Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Are Priests For?

Valle Adurni has a super post on the unrealistic demands made on priests by the empowerment of the laity movement, and what the right priorities should be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shocking Survey of Irish Knowledge of Christianity

The Iona Institute, an excellent new venture to support marriage led by David Quinn has published the results of a poll to measure knowledge of some basic Christian teachings among various age groups in Ireland. The results are truly shocking.
Ten fairly simple questions were asked and the results are given for the age groups 15-24, over 65, and for the general population. It appears that on third of the younger group do not know where Jesus was born or why Easter is celebrated. Only 5% could say what is the first of the Ten Commandments. Perhaps the most surprising finding was that in all categories more people were able to name the Evangelists (overall 66%) than were able to say that there were four of them!
So much for the wonderful Alive-O RE syllabus used in Irish schools.

Fr. Iggy Unrepentant

Some of you may remember the fuss last Easter when an Augustinian priest in Drogheda 'concelebrated Mass' with the local Anglican clergyman. A friend in that part of the world has just sent me a snippet from last week's Drogheda Independent describing the award of a civic honour to Fr. 'Iggy' O'Donovan for 'bringing religion back to the centre stage'.
In relation to the infamous Easter 'Mass', "when asked if he would do it all again, he answered a clear 'yes, but not in the same way
'I don't think people were quite ready for it. But having said that, Drogheda is a great place to try things out. When you look at Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams this week, my gesture looks very small indeed. It shows what can be done.
'It has been a very tough year and we have had to back off on what we were trying to do. But not trying is definitely failing.'"
So it was all just a 'gesture'. How sad!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Married Priests?

John Cooney had a typically nasty piece on the rule of celibacy for Latin Rite priests in last Saturday's Irish Independent. He can see no other reason for maintaining this law than "Pope Benedict's unwillingness to change." So how does Cooney's tired caricature of Pope Benedict as a narrow-minded reactionary square with the following?

The Holy See Press office released the following communique late yesterday (Monday) afternoon:

"The Holy Father has called a meeting of the heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia, for Thursday, November 16, in order to examine the situation that has arisen following the disobedience of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, and to reflect upon requests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and requests for readmission to the priestly ministry, presented by married priests over the course of recent years. No other matters are scheduled on the order of the day."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ad Limina

Kieron Wood in the Sunday Business Post had some useful coverage of the state of the Irish Church. Vocations, Northern Ireland, the precipitous decline in religious practice, and 'social issues' all get consideration. And, of course, the issue which most excited the media, the continuing impact of the scandals of clerical sexual abuse features prominently. The worst-affected diocese (in the world?) was Ferns and their new Bishop was on his first ad limina. No one seems to have told him that private audiences with the Pope are supposed to stay private and his office issued a statement detailing their discussions. I thought this a bit odd at the time - the media were blathering on about a 'statement from the Pope' - but I don't think it will be the make or break issue in determining whether Pope Benedict visits Ireland. More comment to come on the ad limina when I get time. Do read the Holy Father's very interesing address to the assembled Bishops and note what he says about catechesis. Interesting times ahead.

What the Pope said to the Irish Bishops

Dear Brother Bishops,

In the words of a traditional Irish greeting, a hundred thousand welcomes to you, the Bishops of Ireland, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. As you venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, may you draw inspiration from the courage and vision of these two great saints, who so faithfully led the way in the Church's mission of proclaiming Christ to the world. Today you have come to strengthen the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, and I gladly express my appreciation for the gracious words addressed to me on your behalf by Archbishop Seán Brady, President of your Episcopal Conference. The constant witness of countless generations of Irish people to their faith in Christ and their fidelity to the Holy See has shaped Ireland at the deepest level of her history and culture. We are all aware of the outstanding contribution that Ireland has made to the life of the Church, and the extraordinary courage of her missionary sons and daughters who have carried the Gospel message far beyond her shores. Meanwhile, the flame of faith has continued bravely burning at home through all the trials afflicting your people in the course of their history. In the words of the Psalmist, "I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord, through all ages my mouth shall proclaim your truth" (Ps 89:1).

The present time brings many new opportunities to bear witness to Christ and fresh challenges for the Church in Ireland. You have spoken about the consequences for society of the rise in prosperity that the last fifteen years have brought. After centuries of emigration, which involved the pain of separation for so many families, you are experiencing for the first time a wave of immigration. Traditional Irish hospitality is finding unexpected new outlets. Like the wise householder who brings forth from his treasure "what is new and what is old" (Mt 13:52), your people need to view the changes in society with discernment, and here they look to you for leadership. Help them to recognize the inability of the secular, materialist culture to bring true satisfaction and joy. Be bold in speaking to them of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments. Remind them that our hearts were made for the Lord and that they find no peace until they rest in him (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, 1:1).

So often the Church's counter-cultural witness is misunderstood as something backward and negative in today's society. That is why it is important to emphasize the Good News, the life-giving and life-enhancing message of the Gospel (cf. Jn 10:10). Even though it is necessary to speak out strongly against the evils that threaten us, we must correct the idea that Catholicism is merely "a collection of prohibitions". Sound catechesis and careful "formation of the heart" are needed here, and in this regard you are blessed in Ireland with solid resources in your network of Catholic schools, and in so many dedicated religious and lay teachers who are seriously committed to the education of the young. Continue to encourage them in their task and ensure that their catechetical programs are based on The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the new Compendium. Superficial presentations of Catholic teaching must be avoided, because only the fullness of the faith can communicate the liberating power of the Gospel. By exercising vigilance over the quality of the syllabuses and the course-books used and by proclaiming the Church's doctrine in its entirety, you are carrying out your responsibility to "preach the word … in season and out of season … unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2).

In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of purification will enable all God's people in Ireland to "maintain and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God" (Lumen Gentium, 40).

The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren. I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem. Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church. At one time, Ireland was blessed with such an abundance of priestly and religious vocations that much of the world was able to benefit from their apostolic labors. In recent years, though, the number of vocations has fallen sharply. How urgent it is, then, to heed the Lord's words: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9:37-38). I am pleased to learn that many of your dioceses have adopted the practice of silent prayer for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament. This should be warmly encouraged. Yet above all, it falls to you, the Bishops, and to your clergy to offer young people an inspiring and attractive vision of the ordained priesthood. Our prayer for vocations "must lead to action so that from our praying heart a spark of our joy in God and in the Gospel may arise, enkindling in the hearts of others a readiness to say ‘yes'" (Address to Priests and Permanent Deacons, Freising, 14 September 2006). Even if Christian commitment is considered unfashionable in some circles, there is a real spiritual hunger and a generous desire to serve others among the young people of Ireland. A vocation to the priesthood or the religious life offers an opportunity to respond to this desire in a way that brings deep joy and personal fulfillment.

Allow me to add an observation that is close to my heart. For many years, Christian representatives of all denominations, political leaders and many men and women of good will have been involved in seeking means to ensure a brighter future for Northern Ireland. Although the path is arduous, much progress has been made in recent times. It is my prayer that the committed efforts of those concerned will lead to the creation of a society marked by a spirit of reconciliation, mutual respect and willing cooperation for the common good of all.

As you prepare to return to your Dioceses, I commend your apostolic ministry to the intercession of all the saints of Ireland, and I assure you of my deep affection and constant prayer for you and for the Irish people. May Our Lady of Knock watch over and protect you always. To all of you, and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your beloved island I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Fr. 'Iggy' - Again!

From The Irish Catholic 19th October, 2006

Fr Iggy goes pop – again!

Controversial cleric Fr Iggy O’Donovan has once again waded into the public sphere with controversial comments insisting that priests should be allowed to get married.

Fr O’Donovan also suggested that divorced Catholics should be allowed to enter second relationships and that condoms should be used “to control AIDS”.

It’s the latest outburst from the Drogheda-based priest who was censured by the Church earlier this year after he concelebrated a Mass with a minister from the Church of Ireland. The controversial Mass won Fr Iggy a strong reprimand from Archbishop Sean Brady, and led to his being sacked from his post teaching theology in Rome.

However, clearly unbowed by the earlier controversy, Fr Iggy told parishioners in Drogheda last weekend that the Church had misinterpreted Scriptures when it comes to priestly celibacy.

Quoting from the Book of Genesis that “man should not be alone”, he said that “priests should have the option to get married.

“For the first 1,000 years [of the Church’s history] priests were allowed to marry and there was only mandatory celibacy for monks,” he said.

Fr Iggy, whose Easter Sunday ecumenical Mass was also criticised by the Vatican, told members of the congregation that “nearly all of my friends who have left the priesthood have done so to get married.

“I think if you asked most people on the street they would be positive about priests being given the option of marriage,” he said.

Referring to Christ’s teaching on divorce, he accused the Church of selectively interpreting Jesus’ words.

“The Gospel says there should be no divorce but it also says man should not be alone. The Church has interpreted both of them very differently. It’s selective interpretation,” he insisted.

“Put it this way I wouldn’t have mandatory celibacy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fr Iggy also said that divorced Catholics should be allowed to enter a second relationship.

“Quite frankly when I’m talking to people about relationships I feel out of my depth as they have a lot more experience than me.

“When somebody enters into a marriage they are full of idealism and hope but sometimes it doesn’t work out,” he said.

He added that “there is proof that a second relationship can work after divorce.”

Fr Iggy went on to describe how when he joined the priesthood in 1975 “you couldn’t even buy contraception.

"Now contraception is freely available and it's very much a health issue to control AIDS."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Same sex fundraiser at Catholic college

The following is from the front page of the current issue of The Irish Catholic (not available online). I should be shocked but I'm not.

A fundraising campaign has been organised at one of the country’s largest Catholic colleges for a lesbian couple taking a High Court action to have their ‘marriage’ recognised in Ireland.

A senior lecturer at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, the Catholic teacher training centre, has defended his decision to fund-raise for the action being taken by Dr Ann Louise Gilligan and Dr Katherine Zappone.

Dr Maurice O’Reilly, a lecturer in mathematics at the college, told The Irish Catholic that he had “no problem” in using the college, which is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin, to fundraise for the case.

Dr Gilligan, who is also a lecturer in St Patrick’s, and Dr Zappone are fighting to have their gay marriage in Canada recognised in Ireland. The case is currently before the High Court.

The Irish Catholic has obtained a copy of an e-mail sent by Dr O’Reilly asking staff at the college to contribute to a fund in support of the case.

“I am sure,” Dr O’Reilly writes, “there is much goodwill and generosity in the College which can be harnessed in their support.”

When contacted by The Irish Catholic Dr O’Reilly said that he had “no problem in supporting the campaign, no problem in supporting a colleague in this”.

The email goes on to list fourteen members of staff who have agreed to co-ordinate the fundraising campaign in the college.

When asked by The Irish Catholic about the appropriateness of such a fundraising campaign in a Catholic institution Dr O’Reilly said “I have nothing more to say to you” and ended the phone call abruptly. Subsequent phone calls and e-mails from this newspaper went unanswered.

According to St Patrick’s Mission Statement the college “is committed to creating a community of learning in which Catholic religious values are promoted.”

A source at the college confirmed to The Irish Catholic that there is “considerable discontent” among a number of staff at the fundraising campaign.

When contacted by this newspaper a spokesman for the Archbishop of Dublin, who is Chairman of the college board, said he was “not aware of the e-mail, and therefore, am not in a position to comment”.

Meanwhile, Dr Pauric Travers, President of St Patrick’s was unavailable for comment despite repeated requests.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Justice is also a virtue

David Quinn has a decent piece in the Irish Independent about Bishop Eamonn Casey, the former Bishop of Galway. The Director of Public Prosecutions has decided not to press charges arising from allegations made against Dr. Casey. The woman who made these allegations has not been named but she has made similar baseless allegations against other people in the past. Quinn's point is that these allegations should not have been made public unless there was some reason to believe they were well founded.

"Put yourself in his shoes. Supposing someone from your past came forward and told police that many years ago you had abused her.

Suppose she was known to have made other, similar allegations against other individuals in the past. Suppose the claim against you was utterly without foundation and that the police investigation was, therefore, a simple formality. Would you want this groundless allegation to be made known to the whole world, to all your friends and colleagues, to your neighbours and to your workmates?

Would you take much comfort in the fact that eventually the authorities decided not to press charges against you? Not likely. Not unless you were mad, as you would be painfully, acutely and hideously aware that forever more everyone would know that you were the person against whom this most dreadful of accusations was made."

Quinn points out that clergy are extremely vulnerable to false allegations of abuse and that the practice of forcing a priest to step down from his duties immediately even on the strength of an obviously false and vindictive allegation broadcasts the fact that such an allegation has been made.

"However, the result of stepping down from the pulpit and the result of telling the parishioners is that the whole world found out. You found out. I found out. We all found out. Had we a right to this knowledge? The answer is no. We had no right to know anything about the allegation against Eamonn Casey unless and until enough evidence had been found to press charges. And there was never going to be enough evidence because the allegation wasn't true.

Furthermore, and this puts priests in an even more invidious position, with only the rarest exceptions it is only when child abuse claims are made against priests that the public seems to find out. When is the last time you were aware of an allegation against a teacher or a social worker that become common public knowledge? I cannot recall a single example."

Perhaps the most extraordinary and appalling aspect of this affair is that now, when any reasonable person can see that Bishop Casey has been subjected to a terrible ordeal at the hands of a vindictive woman and despite the fact that there is not the shred of a prima facie case against him, the Church authorities in Ireland will begin their own investigation into these allegations. In the meantime this 78 year old Bishop who has spent 14 years in exile is not permitted to say Mass in public.

Better to punish the innocent than let the guilty go free?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Irish Bishops?

At the time of writing Pope Benedict has on his desk letters of resignation from three Irish Bishops. It is unlikely that he will accept any of them before the (overdue) Irish ad limina in October. More on that in a later post. Suffice it to say that the Austrian ad limina will seem tame by comparison.

The three dioceses awaiting new shepherds are Down & Connor, Ossory, and Achonry. The Pope will likely make at least one of the appointments from the ranks of the existing auxiliary bishops, if only to reduce their number. Bishop Eamon Walsh in Dublin and either of the Down and Connor auxiliaries could be in line for promotion. But the Pope will also be keen to use this opportunity to indicate the direction in which he would like the Irish Church to move. One possibility is that he will appoint Fr. Vincent Tuomy, Professor of Moral Theology at St. Patrick's Seminary, Maynooth to fill one of the vacancies. As a former student of Prof. Ratzinger, Fr. Tuomy will be meeting the Pope in early September when he goes to Castelgandolfo for the annual meeting of the Ratzinger Schulerkreis.

One other Irish bishop to watch is Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe. Ireland's best bishop is well known to the Pope as a member of the Vox Clara committee which is overseeing the translation of the Missal into English. The Pope may have greater things planned for him but right now Ireland's need is probably greater. I don't think Archbishop Martin of Dublin will be going anywhere soon but it's not entirely impossible. Bishop Boyce would be an obvious, if reluctant, successor.

More from Westminster

The source of the supposed whispering campaign against Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster is becoming clearer. Damian Thompson's rather bitter piece in the Telegraph was quite telling.

Thompson makes a few valid points but they are spoiled by his obvious contempt for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and his brother bishops. 'Cafeteria Catholics' come with a variety of tastes.