Thursday, November 15, 2012

Penguins in Pyjamas: The Movie

A letter I sent to the Irish Catholic some weeks ago appeared today. I reproduce it below.

I look forward to getting the Irish Catholic every Thursday. I've developed my own little Thursday routine of buying it in Eason's on O'Connell Street after work, then taking it to the Bagel Bar in the Ilac Centre and reading it over a smoothie. I always used to get an Elvis smoothie, which is my favourite and a mixture of peanut butter, banana, honey and chocolate. However, they don't have it on the menu anymore. One of the girls who works there (and who used to giggle over the reliability of me ordering an Elvis) asked me recently why I no longer asked for it, and said they would be happy to make it for me even if it is not on the menu. So I still order it when she serves me, but otherwise I go for something else. Maybe I'm too timid.

I love sitting there drinking my smoothie, reading The Irish Catholic and looking at the passers-by in the mall outside. I can't really explain why, but I have always been fascinated by places that are simultaneously "inside" and "outside"-- like lobbies and concourses and corridors and halls.

I've loved the Ilac Centre since I was a kid. I remember when it had a fountain at its centre, with an enormous helium balloon (or perhaps several) that used to slowly rise and descend over the fountain. I also remember, as a child, being struck by the fact that it had huge banners hanging from its ceiling featuring lines from "The Daffodills" by William Wordsworth. I thought that must mean "The Daffodills" was definitively the greatest poem of all time. I saw those banners again recently.

I hope that The Irish Catholic is going to take a more orthodox approach with Michael Kelly as its new editor. There are signs of this. Today's editorial insisted on the importance of Trinity College's new department of Catholic theology remaining truly Catholic. The previous editor, Garry O'Sullivan, did (more or less) respect Church teaching, but his own leanings (which showed through every now and again) seemed to be none-too-orthodox. Of course, the reality is that huge amounts of professing Catholics in today's Ireland do dissent from Church teaching, so a newspaper that sought to serve Irish Catholics in general can't help reflecting that.

I especially like the columns by John Waters, David Quinn, and Breda O'Brien. The international news and some of the meatier feature articles also make good reading. Mary Kenny's back page column usually has some original angles on current news stories and debates, and the book page edited by Peter Costello is remarkably erudite. I skip over the articles by Father Ron Rolheiser, which seem little more than soapy-sudsy antinomian spirituality to me.

Anyway, here is my letter:

Dear editor

In his article about the final interview of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Michael Higgins (Irish Catholic, 25/10/12) hails the late Cardinal for enunciating such views as: "the bureaucracy of our churches is growing out of proportion", "the Church must recognise her own errors and pursue a radical model of change", and "the Church is two hundred years behind". He then criticises "right-wing bloggers" who (he claims) "feed the negative atmosphere many feel in the Church, a negative atmosphere bred by distrust of, if not hate for, progressives". It hardly seems necessary to point out that some people might consider Mr. Higgins's article itself to have rather a "negative atmosphere" about it.

Isn't it time for us all to stop using vague terms like "right-wing", "progressive", "radical", "negative", and "change"? I myself believe that the Church is the most "radical" force on Earth, and that it has demonstrated a capacity for self-renewal and necessary change which is unmatched in world history. I also believe that the Church is just as "progressive" as it is "conservative", insofar as those terms mean anything at all. But no discussion will get very far until we drop these slogans and code-words and say precisely what we mean. If we are in favour of changing the Church, what kind of change do we favour, and what Church practices and teachings (if any) should be immune to change? Where do we take ultimate authority within the Church to reside, humanly speaking? In what regard should the Church strive to be up to date and to what extent, if at all, should it refuse to move with the times? Let's have a real debate that gets down to brass tacks, not an exchange of slogans.

Yours faithfully

Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh

Update, 17/07/13: This post is the most popular post on this blog, and gets more hits than any other. I'm baffled as to why this should be. What brought you here, oh reader? It doesn't seem especially controversial or interesting. Please tell me!

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