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Perspectives on Civilization

  Changing Perspectives on Civilization                        Gerry OShea People often ask how Germany, home of so many great artists and writers, could also have produced the Nazis with their record of horrendous cruelty and inhumanity. How could a culture that generated the three B’s, Brahms, Bach and Beethoven also claim Goebbels, Himmler and Adolf Hitler? At the Nuremberg trials, the American prosecutor, Robert Jackson, told the judges that “the real complaining party at your bar is civilization.” The trial heard that the Nazi regime had completely discarded widely-accepted standards of decency and civility. Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich Minister for Propaganda, proclaimed that the Nazis were defending Europe against the pagan Bolshevik hordes coming from the east. He also condemned “British Barbarism” for bombing historic German cities and towns, describing these actions as “English assassination of European culture.” Hans Frank, the governor-general of Nazi-occupied P
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Sexuality and the Catholic Church

  Sexuality and the Catholic Church                          Gerry OShea The encyclical Laudato Si surely stands out as Pope Francis’ signature contribution to humanity. In it he identifies the earth as “our home” which we have carelessly neglected, especially since the Industrial Revolution that was getting underway two hundred years ago. The consequences of our immature behavior, a proliferation of floods, fires, droughts and famines, are clear, and the perilous state of our oceans points to a worsening crisis. There have been five previous mass extinctions of life in the universe. Francis has raised a large red flag warning that we may well be heading for another. This pope is also prophetic in his regular pronouncements on the devastating consequences of the prevailing level of world poverty. No other international leader can match his denunciations of economic systems that tolerate such awful levels of human deprivation. He mocks the neo-liberal contention, with its many

The Irish War of Independence and the Truce that ended it

  The Irish War of Independence and the Truce         Gerry OShea The Irish War of Independence began in Tipperary in January 1919 when two policemen were killed by the local IRA. The war started slowly. Only eighteen people were shot during the whole first year. No wonder that the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, viewed these sporadic attacks by Irish republicans as the actions of “murder gangs” that the police were well-equipped to handle. The police force known as the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was augmented in 1920 by two groups that were recruited for the job in England. First, the Black and Tans were drawn from the disbanded soldiers who fought in the First World War. About 10,000 of these men arrived around March 1920. They were spoken of disparagingly as the Tans, and they were hated by the people because of their abusive and sometimes murderous behavior in dealing with the local population. The second group also sent over to help the RIC, the Auxiliaries - Auxie

American Democracy in Imminent Danger

  American Democracy in Imminent Danger            Gerry OShea The body politic in the United States has been going through a mind-boggling experience since the people voted for president on November 3 rd last year. American democracy is in a state of crisis.                    Prior to the election, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate and sitting president, declared on a few occasions that there could only be one winner in the contest with Joe Biden. He explained – with no ifs, ands or buts - that in the case of Biden getting more Electoral College votes than himself, the result would be bogus. What about the core value of democratic elections proclaiming that the candidate who gets the most Electoral College votes wins – a system that has been honored in American politics for 250 years? In replying to this obvious question, Mr. Trump merely stated that he could not be the loser, so any vote count that showed Joe Biden winning had to be fraudulent. His own triumph in the el

Abortion and Legislation

  It is hard to find anybody who declares that he or she is in favor of abortion. However, the response changes drastically when the question asked deals with an existential situation: should a woman have the right to terminate her pregnancy or be legally compelled to carry it to term? The 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court ruling mandated a right to abortion based on privacy provisions which the judges claimed were implied in the wording of the United States constitution. Most conservative justices and a majority of Republicans favor overturning Roe, and they seem to have a clear majority in the current Supreme Court to do exactly that. If this occurs then each state will have to legislate on the availability of abortion in its own jurisdiction. Some will allow the procedure to continue along present lines while others will criminalize it and, presumably, mandate jail sentences for women and medical personnel who disobey the new law.   Prior to the 2018 referendum which legalized abo

Inequality in America

  Inequality in America                 Gerry OShea Late in 2018 Pope Francis filled St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with almost 6000 poor people and preached to them in words that Karl Marx or Vladimir Lenin would have applauded. He pointed the finger of blame for the evils of poverty at greedy and selfish people “who feast on what in justice belongs to all.” These radical words – fully in line with traditional Catholic social teaching - bring to mind a statement by Pope John Paul 11, who many historians applaud as the main driving force in bringing down the ailing communist system in Russia and its Eastern European satellites. Reflecting, later in his life, on the rampant consumerism engulfing the West with all its attendant poverty and greed, he wrote: “I wonder which of the two systems is better.” America, the richest country in the world, is one of the most unequal in the distribution of its largesse. The top 1% own 70% of the wealth leaving the bottom 90% to claim just 27%. Th

Identity Politics in Ireland - Past and Present

  Identity Politics in Northern Ireland            Gerry OShea Identity politics was the driving factor when Ireland was partitioned a hundred years ago. A section of the island in the northeast was set apart from the rest of the country strictly on the basis of allowing the people living there to maintain their allegiance to Britain, an entirely legitimate aspiration but one that was bound to lead to trouble because nationalists on the island weren’t even consulted about the division. The 1918 Westminster election ended the power of the Irish Parliamentary Party. They had fought for Home Rule for Ireland, and indeed a bill was passed in 1912 that granted a parliament in Dublin with limited power over the whole island. This was fiercely opposed by unionists in the Belfast area who refused to contemplate any allegiance to an assembly with a majority of Catholics. For them, Home Rule would bring about domination by the Catholic majority on the island, leading inevitably to the rele