Friday, 31 March 2017


The church still has a damaging disdain for the modern world


In his marvellously acerbic memoir Against the Tide, published in 1986, former minister for health Dr Noël Browne describes an encounter with the Catholic Bishop of Galway Dr Michael Browne in 1951 when the minister was attempting to win support for his Mother and Child scheme: “He handed me a silver casket in which lay his impeccable hand-made cigarettes. ‘These cigarettes,’ he intoned, ‘I had to have made in Bond Street.’ Then he offered me a glass of champagne. ‘I always like champagne in the afternoon,’ he informed me in his rich round voice. My feeling of awe was mixed with a sense of astonishment that this worldly sybarite considered himself to be a follower of the humble Nazarene.”
Browne subsequently had an audience with Cardinal John D’Alton of Armagh, whom he described as “a pleasant, withdrawn, scholarly looking man. Our conversation was stilted and formal”. In relation to a query about the justification for the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to Browne’s health scheme given the use by Catholics in Northern Ireland of the National Health Service, D’Alton was disdainful: “We are prepared neither to apologise, nor to explain.”
I was reminded of Browne’s encounters when thinking about the recent death of Cardinal Desmond Connell and the news this week that clerical child abuse victim Marie Collins has resigned from the Commission for the Protection of Minors due to her frustration with some officials in the Roman Curia and a Vatican department that would not commit to acknowledging letters from victims of abuse.
In the aftermath of his death, central to the narrative of the experiences of Connell was the idea that he was particularly ill-suited to his position as archbishop and it had been cruel to appoint a deeply academic man to fill such a role in 1988.
Ill-qualified
It was, and inevitably Connell’s career underlined again the question of the distance between church leaders and the Catholics they were supposed to lead and the sense that they would not engage with those they deemed ill-qualified to speak on matters they thought should have remained the preserve of church academics or leaders.
Connell was more Cardinal D’Alton than Bishop Browne. He was particularly preoccupied with what he regarded as theological competency, absolute truth and the science of metaphysics; he had no truck with what he considered unqualified people speaking about religion. When Fintan O’Toole profiled him in 1988 for Magill magazine, he highlighted that one of Connell’s first publications was in the Jesuit journal Studies in 1957; a book review in which he complained about unqualified people talking about religion on radio. According to O’Toole this article reflected “an impatience with the modern world in which mass communications gives all sorts of people the right to be heard on subjects he believes they know nothing about”.
Connell did and said what he thought was correct based on what he regarded as principle and truth, and he followed that truth and its consequences with vigorous logic.
Child sex abuse
It is likely that his aborted attempt in 2008 to get the High Court to intervene to prevent certain documents being handed over to the inquiry into allegations of clerical child sex abuse in the diocese of Dublin was also motivated by vigorous logic, despite the impact it would have on public opinion, and more importantly, on the victims of child abuse.
After the Second Vatican Council, Connell admonished British theologian Leslie Dewart for daring to suggest that an understanding of God and the church’s dogma would have to be “drawn forth from contemporary experience”.
As far as Connell was concerned, truths central to his church’s teaching are eternal and unchanging.
‘‘ There are still powerful bureaucrats in the Vatican who think they know best
Ironically, given the preoccupation with castigating those who did not understand absolute truths, Connell in 2002, rather than participating in RTÉ’s Cardinal Secrets programme, engaged in what the late journalist Mary Raftery called a “pre-emptive strike” by circulating to his 200 parishes a letter apologising for the failures of the past and blaming them on a lack of understanding within the church of paedophilia.
But the 2009 report on clerical child abuse in Dublin categorically rejected this given the decision in 1986 to take out an insurance policy to protect church assets from abuse victims. Connell did apologise for clerical sex abuse and was appalled by it, but he was also sufficiently imbued with an academic disdain for being led by “contemporary experience” that he struggled to deal humanely enough with the child abuse issue.
That struggle is not just historic; based on the experiences of Marie Collins it would seem that despite everything revealed in the last 30 years, there are still powerful bureaucrats in the Vatican who think they know best, just like a mid-20th century Irish bishop smoking handmade cigarettes and drinking champagne while dismissing a scheme to give poor mothers and their children free access to state medical services.

30 comments:

  1. We know Buckley you had connections to the "Mad Dog" so don't pretend you are innocent. You were well in with him and Mary.

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  2. Mad Dog INLA I mean

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  3. I hope you and your family are coping well, just to let you know we are praying for you all. Was your sister older or younger than you? If she had children I pray for them also.

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  4. My sincere sympathy at your sister's death!
    Pip

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  5. The Church had a mentally for centuries that the laity would not understand perhaps going back to the continued use of the Latin Rite even to a time in my childhood I still remember. People are capable of reason choice and decision as is evidenced by the Genesis story if nothing else. Jesus came to Redeem Save and guide us back on the road to the Father. It is the shepherds role to ensure the food served is appropriate for the sheep to thrive.

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  6. In 1951 I was at grammar school curtsy of the 11 plus
    In reality it wasn't that long ago,people smoked those wee cheap fags and certainly did not drink champagne...so what I'm seeing here is that even then there was far too much money thrown at these clergy
    Quite disgusting reading that.

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  7. Shows how easy it is to impress an Irish government minister with two impressive dots over his name just in case we don't know how to pronounce it. A fag and glass of sparkling wine and his host is a sybarite. A less hospitable bishop is 'stilted and formal'. Another bishop is 'deeply academic' because he published a couple of books. A recently deceased bishop who apologised for child abuse done by scumbags he had the misfortune to supervise, and said it appalled him, is thrashed. Compare to another recently deceased man from Derry, whose gang of thugs administered appalling child abuse in the destruction of young life, who never apologised for it, and was never appalled by it- unlike the deceased bishop - had government ministers and global dignitaries turning out for his funeral. The reputation of one of these men is tipped into the mud; the reputation of the other - well on the way to secular sainthood. Some of us Irish, those who never accomplished the high rank of bishop or doctor or minister and don't have fags made in Bond Street, like a 'flutter' - we like to take a risk on the unknown and the unknowable: who would we put our 'to win' money on in the Judgment Stakes Race: bishop or butcher?

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  8. The passing of your sister is a sad moment for you Pat I'm sure. Take time to grieve and not avoid it.

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  9. Why your sister and not you?

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    1. You sound as if you would have liked it that way?

      I'm afraid you will have to ask God / Fate that question.

      I would have been happy to die instead of her if I could have saved her.

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    2. 14.19 What a sad and horrible comment. Not worthy of publication. The blog champions a church and environment free of bullies of any sort. For that reason Pat please sensor any vile rubbish or indeed report it as internet bullying

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    3. I got much worse yesterday and last night.

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    4. Anonymous at 14:19
      Find out the confession times at Gaynooth and run along right now ...

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    5. You shouldn't publish those pat xx
      Don't feed the trolls

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    6. People who troll love when the rest of us give out.
      We should ignore and Pat should not publish

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  10. Pat just ignore those hurtful comments
    Hugs((()))

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  11. 10.35
    We don't need to judge anyone
    But all of us are entitled to an opinion, especially about those who have gone before us
    Nothing wrong with the 2 dots , prob put there by his parents
    Lots of children get names they not particularly happy with.
    He was a very caring doctor, what were the bishops remembered for
    Oh yes Mc Quaid....now what was that I read ?

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  12. Sorry for your loss Pat. Prayers and Thoughts.

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  13. I wonder do they serve Champagne in that St Luke's Clinic in Maryland because some of its residents have expensive tastes.

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  14. Please please please spare a thought for all the middle aged priests (actually there are two who particularly spring to mind) in Dublin who spent a fortune entertaining the Papal Nuncio and being all chummy with him and meeting him an awful lot. Egg on face. No mitre for them. When they saw how Nulty, who rose without trace, was chosen to be bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, and how Monahan was 'chosen' for Killaloe, they thought all there prayers were answered. It could only be a few months or a year at most before there were catapulted into some country diocese from Dublin. But then Charlie was demoted and kicked to the arsehole of nowhere. Oh please spare a thought for them and all the money they spent indulging and entertaining and being bored to death by Charlie. They are the laugh of the Dublin Archdiocese. @Pat condolences on the death of your sister, RIP.

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  15. Who is the armagh priest there besides rory ?

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    1. Someone who is having a sabbatical aparrently.

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  16. Now I am perplexed !!!!!

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  17. I can't for the life of me see why any priest would want to be a bishop.
    They are all a laughing stock of the country and despised by most laity.
    Sitting for hours while bored parents wait in a que to have their offspring photoed With him
    Not that they want to, but the photo maybe needed to put on a video maybe on wedding day....for a laugh...anything for a laugh

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  18. Chas Brown was invited regularly to the Dominicans in Saint Saviour's in Dublin. One or two of the current and recent staff there, it is said, are lamenting all of the entertaining they offered the bore. They are rumoured to be fit to be tied that they'll have to start from scratch with his successor in order to be elevated. The others are more than mildly amused.

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  19. ELEVATED
    My god elevated to what
    These people are as bad as georgous
    Who the feck cares?
    Their lives must be so Purile

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  20. Looks like some people need to get a life

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  21. @22:31
    The Dominicans... A few years back boasted in the media about their large number of novices.. Smack bang in the middle of the photo was a chap Dermot Farrell ejected from Maynooth for making gay advances on a hetro seminarian. At that man's ordination was certain Gaynoothians like Geraldine C.

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  22. Who is Geraldine C?

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