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Clericalism in the Catholic Church

  Clericalism in the Catholic Church               Gerry OShea The heart of the clericalist problem in the Catholic Church revolves around gauging who is important in the organization. Who exercises control? Who makes the big decisions? Who is consulted about the major conundrums the church faces?   Will the pope and his senior bureaucrats lay down the law, or will the Vatican find meaningful ways to dig deeper into the wisdom of the wider international membership? Clericalism aptly describes the current system, which is being challenged in the ongoing synod where questions are being asked about the appropriateness of the old hierarchical methods of managing the institution. This involves a major effort led by Pope Francis, confronting the deeply embedded clergy-dominated power structure in the church.     The Vatican leads a top-down system of control in which uniformity and obedience are traditionally seen as the highest values, almost equated with virtuous behavior. Since th
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Inequality in America

  Inequality in America          Gerry OShea The United States can be proud of its record in promoting political rights - free speech underpins American culture, and adherence to the rule of law mandates treating all citizens equally. It is noteworthy that former president Donald Trump’s assertion of privilege because he served in the White House has failed to get support in the judiciary. The administration of law claims to operate above assertions of status or financial exuberance. Unfortunately, the story is very different when we reflect on economic rights. According to OECD data, America has the second highest rate of poverty among developed countries, with 17.2% of the population living in that humiliating space – around 60 million citizens. By comparison, other rich countries such as Canada, Germany, and Sweden score at about half that percentage in this crucial measure of modern progress.   According to a recent speech by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Trinity College

Beleaguered Unionists

Beleaguered Unionists         Gerry OShea The concept of losers’ consent is central to American politics since Donald Trump refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory in the last presidential election. It also provides an important prism on political developments in Northern Ireland, although not in arguments about election results. While David Trimble, the leader of the Official Unionist Party, played a central role in negotiating The Good Friday Agreement (GFA), many unionists viewed the terms of the deal as a sell-out to Irish nationalism. In particular, they looked askance at provisions that mandated the release of all IRA prisoners and the replacement of the Royal Ulster Constabulary with the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Although many international leaders justifiably laud the 1998 agreement which has largely ended the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a recent poll revealed that only 34% of unionists view it favorably. They still believe after twenty-fi

The Methodist Church - Past and Present

  Methodism Past and Present        Gerry OShea Until recent times, most theologians and churchmen clearly condemned same-sex intimacy as unnatural. Their disapproval was wrapped in a syllogism: The purpose of sex is procreation; gay physical relationships have no possibility of pregnancy; therefore, same-sex intimacy breaches the moral code and must be condemned.   Scientific studies have clearly established a new paradigm in this area. Research explains the largely genetic origins of homosexual attraction, and most Western countries, including the United States, allow gay couples to marry and have their unions officially recognized. While there is no single gay gene, there is overwhelming evidence of a biological basis for sexual orientation that is programmed into the brain before birth, based on a mix of genetics and prenatal conditions. A few months ago, the Vatican issued a clear directive allowing a priestly blessing for marriages of homosexual couples. They still assert

Riddle Me That

  Riddle Me That         Gerry OShea Readers who followed Irish politics in the 1970s will remember John Healy, the distinguished journalist from County Mayo. He wrote for the Irish Times, and every Saturday, he authored a perceptive political article under the by-line Backbencher, which was widely read nationwide. Healy, who died in 1991 at the young age of 61, highlighted the contradictions and compromises exhibited by political leaders as they tried to maintain a semblance of integrity while pleasing their constituents and obeying the party whip. He would invite his readers to consider the options in any controversial quandary he was dealing with and then request their help in devising a suitable solution. His memorable wording in posing the knotty political questions still rattles around in my memory: “So now riddle me that.” I think of these words when I try to make sense of Donald Trump’s ideas and approach to communication. I am not here interested in going over the trad

The Two Wars

  The Two Wars               Gerry OShea The world is galvanized by the awful daily reports from Ukraine and Gaza, with the future direction of both conflicts very unsure. As American support wavers, Russia seems to be gaining the upper hand against the Kyiv resistance. While Israel is assured of military victory, they are facing serious charges alleging inhumane bombing of civilians in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague. Two years ago, Vladimir Putin had amassed troops on the border of Ukraine, claiming sovereignty over that country in a ploy reminiscent of the power games of the early 20 th century. Many commentators doubted that he would invade an adjoining country at a time when grabbing a neighbor’s land was sure to elicit widespread outrage and condemnation. Putin’s aggression in February 2022 was premised on the idea that the United States was losing interest in Europe and that the Western democracies were divided on critical economic issues and so inca

Gay Couples in the Catholic Church

Gay Couples in the Catholic Church                Gerry OShea The Vatican still names all of its important proclamations in Latin – rather surprising, I suppose, considering that the now-esoteric language is studied by decreasing numbers. On December 18 th they published an important document dealing with members living in what they call “irregular” situations. It is named Fiducia Supplicans and is subtitled “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings.” This pronouncement somewhat changes the status of divorced and remarried Catholics and also covers people in committed same-sex relationships. Until now, they were deemed to be outside the full embrace of their church, meeting the criteria for living in sin, according to those who like to use that kind of jargon. In theory, at least, they were excluded from the confession box and the altar rails unless they abandoned their love relationships. Pope Francis’ message from the beginning of his papacy claimed that he had no interest in jud