Sunday, 6 January 2019

Intellectual Serfs and Ideological Masters


Uses and Abuses of Celtic and Indo-European Studies


Quia filii hujus saeculi prudentiores filiis lucis sunt - Luke, 16:8

Since the middle of the last century, Celtic Studies has been a relatively esoteric discipline.  It is of interest only to the Celts and some academics of other fields, such as mediaevalists and philologists.  Those who directly involve themselves in the study of Celitica are few.  Much scope is give to scholars of dubious credentials to make mischief as a result.

The systematic investigation of Celtic languages and literature began about 150 years ago.  The English poet Matthew Arnold and the French critic Ernest Renan were among its earliest enthusiasts.  Renan was a student of Blessed Frédèric Ozanam, but was more impressed by the latter's romanticism than by his Catholicism.  One of his best-known works is the Vie de Jésus (reading this was one of the reasons Stalin lost his faith and was expelled from seminary).

Neither Arnold nor Renan was orthodox in his religious beliefs. Their view of Celtica was based on an idealisation of the Celt.  They saw the Celt as intuitive, artistic and unfettered by reason, while they regarded the Germanic mind, though logical and industrious, as lacking creativity of any sort.  So the 19th-century precursors of the hippies looked to the Celt, on industrialised Europe's western fringe, for their new paradigm.  It is significant that neither Arnold nor Renan was burdened by the knowledge of even one Celtic language.  It made stereotyping so much easier.
The Würzburg glosses
At the same time, Johann Caspar Zeuss (1806-56) was deciphering the Würzburg glosses.  The glosses, found in manuscripts of a commentary on the Pauline epistles in Würzburg, on the Psalter in Milan and on Priscian's Latin grammar at St Gallen are as important to Celtic Studies as the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptology.  The texts are in Latin, but the margins are cluttered heavily by explanatory notation in Old Irish for the benefit of students.

Zeuss, a classical philologist, did the opposite and used the Latin to learn Old Irish.  His Grammatica Celtica is a seminal world and should establish Zeuss as the father of Celtic Studies.

St Kilian brought Christianity and classical learning to Würzburg, Milan was close to St Columbanus' Bobbio and St Gallen is named after St Gall.  And it is from these places that we derive our first knowledge of early mediaeval Ireland.  But the foundational work was grammatical and tedious - and the lay enthusiasts preferred ready-made translations and commentaries.
Nationalist fervour
The lay enthusiasts were impatient.  They had from O'Donovan's and O'Curry's ideas that the tales were historical.  The spirit of the Gaelic Renaissance and the Anglo-Irish literary revival was the spirit of Arnold and Renan.  Even the scientific scholars, such as Professor Eoin MacNéill, sought to explain away the old sagas as myths concerning the rising and setting of the suns.  Patrick Pearse had an uncommon insight into the discipline for his day, due to his competancy in French and German, but was not above manipulating this knowledge for political purposes in the latter years of his life.  It could be said that the popular presentation of Celtica contributed to the nationalist fervour which brought about the Easter Rising and subsequent events.  Militant nationalists continue to draw from this source, up to the present day.

One side-effect of the Celtic Renaissance was the publication of the lives of many early Irish saints.  These books and pamphlets, with their emphasis on monastic life and asceticism, held up a Celtic spirituality for the admiration and not for the imitation of the readers.  For who would sleep on a plank and keep those impossible fasts anyway?

The Venerable Matt Talbot did!  But when one hears of Celtic spirituality nowadays, Matt Talbot is not a name that comes to mind.
Indo-European Studies
After the First World War, Germany was still the centre of Celtic Sudies.  Scholars were now looking east, to India.  The Germans wholeheartedly embraced the study of Sanskrit.  Thus emerged the new discipline of Indo-Germanistik, rendered Indo-European Studies in most other languages.

The juxtaposition of Arnold's and Renan's "Far West" (the Celtic fringe) with the orient did not go unnoticed.  Irish scholars, having devoured the new Sanskrit grammars, presented Ireland and India as the ultimate peripheries of the Indo-European domain; and therefore, if one could isolate the ancient customs both had in common, one could reconstruct the mores which prevailed in Europe and much of Asia at the dawn of history.  Gandhi borrowed the hunger strike from Terence McSwiney and each believe they were following a tradition known in Ireland and India in primeval times, and therefore practised everywhere between the two.
Aryan brothers
The Germans were more interested by parallels between their own peoples and the Indians.  This too found popular expression.  The National Socialists thought the idea fascinating.  It is no mere coincidence that the Hakenkreuz is an Indian symbol and that the Aryans were a prehistoric race who occupied the region between India and Persia.  Iran and Aryan are derived from the same word.  The Nazis' enthusiasm for Indo-Germanistik is not so extraordinary when one sees it provided them with an origin myth conveniently devoid of the perfidious Jew, and perfectly consistent with Mr Darwin's theory.

It was highly embarrassing to the Indian Congress Party leadership - particularly Nehru - that some of their members swallowed the Indo-European myth.  Thus for many Indian nationalists, Hitler was a hero, and the Nazis their Aryan brothers.  Gandhi (not unlike de Valera) had good reasons for keeping the Congress aloof from India's war effort.
Faulty analysis
The look to the East received a more sophisticated veneer after the war.  Suddenly structuralism, functionalism and formalism - or any combination of these - were the buzz-words.  Georges Dumézil provided a new set of theories, substantially based on the functions of a member of any given Hindu caste.

He had two willing disciples in the Rees brothers, whose book Celtic Heritage* is something of a classic.  Personally, I would warmly recommend Celtic Heritage to any novice, provided they concentrate on the narrative to the old Irish and Welsh tales and ignore the analysis of them.  The Dumézillians seem to have forgotten that India was a highly developed, urban and literate society for some millennia before Christ, while the Celtic and Germanic peoples remained rural and illiterate until they were evangelised.  It makes a difference.

At present, there is a tendency among some professional Celtic scholars to regard the Irish and Welsh sagas as mediaeval Christian literature.  As such, they owe as much to Christian sources as they do to allegedly extensive pagan lore in the Celtic regions prior to their christianisation.  Of course, it is easier to see the Christian influence when the extant material is compared with classica, patristic and apocryphal sources, not to mention Scripture itself.  The existence of this school of thought is a well-kept secret.
Ideology or ideolatry?
Just as scholars are coming to a new appreciation of the Christianity of Celtica, the pseudo-scholars are using it to construct a neo-paganism.  In appealing to the archaic, they seek to give legitimacy to new philosophies such as feminism and New Ageism.  These speak of a matriarchal society in which the earth was worshiped and humankind was at one with nature.  Women, naturally, held sway.

This is not the first time that scholarship is being twisted to serve ideology.  And where an obscure discipline such as Celtic Studies is thus abused, what would one expect of something like history or theology?

I wonder if ideology is the right word to describe feminism or Marxist-Leninism or any of the other philosophies that accommodate themselves so well to the Zeitgeist.  Ideology suggests discussion of an idea; and these fundamentalisms admit no dissension in any form, but rather involve worship of the idea - equivalent of the worship we would give to God, and probably contrary to the First Commandment.

Would the word ideolatry not be more appropriate?  And are the adherents of an ideolatry not ideolaters?

* A. and B. Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition of Ireland and Wales, 1961

The Brandsma Review, Issue 36, April-May 1998

On Tongues of Men and Angels

Esperanto, PIE in the Sky and Linguistic Devolution
Et incirco vocatum est nomen ejus Babel, quia ibi confusum est labia universae terrae 
et inde dispersit eos Dominus super faciem cunctorum regionem. - Genesis 11:9

IN 1887, Dr L.L. Zamenhoff published Lingvo Internacia, which outlined the grammar and structure of a proposed universal language.  The artificial language was called by Zamenhoff's nom-de-plume, Esperanto - the word for "one who hopes" in the new language.  Appropriate, as Zamenhoff was a dreamer. 

He also tried to invent a universal religion based on the Golden Rule.  To date, the language has been more successful; but there are other dreamers out there working on a common denominator creed.

In his Etymologiae, St Isidore of Seville lists 72 languages, which he says came into being at Babel.  Of these, Latin, Greek and Hebrew are pre-eminent, sanctified, as it were, on the Cross.  This highly influential mediaeval work caused some embarrassment here: Irish was excluded in some version of the text.  But this became an opportunity to suggest that the common ancestor of the Gael, Fénnius Farsaid, took the finest elements of the 72 languages and concocted a new tongue which he named after his grandson, Góedel.  Gaelic.  There is a subtle hint that Irish is a reconstruction of the common language spoken from Creation to Babel.

Modern endeavour and mediaeval legend fly in the face of the reality of the diversity of tongues.  The Bible and the Church's tradition teach this to be a curse on man, even after the Fall.  Modern scientists and linguists see things differently.  Languages are held to be the products of millenia of evolution, from animal grunts to the sophisticated jargon we employ today.
 Becoming simpler
Observation does not bear this out.  Five thousand years of written records show that language is simplifying.  Anyone who has studied an ancient tongue, even very superficially, will tell you a dead language is more complex and exact than a living language.

In Europe, most languages appear to be interrelated. Scholars abandoned the notion that Sanskrit was the mother-language.  It is now believed our Indo-European ancestors spoke a common tongue which predates even Sanskrit.  So if you take Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Old Church Slavonic, Old Irish, Old Welsh, Old Lithuanian, Gothic and many others, you can work out how the first Caucasians spoke.  Thus you can reconstruct Proto-Indo-European (PIE).

These alleged Aryans occupied most of the lands between these islands and Central Asia.  The Old Irish and the Old Welsh rhi have the Gaulish suffix  -rix(e.g Vercingetorix) as their cousin.  The Latin rex is more distant and the Sanskrit ráj-á is even further removed.  These point to the PIE *rék-s (king).  Likewise, Old Irish fer (now fear) and Latin vir possibly derive for the PIE wiros.  So if we recall the word werewolf, we see an Old English equivalent frozen in Modern English.
Fruitless investment
It is not always so direct.  Our Irish antecedents had a difficulty with the sound "p".  So én(éan=bird) is *petnos in PIE.  This suggests the Latin penna (feather), which we see in English pen, Old Irish penn (peann).  Penna is the word for both pen and feather in Italian (like French plume, German feder and Russian перо). See what you get served if you order penne in an Italian restaurant.  Of course a pen is also a female swan.

The Latin palma, Greek παλαμη and Old English folm mean "palm".  The Old Irish lám (lámh) and Old Welsh llaw (hand) are similar enough to give *plhma (palm).  To find out what our forebears called their hands would involve going to Armenian and Hittite.  Much money is invested in the reconstruction of PIE, especially in Germany and Austria, in spite of the fact there will never be a shred of evidence anyone ever spoke it.
Courtesy of Attila
Not every European language is Indo-European.  Finnish, Estonian, Magyar and Turkish form a group on their own.  Their closest relatives are found in the Central Asian former Soviet republics (and also in Manchuria).  These were imported into Europe in the Dark Ages, courtesy of one Attila the Hun.

This leaves two unaccounted for: Basque and Georgian.  Recent research has suggested the two are distantly related and may be classified as Pre-Indo-European tongues.  There may well have been a common language across the continent, displaced by invaders from the Caucasus.  Perhaps the monuments of the pre-Celtic languages in Ireland might give us some direction as to language - as might the Pictish inscriptions in Scotland.  But where does that leave PIE?  And what did each language develop from?

Other coincidences exist which the scientific community ignore.  I know of a Basque who tried to buy onions at a market in the Himalayas..  He exhausted his range of major European languages, and the Nepalese vendor only knew what he meant when he used his native Basque.  Researchers into the Welsh tale of Prince Madoc reaching America in a coracle (before Columbus) stumbled upon similarities between Welsh and Pawnee.  A regular Brandsma Review reader told me much of the similarities between many words in Irish and Arabic.

I will not dwell on these suggested links between Basque and Nepalese, Welsh and Pawnee or Irish and Arabic.  But can the construction of PIE be beneficial?  Contrast PIE and Esperanto.  Both are artificial languages created from the existing vocabularies of "Indo-European" tongues - Esperanto from the living, to produce a simple language anyone could learn to speak; PIE from the dead, to arrive at a putative common ancestor.

In effect, PIE is an élitist Esperanto providing intellectual stimulation for etymologists.  Both experiments mock evolution, for if PIE is the alpha and Esperanot the omega, we would have a highly complex tongue devolving into a simple language.
Anarchy and dictatorship
It might be said language is being debased, that Gresham's Law applies to language as to money (or religion).  Let the doubtful listen to teenagers speaking among themselves.  It appears that television, inter alia, has speeded up the process of simplification.

Simultaneously, I can see two trends from the academic ivory towers.  One is towards linguistic anarchy - the neologism or Newspeak.  Write your own tongue as you go along, like Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass.  Secondly we have the Thought Police, taking a leaf out of George Orwell's 1984.  It's called PC.  The intellectual Mandarin class have successfully imposed "gender" in place of "sex" (though I am waiting to hear charges of "genderism" levelled against those who used to be "male chauvinists").

Though it is now acceptable to use four-letter words and take the Holy Name in vain, there are a great many words which may no longer be used.  So much for freedom of expression.

In Gulliver's Travels, Swift describes a race of talking horses, the Houyhnhms.  These noble creatures ask how one could pervert such a magnificent gift as the spoken word by telling a lie.  One wonders what the Dean would make of those who use language games to bully the masses into accepting a political agenda, as Mussolini did in Fascist Italy.

Thus the Church chooses her time to venacularise the Mass.  It is no surprise that there is an analogue of Babel among Catholics.  We no longer understand each other as we used to.  Moreover, the abandonment of a sacral tongue for the secular has left the language of the Mass open to the petty political demands of the vocal few, and to the cultural swing to the banal which has no place in something so venerable and so sacred.

Whereas the original Pentecost was marked by and understanding of diverse tongues, the promised second Pentecost has brought the opposite.  It is time to sit down and meditate upon Babel and Pentecost.  Veni, Sancte Spiritus!

The Brandsma Review, Issue 37, June-July 1998

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Irish - The Lost Tribe?

Vos autem genus electum, regale sacerdotium, gens sancta, populus acquisitionis - 1 St Peter, 2:9
A combination of material wealth and religious poverty is invariably followed by on of those immense 
catastrophes, which write themselves forever on the memory of man.  - Donoso Cortez 

MY FAVOURITE NOVEL in Irish is Monsignor Breandán Ó Doibhlin's Néal Maidine agus Tine Oíche.*  The title "Morning Cloud and Night Fire"is based on Exodus 40:36.  In fact the novel closely follows the delivery of the enslaved Hebrews from Egypt andd their subsequent journey town the promised land.  But the book is written about the Irish, and it is made difficult for the average Irish reader by his frequent references to an older form of the Irish tongue.

Mgr Ó  Doibhlin was not the first.  When I read the book for the second time a number of years ago, I wondered how much the author knew about the fascination of the early Irish monks with ancient Israel and also how shocked those monks would be with modern scholarly attitudes.
Biblical influence crucial
The literature of early mediaeval Ireland has to date been analysed in a strictly Aryan construct.  Parallels are forever sought within the overall Indo-European (indo-germanisch) context.  This can be fruitful. For, example, Cormac mac Airt is suckled by a wolf in infancy.  We could safely assume this to be a direct borrowing from the story of Romulus and Remus, were it not for the fact that a similar tale is told of Cyrus the Persian and the same theme emerges in Greek and Germanic lore.  Though valuable, the Indo-European view is not the last word on the matter.

The early Irish monks had little interest in India or Persia.  Their only interest in Germany was to convert the place.  In general, their only interest in an alleged Caucasian heritage was a belief that were are all descended from Noah's son Japheth.  The early Irish monks were more interested in Israel than in India.

Most of the writings now seen as mythological can be read as a retelling of a distinctly Irish folklore, subject to biblical influence.  So the puny Lug Lám Fata slays Balor of the evil eye with a sling shot.

But the monastic scribes went a lot further than that.  Lebor Gabála (The Book of Invasions) describes the primaeval history of Ireland.  It shows the influence of St Isidore of Seville and St Augustine in its view of history.  But it is interesting to see the lengths to which the monks went to parallel the Irish experience with that of the Hebrews.  In ways quite reminiscent of the Boers in South Africa or the Mormons, the first Irish Christians appear to have latched on to the conviction that they were a unique people, to whom God had allotted a special destiny.
Egyptian link
The common ancestor of the Gael was a Scythian.  (Here - and only here - would mediaeval and modern scholar find consensus.)  The lawyer and linguist, Fénius Farsaid, finds his way to Egypt where he founds a school of law.  His son married the Pharaoh's duaghter, that the father names  the language he invents after her son, Góedel, so we have Gaelic.  It is strongly hinted that young Góedel had Moses for a foster brother and Fénius taught both of them law.

Anyway, the time comes when it is now longer politic for Fénius and his kin to remain in Egypt, so they embark on a journey which brings them through the North African desert over 40 years and than through Spain, before they come to rest in Ireland.  Of course, they have to displace the peoples who were there before them, which they have no problem in doing.
 Place of natural law
A nice story, but the monks had to back it up.  They appealed to St Paul, who in Romans 2:14-15, implies a Natural Law written into creation by God.  The Irish were quite diligent in there observance of natural law (recht aicnid), according to the scribes.  Natural law was seen as a very important judicial concept; aand one presumes it remained so until Chief Justice Hamilton enlightened us on the the topic in the judgement on the constitutionality of the Abortion Information Act a few years ago.  Wherever they could point out a coincidence with the Law of Moses (recht litre - written law, they did; the most striking example being in relation to heiresses.

In the fullness of time, the Irish received the Law of Moses and with it, the Prophets and the New Testament.  This would naturally single St Patrick out as somewhat special.  The monks depicted him as a Moses-Elias figure.  Whereas the St Patrick of the Confessio and the Epistola is a simple and zealous missionary (methinks he doth protest too much - both writings are a lot more sophisticated than they appear to the naked eye), the various biographers of the saint give us the picture of either of the greatest figures of the Old Testament.
 Not merely hagiographical
Again and again, incidents are related which are similar to the lives of Moses and Elias.  In his various confrontations with the druids, we see retellings of the stand-off between Moses and Pharoah's magicians or between Elias and the priests of Baal.

It is all too simple to dismiss the Lives of St Patrick in the light of his own literary legacy.  Too simple, and based on an uncritical reading of both.  It should be remembered that St Patrick must have been a very impressive figure to silence the whole court of the High King and pave the way for the Christianisation of the entire country.

One of the Lives contains a very frank details: though the saint makes a great impression of King Lóegaire Ua Néill, the king remains a heathen.  This would hardly appear in a text which was merely hagiographical.

As Moses and Elias (foreshadowing Our Lord) fast 40 days and nights, so does St Patrick.  Finally, as the 12 Apostles are given the authority to judge the 12 Tribes of Israel, (St Matthew 19:28), Muirchú's Life assigns the same task to St Patrick, as he had been an apostle to us.  This is as close as the monks came to claiming status as a lost tribe.
 Judgement for sins
One could go into great detail about other efforts to associate Early Ireland with the peoples of the Old and New Testament, whether in lawa or customs, in origins ( though Japheth was the father of the Europeans, most Irish genealogies were traced through Shem), or personal contact.  (At least one Irish jurist went the wrong way on leaving Egypt and wandered with the Israelites for 40 years, receiving the Law from Moses.  And three Irish nobles were said to have become Christian before St Patrick came - Conchobar mac Nessa and Cormac mac Airt are the best known.)

The matter did not rest there.  At a much later time, during Plantations and Penal Laws, Irish writers and scholars returned to the same theme.  This time the literati were largely in exile on the continent, especially in Louvain.  The Elizabethan and Cromwellian terrors were fresh memories and it seemed one anti-Catholic pogrom followed another.  The writers went back to the Old Testament view of the Babylonian captivity and the conquest of the Promised Land by the Gentiles.  It was the judgement of God on Ireland for the sins of the Irish.
 Slavery and idols
Mgr Ó Doibhlin returns to the same theme this century.  Behind all the allusion to Exodus and Lebor Gabála, despite how archaic and remote all the characters and themes appear, one cannot help but believe he is referring to our own day.  Slavery and idols, though they come in different shapes and sizes, are still present; and little is so destructive as the slavery or seductive comforts, especially after enduring the more obvious slavery for so long.

Ireland has changed a lot since the 1960s, and the delusion of the Celtic Tiger within a new European superstate suggests that our present affluence may be a new form of enslavement.  If I draw my own parallel with the Old Testament in 1 Macchabees 1:11-16, we see the description of the apostasy of the Jews.

It is a depressing portrait of a race who throw off their distinctive beliefs and customs, given them by the true God, for the peace and prosperity of a pagan empire: an apostasy before the coming of Christ, which prefigures the apostasy before His Second Coming: Quo vadis, Hibernia?

There are many similarities between the Irish and the Jews, and the comparison is a lot more instructive than ideas about common links between Ireland and India (links which do exist but are buried in the mists of prehistory).  Unfortunately this resemblance is not a matter for self-congratulation; it is, rather, a cross to be carried.

Nations, like individuals, have their own vocations, their own specific missions.  Has Ireland, insula sanctorum et scholarum, made good use of the graces God has conferred on her?  And does she continue to do so in our own day?

* Breandán Ó Doibhlin, Néal Maidine agus Tine Oíche, Foilseacháin Náisiúnta Teoranta, 1964

 The Brandsma Review, Issue 39, October-November 1998 

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Mythical History or Historical Mythology?

Erat autem nox - St John, XIII, 30

I have always regarded tales of de Valera's Catholic theocracy as mythical.  In 1941, he founded the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies to promote scholarship in the two disciplines that fascinated him: Mathematical Sciences and Celtic Studies.

Professor Erwin Schrödinger, a refugee from Austria who later won the Nobel physics prize, gave the inaugural lecture in the School of Mathematical Sciences, in which he proposed that theoretical physics could explain the existence of the universe without reference to a creator-God.  Professor T. F. O'Rahilly gave the inaugural lecture in the School of Celtic Studies and proposed that St Patrick may have been a composite character of two historical personalities.  Myles na gCopaleen found himself in the libel court for suggesting that all Mr de Valera's Institute had done was prove there was no God and two St Patricks.  But de Valera had no inquisition.
Major weakness
As more recent history is enveloped by myth, more ancient history is subject to a myriad of interpretations, not only by scholars, but by anyone with an interest.  One such work, How the Irish Saved Civilization was a runaway bestseller in Irish America.  One might be sympathetic to Thomas Cahill's basic thesis, but one should have problems with many aspects of his arguments.

Mr Cahill brings us on a whirlwind tour of Europe from the last days of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the Middle Ages.  He writes in a very engaging style and the book is very easy to read.  He displays a good knowledge of Latin and of the world of antiquity.
A Spiritual Hitler?
These are the positive points.  The major weakness is that though his central thesis - that the Irish saved civilisation by copying the works of classical literature for posterity - is clear, he does not show how, when or where, for example, the text of the Aeneid was found in Irish manuscripts.  I rather think the attitude of a mediaeval Irish monk to posterity qua posterity was akin to that of one of the members of the Irish House of Commons who voted for the Act of Union in 1800 and exhorted the House to do so with the words "What has posterity ever done for us?"

Mr Cahill spends some time on the fall of Rome, first by caricaturing the poet Ausonius and then by giving us a guided tour of St Augustine's Confessions.  He is very positive about the young Augustine, but not enthusiastic about the older St Augustine.  Could the author of The City of God have brought the dusk of the Dark Ages on the Roman world single-handedly?

This again reminds me of Myles na gCopaleen.  St Augustine appears as a character in The Dalkey Archive, written under the satirist's other pseudonym, Flann O'Brien.  Myles (né Brian Ó Nualláin) described St Augustine as a spiritual Hitler in a radio interview in the 1950s - in de Valera's Ireland.

Then Mr Cahill moves on to Ireland, with St Patrick.  The picture of St Patrick is based on the Confession and the Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus exclusively, without reference to the Lives.  The St Patrick that emerges is like a cross between Frederick Douglas (the 19th century American abolitionist who was himself an escaped slave) and Abraham Lincoln.

There is no doubt what St Patrick thought of slavery, and that his views were probably stronger than those expressed by any churchman until Blessed Bartolomé de Las Casas wrote against it in the 16th century.  But St Patrick did not bring slavery to an end.  A few generations after St Patrick, aristocratic hierarchs were ashamed the Irish Church was founded by a fugitive slave.
Amchurch tendency
Mr Cahill leaves little time to the Church founded by St Patrick.  He covers Ss Bridget, Colmcille and Columbanus and gives a thumbnail sketch to a Church independent of Rome, uninterested in sexual mores and affirmative of feminism.  All this while Europe was in the Dark Ages.  If his sketch seems to resemble Amchurch (as the fading liberal wing of the American church is sometimes called), it is probably a bit more that coincidental.

As Mr Cahill believes the Irish monks copied classical texts for the sake of posterity, he also believes they wrote down Irish folklore exactly as it was.  Folklore is very difficult to deal with.  It is very rare for folklore to remain fossilised, as any of us who have experienced the circulation of "folklore" about ourselves can testify: for, like gossip, folklore is a dynamic process.  It tends to have some relevance to current situation.

In terms of modern Irish political history, until very recently stories about de Valera tended to be coloured by the narrator's view of the Civil War.  At present, such stories tend to reflect the narrator's view of Church/State relations.  Archbishop McQuaid is another victim of the current trend, as John Cooney's biography will illustrate (another repository of folklore).

The caricature of Archbishop McQuaid raises another question: why have the ecclesiastical historians not raised a voice in his defence?  Could it be that the late Archbishop represents a Church the current hierarchy would prefer to move away from, so they leave charges by secularist historians unopposed?  Is this also why Father Pierre Blet is alone in defending Pope Pius XII?
Repulsive Queen Medb
On the basis of vicissitudes of folklore within living memory, I would challenge the proposition that the Táin Bó Cuailgne, written in the eighth or ninth century was essentially unchanged from the version allegedly told in the first.  Mr Cahill quotes Kinsella's translation of the Táin (he has no Old Irish).  Even reading the poetical English translation, I could see that much of the language referred to Latin or Christian concepts, and therefore could not come from the first century without major alteration.  The character Queen Medb is no heroine; she has many repulsive traits and certainly does not reflect historical reality.

My position on the Táin is that it is not folklore, but composed literature with a flavouring from folklore, and it was meant to be didactic.  Its moral is that women are unfit to rule: Medb's paramour, Fergus MacRóich says as much at the end - that a herd of stallions led by a mare is bound to stray.
Schoolboyish treatment
Claims for the independence of the Irish Church from Rome are really based on only two factors: the date of Easter and the tonsure.  Mr Cahill rightly says the Irish monks never fought these issues.  His other more serious assertion, that sexual morality meant nothing in Ireland until Victorian times, is patently false - but unsurprising given Mr Cahill's schoolboyish treatment of the subject.  In many of the earliest tales of the death of a hero, infidelity or fornication spelt doom, and the only evidence for homosexuality is in bad translations.

Mr Cahill rejoices that returning to being what he alleges we were until recent years: sexual hedonists.  If the post-Christian age is a return to heathen ways, we are also returning to crimes against person and property, and I would love to see some bourgeois advocate of promiscuity trying to refute the charge that these things are connected.

When I began to study Old Irish, I was told that the classical world viewed its mythology historically and the Celtic world view its history mythologically.  It is not always easy to tell the difference, but I suspect the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies have a lot of fun in the area (although this tendency if far from confined to the Celtic period alone).  While they labour slowly, people like Mr Cahill make money.

I would say he is in fact describing himself when, in the book, he calls Ausonius a master of a good tunr of phrase for the kudos of the audience.  And in Mr Cahill's case, the audience are those cultural Irish Catholics - principally but not exclusively in the United States - who are somewhat estranged from Church teaching on sexual ethics.
Lifting Shadows?
The influence of Mr Cahill's book outside the United States surely had its zenith in Leinster House shortly before Christmas (1999).  It was one of the major sources for Mary McAleese's address to the other two Houses of the Oireachtas entitled Ireland's Lifting Shadows - something for posterity.  Mrs McAleese directly quoted Mr Cahill's assertion that St Patrick brought, let us say, a benignly ecumenical Christianity to Ireland:

As Thomas Cahill says: "Patrick's gift to the Irish was his Christianity - the first de-Romanized Christianity in human history."  It was a Christianity that fused easily into Irish life, growing side by side with the old pagan culture, with no anxiety to obliterate it.
This is nonsense, but a nonsense calculated to elicit desired responses to the Northern Irish peace process and the refugee crisis.  To this end, Mrs McAleese paints a dim picture of the generation of independence, and a bright picture of the European Union, all in a language of lifting shadows, with relevant quotations from recent literature to show a modern dark age has been dispelled.  An incredibly naïve view of present day Irish life.

As for "lifting shadows", just one quotation strikes me.  It's from St John's Gospel, when Judas leaves the Upper Room:
And it was night.

The Brandsma Review, Issue 47, February-March 2000.


Friday, 9 September 2016

Anamchara: Soul's Friend or Foe?

 Videmus nunc per speculum in aenigmate: tunc autem facie ad faciem - 1 Corinthians XIII, 12

JOSEPH SHERIDAN LE FANU has a lot to answer for.  As a writer of ghost stories, he incorporated many themes from Irish folklore into his tales and was widely read in the Victorian great house.  His best known story is the novella Carmilla which appears in his collection In a Glass Darkly.

Carmilla is a chilling vampire story and was among the models Le Fanu's compatriot Bram Stoker used for Dracula.  Those who like to talk of Ireland's literary tradition should know that no Irish written work has made quite the impact on the world as Dracula.

Carmilla - which I find scarier than Dracula - is set in Carinthia ( an Austrian province where Jörg Haider is currently governor), but Le Fanu draws on Irish tradition here too.  The female vampire Carmilla is like a banshee insofar as she is attached to certain families and draws her victims from among their daughters.
Off on a tangent
Rev John O'Donoghue has also drawn on Irish folklore, among other sources, to write an international bestseller: Anamchara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World.  (Please excuse my typography: Father O'Donoghue puts a dot above the c in anamchara rather than using a ch.  That is dreadfully pretensious).  Some years ago, one Sunday Independent journalist described it as one of the creepiest books she knew, though Father O'Donoghue did not intend it as such.

An anamchara is literally a soul-friend, and in early Irish monasticism was a confessor, who was the fore runner of the modern spiritual director.  Perhaps the старец (elder) in the Russian monastic tradition provides a counterpart; both ultimately derive from the same source.  But Father O'Donoghue's Anamchara does not tap into any type of recognisable Irish spiritual tradition.  It goes off on its own distinct tangent.  Before one even starts the book, nothing draws attention to Father O'Donoghue's status as a priest of the Galway & Kilmacduagh diocese.  His photograph, in mufti, appears on the jacket cover which lists his academic achievements and publications.  These are considerable, though one would question the wisdom of his then bishop in sending him to do a doctorate in philosophical theology in Tübingen, home of Rev Professor Hans Küng.  Long before Father Küng, the Catholic Theological Faculty there (Tübingen is the international academic centre of the Lutheran Churches, but nevertheless had a Catholic theological faculty there for two centuries) had a history of blazing trails.  Anamchara, however, does not blaze any trails.
'Wonderful', 'lovely'...
Anamchara is written in a very readable style.  So readableI would describe it as positively patronising.  He punctuates the work with quotations and references to literature, art, philosophy and to Irish folklore, normally qualifying either the phrase or the writer with adjectives such as "beautiful", "wonderful" or "lovely".  For example:
A beautiful example is Berninis's Teresa in Ecstasy 
The wonderful Polish poet Tadeusz Rozewicz describes the difficulty of writing good poetry
 There is the lovely story of Oisín who was one of the Fianna, the band of Celtic warriors.
This can sometimes be more than a little ridiculous, e.g.:

The phrase from Edith Piaf, Je ne regrette rien, is wonderful in its free and wild acceptance.
Sometimes, Father O'Donoghue totally misses the mark:

There is nothing as near as the eternal.  This is captured in the lovely Celtic phrase: tá tír na n-óg ar chul an tí - tír álainn trina chéile, i.e. the land of eternal youth is behind the house, a beautiful land fluent within itself.  (sic).
What he is in fact quoting here is the opening line of a very modern poem written by Seán Ó Ríordáin (1917-1977).  Ó Ríordáin suffered from tuberculosis, and for part of his life lived in isolation in a pre-fabricated building at the back of the family home in Ballyvourney, Co Cork.  This was tír na n-óg ar chúl an tí, the land of youth at the back of the house, so-called because the resident was fated to live a short life.  It is a terrifying thought, really; though in the context of what Father O'Donoghue has to say about death, I think he would see beauty in it.

The book goes through six chapters on friendship, the senses, solitude, work, ageing and death.  Father O'Donoghue writes authoritatively on each of those subjects, almost as if he has direct personal experience of each.  Well, Father is not yet aged, nor has he worked in the work environment he describes - except perhaps briefly - nor has he ever died.  And I find how he writes about conjugal love and sex very disconcerting.  Had he been a married man of his age (he is still very young), I would have been incredulous; for a priest to write of marriage, I would expect decades of pastoral experience, which was certainly not acquired in the academic groves of Tübingen.  As for sex, the question of experience or lack of it is immaterial; it is quite disedifying to see a priest writing about sexuality as Father O'Donoghue does in this book.  In this context, one might wonder whether Anamchara would have had such a roaring success if the author were identified as a priest.
Living dog and dead lion
As for solitude, he has never lived an eremetical lifestyle.  Though I can identify with a lot of what he has to say about the workplace, there seems to be something very cynical in the way it is put.  (Just as in the way he describes marriage and sex).  And I will believe his sincerity about this liberating force of death, if he is able to confirm it to me after he has in fact died.  I thought of the phrase in Ecclesiastes 9,4: melior est canis vivus leone mortuo (a living dog is better than a dead lion).  This was a reaction to Father O'Donoghue's peculiar treatment of death and the hereafter, rather than my actual view on the subject of both.

Aside for the occasional citation, which in at least one case is quite wrong, for the most part Father O'Donoghue's case for "Celtic Spirituality" is based on hearsay evidence, which is encapsulated in a very misogynistic Irish saying which denotes gossip: Dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi (a woman told me that a woman told her).  In many incidents he talks of people he knows to illustrate his point.  This is fine, but it is hardly something on which to construct a model for spirituality.

He cites many philosophers, notably Hegel, but his references to Christianity are few.  Johannes Scottus Eriugena is notable by his absence, though he is one of the few indisputably Celtic philosophers in the textbooks.  Father O'Donoghue's view of the cosmos seems to suggest pantheism: in his reaction against dualism, he comes very close to monism.

He has little time for a spiritual world apart from the material world.  So it is not surprising his approach is very post-modernistic.  Philosophers appear alongside ordinary people and superstition is juxtaposed with both science and theology without any qualification.  So he mentions alleged phenomena such as the banshee and fairies quite positively.  Personally I prefer Sheridan La Fanu's treatment of the same.

What the author seems to prove is that we only see things "through a glass in a dark manner", and he seems to provide an even darker glass through which to look at and beyond the world.
A 'feel-good' book
On the positive side, I agree totally with Father O'Donoghue on the topic of television and its effect on the world.  But the book is written for television consumers.

Essentially, it is a "feel-good" book.  The spiritual counsel offered is to do nothing, to follow your heart, to go along with your feelings.  Any effort to "improve" yourself is doomed to failure, and Father O'Donoghue insists that we were made the way we were for a purpose, that we are naturally good.  It is difficult to see where either Fall or Redemption fit in here, but that does not mean they are absent.  I wonder whether a true soulfriend would advise anyone to relax and do nothing.  In my opinion that counsel is more consistent with the behaviour of a soulfoe - I suppose an anamnamhaid.

As I have said earlier, Father O'Donoghue does not say anything new or original in this book.  There is nothing challenging in it, though it is the work of a man with a gifted mind and an ability to communicate.  It was written to be a bestseller and the author succeeded in that aim.  A pity.  Father O'Donoghue could have used his talents to advance the teaching of the Gospel and the Church.

The Brandsma Review, Issue 48, April-May 2000. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Catechesis from Killaloe


Then Editor's note: Our writer Peadar Laighléis has been taken to task by the Bishop of Killaloe's Advisor on Primary Catechetics, Father David Carroll, over something he wrote in The Sunday Business Post on January 14 this year.  In the course of that article, Peadar analysed the vocations crisis in the light of the new catechetical programme, evaluated developments in sacred music and architecture, and examined the policies of conferences of bishops, priests and religious in regard to issuing official statements.  Here, he responds to Father Carroll's strictures:

WHILE I received the most positive feedback to The Sunday Business Post article from people I would never have expected of having an interest, I did notice none of those who supported its conclusions were priests.

In North America, the liberal National Catholic Reporter is described as the paper of the clergy and the conservative Wanderer is described as the laity's paper.  (They used to have the same circulation, but then the Wanderer began to soar ahead in the 1990s.  Recently, it began losing readers to the more reactionary Remnant.)

Does this suggest a dichotomy between clergy and laity here as in the United States and Canada?  I know The Irish Times would like to think the middle-aged, middle-class and middle-ability suburban wannabee priestesses Patsy McGarry has such a rapport with are representative of the Catholic laity.  But they are not, if for no better reason than that they have ceased to be Catholic.

Maybe most Irish priests believe what they read in The Irish Times.  I am reminded of Mgr Michael Nolan's assertion that the clergy read Irish newspapers which have an anti-Catholic bias, but have a problem with reading The Daily Telegraph, which is somewhat favourable towards Catholicism (relatively), because of its anti-Irish bias.  A very telling point.
Aimless meetings
I mentioned the aimless meetings parents are dragged to in preparation for their children's reception of the sacraments.  Fr Carroll says he puts a great deal of work into preparation and he states his aim as
to affirm parents in the difficult work of parenthood today
to offer support and information on their child's faith development.

Did I read this right? Surely Fr Carroll knows that both Church teaching and the Constitution establish the parents as the primary educators of their children?  If there is to be any transfer of information on a particular child's faith development, it should be the other way round.  I personally would be inclined to tell Fr Carroll, or his equivalent in my diocese, to mind his own business.  (I should say this question is academic, as I am not married and therefore do not have children.  Many graduates of the Children of God series do not seem to realise that there ought to be a connexion between the two.)

Fr Carroll is confident that the change in catechesis is welcome and that
Faith development and education takes account now of the age and learning abilities of the child
This is just an excuse: education is in trouble nowadays.  Illiteracy and innumeracy rates are rising.  Graduates, even in sciences and commerce, require calculators for the simplest mathematical problems.  Others rely on spell-check facilities on computers to write formal letters.  In spite of all the investment in the teaching of European languages in the schools, the average Leaving Certificate student can manage to be no more than a clever tourist.  Levels of knowledge of Irish have fallen contsiderably, in spite of rising investment.
Terrifying indictment
And then there is religion.  If I were to sit down and relate all the anecdotes I have heard regarding the lack of religious knowledge, I would put a very boring multi-volume series together.

About a century and a half ago, two Anglican clergymen thought they would have some fun with an eight-year-old peasant boy in the West of Ireland and see how much he knew about his faith.  They came away dumbstruck at the level of  knowledge he had gleaned from the catechism.

That boy contrasts quite well with the products of the newer techniques, reinforced with audio-visual aids.  Would one not expect to find the highest level of religious knowledge among seminarists or those preparing to be catechists?  Yet their frequent failure to distinguish between the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception is well known.

The inability of those in the earlier years to distinguish between the Catholic teaching on the Mass and the teaching of Cramner, Calvin, Luther and Zwingli on the Lord's Supper is a terrifying indictment of the Catholic school system.  The poor understanding of the nature of the Redemption, consequent to the Incarnation, also indicates that we are in trouble.

Their lack of appreciation of other aspects of Catholicism, peripheral to the faith, is frightening.  I know of a priest of nearly 10 years standing who managed to get through six years in Maynooth, after 13 years in Catholic schools, and could still plead that he never heard of St  Joan of Arc (the editor knows this priest's name and diocese).  In this context, Fr Carroll's remark
helping children to understand what they are learning is hardly a crime.  Or would it be better to keep up levels of ignorance? [sic]
 is quite ironic
The role of Cathal Daly
Fr Carroll is perhaps unaware that a dedicated group of parents met the then Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois in the early 1970s, Mgr Cahal Daly, with reservations about the Children of God series.  They were more concerned about what was omitted than what was included - things like original sin, grace and the soul - and things which were not developed adequately - Purgatory, Hell, the 10 Commandments, the Church, angels, the Holy Trinity.  (This is far from being an exhaustive list.)  The Bishop listened and then went to sing the praises of the new programme.

Well, Alive-O takes this a stage futher.  In addition to all the omissions, one has a series of New Age inspired rituals which I could only call weird, that the children are expected to perform.  When Rod Pead, editor of Christian Order, showed me some of the Alive-O materials, I told him I believed it went beyond mere deficiency - and that I would describe it as being unhealthy.  The Constitution of Ireland, thankfully, gives parents a right to withdraw their children from the religion class.

Then we have this howler from Fr Carroll:
Indeed if Alive-O or Children of God did ignore the teachings of the Church, then one would imagine that the Bishops of Ireland would not approve the texts for use in Catholic schools throughout Ireland.
Passing the buck
Is this guy for real?  Can anyone remember an interview on catechetics given to The Irish Catholic by Mgr Thomas Finnegan, Bishop of Killala - then spokesman for the Federated Union of Bishops?  My recollection is that His Lordship of Killala said that had there been anything wrong with the Alive-O programme, then the Roman Curia would have objected to its use.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam says "it was her", and points at the flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, and then Eve says "the devil made me do it".  If the children were taught this episode, they would have a splendid example of passing the buck - a very unoriginal sin.

There is a wealth of material in ecclesiastical documents on sex education, which the Church would prefer to see as the province of the home and family rather than the school.  The RSE programme is part of a greater Social, Health and Personal Education, which is cross-curricular.  So it can creep into lessons in arithmetic, art, history, geography - or religion.  The objectives of RSE and Alive-O may be very different, but the latter made no effort to restrict the former, in spite of the fact that some RSE is explicit to the point of being pornographic.
Laughable suggestion?
Then Fr Carroll goes to what he believes was the most important point to make about the entire article.  I said of the prospective seminarist:
He probably lacks the support of family or local clergy enjoyed by previous generations.
This I intended as a sympathetic assessment of the situation from the student's point of view.  Fr Carroll retorts:
But never since the day I entered seminary have I experienced a lack of support from family or friends.  To suggest that one could make such a decision without such support is laughable.
Who is laughing at whom?  If Fr Carroll has this marvelous support, he is very fortunate.  But he says more than that.  First of all he sees his priesthood as based on a decision.  Not a vocation from God?  Decisions relate to lifestyle options.

Secondly, he believes that to suggest this decision could be made without the support of family and friends is laughable.  So, St Thomas Aquinas resistance to his family to join the Dominicans is laughable?  Ss Edmund Campion and John Ogilvie joined the Jesuits and were martyred  - nobody supported these men.

If Fr Carroll really believes priesthood depends on support of family or friends, I wonder what he would do if this support were ever withdrawn.

The Brandsma Review, Issue 53, February-March 2001

Monday, 24 August 2015

Céide and Cardinal Connell


CÉIDE is a disingenuous magazine.  It has adopted the motto Doras Feasa Fiafraighe which it translates as "The door to knowledge is questioning".  Fiafraighe is more accurately translated as "asking" rather than "questioning".
Anyway, the Céide people are not good questioners.  For example, while they insist upon questioning every aspect of Catholicism which readers of The Brandsma Review accept, why are they so confident about the fruits of the Second Vatican Council?

Why can they not see the irony of calling Céide a "review from the margins" while touting articles by such establishment figures as Garrett FitzGerald, Michael D. Higgins and Mary Robinson (who all have more than their share of questionable actions - unquestioned by an uninquisitive media)?  Why do they accept the media's assertion that journalists, both print and broadcast, do not form but reflect public opinion?

To digress from religion for a moment: consider the recent revelations about the 1970s Arms Trial.  Captain James Kelly has been referred to on the airwaves as the Dreyfus of modern Irish history and is guarranteed a more favourable reception than hitherto.  (It is true that a terrible injustice was done to him - and now that he is "politically correct" how many new supporters will gather round him?).

But is anyone going to sit down and analyse the media presentation of the political protagonists in the intervening years: Messrs. Lynch, Gibbons, O'Malley, Haughey and Blaney?  Céide correspondent Dr FitzGerald got away with referring to Mr Haughey's "flawed pedigree" in Dáil Éireann in 1979, by which he meant the arms trials rather than the more recent allegations of corruption.

Remember how bright the Progressive Democrats were painted in 1985, about two and a half years before they proposed their Godless Constitution on Trinity Sunday of 1988?  But I am not dwelling on the political vagaries of the last 31 years, only the media's assertions about itself that Céide has no trouble accepting.

I would have thought Dr FitzGerald should be ashamed to comment on Ireland's birthrate, as he does in the April/May Céide.  His 1982-1987 coalition closed Carysfort College, confident there would soon be a shortage of primary school children (Family Planning [Amendment] Act, 1985?).   They got it badly wrong: this is a severe shortage of primary teachers now.

Forgive my brief partisan digression.
Knack of opening doors
Céide has a problem with Cardinal Connell.  I must confess I had a good gloat over the commentary by  Fathers Hegarty, Hoban and other anonymous sources sitting at the feet of  Rev Michael Enda McDonagh - in quick succession Professor of Moral Theology in Maynooth; chaplain to Mary Robinson in the Park; and President of the People's Democratic Union of Priests.  Can anyone tell me what Father McDonagh's handshake is like?  I would love to know.  He seems capable of opening so many doors - though his friend Dr FitzGerald failed to talk Monsignor Alibrandi into moving him into a big house in Tuam in the 1980s.

It is funny that these middle-aged established clerics were so shocked at the advent of  a bright young orthodox priest called Fr David O'Hanlon, who was caricatured in Céide's commentary.  (Hang out with Father David for too long and you won't be invited to suburban middle class semi-ds by non-practicing 30-somethings for Chablis and Brie).  Well, they seem to find the septuagenarian cardinal as threatening as the notorious trigintarian curate.
They are hurting
They don't quite say that Cardinal Connell should not have got the red hat.  But they are terribly hurt on behalf of liberal Irish Catholics and Protestant churchmen (who, Father Hegarty tells us, are also disciples.)  Dominus Iesus and intercommunion are the stumbling blocks in regard to the latter.

I have already stated Céide's mantra "Vatican II" (Has anyone analysed this 36-year old fundamentalism - the cult of the Spirit-of-Vatican II?).  So would it come to a surprise to them that Dominus Iesus might be a rehash of Dignatatus Humanae, the Declaration of Religious Liberty?  Dominus Iesus is founded on the conciliar documents as it is written - not on what a manipulative intelligentsia, both ecclesiastical and secular has duped the tea-and-biscuit ecumenists into thinking it says.

Traditionalists have heard endless debates about the use of the Latin verb subsistere (which doesn't quite mean "to subsist") in regard to the Church of Christ in the visible Catholic Church.  This led to a reaction against the document on the council floor.  Dominus Iesus now apologetically uses the same verb, and largely repeats what was stated.  Although it has been denounced as heresy by extreme Dominican supporters of the Society of St Pius X in Avrillé, the greatest opponents of the new document are those who purport to be loyal adherents to its mother-document.

Archbishop Wojtyla, who was influential in the debate on religious liberty at the Council and the framing of the Declaration, is now portrayed as the reactionary pontiff who tenaciously holds on to life.  Rev Professor Joseph Ratzinger, friend of Rahner and Küng, is now the Grand Inquisitor of a reformation tract.  And Dominus Iesus is open to vilification.  One cannot help but question the leadership of the Pontifical Council Promoting Christian Unity, since the time of Cardinal Bea.  So is it really a case of Bea culpa, Bea culpa, Bea maxima culpa?
Shooting the messenger
Monsignor Desmond Connell, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, defends the document.  This earns him the ire of liberals, who prefer the Second Vatican Council the way they imagined it rather than the way it was.  Rev Patrick Jones of the National Liturgy Centre must find this every time some erudite lay observer reminds him that Sacrosanctum Concilium did not mandate the gutting of church sanctuaries, and can quote the document.  It goes a lot further than church architecture: eg, it states that Latin should remain the language of the Mass; and that Gregorian chant should be the norm for sung Masses.

And there are more where that came from.  The Council Documents also ask priests and religious to continue wearing a distinctive mode of dress.  The Second Vatican Council did not, or could not, accept the reformed sects as "sister churches" and neither does Dominus Iesus.  Cardinal Connell states this, and the liberal approach is to shoot the messenger.  But that is to be expected from a clergy who are quite used to twisting their presentation of the faith to suit themselves.
Orthodox on intercommunion
As for intercommunion, ecumenism and ecumania - I lament we do not have a larger Eastern Orthodox community in this country.  In that case, ecumenism would have a more balanced focus.  I would relish seeing well-heeled liberal Catholics refused communion by bearded archimandrites at the iconostasis.

Over a decade ago, a delegation from the Russian Church (before the fall of the Soviet Union) visited Maynooth.  An ill-informed deacon offered the Metropolitan of Odessa the chalice at Mass.  The Metropolitan refused.  This has not entered the lore of intercommunion on these islands.  So when Archbishop Connell offends a number of religiously illiterate bourgeois housewives in BASIC who socialise with The Irish Times' Patsy McGarry (who also contributes to Céide), he gets vilified.  And Father Hegarty sees Dr Connell's new red biretta as giving
little hope to Irish Catholic liberals who need leadership
Don't they have the media to lead them where they want to go?
Left losing support
Céide also names Father Vincent Twomey SVD, lecturer in Moral Theology in Maynooth as Connell's ultimate successor.  As I have no access to their crystal ball, I will not comment.  Fr Twomey studied under Ratzinger at Regensburg in the late 1960s, after the future Cardinal moved away from the jet-setting theologians who founded Concilium.

Céide's main source of information on Father Twomey is John Allen's new biography of Cardinal Ratzinger.  John Allen is a correspondent with the American National Catholic Reporter.  This has been the flagship periodical of the American Catholic left since the Second Vatican Council.  It has been losing steam for some time recently, as it has noticed that the younger generation  of American Catholics is either leaving the Church altogether (often to become Eastern Orthodox or evangelical protestants) or going to conservative, traditionalist or eastern Catholic movements.  The United States Catholic left, hard and soft, is losing support.  Would Céide profit by their example?
Swipe at St Thérèse
Céide have some solutions of their own.  They suggested that when Jim Cantwell retired from the Catholic Press and Information Office, he be replaced by a bright young woman like Annette O'Donnell.  Do they seriously believe that perception is everything?  I think they seriously need to question the media.  And they also propose Father John O'Donoghue as the perfect candidate to translate the Church's spiritual treasury into the language of the unchurched young (this is my terminology).  Father O'Donoghue did not even identify himself as a priest in Anamchara, which was a highly questionable work anyway.

Father Hoban denigrates alternatives to Anamchara, such as trips to Medjugorje and tours of boxes of relics (a swipe at St Thérèse of Lisieux).  In the first instance, the Medjurgorje phenonomen has not been (and is unlikely to be) authenticated by the Church, and pilgrimages there are private affairs.  And the tour of St Thérèse's relics is based on an initiative of the laity - not the hierarchy, not the clergy and not the religious.
Spiritual bankruptcy
This is something that Father Hoban should reflect upon: the paternalistic liberals dominating the Irish clergy do not seem to accept the fact that the most dedicated among the laity now have a different vision to them.  Has the faith they once possessed deserted them so completely that they react against anything tainted by traditional Catholicism - even though, in the majority of instances, this does not in fact come from traditionalists?

Do they not see that the apparitions and the prayer-groups and the new devotions are born out of the spiritual and sacramental bankruptcy of many pastoral settings?  The present state of affairs  has its origin in a false reading of the Second Vatican Council.  Céide follows The National Catholic Reporter in this respect.

The Brandsma Review, Issue 54, May-June 2001