Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


The other evening, I watched the film Calvary written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, starring Brendan Gleeson, as Fr James, a good Roman Catholic priest serving in a small church in the north of Ireland. Gleeson's performance is riveting, comparable to Mark Rylance's work in Wolf Hall. In Wolf Hall, it was Rylance's eyebrows and silences that so often communicated without words.  Gleeson, who is a large bear of a man, appears in nearly every scene in the film, and his rough, mobile facial features speak volumes without words.

McDonagh's script doesn't flinch as it takes us through the via dolorosa, which is Fr James' everyday life and most surely tests his faith to its limits. The good priest has the heart of a pastor and goes about his parish work shouldering the burden, as many priests do, of the aftermath of the child abuse scandal.   A dark comic thread runs through the movie but does little to relieve the sadness and gloomy portent that pervade the film.  Though I was completely caught up in the story throughout the course of the film, I found it difficult and disturbing to watch, but, at the same time, it was impossible for me to turn away. Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal came to mind.

The movie was filmed in and around County Sligo in the north of Ireland.  Though the beach scene settings and recurring views of the impressive Benbulbin rock formation are picturesque, I could not help but think of the town and the surroundings as relentlessly godforsaken places.

Writing about Calvary was probably the most difficult review of any I've ever done, because I admire the film greatly, and I wanted to get the words right.  Gleeson is magnificent in his role, and, though he dominates the film, the supporting cast of characters are intriguing and talented enough to hold their own.  In his script and direction, McDonagh resists any temptation to cater to the audience or take the easy way out in tackling difficult and controversial subjects in this splendid and powerful film.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


A week or so ago, I watched the film Philomena. What a lovely, lovely movie. Judi Dench is superb and Steve Coogan is no slacker. He more than holds his own with Dame Judi, and that's no small feat. The chemistry between the two actors, Coogan, who plays an English journalist, and Dench, as Philomena, an Irish woman, is amazing when they come together to search for her lost son.  If you didn't see the film, which is taken from a true story, when it played in the theaters, I highly recommend you watch online or find a copy of the DVD.  As well as acting in the movie, Coogan co-wrote the script with Jeff Pope from the book of the same name, so it is truly his baby.

Be sure to watch the bonuses, the interviews with the real Philomena and actors, Judy Dench and Steve Coogan, that are included in the DVD.  Philomena Lee is quite a woman, and the film appears to have been a labor of love for the script writers and the actors.  In the interview, Coogan speaks of Philomena with true fondness and respect.

As Coogan, who played the journalist, Martin Sixsmith, was being interviewed, I thought of the present discussion and controversy over whether England is a Christian country initiated by Prime Minister David Cameron's speech at his Easter reception at Downing street. In the interview, Coogan, who is a lapsed Roman Catholic, notes that he and Pope, with permission from Sixsmith, took the liberty of making him a lapsed Catholic, though...
He's Church of England, so Protestant, which in England, basically, means athiest. (Laughter) You go to church, but you don't believe any of that stuff, you know?
Not the final word, I'm sure. 

Coogan is also a comedian, and, though the film is not a comedy, his comedic touch lightens what is, in fact, a quite moving and serious film.  One phrase spoken by Sixsmith refers to the nuns at the the convent in Rosecrea, Ireland, as, "The Sisters of Little Mercy".

Before I returned the DVD, I watched and thoroughly enjoyed the film one more time.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Catholic politicians who support abortion legislation should be refused Holy Communion, says Cardinal Raymond Burke, who heads the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest legal tribunal that rules on canon law.

"There can be no question that the practice of abortion is among the gravest of manifest sins,” The American cardinal told the Irish newspaper Catholic Voice in an interview published recently.
Cardinal Burke, an official of the Vatican, a foreign sovereign state, is out of order when he threatens Irish politicians if they cast votes of which he disapproves.  
Cardinal Burke said that Catholic politicians must support legislations that will "most reduce the evils which attack human life and the integrity of marriage."
The legislation, which allows for the termination of a pregnancy when the life of the woman is in danger is in response to the horror story of a pregnant woman who died of blood poisoning in an Irish hospital.
Savita Halappanavar, 31, a dentist who was 17 weeks pregnant, went to the hospital with back pain on October 21.

Her husband Praveen Halappanavar said she was told she was miscarrying, and after one day of severe pain she asked for a medical termination.
But her repeated requests were refused for three days, he said, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they said they were legally unable to perform the abortion.

Mr Halappanavar said his wife was "in agony" the whole time.

Eventually the foetal heartbeat stopped and the foetus was removed. But Ms Halappanavar was by now seriously ill, and was taken to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, where she died of septicaemia (blood poisoning triggered by infection) a week after she first arrived at the hospital.
How does allowing Ms Halappanavar to die "reduce the evils which attack human life". Where is compassion in the cardinal's judgement?  He says Ms Halappanavar's death was tragic, but, according to the Vatican rules, there was nothing to be done by the doctors but stand by and watch her die. I'm sick and tired of the Vatican's interference in the governance of countries around the world. I hope the politicians in Ireland vote their consciences and put a stop to such barbarous treatment in Irish hospitals.

And if the cardinal thinks so highly of the integrity of marriage, why isn't he married? 

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Two investigations are under way into the death of a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant, at University Hospital Galway last month.

Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

The dead foetus was removed and Savita was taken to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, where she died of septicaemia on the 28th.

An autopsy carried out by Dr Grace Callagy two days later found she died of septicaemia “documented ante-mortem” and E.coli ESBL.
I simply cannot understand why any church that calls itself Christian would teach that an incomplete spontaneous abortion can't be completed by medical assistance. For doctors to stand by and watch this beautiful young woman die in prolonged agony for the sake of their tender consciences is far beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior. First, do no harm. The medical staff could have saved one life.   

The treatment of Savita in the hospital demands an investigation, which is now in progress.   The Roman Catholic hierarchy has a lot to answer for in the "Catholic country" of Ireland if its teaching demands or encourages this type of cruel treatment by doctors, whose mission it is to heal, in complete disregard for the life of Savita.  How is this behavior pro-life?  How is this treatment in any way compassionate?  The more I think about this sequence of events, the more horrified I am.    

H/T to Jezebel. 

Monday, June 6, 2011


From Maureen Dowd at the New York Times:
THE archbishop of Dublin was beginning to sniffle.

He could not get through a story about “a really nasty man” — an Irish priest who sexually abused, physically tortured and emotionally threatened vulnerable boys — without pulling out his handkerchief and wiping his nose.

“He built a swimming pool in his own garden, to which only boys of a certain age, of a certain appearance were allowed into it,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told me recently. “There were eight other priests in that parish, and not one of them seemed to think there was something strange about it.”

Two years after learning the extent of the depraved and Dickensian treatment of children in the care of the Irish Catholic Church — a fifth circle of hell hidden for decades by church and police officials — the Irish are still angry and appalled.

The only church leader who escapes their disgust is the no-nonsense, multilingual Martin. He was sent home to Dublin in 2003 after 27 years in the Vatican bureaucracy and diplomatic corps and found the Irish church in crisis, reeling from a cover-up that spanned the tenures of four past Dublin archbishops.

In February, Martin held an unprecedented “Liturgy of Lament and Repentance” at a Dublin cathedral, where he asked forgiveness from God and victims of abuse and praised the courage of those who had come forward.

Wearing a simple black cassock, he helped wash the feet of eight victims and conceded that the church “will always bear this wound within it.”

In return for doing the right thing, he has been ostracized by fellow bishops in Ireland and snubbed by the Holy See.

Yet Martin, famous protector of victims, is an outlier of the club, while Cardinal Bernard Law, notorious protector of pedophiles, has a cushy Vatican sanctuary. And Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was in league with the notorious abuser of seminarians and inseminator of women, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, is the dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome.

Garry O’Sullivan, the managing editor of The Irish Catholic in Dublin, told me that Martin “has had a prophetic role in the church.”

I really don't get it. Cardinals Law and Sodano are rewarded for their roles in covering up child abuse. Because of the decades long cover-up, I left the Roman Catholic Church in 1996. I knew that a portion of the tithe I gave to my parish church went to the diocese, a portion of which went to fund the cover-up of child abuse, and I could no longer write a check. I'm not saying all Roman Catholics should do what I did. I respect those who remain to fight the good fight.
When he [Archbishop Martin] was growing up, his mother always told him “go serve your Mass but don’t hang around with the priest.”

In his brusque way, he rejects the appellation of hero.

“Nobody could have read what I have read and not did what I did,” he said as he walked me out into the windy spring day. “If I didn’t react to the stories I heard, there would be something wrong.”
(My emphasis)

Yes indeed, there would be something wrong. There is still something very wrong when a prophet and a hero is "ostracized by fellow bishops in Ireland and snubbed by the Holy See", and others in high places who participated in the cover-up are rewarded.

Thank God for Archbishop Martin!

Thanks to Ann for the link.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


From the Church of Ireland:
On Sunday 30th January at 9.00am, the Most Revd Dr Katharine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA, will preach at the Sung Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral (please note the earlier time).

Dr Jefferts Schori is in Ireland attending a conference of the Primates of the Anglican Communion which is being held at the Emmaus Retreat Centre in Swords, Co. Dublin.

Speaking of the bishop’s visit, the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne said “It is truly a delight and a historic moment for the cathedral to welcome Dr Jefferts-Schori who has done so much for the Anglican Communion in areas of minority inclusion”.
(My emphasis)

Dear me! What will Rowan think?

H/T to John Chilton at The Lead.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


From Canon Kenneth Kearon at the Anglican Communion Office:

“The proposal is that it begins with a number of different conversations taking place simultaneously at first. This is to provide a safe space where dialogue can begin and progress together in a spirit of discernment.”

The Primates of the Anglican Communion will meet together in separate rooms. Priceless! Only out of the Lambeth offices could such a daft arrangement issue forth. What do the powers at the ACO fear? Fisticuffs? A reach across the table to grab a fellow Primate by the throat?

As others have said before, invite all the Primates and whoever comes is in communion.

From Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans. The quote is from the Church Times, which is available only to subscribers for a week.

Friday, March 19, 2010


From the Belfast Telegraph:

Pressure was today piling on the Bishop of Derry over his involvement in an alleged compensation cover-up.

After revelations in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday over a settlement to an abuse victim, Dr Seamus Hegarty has confirmed that his diocese facilitated a confidentiality clause in an out-of-court settlement in 2000.

Dr Hegarty was one of three priests named in a confidential civil settlement after an eight-year-old girl was abused over a decade from 1979.

Read the rest of the article. Why now? Why the years of silence after the series of revelations of child abuse and cover-up by Roman Catholic clergy in the US? I left the Roman Catholic Church 14 years ago because of the local stories of child abuse and cover-up in my diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. With scant national media coverage, the story stayed under the radar for several years until stories of child abuse began to surface all over the US.

Why the several intervening years of relative quiet before the stories of abuse come to light in Europe, years during which the powers in the church were able to say that the abusive behavior was mainly confined to the US? I'm truly puzzled by the years-long gaps.

From several days ago in the Guardian:

Ireland's most senior Catholic cleric tonight faced down calls to resign after revealing that he was at a secret tribunal where sex abuse victims were made to take an oath of silence.

Cardinal Sean Brady said that he had attended two meetings in 1975 concerning Father Brendan Smyth, a notorious paedophile, where two of Smyth's victims signed an affidavit promising to discuss their claims only with a specified priest.

"Frankly I don't believe that this is a resigning matter," Brady said.

The tribunal was held behind closed doors in 1975. Smyth was accused of sexually abusing two 10-year-olds, but the church did not inform the gardai about the allegations at the time. It was only in 1994, after a documentary about Smyth, that the church admitted it had known about his paedophilia and moved him around Ireland, Britain and the US, where he continued to abuse children.

Eight and ten year old children! I want to let this story go, but I can't. It was no small thing for me to leave the church in which I had spent the greater part of my life, but I could not stay. When I went to mass, I was agitated to such an extent that I had to stop attending. I could not pay my tithe. When I went to write a check, my hand froze. I don't want this post to be all about me. What I suffered is nothing compared to the horrors that the children and their families suffered. So why do I go on about the matter? To show that the damage does not stop with the children who were abused and their families? To vent? I don't know, but a sense of horror akin to the horror I felt when the story of the abusive behavior first broke in my diocese wells up within. A flashback, one might say.

Lord, have mercy on us all!