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Showing posts from November, 2020

The Gaelic Revival

  The Gaelic Revival                  Gerry OShea The growth of nationalism was a dominant theme in 19 th century Europe, culminating in the successful unification movements in Germany and Italy, ending with capitals in Berlin and Rome.   The new nation-state was defined by ethnic and language congruence among the citizenry, leading to near-homogeneity among the vast majority of people in each country. For instance, in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s Jews and Roma gypsies did not qualify as German nationals, and thus they became lesser people, identified as sub-humans who could be maltreated and much worse. This kind of xenophobia throughout Europe played a major part in the genesis of two disastrous world wars. The 19 th century was also the apex of the colonial era where all the major European countries had extended their power mostly to faraway territories in Africa, Asia and South America. Great Britain, the king of the colonialists, had expanded its authority to so many place

The Catholic Church and the Presidential Election

  The Catholic Church and the Election             Gerry OShea The Pope Francis wing of the Catholic Church is happy with the Biden victory. The pope called the president-elect to congratulate him on his win and to wish him well in his plans to promote a progressive agenda. By all accounts they had a warm discussion about the crucial importance of addressing climate change and refugee issues. In the recent election most members of the hierarchy in the United States strongly favored President Trump who boasted that no previous president could match his espousal of issues dear to the Catholic Church, specifically his positions on abortion and religious freedom. Francis’ priorities as eloquently set forth in his encyclicals Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti stress a much wider moral agenda. He highlights three issues that require urgent attention and which rarely figure in Republican talking points or indeed in Sunday sermons. The pope stresses that the climate crisis is worsening b

Election Postmortem

  Election Postmortem               Gerry OShea President Clinton’s political guru James Carville’s oft-repeated statement of election wisdom that “it is the economy stupid” was deemed not to apply in advance of this year’s presidential election. How could any other issue supersede a raging virus that was causing nearly a thousand deaths a day, with every poll showing that most people blamed President Trump’s incompetent handling of the crisis? Amazingly, exit polls on election day revealed that the COVID crisis was rated third on the scale of importance by voters. Racial division showed at second and at the top again, number one, came the economy. About a week before election day the Federal Reserve Board announced that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had expanded at a record 33.1% in the third quarter. This was welcomed like manna from heaven by President Trump and all Republican candidates. They argued that this never-before-achieved growth rate was proof that conservative Re

The Catholic Church and Irish Independence

  The Catholic Church and the Irish Independence Movement        Gerry OShea The Penal Laws in Ireland were designed to bully Catholics and other Protestant dissenters into accepting the “true faith” as proclaimed by the English monarch. By the late 1790’s these laws had drifted into abeyance, and in 1795 the leaders in Westminster agreed to the construction of a seminary in Maynooth where aspirants for the Catholic priesthood could be trained. This was a momentous political decision with consequences that extended throughout the 19 th century and beyond. Prior to the development of Maynooth, priests were prepared for their work in European seminaries, especially in Spain and France, where revolutionary thinking was in vogue. They returned to serve in Ireland only to be further radicalized as they were chased and harassed by the authorities to prevent them from ministering to the people. The new college in Maynooth changed all of that. Priests and especially bishops gradually be

Problems with American Democracy

  Problems with American Democracy               Gerry OShea In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville came from France to America to examine the workings of the prison system in what was the first country to revolt successfully against colonial rule. He was intrigued by the experiment here in democracy and conceded that the Republican form of self-government seemed to work while failing to get traction anywhere in Europe. Alexis came from an aristocratic family and because his parents were viewed as hostile to the French Revolution they were imprisoned in Paris during The Reign of Terror. Still, he lauded the stress on equality in the United States but, true to his family origins, he worried how all this democratic power in the hands of commoners would work out for the prosperous aristocracy, which he felt was still essential for a stable political system. De Tocqueville worried about what he called “the tyranny of the majority.” He imagined that the mass of poor people could overwhelm the