishes to reaffirm its commitment to constructive dialogue and cooperation with the Irish Government, naturally on the basis of mutual respect, so that all institutions, whether public or private, religious or secular, may work together to ensure that the Church and, indeed, society in general will always be safe for children and young people."
This is what many of us expected.  I imagine the government will be furious that the Vatican should reject the accusations made by the Taoiseach and also the interpretation Judge Yvonne Murphy, the government and the media have put on the letter.  As I said before this letter was a warning to the bishops to follow the correct course of action with regard to Canon Law so abusers could not appeal to Rome and get off on a technicality.  It is also rich of the government to take offence at the Vatican's hesitation to support mandatory reporting when the government at the time shied away from it because of lack of support, while various organisations and professions, chief among them the legal and counselling professions and social workers, share the Vatican's concerns with regard to mandatory reporting, ironically for many of the same reasons. 

UPDATE:  While the Taoiseach is off studying the Vatican's reponse, we may have indication of how the government will respond thanks to the initial reactions of Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, leader of the Labour Party.  He seems to dimiss the report by calling it "legalistic and technical".  I presume as keeping the coalition together will be foremost in his mind, perhaps the Taoiseach will take the same line.  He has already made it clear that he neither rejects nor withdraws his accusations made against the person of the Holy Father and the Vatican.

UPDATE 2:  Eamon Gilmore on RTE news has toned down his reaction.  Seems someone must have had a chat with him.  The Taoiseach looked shell shocked on the news - he won't comment.  Interestingly, he was attending a Mass at the Curragh Army Camp when the report came out.  Ironic.

UPDATE 3Good article and summary by Gerard O'Connell on Vatican Insider; worth reading.  Archbishop Martin's response here; he hopes the Vatican's report will help heal the diplomatic rift.  I hear from my sources and people in diplomatic circles that there is a view among many that Ireland has done herself a lot of damage diplomatically thanks to Enda Kenny's attack.  I am told that other countries seem be "very surprised", at the very least, at the lack of professionalism and diplomatic ability demonstrated in the Taoiseach's Dail outburst.  The Vatican's clear explanation of its position in this response will be carefully noted by other countries, as will the government's response.