Thursday, September 10, 2009

Church and State - Unholy Alliance

Despite their failure to gain a solid, legal commitment to workers rights the Government took great trouble to appease another group in Ireland.
To reduce the risk of another rejection they trumpeted a protocol, or 'guarantee' on the issue of abortion, and got the Catholic Hierarchy onside for the second Lisbon vote.

Not withstanding that I do not believe abortion to be a political issue but a moral one, I believe in total separation of Church and State.
I do not think any church in Ireland has the right to comment on the democratic process.
But it appears that with the blessing of the church the Government have given us provisional absolution, that is, provided we show remorse and redeem ourselves at the ballot box.


I wrote about my anger and sadness after the Ryan Report, the deviant cruelty of some clerics - perhaps worse still the cover up, the refusal to accept full responsibility and the reluctance to fully pay compensation.
A deal was agreed with Dr. Michael Woods (Fianna Fail of course) while serving as Minister for Education. Woods signed an agreement with the church about child sex-abuse scandals which limited their compensation liability to only €128 million.
However, this scheme is projected to eventually cost the Irish government, and therefore the Irish tax payers, €1.35 billion.

But hey, we are bailing out the bankers with the already paid bail out and the proposed future NAMA process.
I do feel it is important to stress that it was a minority in these orders that committed the worst abuses. But the abuse was systematic, and as the Ryan Report showed, known to the hierarchy.

The deal done gave protection to many abusers from Irish law, and absolved the hierarchy by sacrificing the named orders.

The agreement was signed just before the Irish general election, 2002, and was not laid before the cabinet for its approval. It then remained unpublished for several months.

In 2003 after brokering the deal, Woods claimed his strong faith made him the most suitable person to negotiate the deal.
In view of this I believe that Opus Dei and other Catholic societies should be made disclose the names of all members employed by the state or in the judiciary.

Woods defended the deal, claimed the Department of Education and Science had the management role in the schools in question and that the state knew all the details when making the deal.
That may well be true, the state allowed the institutions and the virtual establishment of a theocracy after all, but why is the tax payer in terms of burden ten times more liable.

Woods also declined to allow the examination of the the legality of the court orders that committed the child inmates for decades into the industrial school system.
This was a system whereby, on moral grounds, the church could have children taken into their care - and defended this power bitterly, as we will see from the Noel Brown Mother and Child act.

Pat Cox, Irelands primary Eurocrat, took objection to an anti Lisbon leaflet he received in Knock, a place of pilgrimage where the Virgin Mary, Mother of God is alleged to have appeared.
The irony is the leaflet came from a very right wing Catholic group opposed to Lisbon, COIR.
Quite often the Yes camp promote them as the main opposition to the Lisbon treaty. It is to associate all those who would vote No to Lisbon with a small splinter group, and I have written of this smear by association before.

A leaflet COIR produced featured Caravaggio’s “The taking of the Christ”. It is known as the Judas Kiss painting.

Ireland for Europe Campaign Director Pat Cox has brought the leaflet to the attention of the Jesuits who hold the image rights to the centuries old painting.
In line with the new directive from the Irish Hierarchy, the Jesuits stated that COIR did not seek or obtain permission to use this image and that the matter would be pursued.  The Jesuits would not allow the use of this image “for such controversial and inappropriate purposes”

In that case any church should remain outside of the political debate.
Pat Cox said he “was offended to see this sacred image being misused by associating it with this shameful and untruthful propaganda”
According to Ireland for Europe there is a clear dividing line between the protection or promotion of Christian values and the publication of false or misleading propaganda in relation to the Lisbon Treaty.

(* this section of the article has been updated further after the conclusion)

I do not believe that the church even has a moral right to comment at this point in time since the Ryan report.
And yes, the tax payer is the one who will bail out the church in Ireland in spite of their sins, along with the floundering bankers, failed politicians and reckless speculators.

For so many years, due to theocratic control exercised by a few unelected and unaccountable people over citizens and politicians we had a Gulag system in this republic where sin and crime were synonymous, even condoms were illegal. Because of the power of the Church, civil divorce has only recently been bought into law, whereas annulment was always an option, especially with the right connection.

Single Mothers were forcibly separated from their own babies and interned in Laundries and other institutes.
Rape victims who fell pregnant were also interned, and treated as if they were guilty of some crime.
Quite often we see that both they and their children were subjected to continued abuse.

Dr. Noel Brown, a man who was instrumental in ending the scourge of TB in Ireland was blocked by the church when he attepted to secularise and improve healthcare for mothers and children. He faced many of the accusations that face President Obama today.
It was apparently beter for a child to be institutionalised rather than take the risk in a country 85% catholic that a protestant family might adopt a child, for fear it would lose it's soul.
Browne had earlier also managed to snub the Catholic hierarchy in 1949 when he was the only minister to attend the Church of Ireland funeral of Douglas Hyde, the first President of Ireland.
The Catholic Church has, and will, play a positive role in Irish society, as have and will other belief systems.
But we come from an Island where more often religion was used to divide and control us.

Lets not forget that in the interests of preserving power the Catholic church has on many other occasions held back the progress of Ireland as a free and sovereign nation.

They came out strongly against Parnell because he was named in a divorce case, and he was Protestant.
This after having achieved more for Irish tenant farmers in his short parliamentary life than the church had achieved in all the years of the feudal system that existed.
In return they got Manooth University.

When the Fenians rose, they were read down from every pulpit in the land, hell was not hot enough and eternity not long enough.

The Churches centre of power is a transnational, unelected beaurocracy based in a European city that has a lot of power and influence across the globe.
To the centre of power delegates, selected by a local hierarchy, are sent to consult with the mechanisims of governance from afar.
Their are councils and committees, factions and different group who specialise in certain areas.
Their deliberations are done in camera - behind closed doors, with no accountability or independent oversight - and their decisions have a very real and profound effect for all Catholics.

It is little wonder that the EU as it will be if the Lisbon treaty is bought into law is something that is so familiar to the Irish hierarchy.

The entire republican ideal in Ireland came from Protestant nationalists like Tone and Emmet who did not see the importation of Catholic monarchs as a solution, but the development of a French or American republican system as an Irish answer to an Irish problem.

Catholicism is distinctly monarchical, where men have assumed the right to rule because of their belief in God. Cardinals are called the Princes of the Church for that very reason, that is the position that they hold, that one of them will be the next Pope, the next ruler.
Bishops equate to Barons, Arch Bishops to Earls. It is the same pyramid scheme that evolved from the Roman empire that monarchy did.
As with the UK's coat of arms, where Dieu et mon Doit - that God is my right, and other countries that have a monarchy decided on by accident of birth in the catholic church we have a situation where men elect from among them a man chosen to be the successor of the apostle Simon, Christ’s vicar on earth.
Due to this unquestionable authority derived from the Pope the catholic church in Ireland which has had an undue influence on our elected Governments.

A 5 year old child is no more catholic than he is a member of the fireman’s union.

I think the hierarchy’s primary mission right now should not be to copper fasten their position in Government circles with the self assumed protection of the unborn, but to seek forgiveness and redeem themselves in the eyes of the living victims of abuse

*UPDATE 12/11

In the Irish times on Thursday 10th again we see the link between church and state being used to supress opposition to the Lisbon treaty from any group.

Irish MEPs called on the church to take a stand against the monthly church newspaper Alive for publishing an advert opposing the Lisbon Treaty by a very small group from Cork called Éire go Brách for gods sake!

Alive was set up as a response to pope John Paul II’s call for “an evangelisation that is new in its fervour, new in its methods and new in its expression”.

Until the Lisbon treaty I never heard of such demands being made of such a minor publication, what are the Political clases so scared of ?

Marian Harkin MEP said the claims made in the advert were “disgraceful” and “deliberately constructed to frighten people”.

Éire go Brách's campaign director Máire de Faoite said the paragraph quoted in the advert was contained in an explanatory note on the charter, which was contained in a consolidated version of the EU treaties.

Ms Harkin said the church should take action to ensure that Alive is not being distributed in the porches of any of its churches.
Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness said the advert was scandalous, and the church needed to take on any groups that made statements in its name.
Fr Brian McKevitt, managing editor of Alive, said it was interesting that liberals who proclaim to be in favour of freedom of speech often want to silence criticism.
He said he would not comment on the veracity of the advertisement’s claims. “People have to judge for themselves the advert, like they do for adverts for plumbers in other newspapers”
One supposes that questions will only be raised if they do not tow the Government line.
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Decent Dissent and Dodgy Decisions - Lisbon and NAMA

People who see certainties where others see nuances and shades of meaning are either prophets or a quacks, and our politicians are not prophets.
Our Minister of Finance cannot even accurately predict profits, or lack thereof, from the biggest gamble that Ireland has ever undertaken.
We have seen years of mismanagement and poor decision making of which NAMA is the most recent example, and with the Lisbon treaty we have chosen to say No, to dissent.
Dissent and disagreement with Government is the lifeblood of democracy, it is also essential because every once and a while it is right, and the powers to whom we try to speak are wrong.

One very important lesson came from America, from a courageous commentator Edward R Murrow - but more about him later.

The elected, transitional, holders of power in our state, our employees, continue to impugn the intelligence and the loyalty of the people of the state of Ireland in relation to the European Union.

Some media pundits credit our politicos with a knowledge and understanding of the challenges facing Ireland and Europe which neither common sense nor their track record suggests they deserve.
If our politicians had proven their self declared knowledge, foresight and planning, about finance, the economy, health services etc. we might be able to accept the premise that they knew what the hell they were talking about.

But to date this Government has proven little except their own arrogance and hubris in spite of its failure.
With bank bailouts, NAMA, toxic debts, rising unemployment and a real sense of insecurity and uncertainty their failures have enveloped the country in a fog of fear.
This fog, fear and confusion in addition to the BCI ruling on referendum coverage may yet be used to push through the Lisbon treaty on a second attempt.


One of, if not the greatest American journalist of the modern era was Edward R Murrow. Never in a thousand years could my writing even come close to how he phrased a warning about Governments who felt they - and they alone - knew everything, dismissed accountability and marginalized dissent. In 1954, in a challenge to the McCarthyite witch hunts he said:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.
We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular"

These words are utterly appropriate to our challenges today.

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty or allow the refusal to accept the Lisbon Treaty to be confused with our commitment to a European Union. Dissent is said to be the highest form of patriotism.

A No vote in a referendum is just that, we do not accept the proposition put before us by our elected legislators, and want a better deal.
We simply want a Union for the benefit of the people and communities, not for the politicians and corporations.

Our country was not created by people who achieved great things with courage, reason and conviction, not fear - and we must "not be driven by fear into an age of unreason based on illusory guarantees and clever editing.

When we dig into Irish history we see despite censure, public ridicule and the real danger of death we have had the incredible fortune to have had leaders who never allowed themselves to be subdued or cowed, and who supported just causes despite their unpopularity.

Our greatest leaders came from hugely diverse backgrounds. Jim Larkin overcame media vilification for Union organization.
James Connolly died for his belief in workers rights. Griffith’s commitment to self determination, O Connell’s belief in the right to vote, Parnell’s belief in fairness, Tone and Emmett’s belief in secular democracy and women’s rights fought for by people like Winifred Carney now buried in an unmarked grave in Milltown cemetary and Constance Markiewicz have all shaped our sense of nationhood.

We must remember that accusation is not proof, the cheap innuendos by Dick Roche and his ilk about funding of the No campaign mean nothing, particularly when dual standards exist in relation to the funding of the Yes groupings.
If the Government had accepted the recommendations of the Standards in public office, this issue would be more transparent and more in the interest of the democratic process but perhaps not in the interests of the Government.

With other EU states going for parliamentary ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, without plebiscite, the attempt to force through the second Lisbon vote is an appeasement of sorts.
Again, we can learn from history. Dealing with dissent at home so as not to upset Europe was a policy followed in the 1930's by the Chamberlain Government who appeased an unaccountable system in Germany.
Chamberlain knew most of all that the staunchest critics of his European policy had to be marginalized and isolated - his supporters in the media portrayed the foremost critic as, if not totally senile, at best morally or intellectually confused - he was called Winston Churchill. History has taught us that all Chamberlains' certainties were in fact miscalculation and confusion.

That suggests that the office can not only make the man, the office can make the facts. The solemn guarantee Mr. Chamberlain held in his hand after the Munich conference were about as believeable as those Mr. Cowen has shown us.

But by unremittingly repeating these pointless garuantees (about what is not in the treaty) the illusion is created that the context of the treaty rejected by the Irish, as well as the constitution rejected by the French and Dutch, has fundamentally changed.

At the launch of the Fianna Fail Yes campaign on September 2nd 2009 Mr. Cowen aptly demonstrated this arrogance by stating he did not even contemplate the rejection of the Lisbon treaty on a second attempt.
This is possibly the last chance FF have to 'win' an electorial victory before 2012. As the major party in power it is FF who, along with the greens and indies, have the power to put the referendum to the people, again, and have decided to do so, so it is primarily their referendum.

I for one do not want to see a triumphful FF telling us how they assured we won Lisbon. Its their only chance to win anything at this point, with the support of the opposition, corporations and even the church.

If Lisbon goes through they will use it as a further justification to go full term even with a 17% approval rating (i.e. family and friends) and as their are no more local or EU elections in that period, this is almost certainly the last chance people have to voice their dissent at the ballot box until 2012

We cannot allow a failing, self serving and corrupt Government, hardly worthy of the legacy of nationhood that they have inherited, or their corporate supporters to use control of the media and the fear of a deeper financial crisis that they themselves precipitated to force us to vote against our own best interests, and the interests of our fellow European citizens.

This country faces a great challenge. With the clear and present danger of financial ruin and longterm hardship, the confusion we as citizens must now address is stark and forbidding.
But note with hope in your heart we have made it through in the past.

The confusion and debate about Lisbon is really about if the Irish Government actually know what they are talking about - and their track record of the management of our country in health, education, financial regulation or economic planning does not engender any belief in their abilities to have made the correct judgement on the Lisbon treaty.

The chance to pause and reflect after democratic rejection has not been used to build the kind agreement that We the People really want, a desire that really exists

We want our leaders to give us a treaty that is accessable, that gives greater democratic accountability and transparency, and if they deliver that we will work with them to develop a better future for all.

Again, as always – thanks for reading. Even if you don’t agree with me – I hope you give some thoughts to the points made

And please let others now about these blogs

Citizen Simon - out

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