Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2021

Perspectives on Irish Unification

  Perspectives on a United Ireland                 Gerry OShea A few months ago, my son-in-law, Jimmy Frawley, who lives in Dublin, brought two of his children, aged 10 and 15, on a weekend trip to Belfast. He wanted them to become acquainted with a part of the island that they had never visited and knew little about. Jimmy had read positive comments about the tours provided by the Black Taxi service, and, on arrival, he engaged one at the train station to provide a trip around Belfast. They were lucky to get a talkative and knowledgeable guide who showed the main sites of interest with stops at murals and drawings representing the culture of both traditions in the divided city. His script was balanced and fair. However, towards the end of the hour-long tour he mentioned that his brother and uncle were shot at by Republicans back in the troubled 1980’s. Coming to the end, my son-in-law asked him whether he thought that a United Ireland would happen after the border poll promised

The Crisis in American Democracy

  The Crisis in American Democracy              Gerry OShea William Shakespeare, widely regarded as the world’s greatest dramatist, frequently focuses on how the unbridled aspiration for power and aggrandizement leads to tragic consequences. Lord Acton’s famous dictum that all power corrupts is confirmed in many of his plays with an abundance of shady deals and compromised principles. Of course, democracy, the concept that political power resides with the people, didn’t come to the fore for nearly two hundred years after Shakespeare’s time. However, the overwhelming drive to get to the top remains a vibrant theme of modern politics. Shakespeare’s tragic character, Macbeth, makes no bones about his motivation in words that still resonate today, “I have no spur to prick the side of my intent only vaulting ambition.” Donald Trump can’t abide being a loser. He must win to salve the insatiable demands of his ego. In a Commencement address in the Naval Academy in 2018 he declared that,

Poverty in America

  Poverty in America                 Gerry OShea I recall a philosophy professor from County Mayo, Fr. Brian Dunleavy, teaching a class on the subject of mistakes in reasoning, more formally called the logical fallacies. He explained that we all tend to think in a way that supports the conclusions we want to arrive at. We are inclined to explain our lives in terms that enhance our own standing and prejudices. This convenient thinking, a universal human tendency, is called rationalization. I thought of Dunleavy when I read a Pew Research Study recently showing that most wealthy Americans believe that “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.” Now there is not a scintilla of evidence supporting this demeaning assertion, but it does provide a convenient justification for disregarding the travails of the poor. The Pew study highlights a real weakness in the capitalist culture and in the educational system in America. It

Speaker McCarthy

  Speaker McCarthy            Gerry OShea Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives and a very ambitious man, sees himself on the cusp of a major positive  career move. He wants Nancy Pelosi’s job as Speaker, and the current betting suggests strongly that he will take over from her after the mid-term elections in November.  Recent voting for governor in Virginia and New Jersey seems to confirm that people are moving away from the Democratic Party, dissatisfied with rising prices for utility bills as well as in the supermarkets and gas stations. More than that, the mid-term elections, following compelling past precedents, will likely show a significant swing away from the party in the White House. And the Pelosi Democrats are already working with a tight lead that only allows a slight slippage before losing their majority.  Republicans in some states have gerrymandered the constituency boundaries for their own electoral benefit. One independent expert

The Partition of Ireland

  The Partition of Ireland                 Gerry OShea   A historic debate took place in the Irish parliament a hundred years ago about whether to accept or reject the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which was negotiated in London by an Irish team led by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. The heated discussion started on December 14 th and lasted until January 7 th , 1922. The Treaty was carried by 64 to 57 with most of the opponents walking out of the Assembly in protest, leading a few months later to the unfortunate Irish Civil War. The debate focused on the issue of sovereignty, the extent of independence that the new state would have in dealing with other countries and especially with Great Britain. Surprisingly, the partition of the country, which happened about a year earlier with the passage in Westminster of the Government of Ireland Act, was only mentioned once during those emotional days. The negotiators in London were offered Dominion Status, equivalent to the relationship of t

Synodality and the Catholic Church

                                     Synodality in the Catholic Church          Gerry OShea The clearest divergence between Pope Francis and his predecessor, Benedict, lies in their different expectations from church members. The last pope emphasized traditional beliefs and rules that Catholics are expected to follow. To maintain these high standards, Benedict would   accept fewer church members favoring a kind of ecclesial purity. Francis certainly carries a different banner. His pronouncements are always cognizant of people who are struggling, and his first priority is to extend a helping hand to them. He shows no interest in inquiring about   their belief system or their religious observance; instead, he follows the biblical injunction: “Go into the highways and byways and invite everyone you meet to the wedding feast.” This focus on the human dimension by Francis spills over into the Synodal Path which he announced for the universal church on October 10 th last. In this hist

The Climate Crisis

  The Climate Crisis                  Gerry OShea A major row erupted in 2019 between Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, and the French leader, Emmanuel Macron, as thousands of fires engulfed the Amazon rainforest. Macron angrily accused his Brazilian counterpart of “ecoside” for allowing the world’s largest forest to be despoiled. He accused Bolsonaro of a despicable crime against the planet. Needless to say, the Brazilian strongman was enraged and he countered by asserting that Macron “was treating Brazil as a colony or no man’s land.”  “Our sovereignty is non-negotiable,” he exclaimed. Sovereignty is indeed the issue. Is Brazil the rainforest’s guardian or owner? Must the world just grin and bear it while Bolsonaro demolishes this indispensable carbon sink and vital repository of plant and animal life? Most people would agree that the Brazilian leader’s behavior is completely unacceptable, but what about Australia, a highly-developed country, still expanding its coal produ

Takeaways from the November Elections

  Takeaways from the November Elections           Gerry OShea James Carville, President Clinton’s top advisor, believes that economic issues determine the outcome of elections. Recent price increases in supermarkets and the big jump in gas prices surely help to explain the Democrats’ poor results in the governorship races in Virginia and New Jersey, the two big November contests. The Biden administration knew that their performance was on the line in both states. They hoped to get credit for dealing much better with the COVID crisis, ending the pathogen chaos that prevailed under Donald Trump. And, they wished that families would recall at the hustings that they received large support checks from Washington to help defray the extra costs of the medical crisis. On the other hand, the Democrats, with admittedly small majorities in the House and Senate, could not pass the two big infrastructure bills which would have provided a major boost, especially for families in the areas of ch

The Unionist Dimension

  The Unionist Dimension              Gerry OShea A hundred years ago, the unionists in Northern Ireland saw themselves in a very hostile environment.  They felt hemmed in, surrounded by a clear majority of nationalists on the island, all of whom aspired to some kind of united country ruled from Dublin. So, their top leader, Edward Carson, made no bones about the reasoning behind the sectarian partitioning of the country which involved lopping off six counties from the thirty-two in the whole island “in order to achieve a decisive Protestant majority in which unionist power would be guaranteed in perpetuity.” They feared Catholic domination at a time when the Catholic- Protestant divide still impacted political divisions in Europe, hearkening back to the religious wars of previous centuries. The Roman church was in its pomp, passing a decree of infallibility in 1870 that claimed the pope could never be wrong in matters of faith and morals because he alone was unerringly guided by

The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church

  Ordination of Women In May 1994 Pope John Paul 11 issued an apostolic letter whose goal was to end for all time any discussion in the Catholic church about ordaining women to the priesthood. The solemn declaration has a ponderous Latin title Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which marks it as a pronouncement of the highest order. The papal message deals with “the reservation of priestly ordination for men only.” John Paul leaves no doubt about his message:   “In order that all doubt be removed about a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution, I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be held definitively by all the Church’s faithful.” So, that is it – the matter is now verboten. The highest authority has spoken categorically on the subject. The many women who feel called by the Spirit to serve as priests must be delusional because Rome has spoken in unambiguous