Monday, June 24, 2019


Once upon a time in a country accused by a former Pope of the credulity of its mothers there lived a Parish Priest.

No, not THAT Parish Priest - I am prohibited from telling that ultra-germane story by the Vatican thought police and the current tsunami of secular political correctness. I'll have to keep that one for the next life, assuming there is one and that we both end up in the same place.

Well, THIS Parish Priest had a horse, and a family in the parish had a field. The family, for whatever reason, allowed the PP to graze his horse in their field. And as Voltaire said of Candide, all was for the best in the best of possible worlds.

But then came the day when, for whatever reason, the family had to sell or cultivate the field and the news had to be broken to the Parish Priest that his horse would have to find other pastures. The PP was not pleased.

Fast forward >>>

As the granny lay dying, the family sent for the priest, as one does. The Parish Priest refused to attend, stripping viaticum at its roots. The family, fully aware of the possible implications for the granny's immortal soul, were devastated. But the PP would not budge. There was in play the unmentioned story of the horse.

Fortunately for the family, and possibly the granny as well, there was a religious order located nearby and an order priest did the needful and the good granny had company on her journey to eternity.

This is a true story. It happened in my family.

Now why would I drag up this horseshit, so to speak, at a time when the current Pope appeals for love and toleration all round and takes the scythe of tolerance to the chaff of clericalism. Surely all this holy hubris and triumphalist theology is becoming a thing of the past and it is irresponsible of me to fan the flames of anticlericalism.

Would that it were.

The Eucharist is once more being weaponised in the faction fighting within the Holy Roman Catholic and Universal church.

Refusing Communion to those straying outside the dictats of a fossilised and outmoded Magisterium is increasingly the norm. The Church, by which I mean the clerics in this case, is wielding its power because it can. No matter that this is an incredibly cruel and short sighted thing to do.

The horse is back, screaming for its grass

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Ángela Ponce
Click on any image for a larger version

I have just read the Vatican's latest tract on transgender and intersex.

Well, I read most of it. I began to run out of steam around the middle and just skimmed the rest of it.

I haven't read anything so stunningly ignorant and incendiary from the Vatican since Benedict XVI's letter on clerical sex abuse to the Irish people.

It is based on the idea that transgender/intersex is a life style choice consciously and freely opted for by the individual. This is a stunning misrepresentation of what is involved for most affected people.

Not only that but it pursues this paper tiger reductio all the way to its absurdum. Consider this extract:
challenges emerging from varying forms of an ideology that is given the general name ‘gender theory’, which “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences
Let's face it. Either we're all God's creation, and theory and doctrine needs to be developed to encompass this, or these people are effecttively criticising God for being asleep on the job.

I am reminded of my mother's Novena to St. Joseph, where some element of the mystical body had clearly been dozing during working hours.

A society without sexual differences. What in Jaysus name is that, and who's advocating it. Now, if they were discussing the Holy Trinity I could sort of understand what they thought they were at.

In fact I considered an alternative title for this post:THE GENDER OF THE SOUL but it sounded too much like the language of this rubbish Vatican document and I dumped it in favour of a more colloquial title.

Let's look at a few more bits of this execrable text.
Over the course of time, gender theory has expanded its field of application. At the beginning of the 1990’s, its focus was upon the possibility of the individual determining his or her own sexual tendencies without having to take account of the reciprocity and complementarity of male-female relationships, nor of the procreative end of sexuality. Furthermore, it was suggested that one could uphold the theory of a radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the latter. Such a goal was seen as an important stage in the evolution of humanity, in which “a society without sexual differences” could be envisaged.
I am, unfortunately, not an expert in these matters but this sounds to me like a self-serving exaggeration. Again it relies on the free choice thesis. What if I were to describe it as "discernement"? Would that make any difference?

Consider the story of Kailyn Damm. This is not a case of a lightly taken decision, but rather of heroic but misguided resistance at great personal cost. Fortunately after almost a lifetime, the penny dropped and some degree of serenity followed. And this is from a CATHOLIC website.

Are the cretins in the Curia plugged into any of this or do they just babble on, serving up the same old mixture time and again.
the separation of sex from gender. This separation is at the root of the distinctions proposed between various “sexual orienta-tions” which are no longer defined by the sexual difference between male and female, and can then assume other forms, determined solely by the individual, who is seen as radically autonomous. Further, the concept of gender is seen as dependent upon the subjective mindset of each person, who can choose a gender not corresponding to his or her biological sex, and therefore with the way others see that person (transgenderism).
And don't miss the implicit condemnation of LGBTQ+ contained in the above paragraph.

The separation of sex from gender indeed. "radically autonomous", "subjective mindset", "choose a gender etc." - what world are these people living in? You have a God-given mickey, use it. Make more babies - souls to be harvested by the Lord in due course. I grew up with this stuff. I thought they'd have grown out of it since.
What counts is the absolutely free self-determination of each individual and the choices he or she makes according to the circumstances of each relationship of affectivity.
This is the swinging gender, changes with the wind. Nothing stable here.

It strikes me as I read through it that this is an attempted defence of the Creator which just flies in the face of his creation. It is vital for this gang to show that God has nothing to do with this sex/gender dissonance. It is purely the subjective (and erroneous) creation of the individual.

Who actually wrote this stuff? I was inclined to wonder about Benedict, but it is sufficiently illiterate to rule him out. Then there is the Cardinal and the Archbishop who signed it. Useful idiots?

It reads like the shit we would have regurgitated in the diocesan exam had we the vocabulary in those conforming and repressive days of yore. It might have got you a pass in that exam but certainly in no other.

Mind you, it has also taken refuge in throwing in areas of pastoral agreement (non-discrimination, dignity of human person, etc) to give it some pretence of reasonableness.

And then it goes overboard in its listing and praise of female attributes. That might be all very well for the purpose of this particular document. But just read the two paragraphs below in the light of the church's assertion that it is not appropriate to ordain women.
A further positive development in anthropological understanding also present in writing on gender has centred on the values of femininity. For ex-ample, women’s ‘capacity for the other’ favours a more realistic and mature reading of evolving situations, so that “a sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society”. This is a contribution that enriches human relationships and spiritual values “beginning with daily relationships between people”. Because of this, society owes a significant debt to the many women “who are involved in the various areas of education extending well beyond the family: nurseries, schools, universities, social service agencies, parishes, associations and movements”.

Women have a unique understanding of reality. They possess a capacity to endure adversity and “to keep life going even in extreme situations” and hold on “tenaciously to the future”. This helps explain why “wherever the work of education is called for, we can note that women are ever ready and willing to give themselves generously to others, especially in serving the weakest and most defenceless. In this work they exhibit a kind of affective, cultural and spiritual motherhood which has inestimable value for the development of individuals and the future of society. At this point, how can I fail to mention the witness of so many Catholic women and Religious Congregations of women from every continent who have made education, particularly the education of boys and girls, their principal apostolate?”
These sound to me like an excellent recommendation for the ordination of any woman who wishes to put them forward.

I'm sort of running out of steam here and the document tends to be very repetitive when it's not introducing new outrageous material or papering over the cracks with pastoral truisms.

So I'll just leave you with a few more paragraphs, with minimum comment, to keep your blood pressure at its present level for a few moments longer.
In this understanding of things, the view of both sexuality identity and the family become subject to the same ‘liquidity’ and ‘fluidity’ that characterize other aspects of post-modern culture, often founded on nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants, or momentary desires provoked by emotional impulses and the will of the individual, as opposed to anything based on the truths of existence.
These ideas are the expression of a widespread way of thinking and acting in today’s culture that confuses “genuine freedom with the idea that each individual can act arbitrarily as if there were no truths, values and principles to provide guidance, and everything were possible and permissible”
in cases where a person’s sex is not clearly defined, it is medical professionals who can make a therapeutic intervention. In such situations, parents cannot make an arbitrary choice on the issue, let alone society. Instead, medical science should act with purely therapeutic ends, and intervene in the least invasive fashion, on the basis of objective parameters and with a view to establishing the person’s constitutive identity.
Clearly the term "therapeutic" here is intended to be a divinely loaded one.
The process of identifying sexual identity is made more difficult by the fictitious constract (sic) known as “gender neuter” or “third gender”, which has the effect of obscuring the fact that a person’s sex is a structural determinant of male or female identity. Efforts to go beyond the constitutive male-female sexual difference, such as the ideas of “intersex” or “transgender”, lead to a masculinity or feminity (sic) that is ambiguous, even though (in a self-contradictory way), these concepts themselves actually presuppose the very sexual difference that they propose to negate or supersede. This oscillation between male and female becomes, at the end of the day, only a ‘provocative’ display against so-called ‘traditional frameworks’, and one which, in fact, ignores the suffering of those who have to live situations of sexual indeterminacy. Similar theories aim to annihilate the concept of ‘nature’, (that is, everything we have been given as a pre-existing foundation of our being and action in the world), while at the same time implicitly reaffirming its existence.
Wow, "constract" and "feminity", they haven't even proof read the damn thing.
The dialogue between Faith and Reason, “if it does not want to be reduced to a sterile intellectual exercise, it must begin from the present concrete situation of humanity and upon this develop a reflection that draws from the ontological-metaphysical truth”.
They should have listened to themselves on this one.

Further reading:

Tina Beattie's instant response.

A potentially damaging document.

Ángela Ponce


I have just read the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on child sex abuse in the Catholic church in the State of Pennsylvania. I have read the main report which runs to just over 300 pages, and skimmed the rest.

It is a disgusting document, the more so because it is a report by ordinary people who don't mince their words. Their outrage is palpable. The language is simple and direct and, as well as making the report very readable - if you have the stomach for it - increases its impact.
If that seems hard to understand, think about Julianne. She was taught without question that priests are superior to other adults, even superior to her own parents - because "they are God in the flesh." So when one of these flesh gods put his fingers in her vagina, who was she going to tell? Julianne was 14 when she was assaulted; now she's almost 70.
If that is not fairly direct language, I don't know what is. The point being discussed there is why it takes many of those abused so long to come forward and why the law should facilitate them when they do.

The style throughout is more like a conversation than a report. It is very direct and economical but no punches are pulled along the way.

Many readers are reported to have been upset at the sexual abuse passages. I found myself maybe less so. We here have been through so much of this. I was more upset by the reaction of the authorities than the abuse itself.

The report picks out a few examples of abusers from each diocese and retails their history in detail, reproducing original documents, most of which had been stored in secret archives until they were subpoenaed by the grand jury.

A summary version of every abuser is given in an appendix which runs to another 569 pages.

Morgan Costello

I couldn't help feeling I'd like to see a full report, on the lines of their examples, on Morgan Costello - his abusing but also the reactions of his superiors, his use of God and the little black book, his shielding by civil and canonical lawyers, his eventual defrocking, his subsequent accommodation by the diocese, his attempted trial, his death and why his funeral was private and the location of his grave not known.

Like many of the priests in the grand jury report he had direct access to altar boys, except in his initial assignment to the Cenacle convent in Killiney where we were under the wing of Mother Ross, God Bless her.

A narrow escape perhaps.

Sunday, June 9, 2019


Click on any image for a larger version

I had seen Tina Beattie once on telly chairing a discussion and she impressed.

So, when We Are Church Ireland, for which I have a certain affection, decided to invite her over from the UK to give one of their talks, I figured I was not going to miss it.

Got my ticket in good time and was looking forward to it when it suddenly transpired that I'd have to forgo a cremation (not my own, yet) to attend. So I thought this had better be good.

I got to wonder beforehand if Tina would have ever heard of my hero Anne Bieźanek. That was a long time ago and my impression was that she had been forgotten by all bar her family and myself.

When I asked Tina I was amazed at her reply. Someone had just written an article about Anne in a Catholic Women Speak magazine and she is to send me a copy. So, that was off to a good start.

Tina's talk, as you can see from the image at the head of this post, was about women in the Roman Catholic (Apostolic and Universal) Church. She has intriguingly distinguished in the title between Hope and Optimism.

And she went on at the beginning to present us with three further distinguishing headlines: Memory versus Nostalgia; Imagination versus Fantasy; Reality versus Unreality.

You may wonder at these distinctions, but when you've heard the talk you'll know it's about walking the walk. In each case the first term is pressed into active service and the second is a passive alternative.

Hope versus Optimism: where Optimism is taken as just hanging around and expecting the future to be better without having to do anything about it. This is the drug that the church hierarchy are peddling to us and to women in particular. Hope, on the other hand is taking action and hoping to change things.

Memory versus Nostalgia: where Nostalgia is a hankering after the past (which may never even have existed). This is what the Church is doing with its millennium tradition of excluding women from ministry. An immutable past whether real or not. Memory involves re-examining and questioning the past and using this to support change for the better.

Imagination versus Fantasy: where Fantasy is deluding oneself that thing are better now, or at least they look better in the mind. I won't comment on this one as it might get me into trouble. Imagination is having the courage to imagine things differently and do something to help bring it about.

Reality versus Unreality: I think that one speaks unambiguously for itself.

Now I'm not saying the above words were Tina's own. They're mine. But they are what I took away from the talk as interpretations of these provocative headlines.

If there is a single word to describe the essence of the talk it's activism.

Referring to the Synod of Bishops on Youth held in Rome in October 2018, Tina pointed out that though women religious (nuns) got to attend this synod they did not have any votes unlike their male religious counterparts.

Ursula Halligan

Women protested peacefully outside at various defects in the Synod from their point of view and police attempted to "robustly" move them on.

We were treated to a video of this police exercise and who did we spot in the middle of it all, loudly protesting and waving her hands in admonition, but our Ursula. A Roman film star no less.

Tina told us how she had once complained, I think it was to a member of the hierarchy, at the constant use of the term "man" in describing human affairs. She was given the old line of "when I say man I embrace woman" smart rubbish. Well then she says what about when you ordain men, is that not supposed to include us? Oh, but you're a woman, was the reply.

I don't think she threw a brick at him, she's not that way inclined. However, had she done so I'm sure no jury of twelve women would have convicted.

Tina also challenged the traditional definition of the Magisterium the teaching core and repository of the church's wisdom. Some definitions would have confined this to the Pope and the CDF. But no matter how much it was broadened it never went beyond the hierarchy and maybe a few high power kosher theologians.

But enter the sensus fidei and it's a different story entirely. Then nothing becomes official teaching unless it gains wide acceptance among the faithful. As Tina pointed out, on that basis Humanae Vitae, ignored/rejected by 90% of Catholics, is not part of church teaching, much less infallibly so. Tony Flannery has also frequently made this point regarding the Magisterium.

Tina told us about the forum she had set up called Catholic Women Speak which allows women to work together to create the space for dialogue, theological exploration and collaboration among Catholic women in the worldwide Church.

You can check out the public site for stories and interviews. Many of the points Tina made in the course of her talk can be found here (and a lot more besides).

Now, I'm not an ankle man myself but I'm sure in the age of Joyce this sight would have turned many a male head.

However it was Tina heself who directed our gaze at her red slippers. I didn't catch the full story but I think they may be the equivalent of the Freemasons' handshake among a group of progressive women.

On to the Q&A. I'm not going to say much about this beyond it was very positive in the sense of supporting Tina's point of view. My attitude at Q&As is the following. If nobody pipes up I'll ask a question, no matter how trivial, to get the ball rolling. If people do speak up I wait and if their questions seem more important than mine I let them at it.

Well this was a session of heavies which included a female theologian, a veteran feminist and an Anglican man from Newry. So I kept my mouth firmly shut and saved my question for another time when it might be more needed.

You'll gather from the sequence of shots below that it was an animated session.

And finally the formal unveiling of the real last supper and not the one colluded with by Leonardo da Vinci, designed to copperfasten the male priesthood in perpetuity. There are women and children in this one as Tina was quick to point out.

About Nora Kelly's LAST SUPPER

This painting of the Last Supper includes 6 women and 3 children, as well as Christ and His 12 apostles. Most classic paintings of the Last Supper (like Leonardo DaVinci’s Masterpiece) only show Christ and His 12 male apostles. But we know from scripture that Christ’s women disciples and His mother Mary had followed Him from Galilee up to Jerusalem, and the next day it was the women who were at the foot of the cross when the men ran away. This painting also shows a traditional Jewish Passover meal, with all the men wearing prayer shawls, eating with their right hands and reclining around a low table on cushions and rugs. On the right side of the painting can be seen the basin and a towel from the washing of the feet.

And finally, her own copy of the picture as a parting gift from WAC.

And a proper look.

Tina's talk on Youtube

Q&A on Youtube

Unveiling the Last Supper

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Click on any image for a larger version

The occasion was a talk by Mary T Malone on women in the Church (Roman Catholic) right through the Christian period.

Surely we've heard all this stuff before?

Not like this, you haven't.

The talk was one of a regular series organised by We Are Church Ireland at the International Mercy Centre in Baggot St. I've now been at a few of them and, along with the Patrick Finn Lectures in St. Mary's in Haddington Road, they form a rich cultural and spiritual resource.

So what's so different about Mary then? I could say she's blind and in her eighties, that she sometimes misses a beat and the odd word escapes her. But these are just what a Eucharistic theologian would describe as accidentals. It is the substance of her message that terrifies the Church. And this is not the first time a woman, or a group of them, has terrified the Church. But we'll come back to that.

Colm Holmes & Mary T Malone

Colm is making sure that this talk will be preserved for posterity. There was a time when Mary would labour over the draft of a talk, reworking structure and content. But this is no longer really possible now that she is blind and ageing.

The draft of this talk is in her head and there alone. All the more reason to preserve the final product. Also this may be one of her last talks, if not the last. They are getting too stressful and she has already published volumes, including summaries, of her work over a long and productive career.

Her argument starts from a simple premise. The Roman Catholic Church for most of its existence has been a male church.

Surely we already knew this and progressive groups are applying increasing pressure to have women ordained to the priesthood, for example?

Ah, the priesthood. Ordained and separate from the rest of the people of God. Incubated and introduced to the magic circle before being let loose to impose an ancient and unchanging conformity on the faithful (my words, not hers, but that's the gist of it).

It's not just that the Church, here meaning those in authority, is all men, the whole thing is structured in the ways of men. Men are great on structure and externals. Women are more to the heart of the matter, to sharing & compassion, and their exclusion has led to a church whose formal structures, and even language, are built of male DNA.

So there's a lot more needed here than just letting women into the male inner sanctum. What is required is a root and branch re-imagining of the Church, by the Church and for a new church. And here, by church I mean the wider concept embracing all the people of God. So this goes deeper than the current messing about women deacons and priests, though the refusal to admit women hurts and offends.

Mary & Soline Humbert

It seems to me that Mary is questioning the need for any mediation between God and the faithful, though maybe I'm pushing her too far here. Mary was being careful not to be too critical of the male setup and seemed to be taking the line that the boys should be left to play with their toys while the girls came up with something more substantial.

Mediation is power, of course, whether it be the magic of the Eucharist or the discretionary power of the confessional. I'm sure Mary also understands it in these terms but she didn't dwell on that aspect this evening. We had enough to be going on with, and, anyway she was not about Knocking (scuse the pun) the male Church so much as encouraging the female one.

After all, it was women who founded the Church in the first place. Check out Mark's gospel, the more historically oriented of the four. The women had followed Jesus as much as had the men, all along the way. But it was the men who ran away when the crunch came while the women stayed around.

Then in successive ages when the men thought they were sorted, the women came along and scared the pants off them.

There were, a few, women Doctors of the Church. This meant that technically their teachings were on a par with their male counterparts, but nobody paid any attention.

The women mystics spoke directly with God, for all the good that did.

Colm Holmes & Ursula Halligan

Mary spoke of women internalising God.

She referred to the traditional concept of God out there or up there, during which she caught herself waving her arms like someone explaining a barber's pole or a spiral staircase to a person who'd never seen one.

I am very interested in this internal version of God since I encountered the Bishop of Woolwich's Honest to God on my journey to "unbelief" all those years ago.

I'm not going to attempt to cover Mary's stimulating talk in its entirety. I've given you a taster and you can go to the video for the full story.

I will just say that it was stimulating to hear an 80 year old with such progressive views. Lets hope there are enough discerning young ones out there to follow up on them.

As usual, there was a short, well not too short, Q&A after Mary's talk, with Ursula doing the mediation.

I suggested that, with all this scholarly work attempting to beef up women's role in the past, there was a danger of falling into a male trap, from which the Pope himself was not immune. The instruction from the male Church to the women to go find their gender ministering with Christ in the gospels and in his Church thereafter was really a trick, as the women had already been carefully written out of scripture and were hardly anywhere to be seen. On the other hand simply looking around you in today's world would clearly show the folly of attempting to exclude women from any range of activity.

As this wasn't a question, Mary did not attempt to answer it, but I thought I saw her smile.

Mary was bowled a googly on abortion from the audience. She was not to be drawn into condemnation beyond saying that every miscarriage and abortion is a tragedy. But everyone has to make their own decisions and live with the consequences.

When Mary was replying to members of the audience I noticed she was addressing one of the loudspeakers rather than the person. It was an image that made me sad, but that too is only an accidental, and was the only time in the course of Mary's talk that you remembered she was blind. Such was the enthusiasm, authority and polish of her presentation

Ursula Halligan

There was this old custom in days gone by of checking the entrails for telling the future or divining the will of the Gods. That might have been one way of chasing up revelation back in the day. There are others.

I didn't have any tea leaves as I skipped the introductory cuppa in the interest of getting a good seat at this packed session. The nearest I had was perusing afterwards the many photos I had taken in the course of the evening. And I came across this.

Now, I am not an ordained mediator in these matters but, conscious that the wonderful Doris Day has just gone to her eternal reward, I wonder if the Holy Spirit is trying to tell me something here.

Mary, Carole & Keith

So let us take our leave of Mary, in the company of her niece Carole and Carole's husband Keith, and thank her for a wonderfully provocative, entertaining and fruitful evening.

Video of Mary's talk

Thursday, April 11, 2019


This is how you welcome immigrants - not with a wall, not with cages, not with vast unsanitary under-resourced camps - but with a hug.

More of that later.

Colm Holmes

We Are Church Ireland is a group of Roman Catholics who are attempting to reform the antiquated, mired-in-the-middle-ages, Roman Catholic Church. These are not Molotov-cocktail revolutionaries. The are ordinary people, many of them quite conservative in other areas of their lives but all on a mission of salvation - to save the Roman Catholic Church from going down the tubes or from reducing itself to a fascist totalitarian clique.

Their five "outrageous" demands are:
  1. Equality of all the baptised where decision making is actively shared by all, with appropriate structures for this.
  2. Full participation of women in all aspects of church life, including priesthood.
  3. Recognition of the primacy of an informed conscience.
  4. Promotion of a positive attitude towards sexuality and the removal of the obligation of clerical celibacy.
  5. An inclusive church, open and welcoming to all, which does not marginalise people because of their sexual orientation, marital status or for any other reason.

Welcoming all to the meeting, Colm reminded us of the five aims - sort of setting a context.

John Farrelly

John took the opening prayer, which is customary at the beginning of each meeting. This was one with a difference, laced with a bit of Transcendental Meditation or Mindfulness or something.

Ursula Halligan

Ursula then took over the role of MC and introduced us to the night's speaker: Sheila Curran RSM with a talk entitled
IMMIGRATION: Welcoming the Stranger; a Challenge and Opportunity; a faith perspective.
And what was I doing there? I was inclined to wonder about that myself - coming along to listen to a Mercy Nun talk about immigration.

Well as it happened it was less of a talk and more of a challenge. And this was no run of the mill nun, if there is such a thing. Apart from her impressive academic qualifications, she has worked with the poor both at home and abroad, but what caught my eye was her having worked with liberation theologian, Gustavo Gutiérrez.

Now, liberation theology, which essentially meant putting the welfare of the poor ahead of dogma, was roundly condemned by the now Saint John Paul II, and it played an significant role in the path of discernement of the current Pope. On top of this, a stint in South America has tended to radicalise those religious who go there. So, to answer the question, I was curious.

Sheila Curran

Sheila did not disappoint. From the word go, she was on the offensive. And there is something about a northern accent that penetrates your defences.

She briefly genuflected in the direction of the MOPE meme, but quickly turned it on its head to illustrate that we should know better and had no excuse.

Yes, there were the coffin ships and, despite all, Irish America came of age as one of the most powerful lobbies in the States. But it still felt itself a cut above the Hispanics. We have no monopoly on virtue.

Sheila brought us further down to earth with a bang.

How had Ireland of the Welcomes treated refugees from Northern Ireland in 1972? Welcome, as long as they were going back soon and meanwhile showed the gratitude expected of them. And by the way, none of your Northern disruption down here, thank you.

And these were our own. What might real foreigners expect? Direct provision? Effectively a denial of human rights and, for the many, long term incarceration. And most of this hidden away, off the public radar.

And human trafficking? Sure we're dead against that.

But what about the honey-pot ad posted of a young woman offering sexual services, and with a phone number. When she answered the phone she explicitly claimed she was being trafficked, and this was competely ignored by the callers. What was the predominant accent of the callers? Ireland of the Welcomes.

So what should we be doing?

Taking our fair share of refugees for a start, welcoming them into communities and allowing them to work. They have much to contribute and have a right to a reasonable life.

Nieves Fernandez

Nieves has been an immigrant into a number of countries and she made the point that people are people no matter where you go. She was apprehensive on occasions starting in a new country but found that the people "were just like us".

I could go on but if you're interested you can look in on Sheila's talk/challenge on the night. It is in three parts of 15 minutes each:
Part 1  Part 2  Part 3.

And you can also gen up on Sheila's wider take on life at the Mercy International website.

Previous meetings:  Josepha Madigan   Gabriel Daly

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


Josepha Madigan
Click on any image for a larger version

This might as well have been the headline when, on 28 June 2018, Josepha, who is a member of the Mount Merrion Parish Team, stepped up to the plate and took a prayer service when the priest failed to turn up to say mass.

Much of the media could not resist the temptation and had her saying mass, even if they did put it in quotes. The backlash was immediate from fundamentalist Roman Catholics and even Archbishop Martin was critical. But it was FAKE NEWS.

The fact that Josepha is an advocate of women's ordination to the RC priesthood only added spice to the story. Of course she is also the Culture Minister in the current Irish Government but that should really have nothing to do with her acts or opinions as a private individual and a Roman Catholic woman of faith.

It was in this latter capacity that the progressive Roman Catholic organisation We Are Church - Ireland (WAC) invited her to address them at one of their monthly meetings.

So far so good. But Josepha was also her party, Fine Gael's, coordinator in the recent referendum on removing the Constitutional ban on abortion. Now, abortion is a very sensitive issue. The Roman Catholic Church's view on it is clear - it is a grave sin. Full stop. However, the people of God have more nuanced views on the matter and the referendum was carried by 64.5% of voters.

Anyway, the WAC meeting was to be held in the organisation's usual venue, the Mercy International Centre run by the Mercy Nuns. Following threats of protests and intimidation of a staff member, the nuns withdrew the meeting room and WAC had to find an alternative which turned out to be the Stillorgan Talbot Hotel.

The photo above shows the room about an hour before the meeting. I had intended going to the original meeting but now felt an additional obligation to show some solidarity with the organisers.

It was not clear whether the protesters would be satisfied to have bounced the meeting out of a religious and into a secular location, or whether they would turn up at the hotel in their busloads and attempt to disrupt the meeting. So there was an element of tension in the air.

I gather that a few protestor did turn up outside and, had I known at the time, I'd have gone out and taken a photo.

Colm Holmes

But back to the main event. Colm welcomed the attendance and reminded them that WAC meetings start with a prayer.

Nieves Fernandez

Nieves read a prayer which, as far as I recollect, celebrated the harnessing of nature to the spiritual life. I'm sure she'll correct me if I'm wrong. One of the problems in taking photos at these events is that you can actually lose the thread of what's going on while concentrating on the photo. [Just found it online]

Following the prayer, Colm gave the floor to Ursula Halligan who was to guide us through the evening.

Ursula Halligan

Ursula is a veteran and she didn't waste any time calling on Josepha to speak to her motion, which was "Why the Catholic Church should open all ministries to Women".

Now I'm not going to paraphrase what Josepha said. You can read her text here or on the WAC site, though the text there is quite small, or on Josepha's own website.

Instead I'll just include a few extracts which struck me as particularly relevant. You'll see from the full text that she touched all the required bases in the course of her talk.

On the rubbish about her having said mass:
This is of course, not the case at all. Although I opened the prayers it was the three of us women together who shared the elements of the mass that we could still perform as lay people. It would have been a terrible shame after making the effort to attend mass that the congregation then had to return home with no instruction whatsoever. We only did what many other women and indeed men are doing around Ireland. Our involvement was a reminder of the role of women in Church Ministry in general. I received letters, cards and emails from all around the country from Clare Island to Dublin where more women but some men told me of their daily, weekly and monthly involvement in assisting in their local parish church. The Church calls for us all to break bread together at Mass, and women are playing a role in Ministry and the liturgy at several levels across the country and the world. In my view, as a Catholic, it should not come a source of surprise to see a woman on the altar including in the priesthood itself.

On the nature of a priestly vocation:
In his [Bishop Crowley's] view no one has a right to priesthood; We respond to His summons, a summons which the Church has then to discern in the light of the kind of leadership he modelled. I would agree with Bishop Crowley that it is indeed a calling from God that will set one on a path to the priesthood. It is then up to the Church to discern the suitability or otherwise of that person. But what happens if the person receiving the calling to the priesthood is a woman? Do we really believe that God would discriminate against her (assuming she fulfils all the other criteria) as the Catholic Church does purely based on her gender?
The role of women in the priesthood is still considered a taboo topic at the highest levels of Catholic Church. What is the church afraid of?

The capacity in which she is speaking at this event:
I do not speak as a theologian, or a canon lawyer, or even a priest – for I do not claim to be any of those things. I speak as a member of the Church community, one of millions around the world.
For me, and I am sure for many others, faith is closely connected to very personal aspects of my life – my childhood, my family, important memories of my life to date. I believe faith should be active not passive. Faith is best served by clearly participating in life in order to make it better for not just ourselves but for others. I try to live by that code every day of my life in everything that I do. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.

On a vision of an inclusive church in the real world:
Just like all community life, Catholicism is shaped by unity in diversity. Catholics come in all shapes and sizes - there is no one size fits all. I think any church worth its salt should be big enough to provide a shared pew for the gay couple, the Opus Dei man, the divorced and the newly married couple, the single parent and the large traditional family. We are all the many faces of Catholicism as it is lived, rather than imagined. We don’t need an exclusively right-wing or left-wing Church. We need one that is focused on living the faith and working for social justice every day. As it stands I feel many are airbrushed out of this picture. The Catholic Church has a blind spot when it comes to the real inclusion of the marginalised or the stigmatised. The deeds of the Church speak volumes. Words are not enough. Should Church dogma not reflect the actual reality of its people? Include rather than exclude? Tolerate rather than discriminate? This utopian world that the Church wishes to reflect does not in fact exist. In fact it never did but its only now in the twenty first century that many have found the courage to proclaim who they really are out loud. They have found a way to extricate themselves from a dense smog of shame into the light of truth.

And the crunch:
I want you to imagine a church fit for our daughters, as well as our sons.
Should women be deacons, on committees at the Vatican where they have been excluded or under represented? Should women be present, speaking and voting at a synod? Should women be priests? Should women around the world be properly recognized for holding parish life and religious family and community life together?
I firmly believe that the answer is yes.
I am a daughter, I am a wife, I am a mother. I am a woman. And I can tell you now that if we want a church that is fit for our daughters, hearts and minds need to change. Women are waiting. Women are watching. But if we want our daughters to be there in future generations, we need to open the Church fully to them, as fully equal members in the community of faith.

Ursula then threw the meeting open to the floor. But first there were some ground rules. Questions only and no speeches. Questioners were asked to stay strictly on topic. Other subjects were for other times and other places. This was a clear instruction to leave Josepha's role in politics and in particular in the abortion referendum to one side.

I think this was essential or we would have got bogged down from the word go in that controversy to the detriment of the topic in hand. There were two attempts later on by participants to flout the rules, one referring to the abortion elephant in the room and the other accusing Fine Gael of secularising the country and destroying our heritage.

Ursula dealt with these firmly and courteously.

I have been at a number of events recently where I had wanted to participate in the Q&A but did not succeed, whether by raising my hand too late in the proceedings or just looking like an irrelevant old fogey. So this time I got in first.

I suggested that Josepha should feel honoured by the attempts to no-platform her as she had good precedents in Charles Davis and Gregory Baum who had been no-platformed in my day by no less a dignitary than John Charles McQuaid himself. I also drew attention to the ancient monastic settlement of Cill Iníon Léinín in the heart of Killiney which was reputed to have been exclusively female.

Now, these were not questions but I got away with it.

The Q&A proved quite lively. Questions included: when did Josepha become aware of the male-dominated nature of the church, and, what was her reply to the view that as Jesus was a man surely there should only be male priests?

The male-dominated consciousness seems to have come very late in life, in fact only quite recently, if I understood her reply correctly. She mentioned the Pope's visit, and her privileged vantage point in the Phoenix Park as a Government Minister, when she saw these rows and rows of priests in front of her, all male.

On the Jesus was a man theme, she recalled that Mary Magdalene was known as the Apostle of the Apostles and that there were women priests in the earlier years of the church.

John Farrelly

John, from the WAC Core Group, summed up and made a presentation to Josepha.

I can reveal exclusively that this was a painting of "The Last Supper" by Polish artist Bohdan Piasecki (1998). It includes 6 women and 2 children at the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. According to WAC, "it is historically more accurate than Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous 'Last Supper' which is great art but terrible history".

This is it and you can purchase copies from the WAC website shop.

Soline Humbert

WAC meetings also end with a prayer and Soline gave us a text from Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth century polymath abbess, long recognised as a saint and in 2012 named a Doctor of the Church.

You can read some mainstream media coverage of the event in the Irish Independent, Irish Times or RTÉ. There was also a short item on the RTÉ TV Nine O'Clock News on the night.

I have only attended one previous WAC talk and that was by Gabriel Daly. He was most impressive. You can see my post on it here.