Monday, 31 December 2012

The Catholic Herald People of the Year 2012

Catholic Herald Person of 2012: Cardinal Dolan 
The jolly, cherubic cardinal with the wide girth was born in 1950 in St
Louis and entered seminary at the age of 14. He freely admits that he “can't ever remember a time when I was not flirting with the priesthood” and that,“on a human level”, he owes his vocation to his parents as well as the nuns from Ireland who taught him at school.
Ordained in 1976, he has led a varied career in the Church, from beingsecretary to a papal nuncio to being rector in the Pontifical North AmericanCollege in Rome. His years spent forming American priests prepared him for achallenging posting as Archbishop of Milwaukee. From 2002 to 2009, he keptthe archdiocese together during the storm that ensued after revelations ofclerical sex abuse, which included 8,000 charges against 100 people. He didnot lose his nerve and encouraged young men in the archdiocese to becomepriests. As a result, the number of seminarians in Milwaukee rose during histime there.
In contrast to some Church leaders, Cardinal Dolan doesn’t suggest the abuse crisis is behind us. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he said clerical abuse“needs to haunt us” and that episcopal cover-ups were “nothing less thanhideous”.He became Archbishop of New York in 2009, becoming the shepherd of 2.6 million souls. In 2010 he was elected president of the United StatesConference of Catholic Bishops and created a cardinal at the consistory on February 2012.  

His meteoric rise in the Church means he is often called ‘America's Pope’. But he simply laughs at the suggestion that he might benext in line for the papacy, often adding: “You must have been talking to my mother!”

Cardinal Dolan possesses a rare charm that enables him to disagree
vigorously with politicians on, say, abortion, while still having civil and
even cheerful conversations with them. At the Alfred Smith dinner in
October, Barack Obama sat nearby as Cardinal Dolan gave a speech urging listeners to care for what he called “the uns: the unemployed, the
uninsured, the unwanted, the unwed mother, and her innocent, fragile unborn baby in her womb, the undocumented, the unhoused, the unhealthy, the unfed and the under-educated”. In 2012, Cardinal Dolan objected firmly to the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate, arguing that it violated the US Constitution's first
amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion. A judge recently ruled that the Archdiocese of New York could continue with a lawsuit challenging the law that would require Catholic institutions to cover the costs of employees’ contraceptives. If the legal challenge is successful then not just Catholics, but the whole nation will owe him a debt of gratitude. 

Detractors label Cardinal Dolan as a ‘conservative’, but often forget that he champions the rights of Hispanic immigrants and praises their role in churches across America. Cardinal Dolan has drawn attention to the fact that Our Lady of Guadalupe is now the most visited shrine in New York’s St Patrick’s Cathedral. Keen to be able to mix with the Hispanic faithful that are an integral part
of New York parishes, Cardinal Dolan memorises Spanish verbs while he works out on his exercise bike.

Asia Bibi  The 41-year-old Pakistani mother of five has languished in prison for three
and a half years. She lives in deplorable conditions, chained up in a windowless cell, she says, “my tears are my only companion”. Outside her prison walls, millions of people are prepared to kill her. Asia Bibi is the first woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws. Her specific crime? In her own words, “I will be hung by the neck for having helped my neighbour.” In June 2009, she was working as a farmhand when she was asked to bring a bucket of drinking water to the field where they were picking berries. On returning with the water, she took a drink, but the Muslim workers would not partake of the same water, believing it to be unclean because it was touched by a Christian. Soon after, her fellow farmhands insisted that she had insulted the Prophet Mohammed. Pakistan¹s Penal Code states that anyone who insults Mohammed
should be punished by life imprisonment or death. 

In November 2010, Pope Benedict called for her release. But the mere suggestion that Asia be granted clemency has provoked street riots in Pakistan. Her family have had to go into hiding. In January 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti housed her family, shortly before he was assassinated. Asia does not, of course, deserve the death penalty, but it is looking more likely. Her poor chance of survival does not mean that we can about forget her. She represents the countless persecuted Christians all over the world, who in the face of unrelenting terror and torture, will not renounce their faith.

Gemma Rose Foo was born in Singapore weighing just 580 grams (0.2lbs), 10 weeks premature. She spent the first four months of her life in hospital, with her life hanging in the balance. She was diagnosed with the most severe form of cerebral palsy, which restricts the ability to move all four limbs. In her early years she struggled to sit upright and would fall off the sofa if left unattended. At school she was bullied by other pupils who took advantage of her limited mobility and would steal her belongings or slyly trip her up. But from these bleak beginnings, Gemma exceeded everyone¹s
expectations and become a world-class athlete.

Originally Gemma had taken up riding as a form of therapy to improve her balance and coordination. At 10, she was able to ride independently. In 2011 she won gold in two out of three events at the Mannheim Para-Equestrian Championships held in Germany. Prior to competing in the London Paralympics this summer she took a year off from St Theresa’s Convent School to train and prepare her horse, Avalon. In London she scored 65.05 per cent in her Grade 1a competition and showed
exemplary posture and poise when in individual freestyle competitions. She says that when she faces challenges, she talks to God. “He sometimes talks back to me, and that calms me down,” she has said.
Asked what she thinks of her sporting achievements, the 16-year-old says:  “It’s really surreal.” A regular young woman in many ways, she is known for her bubbly personality and is a Lady Gaga fan and is a fan of The Vampire Diaries.

Many consider James MacMillan to be the pre-eminent classical composer of our age. He was brought up in, “a traditional working-class community in the West of Scotland”. His symphonies, concertos, operas and sacred music are powerfully informed by Catholicism. MacMillan’s immense talent was recognised when he was invited to compose the
congregational Mass for the beatification of Cardinal Newman during the papal visit to Britain in September 2010. Another major work is his St John Passion. In 2011, his third piano concerto, The Mysteries of Light,
premiered in Minnesota. In October this year he represented the world’s artists when he received a copy of the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Message to
Artists’ at the end the Mass opening in the Year of Faith in St Peter’s Basilica.

When asked how he composes, he stresses the need for entering a time of
silence before composing, which he calls “that bedding down period where
ideas can germinate”.  MacMillan has said that, “the Church needs to
rediscover the Catholic paradigm of Gregorian chant”. But he also praises
the way music programmes in Anglican parishes can positively influence
Catholic parishes. Quick to take the part of Catholics who want better music
in parish liturgies, MacMillan gets great pleasure from helping ordinary
Catholics in the pew to sing prayer.
A much sought-after conductor, he has directed orchestras all over the
globe, but remains loyal to his parish in Glasgow.
MacMillan married his childhood sweetheart, has two children and is a Third
Order Dominican. Many commentators are quick to point out that, at 53, he
has achieved a lot for one so young.

Frank Cottrell Boyce is one of the most talented, versatile and successful
screenwriters in the world. He wrote the script for “Isles of Wonder”, the
spectacular opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.
The event drew on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, about an Italian noble who is
marooned on a magical island. It was an excellent choice because the play’s
preoccupation with newcomers to island life would have resonated with many
of Olympians who were far from home and new to our isle.
Cottrell Boyce is perhaps best known to British readers for his work
Millions. When Millions was being filmed, director Danny Boyle suggested to
that Cottrell Boyce turn it into a book. The result was a children¹s novel
which beat out Philip Pullman’s work for the 2004 Carnegie Medal.
Writing for children was a radical change from Cottrell Boyce¹s usual genre
of gritty adult realism. He has said that children’s literature gave him a
new lease of life.

Cottrell Boyce offers encouragement to new writers and quotes the journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘10,000-hour rule’, which holds that many hours of practice are needed to become good at something. The 53-year-old Liverpudlian is also the father of seven children. A proud
Catholic, he pays tribute a tall Irish nun, Sister Paul, who taught him at school. One day the young Cottrell Boyce wrote a comedy sketch that Sister Paul read out to the class. The way the other pupils reacted encouraged him
to make a career out of writing.


Paul Ryan, a 42-year-old lawyer from Wisconsin, is a cradle Catholic who ran
to be vice-president of the United States. The extraordinary thing about him
is that he didn’t water down his Catholic faith for popularity. A father
with three children, he was buying cinnamon buns for his kids one day on the
campaign trail when he asked a priest in the bakery to bless his rosary
beads. Since then, supporters have given him rosaries.
A steady-eyed, frank man, Ryan does not speak as loudly and as often about
his Catholic faith as Rick Santorum. But he insists on Sunday Mass for his
family, which they attend at St John Vianney parish in a suburb of

Ryan sparked controversy this year with his proposal to balance the US
budget, known as the Path to Prosperity, and for his determination to
eliminate the country’s Alternative Minimum Tax. It should be noted that the
US bishops did not take issue with all of Ryan’s policies, but specifically
with his economic plan, which they argued would endanger the poor. A group
of Left-leaning nuns travelled across America during the summer 2012,
campaigning against Ryan’s proposals.
But Ryan insisted that he was acting in good conscience and defended his
tax-scrapping plans, reminding Americans of “the exploding federal debt”. He
quoted the Holy Father saying that governments which run up high debt are
“living at the expense of future generations”
After losing the election, rather than wallowing in his sorrows, Ryan said
that at least he would have more time to spend with his children. He is
still youthful and is already the favourite among some Republican Party
faithful to be the 2016 presidential candidate.

Catholic Herald People of the Year appears in The Christmas Double Edition of The Catholic Herald.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Concerning Savita's tragic death: 'abortion is not a cure for septicaemia' and the full details of her death are not known. But, certainly comparisons to other countries show the claim made by pro-abortion activists that Ireland is 'backward' on maternal health is at best a limited world-view and at worst a mendacious means of manipulating Ireland

"How then do we explain the sensationalist media coverage of her death?" The argument made in Verita Bella's video is that following Savita's death, there was a well-organised, multi-faceted and expertly timed campaign by abortion activists to harangue Ireland about Savita's death, bring Ireland to her knees and make her change the law of the land and make abortion available.

While Savita's name and face have become the slogan and symbol of the pro-abortion lobby to introduce abortion into Ireland, an objective fact is that Savita is not alive to render a complete account of what she said and did at the time, and so there is a lot of reading between the lines. Words and quotes are being attributed to Savita, and these same select quotes are being used to diagnose her condition and the claim that her life would have been saved had she been given an abortion. In the absence of the full facts surrounding her death, and in the dire denial of the question, 'would Savita want her death to be used in this way?', it has come to pass that Savita's dead body is being used for political purposes.

It is a bit rich of the abortion lobby to scream that abortion gives women control of their own bodies, when they have ideologically appropriated the lifeless, voiceless body of Savita Halappanavar (especially because she will never be able to speak for herself) and used it as an attempt to push through abortion. It is not based on proper and comprehensive evidence, it may not be what she would have wanted and it is using a mother's dead body as property in a campaign.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Bishop Buckley: "The child in the womb must enjoy the same rights as all other people, among which is the unassailable right of an innocent person to life."

In 1939, Bishop Buckley was born in Inchigeela, West Cork, a village that is near where I was born. When I was in secondary school, Bishop Buckley used to pop in for a visit. On two occasions I was sitting in a chemistry lab struggling to make my brain learn the formulas on the blackboard when Bishop Buckley strode in.  He surprised the teacher, explained that he was a scientist by profession, and asked if he could ask us some questions on the electron, telling us that he loved all the sciences but especially chemistry. Our school has a state of the art chemistry lab and Bishop Buckley’s eyes would glitter as he beheld the counter tops that were upholstered in an incombustible white covering.
Then he would ask us to put up our hands if we were planning to study chemistry after school.  Taking Rosaries from his pocket, he gave one to each girl, before disappearing out the door saying, ‘I’ll visit this lab again’.
Now, some years after leaving school, I wish to congratulate Bishop Buckley for his excellently crafted pastoral letter, which was read out in Cork churches during December.
“My Dear People, Human life is sacred and precious. Every human being must be treated with the greatest respect. This is true at every moment of life, from its first beginnings to its natural death. In the womb we grow and develop as full human beings, not as potential human beings. We read in the Old Testament: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I sanctified you” (Jeremiah 1:5). The child in the womb must enjoy the same rights as all other people, among which is the unassailable right of an innocent person to life. This includes our responsibility as a society to defend and promote the equal right to life of a pregnant mother and the innocent and defenceless child in her womb when the life of either of these persons is at risk. They have an equal right to life. The Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of the mother. In situations where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are morally permissible, provided that every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby. Abortion is the deliberate medical intervention to end the life of an unborn child and is gravely wrong in all circumstances. This is different from medical treatments, such as those to save the mother, which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby. Current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction in practice. International statistics confirm that Ireland, without abortion, remains one of the safest countries in the world in which to be pregnant and to give birth. Contrary to what has been widely said, the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Irish government to legislate for abortion. The Lisbon Treaty was passed at the second attempt following assurances that Ireland had the right to determine its own policies on abortion. The recent report of the government-appointed Expert Group has put forward four options. Three of those options involve abortion i.e. the direct and intentional killing of the unborn child. This can never be morally justified. In no other situation in life do we suggest ending the life of a person as a solution to a problem. The fourth option i.e. guidelines which can help ensure consistency in the delivery of medical treatment, could be a way forward provided the direct and intentional killing of either person continues to be excluded. The Expert Group failed to consider the moral dimensions, even though it is was included in the terms of reference. We must always extend our help to women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies, offering love and compassion….The Church understands the anguish and distress of women in difficult situations who might wrongly feel that abortion is the only option open to them…. Finally, respect for life is deeply embedded in Irish society. Respect for the unborn is widely acknowledged also and, hopefully, we will continue with this commendable tradition. I am appealing for prayers at this particular time. Take time to pray, it is the greatest power on earth. May the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, protect all mothers, all unborn babies, all medical and nursing hands and all who make the laws of our land. Praying God’s blessing on you at this time.”
I have reproduced parts of the letter, but you may read it in full here on Zenit. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

My visit to the Vatican to interview the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Everyone who is Catholic must ask themselves if they are cherry-picking points from the Church’s teachings for the sake of supporting an ideology."

The scariest thing about visiting the office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was getting past the Swiss Guard. It was a wet December day in Rome as I ambled across the cobbled streets, polished with rain, towards the guard who manned the side of the CDF offices, near St Peter’s. The thought of interviewing one of the top members of the Church hierarchy, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, was making my nerves tingle.
Just as I was about to speak to the Swiss Guard, a lady stepped in front of me and started asking him if there was any chance she could meet the Pope. Some minutes passed and, eventually, I had to interrupt: “I have an appointment with Archbishop Müller, may I pass through?” The guard looked at me sceptically. I told him my name and offered him my passport. He nodded and said that I would have to go through security. Going into a little cabin, I met two jolly security officers who gave me less trouble than one receives at an airport. The Swiss Guard was satisfied that I was trustworthy, and let me pass into the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio.
There was an aura of absolute calm and stillness about the hallowed marble halls of the former Holy Office. Archbishop Müller’s secretary, a young, energetic Polish priest, welcomed me into a majestically decorated meeting room with gold-patterned walls. The secretary lit the Advent wreath, which he then placed in the centre of the table.
A door opened and in strode the tall figure of Archbishop Müller. He had a poker-straight posture, a shock of white hair, lively brown eyes and a warm smile. His handshake was firm, gentle and not at all harsh. Most disarmingly, he was evidently keen to do an interview with a journalist who had just flown in from London.
Archbishop Müller said he was happy to answer “all the questions” and didn’t make any specifications of the “you can’t ask me that” variety. His openness was so refreshing that my nervousness disappeared. If it were possible, he would spend half an hour answering each question, but because we didn’t have days at our disposal he answered quickly and didn’t mince his words.
I asked him about the first time he showed signs of wanting to be a priest. “When I was four, the Bishop of Mainz came to our local village of Finthen to administer the sacrament of Confirmations,” he said. “When I saw the bishop with his staff and mitre, apparently I said to my mother: ‘That’s what I’d like to be! A bishop!’”
The 65-year-old, whom Pope Benedict appointed as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in July, said his parents were “very surprised” to learn that he had a vocation, because “they were humble people and couldn’t imagine that their son would become a priest”. His father was “a simple worker” at the German car manufacturer Opel. The youngest of four children, he grew up in a close-knit, working-class family in a village that had been a Roman settlement. He emphasised that his parents were very diligent in their practice of faith and “always, always practised every detail of the faith, not leaving anything out”. Initially, his mother was the biggest influence on his faith, and as a family they recited the rosary every day. With a tinge of sorrow in his voice, he said that his parents did not live to see him consecrated Bishop of Regensburg in 2002.
Getting into a deeper discussion about how he realised his priestly vocation, I asked if there was any conflict of interest between his life in the world and his religious calling, to which he answered plainly: “No. It was a very harmonious transition. Growing up, I had been an altar server and always involved in Catholic youth groups. Before seminary I was taught by priests in secondary school, and so going to live with them in the seminary in order to train as a priest was not so different.” But he did stress that he put himself through much rigorous self-examination to make sure that he had “a true vocation, which only comes from Jesus, and not just mental imaginings of a vocation. I asked myself if I was willing to make a sacrifice of my life for God.”
The archbishop developed this, in a way that showed he was ever mindful of the essential foundations of Catholicity. “Of course you must ask yourself if you can live without wife and family,” he said. “You must find out if you are willing to sacrifice your life, in the Christological sense of sacrifice.  Every mother or father gives their life for their children and their family. The priest, as father of the family of God, has to give his life and must not remain self-centred or egoistic. We must live as Jesus did, to give our life for the other.”
Ordained in 1978, Fr Müller was an assistant priest in three parishes and taught catechism in surrounding secondary schools. In 1977, he submitted a dissertation on the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sacramental theology. In 1985, so that he would be eligible to be a professor of theology, he wrote a second doctoral thesis on Catholic devotion to the saints. The “Karl Rahner connection” is that Archbishop Müller’s doctoral supervisor for both his theses was Professor Karl Lehmann, who received his doctorate under Karl Rahner. In 1986, Fr Müller was made professor of Catholic dogmatic theology in Munich, a position he held until John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Regensburg.
Pope Benedict appointed him the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith 10 years after he became a bishop. At the same time, he was elevated to archbishop. One thing in particular from his priestly formation guides him to present day: he recalls that he read Joseph Ratzinger’s book Introduction to Christianity when he was a seminarian. “It was a new book at the time, and the concentrated theological insights are ever present in my mind to this day,” he said.
I invited him to comment on what he enjoyed most about his prestigious post. He said with deep seriousness: “Being in the service of the Holy Father. And trying to make unity possible for all believers.”
He added: “This Congregation is also a very enjoyable place to work. There is a high level of professionalism and a real spirit of collaboration among the officials here.”
As Prefect of the CDF, Archbishop Müller is responsible for the implementation of the apostolic constitution  Anglicanorum Coetibus. He was keen to talk about the great benefits which have come to the Church through the inclusion of these communities of Anglicans, with their pastors, into Catholic life. Commenting on the ecumenical dimension of the personal ordinariates, he said: “It’s not only the will of the Holy Father, but it is the will of Jesus Christ that all the baptised are drawn together into full visible communion. In this way Anglicanorum Coetibus is both a fruit of the ecumenical dialogues of the last 40 years and an expression of the ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement.
“What we notice particularly from the clergy who are applying for ordination in the various ordinariates is that there has been a rediscovery in some Anglican and Protestant circles of the importance and the necessity of the papacy in order to maintain the authentic link with biblical Christianity against the pressures of secularism and liberalism. Many of those who have entered into full communion through the ordinariates have sacrificed a great deal in order to be true to their consciences. They should be welcomed wholeheartedly by the Catholic community – not as prodigals but as brothers and sisters in Christ who bring with them into the Church a worthy patrimony of worship and spirituality.”
One of Archbishop Müller’s trickier tasks is overseeing the reconciliation process with the Society of St Pius X. When I probed to get an idea of the current situation between Rome
and the SSPX, Archbishop Müller answered pithily: “There remain misunderstandings about Vatican II, and these must be agreed upon. The SSPX must accept the fullness of the Catholic faith, and its practice.
“Disunity always damages the proclamation of the Gospel by darkening the testimony of Jesus Christ.
“The SSPX need to distinguish between the true teaching of the Second Vatican Council and specific abuses that occurred after the Council, but which are not founded in the Council’s documents.”
Archbishop Müller stressed that he is in no way “against” traditionalist Catholics and does not have a personal dislike of the SSPX. “But we need to address the practical issues that cannot be ignored. Many in the SSPX have learned theological errors, and they must learn the true sense of the tradition of the Catholic Church. It’s not about conserving a certain time stage in history, it’s a living tradition.”
Our discussion then touched on the invalidity of ordaining women to the priesthood and why same-sex marriage could only ever be marriage in name and not reality. Archbishop Müller is
by profession and nature a theology professor and that love of teaching has never left him.
Focusing on a difficulty experienced by ordinary Catholics in parishes, I asked his advice on what to do when one is stuck in the middle between traditionalists and progressives. I told him that it was something that I was grappling with and that often I found myself caught in the crossfire between warring traditionalists and progressives, both in social media and in real life. Archbishop Müller responded: “Catholics must avoid these extremes, because such extremes are against the mission of the Church. In the world of politics, you have extremes of Right and Left. But the Church is united in Jesus Christ and in our common faith. We must avoid the politicisation of the Church.”
Did he have a message for people on the extreme fringes? “Everyone who is Catholic must ask themselves if they are cherry-picking points from the Church’s teachings for the sake of supporting an ideology. Which is more important, an ideology or the faith? I want to say to people in extreme groups to put their ideology to one side and come to Jesus Christ.”
The interview was running over time, so he asked me if I had any other questions. I piped up: “Will you be going on Twitter?”
He chuckled and replied: “No, I won’t ever go on Twitter! But the Pope will reach many more people by his Twitter account.”
Archbishop Müller has been an ardent admirer of the Holy Father since his seminary years and now they work side by side. They are also good friends. Talking about his working relationship with the Pope since he took over from Cardinal William Levada as Prefect of the CDF, Archbishop Müller said: “Every week, we meet for one hour. In private, we speak in our mother tongue, German, but in an official context we must speak Italian.”
Before leaving, I asked Archbishop Müller for his blessing, which he gave very reverently in Latin. He smiled brightly at me and we wished each other a happy Christmas.
After the interview I reflected that meeting the Prefect in the flesh was an altogether different experience from what I had expected when reading about him. The kindly archbishop is very friendly and good-humoured, and not the figure who is painted as hard and indifferent by progressives whose agenda he criticises. Nor is he the woolly liberal he is painted as by ultra-traditionalists, who have taken brief lines out of context from his huge collection of theological writings. Instead, he has a steadfast, steely determination to heals divisions in the Church.
If Benedict XVI is “the Pope of Christian unity”, then it is to his eternal credit that he has appointed as Prefect of the most important Congregation in Rome a man so totally dedicated to the unity of the Church.
This article appears in the Christmas Double Edition of The Catholic Herald. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Pope appoints Kerryman Fr Billy as Magee's successor in the Cloyne Diocese

Is the structure of the Church in Ireland being re-built for the better?  Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Canon William Crean as the new bishop of Cloyne, a seemingly rock-solid appointment which could help steady the foundation of the brittle Irish Church. Just days ago, on Saturday, November 24th, the feast of St Colman, the declaration that the County Kerry priest, will be the first of a new generation of Irish bishops was made in Cobh Cathedral.  ‘Cobh’ or ‘Queenstown’ as it was known in colonial times is a County Cork town, where the waves of the Atlantic lap at the town’s edges.  The streets clamber up a steep hill, until they reach St Colman’s cathedral that crowns Cobh.  St Colman is the patron saint of Cloyne, and it was a thoughtful, as well as pious gesture to appoint the new bishop on the feast day of the saint. 

It is expected that Bishop-Elect Crean will be consecrated a bishop in January – this will be the first Episcopal appointment in Ireland for over two and a half years.
Bishop-Elect Crean will celebrate his 61st birthday on the 16th of next month. Ordained in 1976, in the reign of Paul VI, we might take note of the fact that he trained to be a priest in the wake of Humanae Vitae.  He has been a priest for 36 years, and has had a wide variety of posts where he has had to prove himself among ordinary Irish Catholics and during times of upheaval and great social change in Ireland. After his ordination, he was a curate in Killorglin, another town in County Kerry for three years, and then went onto work in a comprehensive school in the 80s. Also, for three years during the 80s, he was on the national executive of the National Conference of Priests of Ireland. An interesting item on his CV is that he was the founder of Radio Kerry and has been the station’s director for over 22 years.
He has been in Cahirciveen since 2006, a town which is also noted for its links to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty.  The Bishop-Elect’s brother is also a priest, and is resident in Kenmare, a popular tourist destination in Kerry. 
The first thing that strikes you about Bishop-Elect Crean (or ‘Fr Billy’ to his parishioners) is his disarming smile.  And he’s known to his parishioners for his off-beat cheerfulness and humility, but he’s also not so reserved that he avoids tackling a difficult situation. On the very day that he was appointed, Bishop-Elect Crean stood in Cobh Cathedral and did not mince his words, he said, “I am deeply conscious of the trauma of these years past - so much suffering endured by young people at the hands of a few - sufferings compounded by the failure of those who didn’t believe them and those who didn’t hear their cry for help.” This is both a concise and gritty appraisal of the failings of the Irish Church – it doesn’t shirk from acknowledging that young victims were ignored. But nor does he embellish histrionically. Bishop-Elect Crean is being fair to his fellow priests when he says ‘at the hands of a few’, because it was a minority of priests who abused.
His modesty is evident in his request to the Catholics of Cloyne, “one thing I ask, however, is your patience to allow me time to grasp the full measure of this deep hurt”.
 His new role as shepherd is no small undertaking, not least because the diverse diocese has a Catholic population of 150,000 in 46 parishes with 107 churches and covers most of Cork, Ireland’s largest county.
But more excruciatingly because: The diocese of Cloyne has been without a bishop since the disgraced Dr John Magee fled the scene.  Bishop-Elect Crean is the successor of John Magee who resigned for good in 2010 amid revelations in The Cloyne Report that, to put it mildly, he mishandled abuse allegations and did not follow child protection guidelines.
The shadow of Magee may well haunt Bishop-Elect Crean’s early days, and his first challenge is not to be darkened by his predecessor’s murky silhouette. To ease matters, it might be better if the general public (and even journalists like myself) will desist from putting the two men side-by-side. Inevitably, the people of Cloyne may hold him in comparison or contrast to Magee.  But already, there are hopeful signs that he will be a marked change to Magee.
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