Bishops and Cardinal Gather in Ireland: Specific intention to ‘Seek Forgiveness’

Thousands of pilgrims have travelled to Dublin for the International Eucharistic Congress, which comes at a time when public trust in the Catholic Church has been deeply damaged by the clerical sexual abuse scandal and the criminal conspiracy to cover it up. The tone of many of the addresses was subdued – no false rhetoric like we are hearing here in the U.S. – just an acknowledgement that the Church’s journey to renewal will be a long one and the male institutional hierarchy of the Catholic Church must, with great humility, ask forgiveness of those it let down.

Read key speeches from the Dublin Congress:

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: the Church’s journey to renewal will be long: “The 50 years since the Second Vatican Council have brought many graces to the Church in Ireland. The message and teaching of the Council still constitute the blueprint for our renewal. But those 50 years have also been marked with a darker side, of sinful and criminal abuse and neglect of those weakest in our society: children, who should have been the object of the greatest care and support and Christ-like love. We recall all those who suffered abuse and who still today bear the mark of that abuse and may well carry it with them for the rest of their lives. In a spirit of repentance, let us remember each of them in the silence of our hearts.”

The Primate of the Philippines Archbishop Lius Tagle speaks on Clergy Sexual Misconduct: reflections from Asia

The Pope’s representative, Cardinal Ouellet, apologizes to abuse victims on behalf of the Church: “I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness, from God and from the victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics. We have learned over the last decades how much harm and despair such abuse has caused to thousands of victims. We learned too that the response of some Church authorities to these crimes was often inadequate and inefficient in stopping the crimes, in spite of clear indications in the code of Canon Law. In the name of the Church, I apologize once again to the victims … ”

Cardinal Sean Brady apologises for the Church’s failure to safeguard children and young people: “There is a much larger stone that sits in a place of honour here before this altar. It will serve as a reminder of those children and young people who were hurt by a Church that first betrayed their trust and then failed to respond adequately to their pain. The words of the Gospel echo in my mind: “It is not the will of your Father that any of these little ones should be lost”. May God forgive us for the times when we as individuals and as a Church failed to seek out and care for those little ones who were frightened, alone and in pain because someone was abusing them. That we did not always respond to your cries with the concern of the Good Shepherd is a matter of deep shame. We lament the burdens of the painful memories you carry. We pray for healing and peace for those whose suffering continues. I want to take this opportunity of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress to apologise for the times when some of us were blind to your fear, deaf to your cries and silent in response to your pain. My prayer is that one day this stone might become a symbol of conversion, healing and hope.”

Irish Archbishop Speaks Candidly on Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

While many bishops and priests have closed ranks when faced with the extent of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, has consistently spoken clearly and directly.

This week Martin spoke at the Marquette University Law School’s conference titled “Harm, Hope and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal,” as part of the school’s restorative justice program. “Archbishop Martin said what many Catholics want to hear, and they haven’t heard it from their Catholic leadership,” said Janine Geske, a professor at the law school who heads its Restorative Justice Initiative, in the National Catholic Reporter.

Also this week, Presbyterian pastor Peter James Vienna Presbyterian Church in Virginia stood before his congregation and acknowledged that the sexual abuse by a youth director was “far more devastating and horrific than we had imagined.” A row of young women, part of at least a dozen women who had been victimized over a four year period, sat in a back pew as James apologized.

“We failed as leaders to extend the compassion and mercy that you needed,” James said, publicly acknowledging the church’s failings for the first time. “Some of you felt uncared for, neglected and even blamed for this abuse. I am sorry. The church is sorry.”

Below are highlights from Archbishop Martin’s presentation. It needs to be read by far more than just Catholics.

I tell these events not to re-open history, but to illustrate just how difficult it is to bring an institution around to the conviction that the truth must be told. All institutions have an innate tendency to protect themselves and to hide their dirty laundry. We have to learn that the truth has a power to set free which half-truths do not have. The first condition for restorative justice is that all parties are willing to tell the truth and to take ownership of the truth, even when the truth is unpleasant. As I said at a recent liturgy of lament in Dublin: “The truth will set us free, but not in a simplistic way. The truth hurts. The truth cleanses not like smooth designer soap but like a fire that burns and hurts and lances”. ..

I still cannot accept a situation that no-one need assume accountability in the face of the terrible damage that was done to children in the Church of Christ in Dublin and in the face of how that damage was addressed. The responses seemed to be saying that it was all due to others or at most it was due to some sort of systems fault in the diocesan administration. …

But even those numbers, though shocking, have not got the right focus. Statistics are too often offender-focussed. We have to set out from the standpoint that the person who was at the epicentre of abuse was not the priest, but the victim, a child. A restorative justice approach would have to re-orient the way we draw up not just our statistics but our pastoral care. One victim constantly reminds me that the stern words of Jesus in Saint Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 18:6) about the “great millstone” to be fastened around the neck of anyone who becomes a stumbling block for the “little ones”, are quickly followed (Mt 18:12) by the teaching on the Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to find the one who has been lost. …

The culture of clericalism has to be analysed and addressed. Were there factors of a clerical culture which somehow facilitated disastrous abusive behaviour to continue for so long? Was it just through bad decisions by Bishops or superiors? Was there knowledge of behaviour which should have given rise to concern and which went unaddressed? …

A restorative justice approach which admits and addresses the truth in charity offers a useful instrument to create a new culture within the Catholic Church which enables the truth to emerge not just in the adversarial culture which is common in our societies, but in an environment which focuses on healing. At our service of lament and repentance I stressed that scandal of the sexual abuse of children by clergy means that the Archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again. That is more easily said than achieved. After a period of crisis there is the danger that complacency sets in and that all the structures which we have established slip down to a lower gear. …

A Church which becomes a restorative community will be one where the care of each one of the most vulnerable and most wounded will truly become the dominant concern of the ninety-nine others, who will learn to abandon their own security and try to represent Christ who still seeks out the abandoned and heals the troubled. …

Martin’s full speech is below.
Continue reading “Irish Archbishop Speaks Candidly on Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal”

Poetry: Theo Dorgan’s “Bread Dipped in Olive Oil and Salt”

Theo_DorganI heard Theo Dorgan read in Dublin last year from his then as yet unpublished manuscript. Now Greek, his newest collection of poems is available – and I’m savoring every page. Even today I took my copy down to the cafe beneath my office and read while the ladies fixed my sandwich. (I noticed I was sharing the table with a young woman who was reading off her Kindle. While casting no aspersions her way – I know she’s saving trees – I was highly satisfied holding my book in my hands. Ahhh, the pleasure.)

Below find Dorgan’s poem that appeared on Poetry Daily. I recently read this one aloud to a friend while she was cooking dinner.

Bread Dipped in Olive Oil and Salt
by Theo Dorgan

Bread dipped in olive oil and salt,
a glass of rough dry white.

A table beside the evening sea
where you sit shelling pistachios,
flicking the next open with the half-
shell of the last, story opening story,
on down to the sandy end of time.

The stars coming out on the life that I call mine

Dorgan is a poet, prose writer, editor, scriptwriter, translator, and sailor. His other books include What This Earth Cost Us (Dedalus, 2008); Sailing for Home, his prose account of a transatlantic voyage under sail; and, in 2007, A Book of Uncommon Prayer, which he compiled and edited. He is the editor of Irish Poetry Since Kavanagh, and co-editor of Leabhar Mór na hÉireann / The Great Book of Ireland, An Leabhar Mór / The Great Book of Gaelic, the anthology Watching the River Flow, and the acclaimed collection of historical essays Revising the Rising.

Video: Theo Dorgan reads “Visitors”

I’m reading the new collection of poems by Irish poet Theo Dorgan. It’s titled Greek (Daedelus Press, 2010). I heard Theo read some of his Greek pieces when I was in Ireland in 2008. Stunning! Here’s a video of Theo reading “Visitors.” I’m not sure where this is shot, but it probably somewhere outside Dublin. This collection is a great one for reading aloud around the dinner table or while doing the dishes.

Fishing in Deeper Waters

fish-chowder-trailer-2-howthNice to have a note from Dublin psychotherapist Coinneach Shanks on the symbolism of fish. This in response to  my Ireland photo (right) of the Tram Chowder in Howth with its “Fish is Life” slogan.

Coinneach blogs at Psychotherapy in Dublin and has some beautiful photos and lovely reflections on the deeper symbolism of our everyday world. Here’s part of his comment on the symbolism of fish:

Fish are water symbols and are as the vendor correctly suggests, symbols of life. Fish and reproduction are well known companions. They make many, many eggs and are considered almost universally as prosperous and fertile. But Howth is a fishing place and the myths of casting the net and hauling fish from the depths are also cross cultural. Peter was the Fisher of Men, catching the souls for conversion and thus saving them from damnation. For psychoanalysts – well, we fish all the time. We are looking for material from the unconscious, which can be compared to the sea. By allowing spontaneous forces to operate, hidden material of great value may be brought to the surface.

Read Coinneach’s whole post here.

Dublin: How to Pray When You Have a Desk Job

At Trinity University in Dublin, along with the Book of Kells, there were other medieval manuscripts on display. The Book of Armagh, the Book of Darrow, and (one of my favorites) the Book of Mulling were all there to ooh and aww over.

Illumination of St. John from the Book of Mulling

It is perversely comforting to find the monks and nuns of the Middle Ages wrestling over the same issues we wrestle over today. In particular, how to pray when you have a desk job.

One display case held a copy of a sermon preached at the Durham Cathedral in England sometime in the 1100s. I was really touched by the details and the craft.

Medieval Allegory of the Scribes Tools

The parchment on which we write is pure conscience;
the knife that scrapes it is the fear of God;
the pumice that smooths the skin is the discipline of heavenly desire;
the chalk that whitens it signifies an unbroken meditation of holy thoughts;
the ruler is the will of God;
the straight-edge is devotion to the holy task;
the quill, its end split in two for writing, is the love of God and of our neighbor;
the ink is humility itself;
the illuminator’s colors represent the multiform grace of heavenly wisdom;
the writing desk is tranquility of heart;
the exemplar from which a copy is made is the life of Christ;
the writing place is contempt of worldly things lifting us to a desire for heaven.

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Dublin: Scraps of Yeats

While in Ireland, I went twice to the William Butler Yeats exhibit at the National Library of Ireland. It’s a really good exhibit. Before going, I probably knew more than the average American about Yeats, but not much more. This exhibit really made the learning fun and interesting. It’s a great look at a time and place in Irish history that was fermenting with experimental art and revolutionary politics.

I liked that it showed the creative bent of the Yeats family. His father, sisters, and brother were all artists. They’ve been called the “most creative family in Irish history.” I also noted that his mother is described mainly by her depression and withdrawal. Families are complex.

"For the Road" by Jack B. Yeats
"For the Road" by Jack B. Yeats

As a poet, one of my favorite parts of the exhibit was the section that unpacks Yeats’ process for writing poems. Drafts and drafts of original handwritten sheets are in the exhibit with explanations of why he made the revisions that he did. I was especially intrigued by the “prose sketch” he did before any poem. He outlines what he was trying to achieve; made lists of images and words; worked out basic rhyme schemes and meter; and finally set about actually writing the verse.

But the best thing for the readers here is that the whole exhibit is online. It’s a truly amazing feat of interactive learning. The National Library has the most Yeats archival material of anyplace in the world and most of it has been sorted and presented in this exhibit. I spent hours in the actual exhibit and will probably spend hours more scouring the online version. Take a peek!

And since it’s All Hallows Weekend, I thought I’d include a little ghostly scrap.

All Souls’ Night
By William Butler Yeats

Midnight has come and the great Christ Church bell
And many a lesser bell sound through the room;
And it is All Souls’ Night.
And two long glasses brimmed with muscatel
Bubble upon the table. A ghost may come;
For it is a ghost’s right,
His element is so fine
Being sharpened by his death,
To drink from the wine-breath
While our gross palates drink from the whole wine. …

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Howth: What the Heck’s the Book o’ Kells?

Our writers’ conference has officially ended. We had our reading last night and said our goodbyes over breakfast this morning. Today, Katie Chilton and I took the DART into Dublin. First on our itinerary was The Book of Kells at Trinity College library.

The Book of Kells was written around the year 800 AD. It contains the four gospels and is written on vellum made from 185 calf skins. It contains a Latin text of the Gospels in tiny script with amazing decorations of illumination in the margins, in the text, and whole decorative pages throughout. The manuscript was given to Trinity College in the 17th century. Two volumes can normally be seen each day, one opened to display a major decorated page, and one to show two pages of script.

Today’s pages were the illuminated title page from the gospel of Mark and a text page was Matthew 5:35-48 (“You have heard it said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth …”)

Cat, mouse, host - Detail from the Book of Kells, Trinity College, Dublin
Cat, mouse, host - Detail from the Book of Kells, Trinity College, Dublin

One of my favorite images is apparently a reference to a medieval joke/conundrum: It shows a cat chasing a rat or mouse that is eating a Eucharistic host. The unanswered question was: If Jesus says “I am the bread of life and whoever eats of this bread shall have eternal life,” and if the host is truly turned into the Body of Christ so that all who eat of it will have life eternal, then what happens to the mouse who nibbles on the Eucharist in the middle of the night? And what about the cat that eats the mouse?

Ah…the human tendency to make simple things complex. What would we do if we couldn’t dither about such conundrums?.