Sunday, May 19, 2024

Controversial Church Of Ireland Motion on Baptism Proposed at General Synod : 10th May 2024

Proposed by Prof Patricia Barker (Dublin & Glendalough) and seconded by Lynn Wright (Kilmore, Elphin & Ardagh) the Motion affirms the sanctity of marriage but called on Synod to acknowledge that it is a reality of modern life that infants are often born to single parents and/or to couples who are not married. 

The Motion asked Synod to affirm that, in accordance with Canons, Chapter 9 of the Constitution of the Church of Ireland, irrespective of the marital status of the parents of an infant, a minister must not refuse or, save for the purpose of preparing or instructing the parents or godparents, delay to baptise any child within his or her cure who is brought to be baptised, provided that due notice has been given and the provisions relating to sponsors and godparents are observed.

Before the motion was proposed, Archbishop John McDowell observed that the motion had no power to do what it sought to do. It could not impact the present or future practice of baptism by the Church of Ireland. He also said there had been a request for voting by orders.

Prof Barker said that the Motion followed on from last year’s General Synod when the matter of refusing to baptise and infant whose mother was not married was raised. A number of accounts of this practice had emerged in the intervening year, she said. She asked that members of Synod affirm what they believe is fundamentally already embedded in the Church’s Canon law.

“Canon law begins from that basic affirmation of consistency, equity and equality, for all who are members in the Body of Christ. And it seeks clarity about who may do what and who is answerable to whom,” she stated. “In relation to the practice of bringing infants to Church for Holy Baptism those two principles of consistency and clarity are being breached in some parishes in our island. Some clergy – indeed most clergy – will baptise an infant brought for baptism, without asking questions about the marital status of the mother of the infant. Our motion underpins our real concern that, in other cases, infants are refused Baptism by virtue only of the marital status of their mothers.”

She said the motion does not seek to change Canon law but to affirm that law must be applied consistently and with clear equality to all parishioners who find themselves in the same situation.

She outlined the principals of Canon law which were common to the churches of the Anglican Communion. She said that nowhere in the principals or in the Church of Ireland’s Canon 9 was there reference to the marital status of the mother of the child. “So this Motion this afternoon hinges around whether being the baby of a single parent is lawful cause to refuse Baptism to that baby. That is the issue on which you are being asked decide today,” she said.

She continued: “If this Synod believes that being a child of a single parent or of parents who are not married is lawful cause to refuse to baptise that child, the consequence of that decision is that, therefore, all children born outside of marriage should be refused in order to comply with our fundamental principles of consistency, equity and clarity.”

Seconding the motion, Lynn Wright, said she came to the podium with a heavy heart. She said she had a passion of concern for babies born out of wedlock simply because they are born to single parents. She said clergy were allowed to pick which infant is suitable for baptism and she asked if clergy were being true to Jesus.

Debating the motion, Dr Lucy Michael (Dublin and Glendalough) said the Church practices baptism for the cleansing of original sin and the initiation into the church community. She asked why anyone would refuse children baptism. “It is the child that we baptise and not the parents,” she commented. “The important thing is that the child knows they are part of us,” she added asking why the church would spend so much time on mission while turning people away from our community.

Joe Deverell (Meath and Kildare) supported the motion and pointed out that no one got to choose who their parents were.

Canon David Gillespie (Dublin) said he was troubled by the need for the motion. He said that a church that would refuse to baptise a child is not the Church of Ireland that I know. “We should welcome all families that come, no matter what shape that family takes,” he said.

The Revd Sam Johnston (Down) said the motion was well intentioned but said it had the potential to upset the balance of the pastoral care and theological care. He said the need for pastoral sensitivity was never greater. He said that parents had the opportunity to apply to the bishop if they did not agree with the decision of their rector. He said the motion removed the opportunity for the clergy and parents to engage in meaningful dialogue. He urged the synod to reject the motion and rather mandate clergy and bishops to navigate these complex times.

Gillian Purser (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory) said that children were presented for baptism for a variety of reasons. But she asked if that mattered. If a child is baptised they are welcomed into our communities and even if the parents have no faith and the child is admitted to a school where faith is taught, then that was a good thing.

The Revd Mark Lennox (Dromore) said the motion raised questions in his mind about his ordination vows and suggested the motion caused conflict between the outworking of ordination vows and what the motion wished to achieve.

Susan Compton (Elphin and Ardagh) said she could not believe that there were areas of the Church of Ireland where children were denied baptism. She asked if it was an open and welcoming church and wondered if the Church could afford not to be.

Archdeacon Robert Miller said that the Canons were shaped to trust the clergy and the motion suggested that the clergy were not trusted. He said baptism is a sacrament and God was a prime mover in it. He said everything that was necessary for generosity was already enshrined in the Canons of the Church.

Janet Bray (Tuam, Limerick and Killoe) spoke personally and said her mother had her baptised before giving her up for adoption. She said she had been an active member of her church and could not imagine a church that would refuse baptism.

Joy Little (Elphin and Ardagh) spoke of her grandchildren and she said if anyone had judged her grandchildren differently, none of them would be in church now.

The Revd Catherine Simpson (Down) said her parents taught her to read the Bible, pray and brought her to church each week. She said baptism was administered to infants in the understanding that they would be brought up in the fellowship of the church. She said that the liturgy of baptism had potency. She said she was concerned that the church needed to be clear about what the motion was asking. She said the church must not miss the opportunity of nurturing the infant and their family. The parents must model a faith and the parents’ witness and connection to church is part of this. “The motion’s intent is welcome but its outworking is impossible,” she stated.

Phyllis Grothier (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory) said there was nothing in the motion that stopped the discussion between the rector and the parents. She said baptism was an opportunity for outreach. When someone brought an infant to church she asked people to use the opportunity to build that faith.

In response Prof Barker thanked all who spoke and said she respected the dignity and sincerity with which people made their points. She said they were talking about babies who were refused holy baptism by virtue only of the marital status of their mother. She said she was a counsellor with the Rape Crisis Centre and recalled working with a woman who had been raped. She realised she was pregnant and carried the baby to full term. After the baby was delivered she asked Prof Barker if she would go with her to speak to her Rector about baptism. Her Rector welcomed her and her baby with open arms. She said the Rector was supportive and non judgemental and accepted her and her baby.

The vote was taken by orders with the result:

Clergy for: 69. Clergy against: 72.

Lay for: 144. Lay against: 83.

The motion fell.

Priest says Newry worshippers have lost faith in council as unholy row over car park continues

A senior Catholic priest has said many of his parishioners have “lost faith” in Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) after they were excluded from a meeting on city centre re-development.

Newry Cathedral Parish and council are at loggerheads over plans to build a new £20m civic centre on a car park used by mass-goers.

A petition with over 2,500 objections to the plan was recently handed in by the church.

The council is understood to have invited all the original participants involved in Newry City Centre Regeneration (NCCR) to a new working group.

The group, set up to oversee the Council’s “ambitious programme of works planned for the historic core of the City”, previously saw stakeholders such as businesses and Newry Cathedral Parish take part in meetings.

However, the latest invite has excluded the Parish — prompting a furious reaction from the church. 

Parish administrator, Canon Francis Brown said: “Once again, NMDDC has shown complete disregard for Newry Cathedral Parish and the thousands of parishioners we represent by excluding us from the new Newry City Centre Regeneration stakeholder working group.

“A number of parishioners feel this is an act of discrimination against our community on the basis of religious beliefs and they intend to take legal advice on the matter.

“Sadly, this is just the latest incident in a long line of disrespectful behaviour by the council towards our historic cathedral and parish community.”

The Council plans to build its new headquarters at Abbey Way in the centre of Newry, but the site currently provides off-street parking, including a multi-storey car park that the Catholic Church says is needed for worshippers at its Grade A listed building.

However, the local authority states that its new designs will provide more spaces for parishioners following an engineer’s survey of the car park.

NMDDC has previously referred to a parking survey of the Abbey Way site and has amended its HQ plans to provide 138 car park spaces at the site, which it says is above the maximum occupancy rates recorded for Cathedral users.

Following a media query, the council revealed it has been engaging with the Department for Communities (DfC) to lease nearby lands at North Street, 150 yards away, to potentially develop a major pay and park facility.

The site is currently a free parking zone used by city centre business employees.

Canon Brown added: “Although I am urging restraint for now, many parishioners have lost faith in this council’s ability to act with transparency and integrity, and calls are growing for more direct actions such as marches and pickets.

“Our cathedral has stood as a spiritual and cultural anchor of Newry for centuries. We will continue standing firm to ‘Save Our Cathedral’ from short-sighted decisions that prioritise bureaucratic vanity projects over community interests.

“The people of Newry Cathedral Parish demand better from their elected leaders. We urge the community to join us in demanding an end to this marginalisation of our historic parish.”

NMDDC has been contacted for comment.

'I think it's unfair' - Priest denied pension due to missionary work

An Irish priest has been denied a pension because of his decades of service working as a missionary overseas. 

Fr Patsy Lynch was ordained in 1974 and then spent 31 years in Ghana working for the Society of African Missions.

He returned back to Ireland in 2005 and was eventually appointed a parish priest in Kerry. 

In 2015, he reached State pension age but was surprised to learn he did not have enough PRSI contributions to qualify for the benefit

“Eight years later, it is the same situation,” he told Lunchtime Live

“I applied for the State pension contributory and I was told that to qualify for State pension contributory I must have at least 520 fully paid social insurance contributions before the 66th birthday. 

“They said according to all records I have 416 - I am 104 short.” 

'31 years in Ghana doesn’t come into it at all'

Revenue has no records of contributions made by Fr Patsy prior to 2007; his time working in Ghana does not count towards an Irish pension and he will not be entitled to any other form of social welfare while he continues to work

“The way I see it now, I will continue working maybe for a few more years but as long as I work and I am getting the salary for a parish priest of €32,600 and that is above the rate at which I am being assessed,” he said. 

“The 31 years in Ghana doesn’t come into it at all - which I think is unfair.” 

Fr Patsy believes previously there was an exception for priests working as missionaries abroad but believes is doubtful he personally will ever receive a pension.  

“It seems the time when I applied in ‘66, there were some loopholes and it seems that [since then] they were tightened up and that was the reason I was unsuccessful,” he said. 

“A lot of people told me, a lot of politicians, that they would follow it up because [I should] get it. 

“But my accountant told me, ‘No, there’s no point, Patsy.’”

To qualify for an Irish pension, you need a minimum of 520 PRSI contributions - which works out as equivalent to 10 years as a taxpayer in the State.

Golden Scottish church spire refurbished in £400k overhaul

West Lothian church spire worth its weight in gold after £400k revamp -  Daily Record

A 16th-century Church of Scotland's spire has been revitalised, now shining in its original golden splendour after a £400,000 refurbishment.

This prominent feature of St Michael’s Parish Church in Linlithgow, visible from both the M9 and the Edinburgh-Glasgow train line, has undergone extensive renovation to prevent its potential collapse.

According to Brian Lightbody, the retired architect who spearheaded the restoration effort, the Crown of Thorns spire, a public sculpture first installed in 1964, has been restored with new bronze alloy cladding to revive its "traditional golden hue". Advanced sealing techniques have been applied to the cladding to protect against the Scottish weather for years ahead, while significant repairs were made to the spire’s structural timbers which had suffered extensive rot.

In an interview with The Scotsman, Lightbody remarked on the severity of water damage discovered during the project: “The extent of the damage uncovered as all the old cladding was removed has demonstrated that the only alternative to major restoration would have been the removal of the entire Crown." he said.

The restoration project was challenging due to its unique location, design, and materials involved – from crafting a bespoke scaffolding structure to replacing timber sections without destabilising the whole structure. Lightbody expressed confidence that their efforts would ensure the spire's longevity for future generations.

St Michael’s Parish Church has a rich history dating back to its initial construction in 1138, with the current building completed in 1540. It has served as a worship site for Scottish monarchs, including Mary Queen of Scots.

Public donations contributed significantly to the restoration budget, with additional funding from Historic Environment Scotland, the Church of Scotland General Trustees, the Scottish Landfill Trust, and the Pilgrim Trust.

Rev Dr Liam Fraser from St Michael’s expressed his enthusiasm about the local excitement surrounding the spire's renewal.

“Sixty years on from the installation of the spire...the excitement this project has generated locally is astonishing," he said in a statement to the Church of Scotland.

He also reflected on how perceptions of the spire have evolved over time from controversy to admiration as a "masterful marriage of modern design to historic architecture.”

Successive bishops covered up abuse in German diocese

An independent sexual abuse inquiry in the Diocese of Trier concluded that successive bishops covered up the actions of a notorious abuser priest for decades.

Local prosecutors in the region, next to the Luxembourg border, also did little to punish the late Fr Edmund Dillinger, who the inquiry said had abused 19 people from 1961 until 2018.

In addition, he possessed “very many people” photographed in sexual scenes or “exposed to touchings in all areas of the body”, the report by two retired senior prosecutors said.

The diocese reported Dillinger to the police in 2012 and barred him from celebrating Mass in public and contacting youths.

“It is hard to understand that someone like Dillinger could remain in Church service for decades, despite all the knowledge about his transgressions and acts of abuse,” the report said.

“He lived out his (homo)sexuality, which he outwardly strongly disapproved of, uninhibitedly and in a way that was sometimes criminally relevant and appeared power-obsessed, self-centered, narcissistic and egotistical.”

When the priest died in 2022, a nephew found thousands of compromising photos and indications of abuse of minors among his papers. He presented them to the authorities, but judicial officials in the state capital Saarbrücken destroyed thousands of the pictures last year, prompting the report to say they “largely thwarted this review”.  

The report said Bishop Stephan Ackermann, appointed in 2009, took a tough line on Dillinger but also made some decisions that indirectly aided him. Ackermann was the German bishops’ conference spokesman for abuse issues from 2010 to 2022.

“Only in 2012 did one begin to correct the situation as far as one could,” Gerhard Robbers, one of the two report’s authors, said.

The report did not name Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who has admitted to co-responsibility in the German Church’s abuse scandal while he was Bishop Trier from 2002 to 2008. 

Marx, whose 2021 offer to resign was rejected by Pope Francis, has expressed regret at following looser disclosure guidelines and turned down Germany’s Order of Merit award because of this.  

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, the current president of the bishops’ conference, was vicar-general in Trier from 2012 to 2016.

Trier was historically one of the most powerful dioceses in the Holy Roman Empire, but after Napoleon annexed the left bank of the Rhine in 1801 he had its boundaries redrawn. This smaller diocese was eventually made a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Cologne. 

New Bishop of Iceland Says Church Failed LGBTQ+ People

Guðrún Karls Helgudóttir, who was recently elected the new bishop of Iceland, said that the Church of Iceland’s attitude towards homosexuality was at a time based on denial.

“The church failed”, she told Morgunblaðið in an interview this weekend. “Therefore it owes a debt to the LGBTQ+ community. The church should have opened its arms to diversity. A majority of priests were on the community’s side, for the record, even if the church itself didn’t come around formally until it was too late.”

Family experience

One of Guðrún’s two daughters is trans. “It was very surprising to us when she told us, the autumn after her confirmation. We don’t choose what we face as parents and our job is first and foremost to love, help, and support our children,” Guðrún said.

“I’ve always had an open mind for how human beings can be of all stripes, but this caused me to feel even more strongly about how important it is that we accept all people the way they are and respect diversity,” she added. “I think the new generation is teaching us a lot when it comes to this.”

Membership decline

Guðrún was elected as bishop on 7 May in an election among 2286 registered voters of the church electorate, which includes priests, deacons, and lay members. 

She was ordained in 2011 and has served a number of parishes, most recently the Grafarvogur neighbourhood of Reykjavík.

She takes over from current bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir on 1 September. 

The church, known officially as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, has around 220,000 members, just over 60% of the population. Membership is down from since the turn of the century, when the church’s membership was 90% of the population.

Paddy Keegan praises Tusla but blames Catholic Church for delays

A NAVAN man who has spent a lifetime searching for information on his mother, finally believes that he has all the information possible.

Patrick Keegan of St Patrick's Tce, Navan, who grew up in St Vincent’s Orphanage in Drogheda and the notorious Artane Industrial school, says although he is unlikely to find out who his father is, he has finally received all the information available on his mother.

In the last few weeks, he has received a wealth of documents detailing the time of birth, the date of his baptism, his godparents and grandparents, as well as similar details for his late brother, John, who had also spent many years searching for information on his history.

"Tusla did everything in their power to get the information on me, but I blame the church for the delays I experienced over the decades,"he said.

Now happy with the information he has received, Paddy is sharing the details with his brother's family in Australia.

Paddy's biggest regret is that while he finally got to meet his brother more than 20 years ago, he believes if the religious authorities he had sought information from had been honest with him he might have had a much longer time to get to know his brother, who was 17 years older than him.

Paddy (76) first began his search for his mother's identity in the 1970s.

Paddy was born in the Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby home in Co Tipperary on 16th March 1948. His mother was Mary Ann Keegan of Morele, Emo, Co Laois, where her family had a farm. She had been admitted to the home in 1947.

Documents show mother and baby got to spend a few weeks together until 9th July 1948, when Paddy was fostered to a Mrs O’Sullivan in Offaly and Mary Ann was admitted to the Magdalene Laundry in Sean McDermott Street, in Dublin where she remained until the day she died, just ten years later at the age of 47 from TB.

Paddy was fostered by Mrs O’Sullivan until he was four, then spent six years in St Vincent’s Orphanage in Drogheda until he was 10-years-old, when he went to Artane Industrial School where his experiences were so awful, he still finds it hard to talk about.

When he began his search, unlike, an adopted child, Paddy was able to find out who his mother was and where she was from, only to discover she had died.

He spoke to a nun called Sr Sarto, who gave him the information about his mother, along with a photo.

He found his mother’s brother and sister-in-law who initially denied the connection but later acknowledged the family ties. It was only when he attended the funeral of his aunt in the 1990s that he discovered he had a brother.

“A priest told me that 12 or 13 years earlier another man had come looking for information about his mother.

“He told me he was my brother and had a letter from Sr Sarto.

“She never mentioned him to me. If she did, we might have met a lot earlier and been able to spend longer together,” he says.

Paddy eventually tracked down his brother in Australia.

“It was wonderful to have so much family around. I had nieces and nephews calling me Uncle Paddy.” he said. “It felt great.”

Sadly John has since died, but Paddy is still in contact with his nieces and nephews in Australia.

"I have shared all the additional information I received about John, with his family in Australia."

Paddy (76), has since lived a happy and successful life, but his extremely difficult childhood is something that will always haunt him.

“It was difficult growing up without anyone - I never had anybody that cared about me as a child,” he recalls.

First Orthodox Metropolitan in Ireland enthroned

The Christian Orthodox Church in Ireland has officially ordained its first Metropolitan (head of a large city or diocese).

The enthronement ceremony also marks the reopening of the Greek Orthodox Church in Stoneybatter, Dublin, which closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The appointment of a Metropolitan is in response to an increase in the number of Orthodox Christians in Ireland.

According to Census 2022, the Orthodox Religion accounted for over 100,000 people, which is an increase of 65% in six years and of 128% in the 11 years since Census 2011.

Over half of the Orthodox grouping were aged between 25 and 49 years in the recent census.

While the Dublin 7 church proudly displays a Greek flag, the Christian Orthodox Church comprises many nationalities, including Russians, Ukrainians, Palestinians, Moldovans, Romanians, Serbs, Bulgarians and Ethiopians.

These nationalities are represented in Orthodox Church in Ireland, which felt the need to support its community in Ireland.

The enthronement also means the carbon footprint associated with sending priests from the UK on a weekly or monthly basis for the Divine Liturgy will be reduced.

Metropolitan Iakovos, who was born in Greece and grew up in Germany, got news of his transfer to Dublin after spending 13 years in Canada.

He said that he likes Dublin city and is not perturbed by the Irish weather.

"It’s ok, I’m used to the cold after Canada. You don’t get to the same minus figures here", he said.

Asked how he feels about moving to Ireland, he said that while he does not know a lot of Irish people but those that he has met so far have been welcoming.

"So yesterday, you know, I was sweeping outside and there was like, this man who said 'so do you have time for my garden?’.

"It’s something I like because it develops a relationship between people, and you don’t feel like a stranger".

A Metropolitan holds a similar ranking to an Archbishop, so there is no denying that it is a significant moment for the Orthodox Church in Ireland.

Friends of Metropolitan Iakovos from Greece, Canada and Germany have travelled for the "historic event".

Following his ordination, it will be time for the new Metropolitan to get to work.

Metropolitan Iakovos plans to work with leaders from other Christian faiths in Ireland.

There is now a large cohort of Ukrainian Christian Orthodox in Ireland, so one of his first meetings will be with the Ukrainian Ambassador.

He acknowledged that his wish is to expand the community.

"We have a lot of Greek Orthodox people here, like young people who came to work and study, but also other Orthodox people.

"I want to extend that community here on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and make people see that there's a different way in life to approach life.

"Everybody's equal before Christ. So, we try to embrace everybody."

There were no Orthodox parishes in Ireland before the late 1960s according to the Irish Council of Churches.

A small number of Russian emigrés arrived shortly after the 1917 Revolution, among them Nicholas Couriss, later to be Ireland's first resident Orthodox priest.

By the early 1950s, several hundred Orthodox including Greek and Greek Cypriots had settled in the country.

The church site on Arbour Hill is believed to have been a former national school built by the military.

It was the site of an Amateur Boxing and Physical Culture Club for a time, before it became a sewing factory in 1950.

The Greek Orthodox Church was consecrated in 1994.

Singer Dana receives Papal honour at Catholic ceremony in Galway

Singer and former MEP Dana Rosemary Scallon has been conferred with a Papal honour, in recognition of her service to the Catholic Church.

The Derry born entertainer was formally made a Dame of the Order of Saint Gregory, at a ceremony in Baile Chláir, Co Galway, last Thursday evening.

The award is given by Pope Francis, following a detailed nomination process.

Less than 100 others living in Ireland have been similarly honoured, with Dana becoming only the 14th Dame to be conferred in Ireland, after her investiture.

Bishop of Galway and Clonfert Michael Duignan, was the chief celebrant at the mass, during which he conferred the honour.

In his homily he said that it recognised a lifetime of "faith filled service" to the Catholic Church by the 72-year-old.

Bishop Duignan said this was no easy task, in an Ireland that "tends to relegate faith to the margins of life".

The singer said she was humbled to receive the award, which she wanted to share with many people who had inspired and supported her through her life.

She made particular reference to her mother, describing her as an "incredible woman".

Now living in Co Galway, Dana was Ireland’s first Eurovision Song Contest winner in 1971.

She contested Presidential elections in 1997 and 2011 as an Independent candidate, and served a five year term as an MEP for the former Connacht / Ulster constituency between 1999 and 2004.

The Order, of which she’s been made a Dame, was established by Pope Gregory XVI, to acknowledge "personal character, reputation and notable accomplishment" on behalf of the church and society, regardless of the recipient’s religious affiliation.

Catholic Church child abuse joke made in DUP WhatsApp group

The Catholic Church and its child abuse scandal was the butt of a joke in WhatsApp messages between senior DUP figures, it has emerged.

The messages have been published online after they were handed over to the Covid-19 Inquiry sitting in Belfast by Assembly Speaker and former Stormont Executive minister Edwin Poots.

The messages, which were sent throughout 2020, were shared in a DUP WhatsApp group of Executive ministers and other senior party figures, including special advisors.

The 63 pages of message logs have now been published on the Covid Inquiry website, with some of the names redacted.

Among the messages, which also contain comments about Sinn Féin ministers, was an exchange in March 2020 involving then-education minister Peter Weir.

He referred to the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, who was writing to urge him to close schools as fears over the spread of Covid deepened.

“Wasn’t aware of his qualifications in virology,” Mr Weir wrote.

In a response, a member of the WhatApp group whose name was redacted, wrote: “Write back and tell him we don’t live in the South and that his institution hasn’t the best track record of looking out for the welfare of kids.”

In a later message that same evening, Mr Weir wrote he had seen the letter from Archbishop Martin.

“Unsurprisingly, no coherent or convincing arguments and reminds me a little of a letter that would bet written on behalf of a constituent when you feel you have to but know they have no case.”

It emerged last week in published WhatsApp messages that Mr Weir believed only “nut jobs and ardent nationalists on Twitter” thought schools should close in the early stages of the pandemic.

Speaking at the Inquiry last week, Mr Weir said he regrets the “level of division” in the debate over closing schools.

An exorcist is needed to sort out Eurovision 2024 and Ireland’s troubled contestant (Opinion)

Myopia has plagued my family as far back as can be traced. The family vault holds images from the end of the 1800s of women in their forties all wearing glasses. My grandparents’ 10 children and 39 grandchildren all wear glasses. My own children wear glasses. My brother went out with a girl who dumped him once she found out he wore glasses: “I don’t like any weakness,” she declared, before finding herself a job with the Humanists.

It’s likely that the weak genes of my ancestors will be eliminated at some point in the future, and if not the genes, then the people, whose corrective lenses will cost more than an armful of barbiturates; perhaps also because even with myopia, you can still be capable of seeing what is really going on.

In a society which legitimises eugenics under cuddly names like planned parenthood and medical assistance in dying, what we really need is exorcists to wheedle out generational evil spirits.

As Bambie Thug, who is also known as the Goth, Gremlin, Goblin Witch, is given a platform to act out her adolescent rebellion for the Oh-so-daring Republic of Ireland on stage at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest tonight, some will be shocked, while others will see it as final confirmation of the existence of, not so much an intellectual dark web, rather a Dunces Dark Web.

The Dunces are called so because they firmly believe they are transgressive whilst fitting predictably into a pattern laid long before them. My home country  of Ireland has become an embarrassment, like the ghetto blaster pumping out Michael Bolton from the corner of a tired old café in 2024, the poor eijits think they are cool kids on the block as they try to shock the world with ideas inherited from some of the saddest and most broken people of yesteryear. 

Ireland’s 2024 Eurovision entry is a self-described “queer, Ouija popstar” who – yawn – “uses non-binary personal pronouns”. Perhaps she was influenced by watching the Disney show “Little Demon” about a single mom attempting to live a normal life with her anti-Christ daughter, whilst being constantly thwarted by monstrous forces including Satan who yearns for custody of his daughter’s soul.

In her 2023 book The End of Woman: How Smashing the Patriarchy Destroyed Us, Carrie Gress writes: “The satanic, the occult and the esoteric have been swirling in our culture for a long time”. In the 1980’s Madonna (everyone’s favourite grandmother, last seen prancing around in her underwear on Copacabana beach) was at the forefront of the occult trend. As Gress notes, Madonna “introduced iconoclastic pop paganism that desecrated the Virgin Mary, Christ, the saints and the priesthood”, while “her songs such as Like a Virgin and Like a Prayer, profaned the sacred”. Her 2012 Superbowl half-time show was riddled with satanic imagery. 

Poor little broken Bambie Thug is the inevitable consequence of a movement stretching back centuries; there is nothing especially daring about her. What she does helpfully do is to conflate feminism, satanism and trans ideology in the public consciousness. 

Feminism as a movement is rooted in ideals to recreate and reshape society in a world without God, as explained by Carrie Gress when she writes: “What emerged from the social rubble of the French revolution were new fault lines of conflict where the older questions informed by sacred ideals were attacked and replaced under a new desacralised order. The French revolution was the first major break with the sacred order around which western society and culture had been arranged for centuries in the Judaeo Christian tradition.”

Out of this rupture burst new narratives focused on power relations: the oppressor and the oppressed, the bourgeois and the proletariat, men and women.  It opened the door for the (oftentimes) damaged and depraved loudmouths to set the agenda for the rest of us. 

Calls were made to rise up and smash the boundaries that prevented our freedom. Free love, sadism, masochism, polyamory, spiritualism, were all encouraged as ways to demonstrate the smashing of boundaries that apparently enslave us. According to such narratives we should be free to have sex with whoever we want, at whatever age we want. 

The origins of Bambi Thug go way back to such figures as Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, who left a trail of used up women and dead children in their wake; the self-described sexologists Dr John Money, who coined the term gender identity, and Alfred Kinsey, who interviewed paedophilic men who sexually abused children and infants, then argued the cries of protest and pain were “orgasm”; Simone de Beauvoir who, influenced by the Marquis de Sade’s politics of rebellion and torture, claimed that “one is not born a woman, but rather becomes one”.

There is nothing radical or transgressive about any of this guff in 2024.  What would be radical and transgressive would be a return to the Sacred Order and recognition that without the coherence that it brings, we can never truly be free.

For all young women who have been fed the feminist propaganda, believing it to be a movement in their best interests, look at Bambi Thug’s performance at Eurovision this evening, then look at the Virgin Mary and consider whether you haven’t in fact been fed a pack of lies.

Lay people commissioned by bishop as ‘funeral ministers’

Bishop of Clogher Larry Duffy commissioned the first 30 lay funeral ministers for the diocese, telling the congregation at Holy Cross Church, Lisnaskea that baptism “calls us to serve in new ways”.

His message echoed the title of his pastoral letter of July last year in which he said Clogher must look “at a whole new model” given the predicted figures for the next 20 years

These include fewer than 10 priests covering the 85 churches across the diocese and just one ordination expected in the next seven years.

Last weekend’s commissioning of lay funeral ministers in Clogher was described by the diocese as an “historic” day. It is part of a plan for greater lay involvement in the diocese which Bishop Duffy said had become “far too dependent on our priests for not just pastoral care but for administration, property maintenance, planning and governance of parishes”.

The new lay ministers will accompany families and communities at times of bereavement and loss and will lead some parts of funeral liturgies.

Speaking to The Tablet, Frances Callaghan, one of the lay ministers commissioned in Lisnaskea church said they are authorised to officiate at various stages of the funeral rites, including ceremonies at the deceased's residence, receiving remains at the church, conducting services in crematoriums, and offering solace and prayers at gravesides.

“Lay funeral ministers play a pivotal role in providing solace and support to grieving families,” she said. The new ministers underwent “thorough training and formation”, provided under the guidance of Bishop Duffy.

Ms Callaghan has a degree in theology and a MPhil in Christian Theology from Trinity College, Dublin. However, she stressed that those seeking to join the bereavement team “do not require these qualifications and full training is provided for this ministry”.

“Central to my decision to embark on this journey into funeral ministry is the recognition of the universal call to holiness and service inherent in my baptismal vows,” she said.

Clogher’s initiative, she said, “reflects the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, which, in 1965, urged greater involvement of the laity in the life of the Church” and “aligns seamlessly” with the synodal process’ emphasis on collaboration between clergy and laity for the well-being of the Church community.

Spanish Poor Clares announce break from Catholic Church

A community of 16 Poor Clare religious sisters, based in the Spanish dioceses of Burgos and Vitoria, has declared its intention to leave the Catholic Church and place itself under the jurisdiction of a self-proclaimed bishop who was excommunicated in 2019.

The declaration, which includes a denunciation of Pope Francis, is the latest in a bizarre series of events seeming to stem from a real estate deal that was blocked by Church authorities.

The community was well-known in Spain, and famous for its production of truffles and other sweets.

Sister Isabel of the Trinity, the superior of the community, communicated the decision in a five-page open letter, which was sent to friends and benefactors on May 13, and published on the convent’s website. 

In the letter, the nun pointed to a succession of “very important events” that “have been taking place, which have repeatedly struck the soul of the contemplative sisters.”

The letter then makes reference to the Covid pandemic, as well as “genocidal and bloody wars,” claiming that through all this period Catholics had to suffer “the silence of our pastors,” who “left their sheep alone and helpless to face the wolves.”

Sr. Isabel added that “from the Throne of Peter we have been receiving contradiction, confusion and doublespeak, ambiguity, lack of clear doctrine which is all the more necessary in stormy times, to hold the rudder more firmly. During this time the sisters, each in her own style, way and rhythm, have been contemplating a question, a doubt about the one who steers the Barque of Peter, and his closest collaborators. A doubt which, in time, became SCANDAL” [emphasis in the original]. 

The letter also mentions a real estate dispute, complaining that the Vatican had blocked the sale of an empty monastery in Derio, owned by the community.

The sale, Sr. Isabel said, would have permitted the community to pay for a monastery in Orduña, which it is purchasing from another Claretian community in Vitoria. Blocking the purchase amounted to a conspiracy to dismantle “traditionally-minded communities and keep their real estate to sell,” the nun charged. 

After proclaiming the intention to place the community under the jurisdiction of Pablo de Rojas Sánchez-Franco, whom she calls a “legitimate bishop of the Holy Catholic Church,” Sr. Isabel acknowledged the significance of the move.

“They are going to call us heretics and schismatics, crazy, and many more very disagreeable and calumnious things, but don’t believe them; at least this once, don’t let them fool you,” she said. 

The sister instructed friends and benefactors to use only the community’s new email address, and not to try to reach the nuns by phone, as they will not answer or return calls. 

The letter was accompanied by a 70-page “Catholic Manifesto” which lays out the reasons why, according to Sister Isabel, the post-Vatican II Church is illegitimate.

Although Sr. Isabel insisted that the decision to go into schism was unanimous, and that she speaks for all of the community, Spanish media have since reported that one of the Poor Clares left the community of Belorado on Wednesday in protest at the act of schism. 

The community did not respond to questions from The Pillar.

Archbishop Mario Iceta of Burgos said the nuns’ announcement caught him completely by surprise.

“I thought it was fake news,” he told local radio station Onda Cero this week.

The archbishop said he is shocked and perplexed by the sisters’ decision. He said he has repeatedly tried to reach Sr. Isabel, but that she would not take his calls. 

Iceta said he will continue trying to reach the community, to avoid the possible penalty of formal excommunication. 

He added that he is trying to contact the sister who reportedly left the community, to ask about what is going on in the convent. 

Some local Catholics have expressed concern that other members of the community may be either held against their will or misled by Sr. Isabel, who will be completing her third term as superior at the end of May, at which point she will be canonically ineligible for re-election. 

The Spanish bishops conference issued a statement on May 16 echoing concerns about the remaining sisters. 

“We ask that each of the sisters of the Monasteries of Belorado and Orduña, exercising their freedom of conscience, express their position in the face of the decision announced by the superior,” said the conference. “Indeed, recent developments have shown that not all the sisters agree with their superior’s ‘letter’.” 

The bishops also deplored the call to abandon communion with the Catholic Church, saying they are confident the discontents of the sisters could have been resolved in a different manner. 

“We find no proportional relationship between the stated causes and the conclusions reached,” they said.

Pablo de Rojas Sánchez-Franco, the man whom Sr. Isabel described as a “legitimate bishop,” was in fact never consecrated a bishop or even ordained a priest in the Catholic Church.

The 42-year-old claims to have been ordained a priest and then a bishop between 2005 and 2006 by a former Jesuit, Derek Schell, who had himself been ordained in the Palmarian Catholic Church - a body which claims to be the “one true Catholic Church,” based in Palmar de Troya, near Seville, Spain, and is currently led by “Pope” Peter III, who is frequently carried into the Church’s cathedral in a gestatorial chair by his followers. 

Pablo de Rojas, who claims that all popes since Pius XII are illegitimate, currently says he is not affiliated with the Palmarian Church.

In 2005 he founded the Pious Union of Saint Paul the Apostle. He was formally  excommunicated in 2019. He is mostly active on social media, where his posts are often characterized as full of conspiracy theories and antisemitism. 

He also has a penchant for affecting noble titles and styles himself an “Imperial Duke” and “Five times Great of Spain.”

The Archdiocese of Burgos addressed the real estate issue referenced by Sr. Isabel in a lengthy written statement published on its website.

The archdiocese said that the nuns, led by Sr. Isabel, agreed to buy the monastery in Orduña for 1.2 million euros in 2020. One hundred thousand euros were to be paid upfront, followed by installments of 75,000 euros, to begin being paid in November 2022. However, none of the installments were ever paid. 

The community hoped to sell the empty monastery of Derio and pay their debts with the proceeds, but were unable to do so because the Church blocked the sale, the archdiocese said. 

Why the sale was blocked is not explained by either party, though Sr. Isabel attributes the decision to Rome, which canonically has to sign off on the sale of Church property over a certain high-value amount. 

The archdiocesan statement said Sr. Isabel claimed to have a benefactor willing to put up the money to pay for the Orduña monastery. The benefactor would then sell the convent back to the sisters when they managed to raise the money to pay for it themselves. 

The archbishop attempted to contact Sr. Isabel to see who the benefactor was, but she declined to meet with him or give him more information, the archdiocese said.

Faced with an impasse, the Claretian community which was selling the property decided to rescind the sale, at which point Sr. Isabel presented a claim for 1.6 million euros for refurbishment work already done, and a further 30% in compensation for damages. 

As the parties were unable to reach an agreement, the case was referred to the courts. 

The archdiocese’s statement ended with a call to local Catholics not to participate in any liturgical acts in the Poor Clare convents of Belorado or Orduña.

First church blessing of same-sex couples takes place in Poland

The first public blessing of same-sex couples in a church has taken place in Poland at an ecumenical service involving both Catholic and Protestant clergy.

The ceremony took place at the 19th-century Evangelical Reformed Parish in Warsaw – part of the Calvinist Polish Reformed Church – following a service to mark International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

It was led by the pastor of that church, Michał Jabłoński, alongside Halina Radacz, a pastor from the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, Poland’s largest and oldest Protestant church denomination, and Adam Świeżyński, a Roman Catholic priest.

Among the couples to be blessed were Artur and Jan, who are both practising Catholics but who hide their relationship from their local parish priest.

“This blessing is very important to us; it is an extra injection of strength for our further life together,” Artur told news magazine Wprost. “We are both believers. Faith allowed us to survive the numerous crises that appeared in our lives. Sometimes it was the strongest anchor that kept us alive.”

“We are ordinary people; we love and suffer just like everyone else,” added Jan. “Hate is the most destructive feeling. And love of God and neighbour is the most important commandment resulting from the teachings of Jesus.”

One of the main organisers of the service, Uschi Pawlik of the Faith and Rainbow Foundation, is also a Catholic. She told Wprost that she understands how, for many of her fellow believers, blessing same-sex couples is unacceptable.

“But Pope Francis clearly shows a change in thinking about relationships in the Church and a transition from rigid rules and principles to pastoral flexibility,” added Pawlik. “There are more and more Polish Roman Catholic priests who support LGBT+ people.”

Last year, the Vatican issued a declaration on Catholic doctrine, titled Fiducia supplicans, that allowed priests to bless members of unmarried couples, including same-sex ones. 

Świeżyński, the Catholic priest who co-led yesterday’s ceremony in Warsaw, told Wprost that he hopes Fiducia supplicans will eventually open the way to such blessings taking place in Catholic churches in Poland.

“The fact that this is not currently happening is incomprehensible to me and makes me feel ashamed,” he added. “I interpret this as a denial of Christ’s teaching and a practical negation of his attitude towards people.”

Catholicism is Poland’s dominant religion: over 90% of the population are officially classified as Catholics and, in the 2021 national census, 71% of people identified themselves as Catholics.

The Catholic church hierarchy in Poland takes a strongly conservative position on LGBT+ issues. Some church figures have associated themselves with a campaign, led by the former ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, against what they call “LGBT ideology”.

Poland itself offers far fewer rights to LGBT+ people than most other European countries. Indeed, earlier this week, it was ranked as the EU’s worst country for LGBT+ people for the fifth year running in an annual index.

However, the new, more liberal coalition government that replaced PiS in office at the end of last year has pledged to expand LGBT+ rights, including introducing legal recognition for same-sex partnerships.