Saturday, October 12, 2013



I was glancing through my tracker the other day when I saw the strange entry below. Someone had come to view my Honest to God post from a proboard forum. I wondered what was up? Had someone linked to me from this forum?

A closer look, below, showed that it was a catholic forum which had a specific thread dealing with the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP)

Well, my curiosity aroused, I went over for a look. And that's when I met Hibernicus, who was having a serious go at me.

He had seen me commenting on the ACP website and, in view of the horrible things I was saying, had decided to suss me out. He was distinctly not impressed, so, if you are not yet ready to read his full rant, let me enlighten you and comment on some of his findings.
"was much given to sneering at the devotional practices of the pre-Vatican II Church, lamenting in a snarky and condescending manner the failure of Veritas to stock the sort of "exciting" theologians he admires, posting pictures of Pope Benedict as Darth Vader, and issuing maudlin eulogies of the Holy Martyr Tony and his Companions Iggy and Brendan, I assumed he was just another embittered "Spirit of Vatican II" holdover from the sixties generation."
This is a pretty compact summary, but I would have to take issue with, at least, some of it.

I certainly think that some of the devotional practices with which I was brought up were reprehensible to say the least.

The constant emphasis on sin and guilt and the fear of burning forever in the fires of hell, were detrimental to a child's positive psychological and moral development. They also emphasised the need for frequent confession and validated the currency of indulgences. All of which in turn maintained the power of the clerical authorities and their insistence on unquestioning obedience in matters they considered related to morality.

The manner in which indulgences, and even masses, were sold was little different from the practices to which Martin Luther rightly took exception in his day. Nowadays, of course, with a slightly more sophisticated public to deal with, the Church has refined the manner in which it presents these matters, claiming that the underlying theology was always sound, and that these things had been mis-sold by ignorant ministers to a gullible faithful. Definitely guilty as charged here.

Apparently I am also guilty of finding Paul Tillich and John Robinson "exciting" theologians. Again, guilty as charged.

My comparison of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI to Darth Vader, did not go down well. I had considered accusing him of being the Anti-Christ (more particularly so after his disgusting, self-serving and abusive letter to the Irish people on the matter of child abuse) but I thought I'd mitigate the charge in the interest of politeness and settle for Darth Vader instead.

I think I am being accused of being 'just another embittered "Spirit of Vatican II" holdover from the sixties generation' though I think the charge may have been upped further down the rant. I make no apologies for thinking things were changing with Vatican II. I'm sure John XXIII eventually thought the same and that he'd be seriously disappointed if he came back and saw what an unholy mess the Vatican had made of his project.

Be aware that the phrase "Spirit of Vatican II" is a term of abuse for people like Hibernicus. They see it as a fluffily defined à la carte menu where people can take what suits them from Vatican II and ignore the rest. I see the phrase as something positive and inspirational and an attempt to circumvent the disgraceful clawback of the promise of that Council. Definitely guilty here.

Then I am apparently eulogising Fr. Tony Flannery's eructation. I had to look up that word, never having heard it before though Hibernicus seems to use it a bit. It means belching or the like. I immediately thought of farting cows and global warming, but figured I should come back down to earth and read on. I think I'd have to take the fifth on this one. I certainly admire Tony Flannery and Brendan Hoban and Seán McDonagh, the real ones that is.

Hibernicus then discovered that I am an unbeliever, something I have been carefully trying to hide for the last forty years, and he then accuses me of popping round to church on a regular basis. I'm not sure what I'm being accused of here. Having my cake and eating it I suppose. He probably thinks I'll end up sending for a priest on my deathbed. Don't think so.

He feels the title of this blog is "a blasphemous sneer at the Blessed Sacrament". That's one way of looking at it, I suppose. I see it as a mildly jocose wordplay, but if something more is to be made of it, I have to confess that the real presence, as conventionally presented, does needs a serious overhaul. I have referred to this in my paper for last year's Eucharistic Congress.

This next bit tickled me. Hibernicus is raising me to the priesthood, in the company of Seán Fagan. I think the red mist has him confusing me with Tony Flannery.
"Frs Fagan and O Duibhir ought to examine their consciences at attracting this variety of admirer - that is, if their consciences had not atrophied under pressure from their ever-inflating egos."
Whatever about us all being our brother's keeper, I don't think these worthy clerics can be held responsible for the "sins" of their fans. I assume the underlying thought here is of giving scandal. Perhaps the universal church would think of examining its own conscience in this matter.

Apparently Pope Benedict deserves a round of applause for getting rid of the monster Maciel. Fair enough. He might have merited three cheers had he publicly denounced this friend of his predecessor while the latter was still on this earth. That would be speaking truth to power, would it not? Christlike, even.

And then there's purgatory and indulgences. It's a pity Hibernicus wasn't around to explain his refined theology to all those poor souls who scurried fearfully around collecting days, months, quarantines and years of remission with the full backing of the holy powers that be.

Anyway, I think I'll leave it at that. If you haven't clicked on the link to Hibernicus's post/comment, here it is again.

Hibernicus's avatar is Frederick Ozanam, the founder of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, and the Irish Catholics' Forum is carried on under the watchful eye of St. VdeP himself. So it seems appropriate enough to leave you with Hibernicus's image of his sponsor.

St. Vincent de Paul


  1. Hibernicus has responded to the above post as follows:


    Pol O Duibhir has responded on his blog to my comments on him. In the spirit of fair play, here is a link to what he has to say.

    A couple of points:
    (1) I agree that the pre-Vatican II church overdid fear of hellfire and that indulgences (for example) were often presented in an overly mechanistic fashion. I think the post-Vatican II Church has gone too far in the other direction.

    (2) I am commenting on statements made in the public domain and giving my reasons for disagreeing with them. I think that is a legitimate enterprise. I mentioned Mr O Duibhir's self-description as an unbeliever because I think it says something about the ACP that it attracts such fans, just as the fact that certain traditionalist sites attract far-rightists says something about them -even though in both cases the siteowner is not responsible for the commenter's view.

    (3) My opinions are my own and nobody Vincentian has any responsibility for them (and they are not just reducible to adjectives; I try to reason them out, even if I do huff and puff a bit). I chose Frederick Ozanam as my avatar because I admire him, and part of my admiration for him rests on his refusal to let Catholicism be reduced to a self-regarding ultra-legitimist clique or a dictator's fanclub while at the same time he maintained the integrity of the faith once delivered to the saints. As regular readers of this forum will know, I change the saint at the top of the board regularly - St Vincent de Paul just happens to be saint of the month and I will be changing him soon. In the past I've had Edith Stein, which doesn't mean I'm a Carmelite, and Martin de Porres, which doesn't mean I'm a Dominican.

    May we all disagree courteously, and meet merrily in Heaven. Anyone who thinks just adhering to either the ACP or the ICF line (insofar as there is one) will get them to Heaven by itself is in for a nasty surprise. The reason, above all, why I hold up Frederick Ozanam and Vincent de Paul for the admiration of visitors to this board is a certain Gospel text which they took to heart, beginning "Lord, when did we ever see thee hungry..." etc


    I think we have gone about as far as we are likely to go on this one, so I'll take him up on his offer to disagree courteously with much of what he says, and leave it at that. At least for now.

    Readers can read the three posts and draw their own conclusions.

  2. Hibernicus has responded to my comment above as follows:

    EXTRACT (first three paras)

    Pol O Duibhir has quite a courteous comment on my most recent post about him (in the comments section of the post to which I linked). He suggests we call it quits for the time being (I paraphrase). Fair enough, but there are one or two things I would like to clarify.
    (1) I write the posts on the assumption that the reader basically agrees with me, so I use a certain amount of hyperbole. I can see how that would seem like an angry rant to someone who does not share my basic beliefs/assumptions - so I apologise for any offence caused by the manner of expression but that doesn't mean I am drawing back on my underlying beliefs.
    (2) Seeing yourself through other people's eyes is an interesting experience. I get the impression from Mr O Duibhir's post that he sees trads/conservatives' dismissive use of the term "spirit of Vatican II" as a form of macho-man posturing against lib'rul wimps who don't expect the Inquisition and can't stand the hellfire.

    The way many trads see the term "spirit of Vatican II" is somewhat different; they see it as an expression which is used by liberals in positions of local power to justify all sorts of questionable and arbitrary diktats and to dismiss any criticism however reasoned - something which is never defined but used to shut down debate and present the critic/protestor as an inherently inferior being. To cite the letter of Vatican II would at least give a basis for discussion; to cite the "spirit" is to say "You just don't get it - not like me".


    I too would make two points.

    (1) I do not interpret Hibernicus's comments on tone as implying any retreat on his part from his beliefs.

    (2) I stand over what I said above about views on "the spirit of Vatican 2". The term means one thing to traditionalist and something else to liberals (to use labels of convenience). I certainly don't see it as being "used to shut down debate and present the critic/protestor as an inherently inferior being". But as far as I'm concerned invoking it is as valid as confining oneself to the text alone. In any event this debate will clearly continue and there is little prospect of it being shut down in the manner referred to.