Sunday, July 31, 2016


Click on any image for a larger version

As the no-particular anniversary (137th) of the Knock apparitions approaches I checked out the Knock Shrine website and my head immediately began to spin.

It initially spun back to 16 July last and then beyond to 2012, the year of the International Eucharistic Congress's visit to Ireland.

Those who follow these things will know that the Congress's previous visit to Ireland in 1932 was, for a variety of reasons, a mega-emanation of Roman Catholic triumphalism.

Much was supposed to have changed in the meantime, though we hadn't quite reached the same-sex marriage stage in 2012. But there was a fear that a church which had just gone through the major trauma of widespread clerical child sex abuse, and from which members were leeching, would be tempted to put on a big show of Ecclesia Reformata but with all the bells and whistles instead of the required atmosphere of repentance and humility.

In fact Fr. Tony Flannery had suggested that the event should be one of sackcloth and ashes in place of the usual ceremonial dress up occasion.

But nobody paid a blind bit of attention to him and an extensive wardrobe of first class gear was commissioned for the occasion.

Fast forward to July of this year and the 40th anniversary re-dedication of the Knock basilica and more top class gear appeared. Knock, as I understand it, has its own extensive wardrobe to tog out visiting clergy of one sort or another. But that's another story. And, anyway, this stuff was probably bespoke.

Between the new holy mosaic and the energy expended by Cardinal O'Malley you'd think they were expecting the second coming on the spot.

Archbishop Neary had to be there. It is, after all, his diocese. But what about the Nuncio and Archbishop Martin. It almost reminds me of a Bulgarian joke which, unfortunately, I am not now allowed to repeat in these PC times.

Knock is one of Charlie Brown's favourite stomping grounds - he is convinced that a little more faith from the peasants will sort out all the church's problems and Knock in the past has given him a platform for his simplistic ramblings. Archbishop Martin has come along either to keep an eye on Charlie or possibly enlist the Nuncio's support for the next stage of his career.

Anyway, we're slowly working our way up to this year's anniversary of the apparitions and chances are that the culmination of what is now a week long event will again see first class gear produced for "the coming of the Lord", except of course, in this case it is his holy mother who is the real star of the show.

There was a politico religious joke doing the rounds in the 1980s which might cast some doubt on the Virgin's original appearance. One way or another, were she to turn up this year, it could turn out to be a second coming.

Thanks to Knock Shrine for the photos

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Logo of the Year of Mercy
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We have had the Holy Year (many), the Marian Year, the Year of Evangelisation, and now the Year of Mercy.

So what is it all about?

One element is supposed to be a return to (or a wake for?) Vatican II, but I don't see much sign of that in the list of activities for the year. On the whole, these seem to consist of a load of ceremonials, decentralisation of the power to forgive reserved sins and a liberal dishing out of the divine currency of indulgences.

Pio & Mandic

Among the ceremonials is the ghoulish bringing of the bodies of Padre Pio and Leopold Mandic to Rome for public display and veneration.

Incidentally, those two bodies seem to be in reasonable shape, which reminds me. Was it not the case in the past that one test of a claim to sainthood was that the body did not decompose as it does for most mortals? Perhaps it's time for a holy audit in this department. No doubt this holy habeas corpus would result in at least a few vacancies for aspiring candidates, though some of these would no doubt have to be abandoned on this criterion. What price Matt Talbot and Edel Quinn then?

Tony Flannery has commented that he didn't see any movement in this merciful year in the case of the "silenced" priests, of whom he is one. Now that's an interesting point and possibly a litmus test of the limits of mercy when it comes to doctrine.

I would argue that the concept of mercy is totally inappropriate to these cases. It is too much like being properly convicted of a crime and then getting a pardon during some sort of amnesty. These men (and women?) have not committed a crime. They have been unfairly convicted by a medieval and unaccountable court and the convictions should be overturned.

They were punished for taking Vatican II at face value and refusing to be complicit in the picking at the carcass by the vultures and hyenas in the CDF (Inquisition to you). They should be reinstated as of right and with a (signed!) apology from the CDF (countersigned by Francis).

Some people will point to what they see as movement on this front in the lifting of certain restrictions on Hans Küng and Seán Fagan. These concessions only prove that the CDF/Vatican may have learned a little from the 1916 executions. They don't want these two old men to become martyrs in the cause of progress. When it comes to potential martyrs there are sufficient sycophants around chomping at the bit.

Anyway, to get back to the "silenced". The Vatican does not seem to be prepared to reinstate them to full functionality even in a woefully inadequate "act of mercy".

You wish

Wiki: The Year of Mercy

New Vatican Year of Mercy Website

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Brian Merriman

Click on any image for a larger version

In my schooldays most pupils would have recognised the six lines below from the Irish language poetry course. An eloquently expressed pastoral scene in keeping the rural traditions of the Irish language.

The Irish language version is from Brian Merriman's original epic, Cúirt an Mheán Oíche, and the English version is a relatively free translation, The Midnight Court, by David Marcus.

As these six lines were virtually the only part of the poem we encountered, we thought of Merriman as a purely pastoral poet.

How utterly wrong we were.

Little did we realise that the rest of the poem was a diatribe against priestly, and other male, celibacy and an appeal to all recalcitrant males to let their hair down and satisfy the multitude of maidens queueing up to share their most intimate urges with these fine strapping examples of Irish manhood.

Can you imagine the Christian Brothers trying to take a class of sexually curious young lads through the lines below in my schooldays in the 1950s.

Never mind the lads, the brothers would have had to go straight into therapy after the class.

I was reminded of all this today when I read an interview with Paul Mason, economics editor at Channel 4 TV, in the course of which he recounted the story below, with which story I'll leave you.

Monday, June 8, 2015


Snow White from the Fallen Princesses collection
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I have referred to the Catholic newspaper ALIVE on a number of occasions, most recently in relation to Fr. Brian McKevitt's Page One Girls.

Well, the good Father should probably have stuck to his Page One Girls as he has apparently overreached himself in the most recent (June 2015) issue.

He has chosen for his Page One picture an illustration of Snow White (above) from Dina Goldstein's collection of Fallen Princesses. McKevitt's text in the bottom right hand corner of the picture reads: They no longer "live happily ever after" ... Being the child of parents with no faith is tough ... see page 7.

The text on page 7

The text on page 7 recaps on the theme of the collection which illustrates the not so happily ever after living of some of the fairy tale heroines.

McKevitt wonders whether Goldsteins "raging against the "happily ever after motif" is directed against the Christian message of hope in the fairy stories or against the culture of despair which has infiltrated both society and her own life.

In his view God has created us to "live happily ever after"; the fairy stories are an illustration of this; and Catholic parents do their children a grave injustice by not handing on the faith and Christian hope to them.

Dina Goldstein's take on the matter
as reported in The Irish Examiner

However he forgot to check all this out with Ms. Goldstein herself and when the issue was brought to her attention she was very upset.

She hired an Attorney to file a formal complaint with the good Father objecting to his use of her illustration and to the conclusions he was drawing from it, asking ALIVE to pulp what they had in their possession, and to pay punitive damages.

This all threw the good Father into a tailspin. He immediately removed the link to the online version of the issue from the website and substituted the cover of the previous issue on the home page.

The offending issue was removed from the website

Then, when it finally struck him that the online PDF version of the paper itself was still available on the website, he removed that too.

So it's all to play for. Will Ms. Goldstein pursue the good Father to the bitter end? Will the redtop end up dead or ALIVE? Will the Dominican Mother House in Tallaght be dragged into the controversy?

Stay tuned.

Update 12/4/2016

There I was, listening to Joe, when who popped up but Fr. Brian McKevitt defending his crusade for a return to pre-Vatican II Catholicism and challenging all comers to find a single word out of place in ALIVE, which it still is, by the way.

It reminded me of the incident above and I wondered if anything further had happened. So I took to Twitter, found Dina Goldstein's original tweet of last June and wondered if anything had happened since the above post. You can see the result below.

Click on image for a larger version

I must say I was a bit surprised to get a reply from the lady herself. More power to her. It is clear she has more to do in this life than pursue this deluded priest any further having scared the bejasus out of him last year.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Public Square

Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh
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Another in the excellent Patrick Finn Lecture Series in St. Mary's in Haddington Road. This time the title was "The Church in the Irish Public Square". It was a pretty provocative title and the talk certainly lived up to it.

The speaker was Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh and he didn't waste any time putting it up to his audience. He kicked off by deploring the way the media, in response to commercial pressures, were effectively dumbing down content to mere soundbytes and thus depriving us of the possibility of any sort of subtle conversations in that forum. And when it came to social media the content became more aggressive and nasty.

So far so good. But if you thought this was going to develop into a rant about how the media are not paying due attention to the teaching and views of the church you were in for a shock.

The church, he said, had no God given right to be heard in the Irish public square. It had to earn that right by putting its views in a way that appealed to both reason and emotion and it had to do this with more than a pinch of passion.

The days of preaching at civil society from the pulpit were gone. The case had to be argued in terms of the common good and, perish the thought, the church had to listen respectfully to the views of others and, in the heel of the hunt, be prepared to change its own views where the argument could not be sustained.

That is not to say that the ramblings of every idiot out there had to be given the same weight as reasoned and considered views. There had to be some element of discrimination as well and this was unfortunately lacking in much of current media coverage.

Pointing out that the Christian traditions agreed on more that they disputed, he felt there was a lot to be said in them coordinating their views in advance when it came to presenting them in the public square. He mentioned a recent presentation he did, along with RC Archbishop Eamon Martin, on the Flesh and Blood campaign. This was about organ and blood donation and it didn't get a lot of media coverage. He figured that if the two Archbishops had instead ended up with fisticuffs the coverage would have been extensive, as the media thrive on confrontation but find the good news lacking in appeal.

The above is only a small part of what the Archbishop had to say and it is in my own paraphrasing. His presentation was compelling and well crafted and the content was inspiring. Definitely one of the highlights of this already excellent lecture series.

Hopefully, the text will appear soon in an issue of Doctrine and Life and you will be able to judge for yourself.

Souvenir poster

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Bishop Doran (right) with Papal Nuncio, Charlie Brown
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This morning I heard a landmark piece of radio.

Newly appointed bishop Kevin Doran was out batting for the Roman Catholic Church on the upcoming referendum on gay marriage.

As far as I am concerned, he put up as good a defence of the church's position as could be expected in all the circumstances. There were two problems though.

In the first place he was operating out of a defective brief, i.e. the church's official position on homosexuality and on the necessity for a marriage to be open to procreation, or according to some exponents, for that to be the aim of marriage. The church is on a sticky wicket in both these areas and it is hard to entirely blame the counsel for the defence if his brief is not up to scratch.

In the second place, Bishop Doran, seems to have approached this interview with a certain amount of hubris, no doubt carried over from his successful organisation of the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress. He started out confidently expounding the church's position but then got drawn into asserting that this position was not a purely religious one but was arrived at on the basis of consideration for human rights and the common good. This was in response to it being put to him that the referendum pertained purely to civil marriage and would still leave the church to manage its own sacramental marriage as it pleased.

He went on to say that he had nothing against homosexuals per se but that sexual activity should only be embarked on in the married state, which state he did not think should be permitted to them. Permanent enforced celibacy then (orthodox church line).

He also went on about same sex couples who had children not being parents. In this he seemed to be ignoring that at least one of the couple could be a child's biological parent and in the same breath he insulted all adoptive parents in the land.

In his chapter on nature versus nurture, he made the cardinal (pun intended) error of introducing Down Syndrome babies, insulting another segment of the population and their families. In fact he seemed a little vague, if not contradictory, on the extent to which his God intervened in human affairs. He certainly succeeded in giving the impression that God did not intend gays to be gay. The Good Lord must have been nodding then, and not for the first time either.

His coup de grace was to remind his audience that if the referendum was passed the church would have to reconsider its present dual role where it both celebrated the sacrament and also performed the function of civil registrar. I'm not sure if this threat was supposed to scare the shit out of the electorate or the government. In any event, he adduced a subtle justification for this: the church could not sign up to civil gay marriage; passing the referendum would change the nature of civil marriage for all; so the church could no longer collaborate in this travesty.

It struck me that this should not be relevant as the dual role only arose in the case of a church marriage and there was no way the church was going to facilitate a gay marriage in church. So those seeking a civil gay marriage would have to go direct to the civil authorities anyway. Perhaps he was looking further ahead and envisaging a case where the church, in refusing a religious gay marriage, could be brought before the courts in its civil registrar persona and accused of discrimination. I haven't quite worked that one through but it is an interesting thought.

There is, of course, something that the church may not have considered and it is this. If the church were to refuse to civilly register heterosexual marriages, not only would it cause huge inconvenience to those marrying in church who would have to arrange an additional civil procedure, but it would sever the bond between the church and civil marriage for all.

Now it is up to the church itself how it evaluates this, but it seems to me that if people have to have two procedures they might just drop the church one. Not my call.

Anyway, my feeling is that this was a bad outing (pun intended) for the bishop. He was clearly flustered and at the pin of his (roman) collar trying to sound sensible.

I don't think he approached this interview in the right frame of mind. He wasn't in his pulpit here and he was clearly not prepared for an interviewer of the calibre of Chris Donoghue.

Chris Donoghue

I came across Chris way back when he was standing in for "the idiot", Marc Coleman. Chris was miles better and it was no surprise when he subsequently turned up on the flagship breakfast programme. He studies his brief, asks the hard questions and will not be put off by fluffy answers from saints or sinners. He certainly played a blinder in the interview with the bishop. Pure radio at its best.

You really should listen to the full interview, at the bottom of the page here. It would also be worth listening to Colm O'Gorman's take on the interview, further up the same page.

Brendan Hoban had already dealt with this issue in a very well written post on the website of the Association of Catholic Priests. Iggy O'Donovan has explained to Newstalk that he will be voting YES as a citizen of the Republic. Tony Flannery has tweeted that he will be voting YES and he has taken Bishop Doran and others to task on his blog.
[Update 5/6/2015

Just a wee word of caution. I have praised Chris O'Donoghue above. I just hope he doesn't lose the run of himself like our friend from Dalkey.

I was a bit put out listening to his interviews during the referendum campaign with Nuala O'Loan and David Quinn. His tone was bullying and it really wasn't good enough to just keep insisting that what was at stake was simply a seven word addition to the Constitution without allowing all its implications to be teased out.

I'd hate it if he turned into one of those shock jocks. Waste of a good talent.]

Update 13/4/2015

Just to repeat what I said above. The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is threatening to stop the solemnising of civil marriages if the referendum on same sex marriage is carried. At present, a couple getting married in a church sign the register in the church vestry after the ceremony. This is actually the civil register and the priest is a registered civil solemniser so no further action is required to register the marriage with the civil authorities. This has been the case for yonks.

The RCC is now arguing that if the referendum is carried this will change the nature of marriage into something to which the church cannot subscribe. It is therefore threatening to withdraw the current facility from all marriages (ie heterosexual marriages because that is all they do anyway). There are other angles which I mentioned above but so far they have not been advanced by the RCC. Just this one.

On the face of it, you can sort of see where they are coming from. Or so I thought until today, until I heard Judge Kevin Cross (of the High Court and Chair of the Referendum Commission) incidentally blowing that objection out of the water.

He simply pointed out that, since the introduction of divorce, the civil and church versions of marriage have not been the same anyway. [For the avoidance of doubt I should clarify that this is all the judge did - pointed out the existing difference. The teasing out of the implications of this below is all my own.]

So why, I ask myself, is the RCC only now discovering this when it's same sex marriage that's involved. A marriage which is entered into while allowing the possibility of divorce is not the same as the sacramental marriage entered into in the church sanctuary.

And that got me thinking further that there has always been a difference, albeit in the other direction, so to speak.

Before the introduction of divorce the Irish civil marriage was indissoluble. Not so the church marriage. That could be annulled under certain circumstances (unsound mind, deficient consent etc.). In the absence of holy divorce the concept of annullment has been extended ad absurdam and it had also become an avenue of pseudo divorce for the rich and famous. Still, all the while, the church solemnised civil marriages which were at variance, in one way or another, with church teaching.

So, if the RCC is only waking up to all this when same sex marriage comes along would it not be fair to say that people have a good case against it on discrimination grounds if the RCC now suddenly decides to withdraw a service it has been providing since time immemorial (well, the memory of many generations)?

The prosecution rests.

There is a good Q&A here, or if you get bounced by the paywall, here.

Update 15/4/2015

I understand from a colleague that, despite the introduction of same sex marriage in England and Wales early last year, RC priests there have continued to act as civil solemnisers of heterosexual marriages. The RC tradition in those countries has been as a minority one and they are probably more used to compromising with the state there.

As far as I'm concerned, this simply exposes the arrogance and emptiness of the Irish hierarchy's threat here. When will they ever learn. [Expletives deleted]

Update 2/6/2015

Just heard Archbishop Eamon Martin being interviewed by Seán Ó Rourke. I don't think they are going to carry out their threat. Eamon seemed to think they hadn't made one at all, though, of course, the matter falls to be considered by the bishops.

I hadn't heard him before - very plausable, but I don't think he's in the doctrinal change department.

Update 11/6/2015

I now see that the bishops have no intention of withdrawing solemnisers and it is clear that this was an empty threat that didn't work. Archbishop Eamon is still going on with his line of "Threat? What threat? Show me the word threat." What a crowd.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hell & High Water

John Horgan
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John Horgan treated us to another talk in the Patrick Flynn Lecture Series on last Thursday evening (19/2/2015). His theme was the church and the media with particular reference to the Furrow magazine under the editorship of its founder Canon J G McGarry. His chosen title was "Between Hell and High Water" which well reflects that turbulent period and the delicate path navigated by a progressive priest operating in the hinterland of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid.

The sub-title for the talk was "the Furrow and its context 1950-1977". This period began with Canon McGarry's founding of The Furrow and ended with his death in a motor accident. Horgan's description of the Canon:
McGarry himself could have passed, at first glance, for a run-of-the-mill rural parish priest. But behind a craggy exterior, which could well have fitted into a vacant slot on Mount Rushmore, there lurked a keen intelligence, a highly developed sense of strategy, a gift for language, and an utterly authentic humility which operated, at times, to surprise and even disarm his critics.
I am only too aware of the oppressiveness of this period, and particularly the earlier part of it. In his book "The Irish and Catholic Power", Paul Blanshard documents the extent to which the Roman Catholic Church dictated to the State, and, of course, within the church itself that dictatorship was absolute. In that regard, I was interested to hear Horgan mention the three bêtes noirs bishops of my day. John Charles McQuaid, the conservative control freak who used his excellent organisational skills to capture for the church the civil organisation of his diocese, and to some extent that of the whole country. Then there was Connie Lucey, the gatekeeper, who ensured the highest level of theological orthodoxy imaginable. And finally Michael Browne, former Professor of Moral Theology in Maynooth and subsequently Bishop of Galway, from where he succeeded in annoying the nation. He wasn't known as Cross Michael for nothing.

I was also interested to hear Horgan mention, among others, the progressive theologian Gregory Baum, who had to skirt the Dublin diocese on his visit to this country in the sixties. I mentioned most of these people myself when I was guest speaker at UCD's L&H at a time when there was still some hope that the Vatican Council was opening up the Roman Catholic Church and allowing it to catch up on some four hundred years of missed opportunities.

In those days material published under church auspices or by clerics had to be vetted by church censors. The Nihil Obstat was the first step and the process culminated with an Imprimatur. The Furrow carried such stamps of ecclesiastical vetting and permissions up to 1976 when, having consulted the editors of other similar publications, McGarry just dropped the practice, thus declaring, albeit sotto voce, The Furrow's independence. Mind you, I was never impressed with those labels after I saw them on a ridiculous novena to St. Joseph.

McGarry effectively got away with murder in the context of his time. When Horgan asked him how he managed to do this, his answer was: "the thing is you can say almost anything you want as long as you say it with style".

Canon J G McGarry presents the President's Birthday gift
of £100 to Mrs. Bridget Maughan, Lisbane,
on the occasion of her 100th birthday.
(Photo: by courtesy of the McGuire family
Source: Annagh Magazine, Christmas 1978)

McGarry left Maynooth in 1969 to become parish priest of Ballyhaunis (my own father's birthplace) where he was held in high regard for his pastoral care of, and his respect for his parishioners. An appreciation, written by Aine McEvoy in 1978, on the first anniversary of his death, is replete with tributes from sorrowing and grateful parishioners, particularly the old and the infirm. And the thing that comes across most in them is McGarry's caring and his genuine humility.

These tributes reminded me of those that poured in for Fr. Tony Flannery when the Vatican's Inquisition (CDF to you) silenced him. I wondered if the two men might have a lot in common.

Felix Larkin

John Horgan was introduced by Felix Larkin. Felix is co-editor of a recently published book "Periodicals and Journalism in Twentieth Century Ireland - Writing Against the Grain" to which Horgan has contributed a well crafted essay on "The Furrow: navigating the rapids, 1950-77". The essay details a number of McGarry's run ins with the hierarchy, but interestingly enough, a lot of the efforts at censoring The Furrow's clerical contributors came from those contributors' own superiors. Horgan touched on a number of these in his talk.

Both the essay and the talk are a massive tribute to McGarry, a giant of his times, but a man who doesn't even have a Wikipedia page.

Souvenir poster

An appreciation by Louis McRedmond August 1977 2nd item on page.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tony's Tribulations

Tony Flannery
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It's a while now since I mentioned Tony Flannery and no doubt people are wondering how he is bearing up under CDF abuse.

For those who have not been following the story, Fr. Tony was taken to task for his views on a variety of, relatively minor, issues by the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Holy Office and before that The Inquisition). These concerned, inter alia, homosexuality, the origins of the priesthood and possible ordination of women. Not exactly earth shattering, but I suspect there were some other trickier issues such as the Real Presence, hovering in the background.

Anyway Fr. Tony came up with a statement with seemed agreeable to the CDF and all was set for a kiss and make-up when the head of the CDF, Cardinal Levada, retired and was replaced by the hard line German, Cardinal Mueller. Fr. Tony was now expected to sign a blank cheque, as it were, swearing allegiance to the teaching of the Church as presently construed and in all its minutiae. He baulked at that, was not supported by his Order, the Redemptorists (REDS), and has been out of ministry and supposedly silenced ever since. There was some hope of a compromise when Pope Francis acceded to the throne of Peter but he is a festina lente man, quite cautious in practice, and currently in the throes of a civil war within the Vatican administration.

Latest vibes from the CDF and the REDS are that Fr. Tony now faces a choice between unconditional surrender or spending the rest of his life out of ministry and probably having to find another way to earn his living at the age of 68. And that's where we're at today.

While he has had to put up with a lot of sniping, including an imposter trying to undermine him on Twitter, Fr. Tony has said that, despite all the difficulties, his recent period of "exile" has been a fruitful one. He has got a lot of support from those, including colleagues, who know in their heart and soul that the Church will have to change if it is to have any meaningful future. He was one of the founders of the Association of Catholic Priests. He has published a book detailing his position and his appalling treatment by the Vatican (CDF). He has just come back from a speaking tour in America which has deepened his understanding of the reform movement.

And he has tweeted his two most recent radio interviews. The first of these was on an American faith station, where a very capable interviewer put him through his paces. This was immediately followed by an interview with a young traditional whippersnapper of a Dominican, who was also put through his paces, but who, in my view, came immeasurably worse out of it. [Tony is 2mins 40secs in and Thomas Petri is 19mins 11secs into the broadcast]. The second of these interviews was with Áine Lawlor on RTÉ radio this morning[9mins 18secs into broadcast]. It was a sympathetic interview which would make your blood boil and your heart cry at the same time.

When the American radio station tweeted a link to their programme the whippersnapper shot back:

On reading Fr. Tony's reply, the whippersnapper immediately deleted his own tweet. Unfortunately for him I had taken a screen shot (above). Otherwise it would not have been clear what Fr. Tony was replying to. He then replied to Fr. Tony (below):

I took him to task for deleting his original tweet (above) and he accepted that he had been thinking of the wrong priest, this one, rather than Fr. Tony. Really sloppy stuff from a Dominican academic.

Anyway, the big question now for Fr. Tony is: does he follow his conscience or buckle. Unfortunately, in an ideal world, or one in the spirit of Jesus, he would not have to face this dilemma. Pre-Vatican II questioners were silenced etc. but were brought back into the Council as periti. People had then thought that the Church would henceforth be able to accommodate questioning or even dissent as it trod the path less traveled into the future. However the old ways reasserted themselves and the big stick has been persistently waved ever since.

The traditional Church attitude to conscience was that you were obliged to follow your informed conscience, and that following this informed conscience took precedence over everything else, including the teaching of the Church. Pope Benedict, in his younger days, taught this.

Even if we accept this view there remain two issues: (i) what exactly is an informed conscience, and (ii) if you have one which is in conflict with the perceived teaching of the Church, are you obliged to follow it out of the Church.

The American whippersnapper, and Fr. Vincent Twomey of this parish, take the view that the proof of an informed conscience is that it leads to an endorsement of existing Church teaching. The Church can never be wrong, therefore any conscience which is in conflict with it is not sufficiently informed. So that part of the problem is defined away. Then if your conscience is in conflict with the Church, you either change your conscience or get out. QED.

+John (Charles), +Connie (Lucey) & +Michael (Browne) are surely locked in a St. Valentine's Day embrace in Heaven (or wherever they are) at that one. You will have noticed that this line of reasoning precludes any change in, or evolution of, Church doctrine initiated from within the Church itself.

Fr. Petri's Twitter banner

Although I had never heard of him before today, I was trying to figure the whippersnapper out. I sense a bit of insecurity there. He is pompous in his presentation, soaks up adulation and has a bevvy of uniformed nuns, listening to him expostulating on the annunciation, in his Twitter banner. Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mr. Oppornockity

Vincent Twomey, SVD

Vincent Twomey has already given us his definition of the informed conscience. It is not one I agree with but it is in keeping with the teachings of the old régime and it has a very fine punch line in: the Church can teach no wrong.

My own feeling is that the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church has, on at least two occasions in the last half millennium, looked a gift horse in the mouth.

The first was Martin Luther, who presented the church with a real opportunity to reform itself, protect its mission, and stay in touch with the rest of humanity. Rejected. Heresy.

The second was the Modernists who attempted to rid the church of some of its most objectionable and obstructive features, such as bureaucratisation and excessive centralised control. Rejected. Heresy.

We are now in an age when many of the features of these two opportunities are re-presenting themselves and show signs of being embraced enthusiastically by the new régime.

There is, however, one big stumbling block which is not being tackled and it is one that is contributing to an enduring, scandalous and unnecessary breach within the Christian community. This is the Real Presence (of Christ in the Eucharist).

I touched on this matter myself in my paper for the 2012 Eucharistic Congress but I think the time is now ripe for a deeper and more authoritative treatment of the matter from a perhaps more sympathetic source. It is an opportunity that, if now missed, may not come again.

I think Vincent would be just the man for the job. It would give him a chance to display any qualities he might think would endear him to the new régime. But, of course, there is always the danger of reverting to form and to guard against this his output would need to be peer reviewed before seeing the light of day.

And what better peer reviewers than Frs. Seán Fagan and Tony Flannery.

Over to you Vincent.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Northside Martyr

I am familiar with the statue of Margaret Ball outside the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. I knew she was Blessed, which is almost half way to being a saint.

But it was only today, passing a spot I have passed many times, that I noticed she had a church dedicated to her. And that is not too far from where she lived (Santry versus Ballygall).

Dublin is ever full of surprises even for an aging Dub.

And those Ballygallers sure are a mixed bunch: Marian Finucane, Paddy Cosgrave, Colm Meaney and Senan Moloney, to name but a few.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Post Prandial

A recent photo of John Byrne's "Last Supper"
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Just the other day I happened to pass through Dublin's Italian quarter. I hadn't been there for a good while, and I thought I'd have another look at John Byrne's "Last Supper" mural which I had last seen on the ground in 2008.

I fully expected it to be obliterated by graffiti and was amazed to see it looking as good as new. So I investigated closer up. It is actually protected by a number of thick glass plates and I'm assuming that such graffiti as might have appeared were easily washed away.

There remained some subtle signs of interference, however. Starting with Jesus.

It appeared that someone had recently been trying to put words in his mouth. Or were the remaining bits of paper just from an ad for a cheap latte across the road?

More seriously, he had been shot in the upper arm. The glass looked really resilient, like that at the British Embassy in 1972, but it had been almost penetrated. As far as Jesus was concerned, the bullet would have passed through leaving just a flesh wound.

The apostle John, here modeled by a woman, was not so lucky. A straight shot to the heart.

And a final coup de grace, Judas, the banker, shot in the head.

And for any doubting Thomas out there, these were no mere scratches.

I put my finger in the holes.

Saint John

Gogarty according to Gordon Brewster
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Oliver St. John Gogarty was certainly a major figure on the Irish literary scene, and he is reputed to have saved some people from drowning in addition to whatever other benefits he may have conferred on the population at large through his medical ministerings.

But he was hardly a saint, though he did indirectly claim to be Jesus at one stage.

None of that stopped the pub, which carries his name in Dublin's Temple Bar, advertising themselves on Newstalk radio as the Oliver SAINT John Gogarty pub. It used to drive me mad and I actually went in to the pub (below) one day and complained. The ad has been gone a good while and I don't really claim any credit for its demise. I'm sure there were many literary heavyweights weighing in on that one. Assuming, of course that such people actually listen to Newstalk.

And come to think of it, with the recent surge in canonisations in Rome, there is no reason why Gogarty should not be included in the list. We have no reason to believe he is not in heaven making a holy nuisance of himself and he would certainly outshine some of the more recently canonised in that place.

A recent view of The Pub

Friday, October 31, 2014

Beating the Odds

Bishop Pat Storey
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Last evening saw the first talk in the current session of the excellent Patrick Finn Lecture Series in St. Mary's church, Haddington Road, Dublin. I have blogged some of the earlier talks in this series, which was started in 2006 by the then parish priest. The series was named in his honour after his death. Speakers have ranged through bishops, priests, nuns, politicians, academics and philosophers. The standard has been high and the contents no-holds-barred.

This talk was a piece of history of itself. The first mainstream female bishop on these islands talking about her life, hopes and faith in one of the most prestigious Roman Catholic churches in town.

And Bishop Pat Storey didn't disappoint. She recounted her story to a very enthusiastic audience who all clearly appreciated the significance of the occasion.

She originally wanted to be an air hostess like her glamorous aunt, but then she married Rev Earl Storey, vicar of Crinken in Bray, became an Anglican priest herself, commuting to Ballymena, and ended up ministering and living in Derry which she grew to love.

Then she got elected Bishop of Meath and, as she related it, was the only such electee to ever ask for time to consider the offer. It was a big wrench for the family. She would be moving to Maynooth with her husband and they would be leaving their, now adult, children behind in Derry. She took the job and hasn't looked back during the year since she joined "the management" of the Church of Ireland.

Almost eclipsed by the Holy Spirit

She sees herself as an ordinary person devoid of pomposity and dedicated to helping to reverse the church's decline in fortunes and fall in attendances. This is not an end in itself, but she sees it as a necessary element in bringing Jesus's message into people's lives and improving their lot.

She asks the question: why have a church at all? What does it bring to the table? Her answer goes back to basics, to the early church and even that of her own youth. Community. And that is the challenge for today's church - to foster real communities across all age groups.

She gave examples of particular programmes that have been successful in attracting new members, or bringing back lapsed members, to the church. Some of them are based on sharing activities which are not necessarily religious or spiritual as such, but they bring people together in a conducive atmosphere. Spiritual growth can then come further along the road.

The talk was followed by a vigorous Q&A session in which she was asked her views on the appeal of Islam, the training of young clerics, the need for equal participation of women in the power structures of the church, and the lack of protest by Western Christian hierarchies at the legality of burning the Bible in Malaya. Her answers were generally to the point but nonetheless diplomatic.

I was almost tempted to sponsor her for membership of the Association of Catholic Priests, but that would be a bit cheeky coming from someone who, at the age of four, had aspirations to becoming a bishop but now finds himself in the ranks of the unbelievers.

St. Mary's magnificent interior

Souvenir poster of this historic occasion

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Charlie Brown's Knock

Today is the 135th anniversary of the reported sighting of the Blessed Virgin at Knock, Co. Mayo in Ireland. A time, perhaps, to reflect a little on the role of this little village in the deep west of Ireland.

Over these 135 years Knock has had its ups and downs. It took a good while for it to become a place of pilgrimage fully recognised by the Roman Catholic Church. When I was young, the site was still a modest one but it nevertheless accommodated annual pilgrimages from parishes all over Ireland. It was our native version of Lourdes.

Then Monsignor Horan put it on the map with a new cathedral and a church with as many confessionals as there are weeks in the year. And, in case our Lady ever thought of paying a visit but might have found the overland journey a bit stressful, particularly after reading Colm Tóibín's version of her autobiography, the good Monsignor had the foresight to install a world class international airport nearby. And if she took her time coming, sure that was alright, hadn't he had a visit from a reigning Pope, John Paul II, in the meantime.

So Knock has continued to thrive and in recent times has become a springboard for the holy thoughts of the Papal Nuncio, Charlie Brown. The Nuncio, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, seems to think there is nothing wrong with the church that a few prayers won't solve, so he has no time for even the most well intentioned critics, such as the Association of Catholic Priests. They criticise, so they are negative, so they have no part to play in the holy game. They speak of eucharistic famines, of tired and burned out priests, of replacing these with married priests, or God forbid, women priests, when all that is needed is more prayer and maybe an intensification of the forty hours adoration.

When you listen to the Nuncio, you might as well be hearing Pius XII, in whose reign I grew up and with whom I am well familiar. It's all prayer and holy stuff and devotion to the Blessed Virgin even to the point of ultimate delusion. All very depressing in a world that cries out for some practical changes on the ground.

Anyway, if the Nuncio asks me for advice on how to spend this anniversary, I would say he could do worse than read Eugene Hynes's definitive tome on Knock. It might give him a deeper understanding of the place and how it acquired its present holiness, and he might then be that little bit more disposed to listen to those, including the silenced, who, as well as being holy people in their own rite, do have the interest of the church at heart.

My review of Eugene's book is here, and I'm sure there is still a copy left in Hodges Figgis if the Nuncio is up early enough and has the odd €40 to spare.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

St Catherine's

St. Catherine's Church, Meath St., Dublin 8
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On the morning of 2 January 2012, the Parish Priest of St. Catherine's, Fr Niall Coghlan, noticed a man in the church who had no shoes. So he got him a pair of shoes.

Later in the day, the man, Patrick Currie (49,) came back and burned down the church.

The interior in ruins

The PP likened the result to a scene from the London Blitz in World War Two. He said hundreds of years of history had been destroyed. The church had been built in 1857 on the site of an earlier church dating from 1782.
"The fire started at the crib. The fire brigade told me that fumes from the crib then got trapped in the upper parts of the church.

"As soon as that area received oxygen, it ignited and sent a fireball from one end of the church to the other. So the real damage is up towards the ceiling of the church.

"It's the whole church that is ruined, not just the front. We've been told it is now a dangerous building and so we can't allow parishioners in to look at it.

The stained glass window, beyond repair

One of the chief victims was the elaborate stained glass window above the main altar.

Patrick Currie, who claimed to be Jesus Christ, was arrested, charged and subsequently found guilty but insane. I had heard that he had been on his way to burn down John's Lane church when arrested, but accounts on the spot suggest that he simply stayed around to boast about his handiwork and was easily picked up by the Garda. He did claim at the time that he was on his way to Rome to burn the paedophiles. Unfortunately he never got that far.

I had heard part of this story from Kevin Costello about a year ago and was now in the Meath St. area for the first time since. So I thought I'd check out the ruin.

Beautifully restored interior

What ruin?

The interior, with the exception of the main stained glass window, has been magnificently restored. Most of the required €4m funding came out of insurance, but this was supplemented by local effort.

Fr. Coghlan again

"We did a street collection, we had a night out at the dog racing, and we had participants in the women's mini marathon. We also held raffles. And, parishioners bought a slate for the roof, each slate was €5."

"We employed people for two years in a very bleak time. The local area benefited from the fact that there were so many people working in the church."

I actually met a lady there who had bought two slates. She was not from the parish but had come over from Marino to pray in the adjacent Lourdes Grotto for success for a family member in her exams.

The Baptismal Font

Then I saw the baptismal font, and that reminded me of the rest of Kevin's story.

His niece, Imelda May, was about to have a baby, and she wanted the baby baptised in the same font as both she and her mother had been baptised in. The only problem was, that the church was then in ruins and could not be used, though the font was OK. So plans were laid to move the font to St. Catherine's sister church, John's Lane, in Thomas St. for the ceremony. I must ask Kevin how that worked out.

The Parish's Vision Statement

I'm not a great one for Mission or Vision Statements in general, but I'd definitely make an exception in this case. Not only is there a strong sense of parish and community in this area, but it has proved itself in the restoration of this church.


I gather the baptism font arrangement wasn't possible so a long family tradition came to an end.

I understand also that this is not the end of the high altar window story and that a replacement of some sort is being made up.