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Wednesday 26 August 2015

The Irish Referendum: on Bishops not Marriage

The result of the Irish referendum on so-called “same-sex marriage” was entirely predictable and had been for some considerable time.

The Irish Catholic episcopal hierarchy should hang their heads in shame. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that the Nuncio should be requesting letters of resignation. After all, in the lead up to the plebiscite the Irish bishops seemed to have already resigned themselves to their fate and, without even turning up at the ringside, threw in their collective towel.

It is all very well for those of us who witnessed the train crash from this side of the Irish Sea to complain that the “YES Equality” campaign had been massively funded from abroad, for that is, indeed, true. Just one example: one of the partners in the Yes Campaign, GLEN (the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network), received from an American outfit called Atlantic Philanthropies $4,727,860 in the period 2005-11. This is democracy American style. Buy the vote!

But the Irish Bishops had a platform and a voice and an authority that money cannot buy. They failed to use either of the first two and they long ago had lost the third. They lost it when confronted with the undoubted fact that some few priests had sexually abused children their bishops did not act AND, to make matters worse, when they found out that some among them had not acted the other bishops did not act against them. Sadly for them, the Irish are a highly literate people. They all know the story about the King having no clothes. And thy can tell the real thing when they see it.

Rabbie Burns wrote “Facts are chiels that winna ding”. When stories started appearing in the press about abuse in the Boston archdiocese in the USA, it was a certainty that Ireland would next be closely looked at. Why were the Irish bishops not ready to deal with this? And to deal with it openly and honestly? Is anti-clericalism unknown in Ireland? Did they think that RTE and The Irish Times loved them still? Well they ken noo!

Over the last ten or more years there have been relentless attacks on the Irish Catholic Church spearheaded by the gay lobby and financed from America. Because the Catholic hierarchy failed to fearlessly and frankly face up to past mistakes and be open about them, that gay lobby and their friends in the media had a field day. The picture soon became clear. There wasn’t an altar boy safe in Ireland!

That this was a grotesque lie did not matter. Nobody would have believed the bishops anyway because when the allegations began to emerge the bishops stayed silent (or lied). Their silence was taken as an admission of guilt. Thereafter, anything dreamt up by the gay lobby was believed in Ireland. Remember Peter Tatchell turning up at the Holocaust Memorial and subsequent stories of 50,000 homosexuals being done to death in the “death camps”. Untrue. Yes, some died in concentration camps were they had been sentenced to hard labour but nowhere near the number put forward. And they were never part of the holocaust, of the Final Solution. They did not feature on the agenda of the Wannsee conference which defined it and they were not herded into the gas chambers. But it was believed.

Remember the story upon which the film “The Magdalene Sisters” was based? Do you know that it was a pack of lies, the product of a fevered imagination? But it was believed. More recently, there was the story of the hundreds of childrens’ bodies dumped by the nuns in the septic tank in Tuam. It was obscenely distorted nonsense which was patently untrue because, apart from anything else, no septic tank has ever been built in Ireland that was big enough. But it was believed. And I am in no way unfeeling or uncaring of the poor wee souls who had been buried in unmarked graves. I cannot say the same for those who used them for their own evil ends.

One of which was the outcome of the referendum.

In Ireland there are 4 archbishops, 21 suffragan bishops, with one diocese currently sede vacante, and 3 auxiliary bishops. On the retired list are 3 archbishops, two of whom are cardinals, 12 bishops and 8 auxiliary bishops. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Have any of them sung for their supper? Have any of them distinguished themselves in the defence of marriage during the lead up to the referendum?

I hope His Excellency the Most Reverend Charles John Brown, titular archbishop of Aquileia, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, is asking himself the same question.

Monday 17 August 2015

Pope Paul VI and the Loch Ness Monster

Bishop Stephen Platten, associate Anglican bishop in the Diocese of London and Southwark, had a Credo piece in The Times on Saturday, August 8, 2015 about a man and pope I regard highly: Giovanni Battista Montini, Pope Paul VI. Bishop Platten mentions Pope Paul’s visit to the UK and Ireland “in the 1930s”. I wrote of this in the pages of Flourish, the monthly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, in 2004, the 70th anniversary of the very first papal Nessie Hunt. The editor, Vincent Toal, kindly even used the working title I had given my piece, the text of which I reproduce below.

Pope Paul VI

The Loch Ness Mons…ignors

WHAT, you might very well be inclined to ask, has the Loch Ness Monster got to do with the Catholic Church? Not to worry, I have to tell you that our illustrious editor asked the very same thing. So, like him, just read on…

As the future Pope sat reading the English newspapers in his office in the Department for the Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Holy See, the section of the Secrertariat of State which at that time dealt with foreign governments, he must have reflected that if it said it in The Times of London, then, of course, it must be true.

And it did say it.

“About three weeks ago,” wrote Lt Comm RT Gould RN (retired) on December 9, 1933, “I started for Inverness to make an independent investigation of the evidence about the Loch Ness ‘monster,’ of which many accounts have appeared in the Press.”


The first reported sighting by Mr G McQueen, the Automobile Association scout for the Loch Ness area, had occurred about four months earlier, in August 1933. That the first person reported to have seen Nessie ― although he knew not at the time that that was indeed the creature’s name ― was associated with an organisation the acronym for which was simply the initials AA might surprise few. However, Nessie was again spotted on August 24, and this time by three entirely respectable young ladies. The Misses Rattray and their friend, Miss Hamilton, saw Nessie from the loch side at Alltsigh. A third sighting followed at Fort Augustus on the first day of October, and a fourth on November 23 from Temple Pier, Drumnadrochit.

Of these four sets of eyewitness accounts, Commander Gould seemingly was most impressed by the third, that of Mr BA Russell MA, the Fort Augustus schoolmaster, who had seen Nessie on October 1. The Commander noted that the dominie had recorded his sighting “in almost ideal conditions.” He continued:

“He was on an eminence, overlooking the southwestern extremity of the Loch, and about 100 feet above the water level. The day was brilliantly sunny, and the surface of the Loch as smooth as glass, there was no haze, and the creature was in view for 12 minutes (10.10am to 10.22am) moving slowly from left to right at a maximum distance of 800 yards and a minimum of 700. What he saw, and subsequently sketched, was a serpentine head and neck, arched like a swan’s, dark in colour, rising fully five feet out of the water and turning occasionally from side to side. He saw nothing of the body, but a V-shaped ripple spread off from the neck at the point where it met the water. The creature ultimately sank slowly and disappeared.”

It has to be said that not everyone was as convinced as Commander Gould was as to the existence of Nessie. On the very day his article appeared, WT Calman, Keeper of Zoology at the British Natural History Museum, penned a Letter to the Editor of The Times. Published on December 11, he wrote:

“Sir, In recent months I have been frequently asked: “What theory has the Natural History Museum about the Loch Ness ‘monster’?” And I have replied: “The Natural History Museum does not deal in theories, only in specimens.” If any one will send us the Loch Ness ‘monster’ in the flesh we are quite prepared to tell them all we can discover about it. Meanwhile its story can be safely left in the very competent hands of Commander Gould, and its personal safety in those of the Chief Constable of Inverness-shire.” 

However, it seems that in the Vatican the future Pope was less sceptical than Dr Calman. Mgr Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini (thankfully, simply known as Battista to his family and friends) noted that Commander Gould had supplied his readers with both a handy map indicating how to get to the various areas where Nessie had been sighted and sketches to facilitate easy identification of the exotic creature. And so Mgr Battista set about making his plans for his summer holiday in 1934.

He arranged that two of his best friends would accompany him: Mgr Mariano Rampolla, like himself a middle-ranking Vatican official, and; Mgr Antonio Riberi, Counsellor in the Papal Nunciature in Dublin (Archbishop Paschal Charles David Robinson OFM, first Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, lent the intrepid trio his car).

Would anything have been more natural than that Mgr Montini and his friends should seek advice from their English and Scottish colleagues, respectively Mgr (later Cardinal) William Godfrey, Rector of the English College, and Mgr (also later Cardinal) William Theodore Heard, auditor of the Sacred Roman Rota?

Cardinal Heard being a proud Scotsman, there can be no doubt that he would have keenly followed all the stories about Nessie; and their can be little doubt, too, that he would have been proud that such an important official as Mgr Battista Montini wished to pay her his respects. Moreover, Heard had close personal links with the Benedictine’s of Downside Abbey. In his Bermondsey days he had worked both as a layman (Protestant before becoming Catholic in 1910) and as a curate (1921-27) with the Fisher Club, which later became the Downside Settlement.

Was it, then, Scotland’s future Cardinal who suggested to Mgr Montini that a visit to Downside followed by a trip north to its sister Benedictine establishment in the Scottish Highlands at Fort Augustus would prove an effective smokescreen to hide from general view their true purpose in heading to Loch Ness? Having visited the beatific Benedictines, who would have suspected that he was in fact only interested in the blessed beast of the inland deep?

During that July/August of 1934 Mgr Montini and his friends visited Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight before heading for Downside. The good Monsignor recorded in his diary (but in Italian, of course):

Downside Abbey is a relatively recent monastery, magnificently built but not yet complete, with a most beautiful Gothic church. It is one of the leading colleges of England. It stands on a hill, surrounded by trees and meadows and offers superb views. At Quarr Abbey the atmosphere was French. Here everything was English, the language, the customs, the food, everything. But meeting and understanding have been greatly helped not only by the presence of Mgr Riberi, who is known here, but by a simplicity and cordiality that owe much to Englishness and, even more, to the ever courteous and hospitable Benedictine tradition of kindness.

The Roman monsignori then headed for Fort Augustus, but as a further diversion stopping en route at Glasgow, at St Francis’s, Cumberland Street, a Franciscan Friary. Their stay there was most likely facilitated by Mgr Riberi’s boss, Archbishop Robinson, who had allowed the intrepid trio use of the nunciature limousine for their safari. The first Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Mgr Robinson was an Irish Franciscan, one of the worst kind, and so his Scottish confreres would have doubtless taken the view that his young friends would have to be accommodated and so he humoured.

The Cumberland Street Friary is now closed, but its records are kept at Blessed John Duns Scotus, Ballater Street. The Father Guardian kindly lent your humble but esteemed scrivener here a copy of a note drafted in 1975 to permanently record this historic visit to Glasgow.

From the Gorbals the monsignori travelled without further ado to Loch Ness-side and their appointment with Nessie. “Scotland,” Mgr Montini recorded, was “poorer but more picturesque than England.” Fort Augustus was “a welcoming oasis of prayer and Catholic education in a Protestant country.” He and his travelling companions joined in the singing of Mass which, he noted, inspired not so much thoughts of home, but of the heavenly home (casa nostra quassu). But Mgr Montini’s diary, sadly, makes no mention of his search for Nessie.

When they left Fort Augustus, the travelling companions returned first to St Francis’s and then travelled on to Dublin where they spent four days at the Nunciature in Phoenix Park.

Of Mgr Montini’s holiday experience, Peter Hebblethwaite writes that it was then that he had had his first inklings that Anglicans were not just Protestants. He had concluded that he was disposed to like the English, and this at a time when they were unpopular in Italy. Hebblethwaite notes that Montini had recorded that in Scotland and Ireland, as well as in England, he had “felt what a great thing is the brotherhood of the Catholic Church.” Montini had then added: “We talk and travel about, we discuss and think, we pray and discover how big the world is and how small we are.”

Of course, compared to Nessie how small we all seem. But of the three holiday companions, two went on to achieve great stature in the Church and the world and the other, of whom I have been able to find out but little, was associated by ties of kinship to one of the most controversial prelates of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Mgr Rampolla was a grandnephew of a cardinal who had once occupied one of the highest positions in Holy Mother Church, and who was almost elected to the very highest. Many regard His Eminence Mariano Cardinal Rampolla, Marquesa del Tindarro, as the best Pope we never had in the 20th century. Others, I believe entirely mistakenly, if not also scurrilously, revile him as the Freemason who nearly became Pope. His Eminence was Secretary of State under Pope Leo XIII. He narrowly failed to be elected Pope in 1903 when Cardinal Puzyna, a predecessor of Pope John Paul II as Cardinal Archbishop of Cracow, announced to the Conclave that Franz Josef, Austro-Hungarian Emperor, would not tolerate him as Pope and so wished to exercise his (claimed) veto. (To his credit, shortly after the Conclave Pius X acted to ensure that this would be the last occasion on which any temporal power would ever be able to seek to affect the outcome of a Papal election.)

It is believed that the party arrived in Dublin in time for the announcement on August 13, 1934 that, despite his comparative youth, just 37 years of age, Mgr Riberi was to be appointed to a senior position within the Secretariat of State and was to be consecrated bishop by Pietro Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi, Prefect of Propaganda Fidei, on October 28 and provided to the titular archiepiscopal see of Dara. Archbishop Riberi would later go on to become Papal Nuncio to China (1946-51), to Ireland (1959-62) and to Spain (1962-67). And on June 26, 1967 he was elevated to the Sacred College by his long-time friend and fellow Nessie hunter, Battista Montini: Pope Paul VI.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

The Fish Wrap

The National Catholic Reporter has invited its readers to celebrate 30 years of its reporting (that is exploitation) of the sex abuse scandal in the USA. I made a comment on one of the articles and the conversation developed thus:

Me: I note that you are careful to state that you reprobated “the obscene molestation by priests of pre-pubescent and pubescent children, and the enabling cover-ups by their bishops.” One problem: there was virtually no abuse of prepubescent children. So why do you voice your concern in this way? Anything to do with the fact that you are well aware that what you had in the USA as elsewhere was a problem with predatory homosexual men who should never have been allowed anywhere near a seminary?

Reply 1: There was plenty abuse of children. We hear of four year olds and 8 year olds and convince me that most twelve year olds are not still considered children. Heck, 25 year olds are still considered children but not by me. I would say the casual observer would consider most 13 year old boys still children..maybe 14, regardless of their physical development. Regardless, twisting of definitions does not excuse one thing. Predatory men belong nowhere, including seminaries, but there were plenty of other places where they did terrible wrong to young boys and girls, sometimes very very young. If they have to be anywhere, it should be on an island with each other for company and enough security so that they can not carry out their wishes. And I do feel sorry for them. I would not wish this horrid condition on anyone, which does not mean I would not take severe measures to prevent it.

Me: “There was plenty abuse of children.” That is simply NOT the case. And never mind that one Californian lawyer reckoned that over 90% of the accusations he successfully dealt with for his clients were entirely bogus. Even when not taking that into account, sexual abuse of children by priests is a rare occurrence.

“We hear of…” all sorts of things mainly because certain people, like the editorial team here, will publish absolutely anything and everything, without so much as a nod to normal journalistic standards (see especially the New York Times), but that doesn’t make them true.

Yes, abuse has occurred. Yes, it is a terrible thing for the victims and their families. And, yes, it is also a terrible thing for the parish communities, too. Moreover, it is dreadful that some bishops (or other appropriate church authority) have not dealt adequately with it. But it is not now and it never has been of epidemic proportions. And it never will be. So why not now concentrate on the present and prepare for the future as a Church and not as addicts for horror stories? By far most of what has happened in the Church over the last 50 or so years is entirely admirable, as also what is happening today. Why not celebrate that?

Reply 2: This comment perfectly illustrates Tom’s  point about non belief. By all means stick your head in the sand and blame gay priests because every bishop who covered for a monster like Lawrence Murphy or John Geoghan thanks God every night for Catholics like you.

Me: Arrogant and ignorant tosh. See above in reply to (1)

To be continued; or not as the case mat be.

Thursday 23 April 2015

1916: Generals Maxwell & Wilson Two of a Kind

Generals Maxwell & Wilson
Two of a Kind

Oh! you would bring me to your Queen, low at her feet to kneel,
Crave mercy from her stony heart, and urge some mean appeal!
I answer No! my knees will bend and prayers of mine arise
To but one Queen, the Queen of Heaven, high-throned above the skies.

When I am finished, there will not be a whisper of sedition in Ireland for another 100 years.”

Such, this latter, was the proud boast of Lieutenant General Sir John Grenfell Maxwell KCB, KCMG, CVO, DSO, when he arrived in Dublin on the Friday of Easter Week, 1916.

Such, this former, was the firm answer and commitment of all right-thinking Irish men, women and children; priest, prelate and pauper alike; and put into words in O’Ruairc’s Request by T.D.Sullivan long before this contemptible excuse for an English gentleman and soldier ever set foot on Irish soil.

This was the man whose ignominious service record prior to his arrival on what was never John Bull’s other island mentioned both Egypt and South Africa. In Lions Led by Donkeys”, John Bourne, Director of the Centre for First World War Studies of the University of Birmingham, described his life up to his Irish sojourn as “a career of great distinction”. That distinction involved, in North Africa, atrocities against both civilians and prisoners of war as an aid to Lord Kitchener, the “Butcher of Khartoum”. In South Africa, as a senior general himself now, he was aware of, and, indeed, had ultimate responsibility for the Concentration Camps and the unforgivably inhumane treatment therein of old and infirm Boer men and women, of younger Boer women and their children, and of native Africans. In appalling circumstances, these all were held prisoner with little or no food and with access to neither medicine nor medical treatment. Into these hands which would most certainly “the multitudinous seas incarnadine” did His Britannic Majesty’s Imperial Government commend for mercy those taken prisoner during the Easter Uprising.

His Britannic Majesty and His Imperial Government must have had some sense of humour!

Mind you, so must have the General.

After he had had the leaders of the Uprising extra-judicially murdered, he had the effrontery to write to the Catholic Bishops of Ireland directing them to remove various, to him, suspect priests from active ministry. In his letter to Bishop O’Dwyer he named two priests, Frs Hall and Bayes. These good men, like the others, had preached against conscription and were thus deemed by Maxwell dangerous menaces to all that he held dear. In directing one of his epistles to the Most Reverend Dr Edward Thomas O’Dwyer, Bishop of Limerick, he was singularly ill-advised. Dr O’Dwyer replied by means of an open letter written from Kilmallock and published, first, in the County newspaper:

I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 12th instant which has been forwarded to me here.

I have read carefully your allegations against Rev. Hall and Rev. Bayes but do not see in them any justification for disciplinary action on my part. They are both excellent priests, who hold strong national views, but I do not know that they have violated any law, civil or ecclesiastical.

In your (previous) letter of the 6th instant you appealed to me to help you in the furtherance of your work as a military dictator of Ireland. Even if action of that kind was not outside my province, the events of the past few weeks would make it impossible for me to have any part in proceedings which I regard as wantonly cruel and oppressive.

You remember the Jameson raid1, when a number of buccaneers invaded a friendly state and fought the forces of the lawful government. If ever men deserved the supreme punishment it was they, but officially and unofficially, the influence of the British government was used to save them and it succeeded. You took care that no plea for mercy should interpose on behalf of the poor young fellows who surrendered to you in Dublin. The first information which we got of their fate was the announcement that they had been shot in cold blood.

Personally, I regard your action with horror, and I believe that it has outraged the conscience of the country. Then the deporting of hundreds and even thousands of poor fellows without a trial of any kind seems to me an abuse of power as fatuous as it is arbitrary and your regime has been one of the worst and blackest chapters in the history of misgovernment of the country.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant.

Edward Thomas, Bishop of Limerick

To General Sir J.G Maxwell, Commander-in-Chief, the forces in Ireland
(Courtesy of the Limerick Leader)

On September 14, 1916, the good bishop, who the novelist Kate O’Brien described as “brilliant and difficult”, was presented with the Freedom of the City of Limerick. During his acceptance speech — a famous speech during which he commented favourably upon the national spirit of resistance and which was accredited by many as having a decisive effect upon the outcome of the bye-election in East Clare — he posed a very pertinent question; a question which was to be quoted later to great effect by, amongst others, Eamon de Valera during the General Election to the Imperial Parliament at Westminster of December 1918. The Most Reverend gentleman asked: “When Lord Wimborne and Mr Devlin and Mr Redmond called on our young Irishmen to go to Flanders and give their lives for Home Rule in Belgium, was it not natural that in view of the state of their own country they should ask themselves if it was not all British cant and hypocrisy, and in their indignation break out in rebellion?”

It is perhaps worth noting that Maxwell was not the only British General of that time to hate the Irish Catholic Nationalists. On Monday, October 21, 1918, Earl Haig noted in his diary2:

“Trafalgar Day. At the request of the Navy League, I sent a message to the President of the League (the Duke of Buccleuch) for publication today. It seems to have given great satisfaction both to Mercantile Marine as well as to the Royal Navy.
Doris (Lady Haig) and I motored to London about 10am and I visited the War Office. General Davidson met me. I also saw General Macdonagh A.G. (Adjutant General). I showed him my note on proposals for an armistice. He agreed with me entirely. As regards manpower, he stated that our latest figures showed that we are not able to maintain more than 36 Divisions next year. At present we have 61 Divisions. I then saw the C.I.G.S. (Chief of Intelligence to General Staff) General (Henry) Wilson. We discussed the situation. I gathered that the main reason why he was in favour of a “complete surrender” for terms of an armistice is on account of Ireland. He is most keen that conscription should be applied to Ireland at once in order to get us more men. And as a means of pacifying Ireland.”

Gerard J de Groot wrote of General Wilson: “After a discussion on 21 October (1918), Haig concluded that Wilson wanted to continue the War so that conscription could be enforced in Ireland, and that country be pacified in the process.”3 Of course, it need hardly be wondered at by which methods Wilson, supporter in chief of the Curragh mutineers, seek to pacify Ireland!
But Ireland was not to be pacified. For the poem ends:

And now you ask my dying wish? My last and sole request
Is that the scaffold built for me be fronted to the West,
Of my dear country far away one glimpse I cannot see
Whenever and however high you raise the gallow tree;
Yet would I wish my last fond look should seek that distant shore;
So turn my face to Ireland Sirs, of you I ask no more.

(1) The Jameson Raid was an ineffective attempt to overthrow President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal Republic. It took place over the New Year weekend of 1895/96. It has been said that it helped to precipitate both the Second Boer War and the Second Matabele War.

(2) Private Papers of Douglas Haig, 1914-1919, “Being selections from the private diary and correspondence of Field Marshall the Earl Haig of Bermersyde KT GCB CMG, Edited by Robert Blake, published by Eyre & Spottiswoode, London 1952, @p334.

(3) Douglas Haig 1861-1928, Gerad J de Groot, Unwin Hyman, London 1988. At p392.)

O’Rourke’s Request
(Brian O’Ruairc - Prince of Breffni, AD1589)

You ask me what defence is mine?
Here! midst your armed bands,
You only mock the prisoner, who is helpless in your hands!
What would defence avail of me,
Though good it be and true,
Here in the heart of London town, with judges such as you?
You gravely talk about my “crime”!
I own no crime at all;
The deeds you blame I’d do again should such a chance befall.
You say I’ve helped the foreign foes,
Who war against our Queen —
Well, challenged so, I’ll proudly show what has my helping been:
On that wild day, when near our coast
the stately ships of Spain,
Caught in a fierce and sudden storm for shelter sought in vain;
When, wrenched and torn 'midst mountain waves
some foundered in the deep,
And others broke on sunken reefs and headlands rough and steep —
I heard the cry that off my land
where breakers rise and roar
The sailors from a wrecking ship were striving for the shore.
I hurried to the frightful scene,
my generous people too,
Men, women, and children came, with kindly deed to do.
We saw them clutching spars and planks,
that soon were washed away,
Saw some bleeding on the rocks, low moaning where they lay;
Some cast ashore, and back again dragged by the refluant wave,
When one grip from a friendly hand would have sufficed to save.
We rushed into the raging surf, watched every chance; and when
They rose and rolled within our reach, we grasped the drowning men.
We took them to our hearths and homes, and bade them there remain
’Till they might leave with hope to reach their native land again.
This is the “treason” you have charged! Well, treason let it be,
One word of sorrow for this fault, you'll never hear from me.
I'll only say, although you hate my race and creed and name,
Were your folk in that dreadful plight I would have done the same.
Oh, you would bring me to your Queen, low at her foot to kneel,
Crave mercy from her stony heart, and urge some mean appeal!.
I answer No! my knees will bend and prayers of mine arise
To but one Queen, the Queen of Heaven, high throned above the skies.
And now you ask my dying wish? My last and sole request
Is that the scaffold built for me be fronted to the West,
Of my dear country far away one glimpse I cannot see
Whenever and however high you raise the gallow tree;
Yet would I wish my last fond look should seek that distant shore;
So turn my face to Ireland Sirs, of you I ask no more.

(Timothy Daniel Sullivan 1827 – 1914)

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Good Pope John consecrated Bishop

Tomorrow is the 90th anniversary of Good Pope John (now St Pope John) being ordained Bishop as titular Archbishop of Areopolis consequent upon his appointment as Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria. Contrary to what is often said abut this, it was NOT the  usual practice at that time to invest those delegated as Apostolic Visitors with archiepiscopal character. Indeed, Pope Pius XI, who was sending Don Angelo to Bulgaria, was not himself made an archbishop when he was sent as Apostolic Visitor to Poland and Lithuania on April 25, 1918. Naming Don Angelo archbishop may well have been prompted by his own disgraceful treatment when he was barred from entering the room where the Polish Bishops were meeting at the monastery of Częstochowa by the prelate acting as secretary for the meeting. He was pointedly told: “Polish bishops don’t need a Vatican priest to advise them”.

Fr Ratti soon got his revenge. The prelate concerned was the prince bishop of Cracow, Adam Stefan Sapieha. His two predecessors as Bishop of Cracow had been made cardinals — Albin Cardinal Dunajewski after 11 years; Jan Maurycy Pawel Cardinal Puzyna z Kosielsko after 6 — but by the time he might have expected the gallero rosso, Ratti was Pope. Sapieha had to wait until 1946 and  new Pope’s first consistory.

But, surely, there must be more to it than that? Indeed, there is It must be remembered that although Don Angelo was, perhaps, not all that well known in some parts of the Vatican, he was very well known in the rooms that matter in the Apostolic Palace. Pope Pius XI knew him well, having first met him when Don Angelo was appointed secretary to his best friend, Mgr Giacomo Mari Radini-Tedeschi, when he was made bishop of Bergamo.

Bishop Radini-Tedeschi was an alumnus of the Academia, Class of 1890, and he, too, had gone on to serve, not in the Congregation for the Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Holy See. Indeed, in that same year that he entered the Academia, 1890, he was appointed an assistant in that Secretariat (things were done a bit differently then). It is important to note that the Cardinal Secretary of State at that time was Mariano Cardinal Rampolla, whose candidacy at the conclave in 1903 was vetoed by Jan Cardinal Puzyna on the orders of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Josef I. More importantly, the Cardinal Secretary of State’s personal secretary/office chief was Fr Giacomo della Chiesa, the future Pope Benedict XV.

In 1891, Fr Radini-Tedeschi was chosen as “ablegate” to convey the “gallero rosso”, the doubly 15-tasselled cardinal’s hat of old, to Austria-Hungary, for it to be presented to Mgr Anton Joseph Gruscha, prince-archbishop of Vienna, by the Emperor, Franz Josef I. Then, in 1893, he was assigned the same role to convey the cardinal’s hats to Paris, so that the y might be presented by President Marie François Sadi Carnot to Mgrs Victor-Lucien-Sulpice Lecot, archbishop of Bordeaux, and Joseph-Christian-Ernest Bourret, bishop of Rodez. This was a highly important mission as it was part of Pope Leo XIII’s attempt to woo the French Third Republic and these two ecclesiastics were very important allies in that regard.

As was the practice at the time, Fr Radini-Tedeschi was allowed to invite a priest friend to accompany him on these missions. He invited his best friend from his days at the Pontifical Lombard Seminary in Rome (and I believe they were in fact friends before this), Fr Achille Ratti, the future Pope Pius XI.

PS: The choice of titular See for the new Archbishop Roncalli is interesting. As is well known, the Good Pope John hailed from Bergamo. The See of Areopolis had just become available (you can’t really say “vacant”) as the previous holder of it had died during the preceding month, on Tuesday, February 10. That previous owner was Archbishop Paolo Emio Bergamaschi. I think I am right in saying that that family name can be translated as meaning “from Bergamo”!  

Wednesday 18 February 2015

A Spanish take on the problems of Rangers Football Club (RIP)

This Blog is, of course, dedicated to serious comment on matters of Faith, the Catholic Faith. Naturally, from time to time I, like any- and everyone else need a wee bit of light relief.

This morning, with the prospect of the rigours of Lent before, and already having got off to a bad start by sleeping in for 7am Mass, light relief came by way of an email from a good friend containing a lik to a Spanish take on the travails of Rangers Football Club (RIP).


Saturday 14 February 2015

Consistory of November 24, 2007

In the Tablet this weekend it wrongly states that Cardinal Brady was created cardinal at the 2003 consistory. I know that that is not correct because I was present in Rome on Saturday, November 24, 2007 when he actually was created cardinal. And just to prove it (bottom two are, firstly, me with Cardinal Brady (at the greeting of the new cardinals on the Saturday afternoon in the Paul VI Hall) and then, secondly, me with Cardinal Karlic, a saint of a man (on the Monday morning in St Peter's)...