Thursday 24 October 2013

It's the right thing to do, because it's about the children

Dear God, who will rid us of this troublesome Taoiseach?

I was listening to the Great Unbearable on the radio this morning as he was asked to comment on the abduction of two innocent Roma children by Irish State authorities on the dubious premise that they had blonde hair.

"This is about children, it's about children."

Oh, so that's okay then.  This is one of those lines that politicians run to when all else fails, and when Enda is being interviewed in public you can rest assured that all else has already failed.  Other fall back lines are:  "It's the right thing to do" and "This is about protecting lives", usually before you're whacked with a Mickey Finn.

So it's about children. 

Presumably when children were taken off unwed mothers and put up for adoption in foreign countries it was about children.

Presumably when children were sent to industrial schools because their parents were poor or their mother had died it was about children.

Now of course we're told we must wait while An Garda Siochana and the HSE investigate themselves before we form any conclusions or comment.

It might have been helpful if the same Guards and HSE had waited, investigate and formed some conclusions before snatching the children in the first place.

Let's have a look at Section 12 of the Child Care Act, 1991, the legal provision used by the Guards.

12.—(1) Where a member of the Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing that—
(a) there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child, and
(b) it would not be sufficient for the protection of the child from such immediate and serious risk to await the making of an application for an emergency care order by a health board under section 13,
the member, accompanied by such other persons as may be necessary, may, without warrant, enter (if need be by force) any house or other place (including any building or part of a building, tent, caravan or other temporary or moveable structure, vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft) and remove the child to safety.

An "immediate and serious risk".  Being blonde carries some risks - but I'm not sure sufficient to warrant [Ed: they don't need a warrant] police action.

Remember during the referendum on children the No side warned about State overreach and intrusion into the family. 

And you're not even safe in a hover craft.  Perhaps a hot air balloon. 

Tuesday 15 October 2013

You bet your hat, or there but for the grace of God

You gotta feel for this guy (Ed: well there's a lot to feel).

He weighs 37 stone.  When he was flying from Wales to Ireland the airline made him pay for two seats.  But when he checked in he was given a window seat and an aisle seat, with someone else sitting in between.  (Those aren't travel pillows!)

On the way back his seats were in two different rows.

And, thanks to the budget model, he didn't even get two inflight meals!

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Protestant bishop defends denominational education and does it well

There's a good piece in the Irish Times by Archbishop Richard Clarke, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland. He'll have another one in next week.

An air of weary defensiveness seems to permeate discussion among church people on the purpose and future of an educational system that is faith-based in any respect, let alone any structure that is manifestly denominational.

Much of the wariness is due, I suspect, to the relentless assertion in the public square of the idea that faith is somehow an additional, optional appendage to “ordinary life”. That is a flawed and disingenuous philosophy.

The absence of any echo of religious faith in the public square does not bring about the absence of all ideology or public conviction, even if this conviction is now in something other than any religious perspective. Very few people can live their lives with no convictions or principles; to do so is to live aimlessly, disjointedly and truly “pointlessly”.

Removal of the transcendent

We need also to remember that some of the most dehumanising political philosophies ever to exist have enjoyed the monopoly of the public space and even unrestricted adulation in the forceful removal of the transcendent from the psyche of the public place.

There is no neutral value system that is the default position for “normal” humankind. Religious faith should not expect to be the only voice to be heard in public. It is, however, a delusion to believe that the only natural state for humankind is to hear no ideological voices of any kind. Proper education cannot, therefore, be an ideology-free or

value-free zone, but this does not of itself make it narrowly propagandist. The education of children will always have some value-system at its heart. It would be dangerous if it were otherwise.

We need also to bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of the population of the Irish Republic admits to membership of a faith community.

A recent survey was undertaken within national schools under Church of Ireland patronage and it clearly indicated that more than 90 per cent were very happy with the religious aspect of Church of Ireland national schools.
As we seek to chart an educational future for Ireland, our starting point should be that there is at present no particular reason to move away from an educational system which, certainly at primary school level, functions broadly in accordance with the general approval of parents and is reflective of the religious demographics of the country.
An educational “mixed economy” is a perfectly reasonable scenario. There should certainly be different types of school, some of which will be avowedly non-faith in educational method, and others will clearly encompass a faith content that has real meaning and is more than a cursory nod in the direction of religion.
Wider community

In origin, the rationale that lay behind specifically “Church of Ireland schools” was for the protection of a minority community within the state. The ethos of the Church of Ireland school is now regarded not only as of crucial value to the children of the Church of Ireland but also as of worth for a wider community, and for a common good.

Most schools under Church of Ireland patronage have an enrolment representative of a wider community. Far from an effort at proselytisation or conversion, there is now the widespread belief throughout the Church of Ireland that this particular way of being a “faith school” is a valuable educational approach for others, in addition to our own community. The ethos for which we must always strive is a wholesome place, sited at some distance from a crude indoctrination on the one hand, and a vapid, vague congeniality on the other: a “faith-culture” with a definable element of specific religious faith and commitment in the character of a school but also a way of life that unselfconsciously reflects spiritual values, priorities and standards.

At the heart of this ethos will be the RE curriculum and the place of worship, and religious education cannot simply be phenomenological in approach, as though “religion” were a moderately interesting specimen on a laboratory bench.
It is not indoctrination or brainwashing to present religious faith as something that is central to the way one lives one’s entire life; this is to fall into that trap that religious faith is somehow an optional extra in which an individual may indulge in his or her spare time if deemed worth the bother.

Friday 4 October 2013

Reading the Irish Times is like pulling teeth

Today in The Irish Slimes:

"Think, for a moment, of a person in Ireland who needs a tooth removed. Imagine if they had to plan to travel to England: they had to save money, book flights, book a babysitter, locate a dentist, get directions. Then – all on an empty stomach and in a rush after a procedure – they had to bundle themselves, tired and bleeding, onto their non-transferable flight home. No you can’t imagine it because it is ridiculous. It would be ridiculous to put anyone through such nonsense. Yet women in Ireland must live in that ridiculous world.
I am not equating having an abortion with having a tooth out."

Funny how you can write a whole paragraph comparing going to England for an abortion with going to England to have a tooth removed and then have the neck to declare you're not equating having an abortion with having a tooth out. 

And really, you're not, for in your demented world, having a tooth out is much worse as you're losing something you value.

Pope Pollyanna

I was playing the Glad Game this morning.  I'd forgotten my mobile and was annoyed with myself for forgetting it and imagining all the important things I was missing, the texts and tweets and so many necessary things from the ether.  So I'm playing the Glad Game and googled Glad Game and found this quote from the book and I immediately thought of Pope Francis and what it is that he's trying to do with the world:

"What men and women need is encouragement. Their natural resisting powers should be strengthened, not weakened.... Instead of always harping on a man's faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his REAL self that can dare and do and win out!... The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious, and may revolutionize a whole town.... People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts. If a man feels kindly and obliging, his neighbors will feel that way, too, before long. But if he scolds and scowls and criticizes—his neighbors will return scowl for scowl, and add interest!... When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it. When you know you will find the good—you will get that..."

(Quote from "Pollyanna" by Eleanor H. Porter)

Thursday 3 October 2013

"Be Ye as Shrewd as Serpents, as Innocent as Doves"

Mercy sister, Sr Eugene Nolan has decided to go down the confused old lady route in defence of the Mater Hospital's Catholic ethos [Ed: may not be the worst approach.]

The Irish Times reports that:

 Sr Eugene, a former midwife who worked in England and Kenya before returning to the Mater in 1981, said of Fr Doran’s resignation: “It’s a tragedy that’s he’s gone. We will certainly miss him. He has been with the hospital for many years. He is a huge loss.”

She too expressed concerns about the Act at the time of Fr Doran’s statement in August, saying it was “against our ethos”.

Asked her position now, she said: “I don’t know where we go now. I’m going to see. I will see what is said.”

However, she said: “The Mater won’t be performing abortions. This is a matter of how we deal with complicated situations.”

You see what she's done there.  Yes, we'll comply with the Act;  no we won't perform abortions.  Confuse them, keep taking the money, don't perform abortions, see how it goes.

Here's the better approach which the Mater Hospital should have done. 

Issue a statement reconfirming:
  1. that the hospital is a Catholic hospital with a Catholic ethos;
  2. that all employees of the hospital are required by contract to operate according to the ethos of the hospital;
  3. that all employees of the hospital have the right under law not to carry out abortions.
That's all you say.  You don't say anything further.  You don't seek judicial reviews of the legislation. 

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Repeat after me a million, sqillion times till you get it right

It is right to give him thanks and praise and just.

OMG, another interview with Pope!

You wait years for an interview with the Pope and then two come along at once.  Italy's biggest selling newspaper has an interview today with the Holy Father. 

Someone was complaining to me yesterday about the Pope destroying the papacy and the power of the Vatican.  I don't think it's that at all - I think he wants people to stand up and accept their own responsibilities.  Take for example the so called silenced priests in Ireland.  There was absolutely no reason why the Vatican should have been involved in those cases.  They should have been dealt with by their religious orders and by the local bishops.  It was the failure to deal with them in any meaningful way that forced the hand of the Vatican.  And if there is pressure from the Vatican it should be on the Irish bishops and religious superiors to sort things out. 

You can read the full interview here (using google translate) and Rocco Palmo's summary here.  Or you can just read Rocco's stuff below:

In the latest proof of his desire to reach out from behind the walls – and along the way, (again) remind the Establishment he inherited who's Boss – today's cover of Italy's largest-circulation daily indeed blared a second major interview in 12 days with the Pope, this time given to one of the country's most prominent atheists.

As Eugenio Scalfari tells the story, the pontiff called the La Repubblica founder out of the blue to arrange a meeting as a follow-up to their exchange of letters over the summer. With Francis going over his schedule in front of him – "I can't on Wednesday, Monday either; would Tuesday work for you?" – the Pope booked the Domus sit-down on his own.

Saying he had no idea how to end a call with the Pope, when Scalfari asked if he could "hug [Francis] through the phone," Papa Bergoglio replied "Sure, I'm hugging you too. Then we'll do it in person. See you soon." Once they came together – with jokes about trying to convert each other as they first met – the 4,600-word extravaganza that ensued touched on everything from the journalist's non-belief to movie picks, politics and a "court" mentality in the church which Francis termed "the leprosy of the papacy," admitting that church leaders were "often... narcissistic, flattered and badly excited by their courtiers."

Even as the first meeting of his new "Council of Cardinals" opens this morning – and this Tuesday likewise brings the first-ever audited report on the Vatican Bank – the pontiff's first concern lay elsewhere.
"The gravest of the evils that afflict the world in our time are the unemployment of the young and the loneliness in which the elderly are left," Francis said, reprising a theme he's frequently addressed in other contexts. "The old need care and company; the young need work and hope, but they don't have each other, and the problem is that they don't seek each other out anymore.

The young are "shackled in the present," the Pope said. "But tell me: can one live shackled in the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to throw oneself into the future: to build a project, an adventure, a family? Is it possible to continue like this? This, for me, is the most urgent problem that the church has in front of it.... It's not the only problem, but it is the most urgent and the most dramatic."
Asked about secular politics, the pontiff turned stronger still: "Why are you asking me about that? I have already said that the church will not occupy itself with politics."

Explaining that he was obliged to address himself "not just to Catholics, but all people of goodwill," Francis – who reportedly never voted in Argentinian elections as a bishop – explained thus: "I've said that politics is the first among civil activities and has its own arena of action which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular [laiche – lay] by definition and work in an independent sphere. All of my predecessors have said this, at least for many years, albeit with different accents. I believe that Catholics tasked with political life must keep the values of their religion before them, but with a mature conscience and competence to realize them. The church will never go beyond its task of expressing and publicizing its values, at least for as long as I'm here."

Accordingly, it was on the internals of church life where the Jesuit Pope struck his most determined notes – or, as he described his governing style, his utmost "firmness and tenacity." Francis said that the formation of his unprecedented "Gang of Eight" – which he termed "my council" – marked "the beginning of a church with an organization that's not only vertical but also horizontal." While that's yet another reference to the concept of synodality as the core of the impending Curial reform, in this instance Francis stretched the boundary even further.

Saying that the "defect" of the Roman Curia is that it's "Vatican-centric" and "cares for [its own] interests which are also, in large part, temporal interests," Francis declared that he "doesn't share this vision and will do everything to change it.

"The church is, or must return to being, a community of the People of God," the Pope said, "and the priests, pastors, bishops with the care of souls, are at the service of the People of God.

"This is the church, a word that's a different case from the Holy See, which has an important function but is at the service of the church."

Referring to his late confrere, the progressive Milanese Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the Pope said that when the prelate spoke of "the accent of Councils and Synods, he knew well that it'd be a long, difficult path to proceed in this direction." Stacking himself against the saint whose name he took – whose tomb he'll visit on Friday – Francis preceded the comment by saying that he "certainly [isn't] not Francis of Assisi and I don't have his strength or his holiness, but I am the Bishop of Rome and the Pope of Catholicism." Eight hundred years since the original Francis, however, Bergoglio returned to one of his pontificate's first expressed thread, noting that the Poverello's "ideal of a missionary and poor church remains more than valid.
"This is consistently the church that Jesus and his disciples preached," Francis said. And one thing that has no place in it for the Pope is clericalism – which, he said, "has nothing to do with Christianity." When Scalfari said that, despite being a nonbeliever, he only became anticlerical "when I meet a clericalist," Francis apparently "smiled" in response and said that he, too, "become[s] an anticlericalist in a flash" when he's faced with an officious priest.

As for the church's role in the modern world, the pontiff – the first bishop of Rome to be ordained a priest after Vatican II – underscored his adherence to the path charted out by the Council, but only after "personally" embracing his predecessor's contentious thought that "to be a minority [church] could even be a strength."

"We must be a leaven of life and of love," Francis said, "and the leaven is infinitely smaller than the mass of fruit, of flowers and trees that grow thanks to it.... [O]ur objective isn't proselytism but listening to [people's] needs, desires, disappointments, desperations and hopes. We must restore hope to the young, aid the old, open ourselves to the future, spread love. [We must be] the poor among the poor. We must include the excluded and preach peace. Vatican II, inspired by Pope John and Paul VI, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to open [the church] to modern culture. The Council fathers knew that opening to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non believers. After then very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and ambition to want to do it."

While walking his visitor to the door of the Vatican guesthouse, in a sudden aside the Pope told Scalfari that his reforms "will also speak of the role of women in the church," reminding the interviewer that "the church is feminine."

The host didn't specify his intended result, but Scalfari closed his piece with a rather bold assessment: "This is Pope Francis. If the church becomes as he thinks and wants, it will be an epochal change."

Pope Francis' devotion to The Little Flower

Bergoglio, who has always considered the flower a “sign” of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and of her intercession, received one out of the blue, the day after the peace vigil for Syria

Story here and below:

On Sunday 8 September, the day after the long prayer vigil for peace in Syria – when some passages from texts written by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux were read out – Pope Francis received a white rose as a surprise. Francis considers the flower to be a “sign” linked to the devotion of the saint. The Archbishop of Ancona and Osimo, Edoardo Menichelli broke the news, with Francis authorisation.

Bergoglio told him about the rose a day before the prelate was due to present a book in Pedaso, in the Italian region of Marche. The prelate recounted the story during the presentation. The book presented was an essay by theologian and writer Gianni Gennari entitled “Teresa di Lisieux. Il fascino della santità. I segreti di una dottrina ritrovata” (“Thérèse of Lisieux. The fascination of sainthood. Secrets of a rediscovered doctrine”) and published by Lindau. This was the book Francis took with him when he flew to Brazil last July.

“The Pope told me he received the freshly-picked white rose out of the blue from a gardener as he was taking a stroll in the Vatican Gardens on Sunday 8 September,” Mgr. Menichelli said. “The Pope sees this flower as a “sign”, a “message” from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, whom he had turned to in a moment of worry the day before.” The Archbishop passed on the Pope’s greetings to those attending the book presentation, adding that he had been authorised to tell them about the rose. The Pope did not say anything about the white rose having any connection to the peace vigil for Syria the previous evening. But it is not hard to imagine that one of the Pope’s worries at the time was the international situation, the massacres in Syria and the West’s proposed intervention in the Middle Eastern country.

What significance does the white rose have for the Pope? Bergoglio mentions it in “El Jesuita” (“The Jesuit”), a book interview written by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti when he was still a cardinal. In a description the two journalists give of Bergoglio’s library in Buenos Aires, they write: “We pause before a vase full of white roses standing on a shelf in the library. In front of it is a photograph of Saint Thérèse. “Whenever I have a problem,” Bergoglio explained to the journalists, “I ask the saint not to solve it, but to take it into her hands and to help me accept it and I almost always receive a white rose as a sign.” Pope Francis’ devotion for the Carmelite mystic who died at the young age of 24 in 1987, was canonized by Pius XI and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by John Paul II in 1997, is common knowledge. Francis himself told journalists about it on the flight back from Rio de Janeiro after World Youth Day. When she was still alive, Thérèse had promised that when she died she would shower “rose petals” down from the sky, a sign of her intercession. "A soul inflamed with love can not remain inactive … If only you knew what I plan to do when I’m in heaven … I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.” So during the peace vigil held in St. Peter’s Square on 7 September, the mysteries of the rosary were recited along with passages from the Gospel and verses from a piece of poetry written by the saint.

The rose devotion and message did not begin with Bergoglio. On 3 December 1925 Fr. Putigan, a Jesuit, began a novena to ask for something very important. He also asked for a sign, to know whether his prayers had been heard. He asked for a rose to be sent to him. He didn’t speak to anyone about the novena or about the unusual request he made to the saint. Then, in the third day of the novena he received the rose he had asked for and his prayer was therefore answered. He then started another novena and on the fourth day of this prayer, a nurse/nun brought him a white rose and said to him: “Saint Thérèse sends you this rose.” So the Jesuit decided to spread the word about this “miraculous” novena which he named after the roses, making it famous worldwide.