Monday, 7 April 2014

Lent is more than "just a period of personal penance and almsgiving" says Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin as he emphasises connection between Lent and our Baptism


Homily Notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

at Church of the Nativity of Our Lord, Beaumont, 6th April 2014

          We have come to celebrate the refurbishment of this Church and to dedicate the new altar.   We give thanks to God for the completion of this work and we remember the longer history of this parish and this Church which has been a place of prayer and Christian formation, a place where key moments in peoples lives were marked, a place where the sacraments were celebrated and a place from which Christian charity irradiated in the community. 

We celebrate on this the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  All around the world, during Lent adult men and women are preparing themselves to receive the Sacrament of Baptism at Easter through a process of catechumenate.   In our traditional reflection on Lent here in Ireland we have perhaps never fully grasped the link between Lent and Baptism.  Our tendency has been to look on Lent just as a period of personal penance and almsgiving.

At the Easter Vigil, on Holy Saturday night, we will listen to a series of texts from the Old Testament which show how the entire history of salvation, the story of how God prepared and protected his people for the one who was to come, was filled with symbols of Baptism.  Baptism, won for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, brings to fulfilment in us all of the promises of old.

The Gospel readings for the Sundays in Lent invite us to reflect on the meaning of baptism.  Two Sundays ago, we heard Jesus promise the gift of "living water" to the Samaritan woman. Last Sunday, by healing the man born blind, Jesus revealed himself as "the light of the world".  Today, in the story of the raising of his friend Lazarus, Jesus presents himself as "the resurrection and the life".

Water, light and life are symbols of Baptism.  During Lent, then, we are called to repeat each year our own baptismal journey.  Lent is not just a time for penance and good deeds that we do.  Lent is not self-centred.  Our Lenten conversion is not our own work.   It is above all opening ourselves to the Lord who alone can help us to overcome the sinfulness that is in us. 

During Lent, then, we learn the art of self discipline and penance in order to bring us back to what is most essential in our lives.  We use prayer, fasting and works of charity in order to recognise our dependence on God and realise that the world in which we live is a world which is not ours to do with as we wish; the world and creation are gifts of God to be used according to God’s plan.

Acknowledging that life is not ours, but gift from God, changes our whole attitude towards life. This is brought out in unusual ways in the Gospel story which we have heard of the raising of Lazarus.  Jesus knows what he intends to do, but those who are around him – including his own disciples – are not on the same wavelength.  They look on death as the end.  Once they form the idea that Lazarus is dead, they feel that there is no point in Jesus going from where he is.   Jesus however teaches us that death is not the end of the story of Lazarus, but God’s glory and his saving power.  Set apart from that power, there is neither light nor life.

We come to celebrate the rededication of this Church.  It is an act in which we witness to our faith in the God of life.  It is faith in the God of life that enables us to change and to progress and to interpret change and progress.    Without faith in the God of life, there is no real reason to hope that death is not the ultimate end.  Without faith in the God of life our life is devoid of meaning.

The liturgy of the dedication of the altar is one of the most complex and most profound liturgies of the Church.  It stresses the mystery of God’s presence among us; it reminds us that God does not fit into any of our human categories.  God is totally other and the liturgy stresses this in treating the altar as a sacred place where God is present and which is set apart from today onwards, exclusively for the worship of God.  That is why we will bless and anoint and incense the altar.

We do not create God.  If we create our own idea of God we will end up creating a false God.  The God that was revealed in Jesus Christ is totally ‘other’.  He saves us through being God, not through any power of our own.  But what does “being God” mean:  God’s ‘otherness’ is not an otherness which keeps God distant from us.   The God revealed in Jesus Christ is a God who loves us and loves us with a generosity and an intensity that is beyond anything we merit and even anything that we can imagine.

This Church is not a concert hall or a theatre to which we come as spectators to watch something that is going on.    Through the presence of Jesus in Word and Sacrament, we are invited directly into the very mystery of God.   The Church is therefore the place where we learn what holiness means in our lives, in the world of today where the symbols of God’s presence are so often removed from sight.

 The Church is a place where we come to pray and where we learn to pray.  Prayer means fundamentally placing ourselves unconditionally in the presence of God and recognising his lordship.  It is not running away from reality, quite the opposite.

  When we recognise in prayer that God is Lord of the universe, we can never justify behaviour which would plunder or exploit or misuse or appropriate to ourselves our environment or the goods of the creation which were given for the benefit of all.  If God is the Lord of life then we can never exploit or abuse, mistreat or exclude, much less suppress any other person, created in the image of God and a member of God’s one human family.   Prayer in that sense is the great teacher of discernment in the midst of the ambiguity of progress and all the ambiguities that are present in our own hearts. 

Jesus entered into the new life of resurrection through his self-giving unto death. We attain true life and understand the value of our lives here and now when we die to attachment to self and to possession and become free from all forms of narcissism and self-centeredness.  The Christian life is living our lives with that freedom which can only come from Jesus, who reminds us that, just as for Lazarus, death is not the end of our story, that we too are destined to fullness of life with him.

Courtesy of Archdiocese of Dublin

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Gypsies Must Feel Sense of Belonging, says Cardinal President of Pontifical Council to International Catholic Committee for Gypsies

Bishop Lynch,
Auxiliary in Southwark
VATICAN CITY, April 04, 2014 - Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, has sent a message to the International Catholic Committee for Gypsies (CCIT) a week before the committee’s meeting from April 4th through 6th in Cavallino-Treporti.

In the message, Cardinal Veglio noted the negative sentiment many possess for gypsies.

“In our globalised world, in fact, walls continue to be built that divide the peoples of the same continent, people from the same country or the same city,” he said, and spoke of how heart is needed to confront challenges.

“Also among the European countries, some are still negatively influenced in their political choices regarding the Roma to whom you are close in your respective pastoral commitments," he said.

"The challenge you face with evangelical courage in your pastoral activities demonstrates that to tear down walls, one must begin in the heart, the first space where another is included, and as long as hearts are not open, it will not be easy to achieve an inclusive society. So this moment of reflection offers you the opportunity to put your energies together to create a social dynamic in which the different cultures can live together.”

Cardinal Veglio emphasized how gypsies must feel a sense of belonging. “The Gypsies need the humanity of the society in which they live in order to feel like members of the human family and benefit from the rights enjoyed by the other members of the community in respect for their dignity and identity," he said.

"There is a need for tenacious, patient work on everyone's part. The Church can be of inspiration and make the efforts converge into a common commitment in order to face the dilemmas at the basis of the Roma's human difficulties … The document 'Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Gypsies' continues to be a fundamental reference for you and you should use it as well as possible for your service in the midst of this People because it offers important guidelines that are the fruit of common work.”

He discussed gypsies’ rights, saying the Roma "have the right to be recognised at least as ethnic minorities in the countries where they live since they are the largest minority in the European Union.”

Concluding his messaging, he wrote, “The Church has the task to bring Jesus' Gospel in their midst but also to support their dream of integration which passes through education, health, work and housing, and all of this in collaboration with people of good will.” (D.C.L.)

Comment: Bishop Patrick Lynch,, Auxiliary in Southwark is representing  Bishops' Conference of England and Wales at the meeting in Cavallino-Treporti

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Light over the Confessional is on - a message from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin

A Message from Archbishop Martin

"When asked by an interviewer who he considered himself to be, Pope Francis surprised many by responding that the best description of himself was: “I am a sinner”.
 Lent is the season of conversion and return to God.  It is a time also in which we can rediscover the joy of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Earlier this year Pope Francis set out a challenge for us all:

“I would like to ask you — but don’t say it aloud, everyone respond in his or her own heart: when was the last time you made your confession? Two days, two weeks, two years, twenty years, forty years? And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Be courageous and go to Confession!  Jesus will receive you; he will receive you with so much love”.
As Lent comes to a conclusion I have asked a number of Centre City Churches (listed below) in Dublin to provide Confessions continually on the
two Final Saturdays of Lent 12th and 19th April, all day from 09.30 until 18.00

There will be a number of confessors available throughout the day so that ample time will be available for a conversation about your life. 

The Light over the confessional is still on for you and I ask you to make the most of this special occasion of grace.

Other parishes may wish to associate themselves with this initiative in their own way.  Resources, posters and leaflets are available from the Office of Evangelisation.

+Diarmuid Martin,

Archbishop of Dublin

Saint Mary’s, Pro-Cathedral                                   
Saint Saviours, Dominick Street
 Saint Andrew’s, Westland Row                               
Saint Francis Xavier, Gardiner Street 
Saint Teresa’s, Clarendon Street                          
Our Lady Queen of Peace, Merrion Rd.
Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Bachelors Walk           
Saint Joseph’s, Berkely Road 
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar St.
 Our Lady Refuge of Sinners, Rathmines
  Saint John’s Priory, John's Lane                   

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Pope to receive Queen Elizabeth ll in the Vatican

Vatican Radio: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will meet with Pope Francis at a private audience in the Vatican on Thursday afternoon. The Queen, who will be accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will also have a private encounter with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano during the one day visit to Rome.

The audience with Pope Francis will mark the 87-year-old Queen’s fifth encounter with a Roman pontiff here in the Vatican, beginning with Pope Pius XII whom she met in 1951, the year before her accession to the throne. In 1982 she became the first monarch since the Reformation to welcome a pope to Britain during John Paul II’s pastoral visit to the country and in 2010 she also hosted Pope Benedict XVI on his state visit to the United Kingdom.

To find out more details about this brief visit to the Vatican, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker:

"The Queen was due to come to Rome in 2013 at the private invitation of President Napolitano of Italy...but had been unable to come because of ill health...she doesn't like leaving obligations unfulfilled so she was determined to reinstate that is normal when the Queen comes to Rome that she would visit the Pope so we're delighted that the Queen and Pope Francis will have that chance to get together.....

The encounter itself will be private but it is still an officially recognised will be a public event in terms of arrival and departure....

This will be I think the 7th time she's met a pope and the 5th different pope she'll have met.....these meetings help to strenthen the relationship, they help to provide milestones in a sense and if you look back in terms of the Queen's reign, it is extraordinary how far relations between Britain and the Holy See, and between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church has developed since 1952 when she became Queen...

"We have a new Archbishop of Canterbury who met Pope Francis last year in June and I very much expect him to meet the Pope again in the next few months....she will want I think to understand from Pope Francis how he sees the role of faith in the world...."

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


Vatican City, 2 April 2014 - Pope Francis concluded his series of catecheses dedicated to the Sacraments by speaking about marriage. "A sacrament that leads us to the heart of God's plan, which is a plan of alliance with his People, with all of us, a plan of communion". To explain this, he quoted a phrase from the Book of Genesis: "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. ... That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh". "The image of God is a married couple, man and woman, not only man, not only woman, but rather both. This is the image of God: love, God's alliance with us is represented in the alliance between man and woman", he said.

"We were created to love, as a reflection of God and his love. And in matrimonial union the man and woman realise this vocation, as a sign of reciprocity and the full and definitive communion of life". When a man and a woman receive the Sacrament of marriage, "God is, so to say, 'mirrored' in them, he imprints in them the features and indelible nature of His love. Marriage is the icon of God's love for us. Indeed, God too is communion: the three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have always lived and live for ever in perfect unity. And this is the mystery of marriage: God makes married couples into one existence. The Bible uses a strong term: it says one 'flesh' only, so intimate is the union between man and woman in marriage. And this is the mystery of marriage: God's love that is reflected in the couple who decide to live together".

Francis mentioned that, in his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul emphasizes that Christian married couples reflect the great mystery of the relationship that Christ establishes with the Church, which means that "marriage responds to a specific vocation and must be considered as a consecration. The man and woman consecrate themselves in their love. Married couples, thanks to the Sacrament, are invested with a genuine mission, that of making visible, starting with simple and ordinary things, the love Christ has for His Church".

"The plan inherent in marriage is a truly wonderful! It is expressed in the simplicity, and also the fragility, of the human condition. We are well aware of the many difficulties and trials there may be in the life of a married couple. ... The important thing is to keep alive the link with God, which is at the basis of the matrimonial bond. When a husband prays for his wife, and a wife for her husband, the bond remains strong; each one prays for the other. It is true that married life has many difficulties: work, there isn't enough money, there are problems with the children ... and often the husband and wife become irritable and argue amongst themselves. There are always arguments in marriages, and at times even plates are thrown. But we must not be sad about this: this is the human condition. And the secret is that love is stronger than the moments in which we argue, and I therefore always advise married couples never to let the day draw to an end without making peace. There is no need to call in the United Nations peacekeepers. A little gesture is enough: a caress, see you tomorrow, and tomorrow we start afresh. This is life, and we must face it in this way, with the courage of living it together. Married life is beautiful, and must be protected".


Vatican City, 31 March 2014  – This morning, in the the Sala Clementina of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father met with the participants in the General Chapter of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco, which will take as its theme “Witnesses of Gospel Radicalism”. “When one thinks of working for the good of souls, one overcomes the temptation of spiritual worldliness, and one does not seek other things, only God and His Kingdom. Temperance is a sense of moderation, of acceptance, a simple life”.
The Pope highlighted their work with the young and remarked that the experience of Don Bosco and his “preventative system” helped them in their commitment to living with them. “It is necessary to prepare the young to work in society in the spirit of the Gospel as workers for justice and peace, and to live as agents of the Church. … The presence of the community among them is marked by the tenderness that Don Bosco called 'amorevolezza', kindness, experimenting with new languages, but being well aware that the language of the heart is the fundamental language for being close to them and becoming their friends”.
Before concluding Francis spoke about the vocational dimension and mentioned that next year, which will be dedicated to consecrated life, will be a good opportunity to present the beauty of vocations to the young. Likewise, he gave thanks to God for the fact that they work “not as isolated individuals, but as a community supports the entire apostolate” and encouraged them to revive the charisma of their Founder, the bicentenary of whose birth will be celebrated soon.

The above is from VIS

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Pope Francis: don't be 'tourists' on the spiritual journey of faith

(Vatican Radio) Where are you on your spiritual journey? Are you wandering aimlessly like a tourist? Have you stopped or lost your way? Or are you heading straight for your destination? Those questions were at the heart of Pope Francis’ reflections during his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Monday morning.
Reflecting on the day’s readings from Isaiah and St John’s Gospel Pope Francis distinguished between three different types of Christians and how they live their spiritual lives. Before God asks anything of us, the Pope said, He always promises us a new life of joy, so the essence of our Christian life is always to journey in hope and trust towards those promises.
But there are many Christians whose hope is weak and while they believe and follow the commandments, they have come to a standstill in their spiritual lives. Pope Francis said God cannot use them as a leaven among his people because they have stopped and they’re no longer moving forward.
Secondly, he said there are those among us who have taken the wrong turning and lost our way. Of course, the Pope continued, we all sometimes take the wrong road, but the real problem arises if we don’t turn back when we realize that we’ve made a mistake.
The model of a true believer who follows the promises of faith, Pope Francis said, is the royal official from today’s Gospel reading, who asks Jesus to heal his son and does not doubt for a second when the Master tells him the child has been cured. But unlike that man, the Pope said, there are many Christians who deceive themselves and wander aimlessly without moving forward.
These people, Pope Francis said are perhaps the most dangerous group because they wander through life like existential tourists without a goal and without taking God’s promises seriously. But the Lord asks us not to stop, not to lose our way and not to wander through life. He asks us to journey on towards his promises like the official who believed what Jesus told him.
Despite our human condition as sinners who take the wrong turning, the Pope concluded, the Lord always gives us grace to turn back. Lent, he said, is a good time to consider whether we are journeying forward or whether we have come to a standstill. If we have chosen the wrong road, we should go to Confession and return to the right way. If we are a theological tourist wandering aimlessly through life, we must ask the Lord for grace to head off again on the journey towards the promises of our faith.
2014-03-31 Vatican Radio

Monday, 31 March 2014

New Auxiliary for Westminster

It has been announced in Rome today  that the Holy Father has appointed Mgr Nicholas Hudson as an Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster, Titual Bishop of Saint Germans. The Bishop-Elect is currently Parish Priest of the Sacred Heart Parish, Wimbledon, having taken up the appointment in January, following on from his post as Rector of the Venerable English College, Rome.

Mgr Nicholas Hudson’s episcopal ordination will take place in Westminster Cathedral at 11am on Wednesday 4th June.

Priest who was forced to stand down after false allegations finds return to work "very tough" and takes leave of absence

A priest forced to leave his post for almost four years after false abuse allegations were made against him has stepped down again after finding his return to work "very tough".

Donegal cleric Fr Eugene Boland (67) returned to his ministry in Co Tyrone two weeks ago, four years after the allegations were made against him – and more than 18 months after a jury took less than an hour to clear him on five charges.

St Mary's Church in Killyclogher, just outside Omagh in Co Tyrone, was packed with 900 parishioners as Fr Boland returned to ministry, just days after being cleared to do so by church authorities in Rome.

The priest wept as he hugged family and friends including his twin sister Aine and his brother, Fr Declan, a parish priest in Strabane.

However, most of the Mass was celebrated by Diocesan Administrator Fr Francis Bradley, with Fr Boland reading the Gospel.

"It's just been tough," Fr Boland told the Irish Independent last night. "It's been very tough and I'm taking a leave of absence."

In a statement on his behalf, a spokesman for the Derry Diocese said the priest had engaged in therapy to help him cope with what he was experiencing and to prepare him properly for a return to public ministry.

But, the statement said, that on his return it had "all too quickly become clear to Fr Boland and diocesan authorities that he is not ready".

The statement added: "For that reason, Fr Boland now needs more time for help and guidance in this regard and has been granted leave of absence from ministry."

The statement said the news of Fr Boland's resignation was understandably "very confusing for many people".

However, it added: "It is hoped that in dealing with this carefully and promptly, the needs of both the Parish of Cappagh and Fr Boland will be addressed appropriately."

His twin sister Aine had spoken out in defence of her brother after the Mass when he returned. "This should never have happened," said the Dublin-based retired teacher.

"Eugene is a great brother and a great priest. He should never have been charged. Everyone knows that."

Fr Boland had been accused by a woman, who was then 15, of inappropriate touching and kissing of her in Derry in the 1990s. He was found not guilty.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Priests Iin Ireland remained on standby to hear confessions as churches remained open overnight as part of a global initiative '24 Hours for the Lord'.

Pope Francis at Confession
The Catholic Church has urged the faithful to think again before they lift the telephone to reveal their innermost secrets to a radio programme and instead consider going to confession.

Priests remained on standby to hear confessions as churches remained open overnight as part of a global initiative '24 Hours for the Lord'.

Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Denis Nulty, speaking in St Andrew's Church in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, said many people were "dragged" into telling their story on air to radio programmes or elsewhere in the media.

But he said the Catholic sacrament of confession was sacred and what was said to the priest was absolutely confidential.

He said the initiative, '24 Hours for the Lord' which began at 5pm yesterday and ends at 5pm today, was about promoting the mercy and forgiveness of God.

The bishop said he was shocked by suggestions last year that priests would be required by the law to break the seal of confession and reveal what had been confessed to them if it related to abuse of a child.

Among those who attended the adoration and confession initiative in Bagenalstown was Patsy Murphy and Kathleen Chada, the grandmother and mother of Eoghan (10) and five-year-old Ruairi Chada who were found dead in a crashed car near Westport last July. Their father, Sanjeev Chada, has been charged with their murder.

Ms Murphy, from Ballinkillen outside Bagenalstown, told the Irish Independent that '24 Hours for the Lord' was about "reconciliation and peace – and peace of mind."


"I know it is going to be very very hard to have compassion for what has happened; it was a very traumatic time for us last year," the grandmother said.

"Last July, we lost our two beautiful grandsons," she said and began to weep, as she added: "I would hope that God has mercy on all the people that are involved, which is going to be very hard for us to accept."

At Bagenalstown, gone were the dark confession boxes as priests and bishop sat quietly around the church. More than 100 people in the church were invited to tell God of their loss and "fast from bitterness and feast on forgiveness and the sunlight of serenity".

Bishop Nulty said people needed to get away from the squirm factor around confession and see it as something that could make their lives whole again. He said there was a community dimension for those feeling lonely.

"There are many people who are very lonely in life, who tonight will realise that the lights are on in Bagnelstown church and they can go down there and say a prayer.

"Those people will see that the church doors are open all night and there is a priest there to hear their story.

"Whatever baggage, wound or healing needs to be done in their life – that is available to them this evening," he explained.

The bishop himself spent an hour between midnight and 1am hearing confessions at the small local church.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin, addresses "GOOD GOVERNANCE, CULTURE AND ETHICS"

Good Governance, Culture & EthicPrinter-friendly version

Institute of Public Administration
Speaking notes of  address   by Archbishop
Institute of Public Administration, Dublin, 27th March 2014
Ethics is a buzz word.  Business ethics is a buzz term and indeed business ethics is a business in itself and a growing business.  There is a growing awareness that being labelled “ethical” is not just good for one’s own reputation, but that it can give market advantage to a business; and that being labelled “unethical” is not just to be regarded as sinful, but it is bad business policy and bad for public relations.
 I had a friend many years ago who ran an international development charity and he annually approached five major clothing retail outlets in the United Kingdom asking them to publicly declare their policy regarding their possible involvement in child labour.  He was politely told annually, to mind his own business. He continued each year in his campaign until one of the five decided to go public and declare themselves as child labour free.  At this stage nothing remained but for the other four to do likewise.
 The pressure to act ethically can come in various ways.  The motivation can be religious, or a question of the integrity of one’s own values, or it can come from market pressure and the pressure of public opinion.
 Way back in 1995 I was heavily involved as a Vatican delegate at the World Summit on Social Development which was major UN Conference held in Copenhagen, at its time the largest ever gathering of heads of State and government.   During the negotiations I requested that a reference be inserted drawing attention to the social consequences in developing countries of the use of landmines.  My suggestion met with almost universal opposition. I was told that this was a conference on social development and not on disarmament and the question of landmines could safely be left to the disarmament experts to deal with in their own rather arcane negotiations.    Finally I had to be happy to have inserted into the documents a reference to, and I quote, certain conventional weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.
 That may seem to many of you a rather circumspect way of including a reference to land mines.  It is in fact the title of another UN convention which has been ratified by most countries and they could hardly then have rejected it.  I could say that least that reference was better than no reference at all, even though the average reader would not have had a clue then or now as to what it meant.
 Why I tell this story is that just over two years later what was considered a major development in international affairs took place in Ottawa when the vast majority of countries around the world adapted a full-blown International Treaty outlawing the use of land mines.  Why the change of mind?  What had happened in the meantime?  Had I managed to convert the unrepented?  No: international public opinion had changed and dramatically so and it was now more popular in talking about landmines to be on the side of the saints.
 Public opinion can form and greatly influence the common ethics of business, or the common ethical framework of national or indeed of international affairs.  The Ottawa Landmine Treaty was not the result just of a change of heart.  Many military experts still had their doubts about the wisdom of the Treaty, but there comes a moment when anyone watching the tide of public opinion realises that you have best cut your losses and go along with the changed stream of public opinion.   The price of not doing so can be costly.
 Ethics and ethical behaviour especially in the business world march with the times and develop with the times.  The major changes come normally through public opinion changing.  This would have been the case with slavery, with the estimation of the role of women in the workforce, or child labour.   At times the change in public opinion can actually surprise the pragmatic:  take the ban on smoking and the obligation to wear seat belts.     There were many pragmatic reasons to think that an absolute ban would never work and that perhaps some compromise would be the best way of moving forward.    But an idea whose time has come and which is being swept by the tide of public opinion becomes impossible to resist and curiously the total ban or the total imposition becomes then easier to sell than the compromise.
 But for public opinion to change there have to be forerunners.  There have to be those men and women of intuition and innovation, of courage and conviction who are prepared with determination to take a stand and to take a principled stand and to take an uncompromising stand.   In the complex world of business and politics the art of the compromise is an essential part of the day- to-day ability to move forward.  But the level of compromise which becomes acceptable is determined by those who do not compromise.
Curiously democracy requires another presence in society than that in which everything is decided by majorities.  The Thatcher government attempted on more than one occasion to reintroduce the death penalty and it had solid support in public opinion, but members of parliament consistently voted against it.   The single issue campaign can be extremely effective, for good and for the not so good. Democracy without groups which unflinchingly espouse and defend values and principles can easily slip into a dangerous relativism of constant compromise.  When it comes to the defence of unchanging values in a society characterised by radical and continual change there may be need of some whose principle is “no surrender”. 
After another UN Conference, I went with an African delegate to a shopping market and he showed great interest in a small carpet which he felt would make a wonderful gift for his wife.   The shop owner told him that the price was $100.  To my great embarrassment my friend offered $1 and despite a certain amusement on the part of the trader my friend stood his ground as if he was really serious.  For most of the morning we came back to the stall, four or five times at least, and my friend only began moving from one to five dollars when the seller had gone down below $50.  He eventually got the carpet for $10 and both he and the trader were happy.  I tell the story to show that the uncompromising can very often arrive at the best compromises.  An ethics with built on compromise alone will always be weak.  Cheap ethics is of no avail to anyone.  Veneer ethics is useless.  In a society where compromise is the order of the day and where many dislike the dogmatic and the inflexible or reject any concept of the absolute, we need the uncompromising.
 That said, public opinion is a two edged sword especially in situations which are not black and white in the ethical sphere.  Two of us can set out to journey towards and attain the same societal value, but from very different starting points and taking different paths.  This is a challenge in all economics where the desired values may be similar but the means chosen to attain them can be very different.  This is the case with political theory and with political parties which seek to attain the common good with at times radical different policies regarding the role of government and business and the private sector.   That is why we have a plurality of political parties; that is why we have elections; that is why we need choice.  Public opinion is not the same as populism. When public opinion becomes populism, then choice is undermined.
 Ethics must attempt to involve the widest possible acceptance and ownership if it is to attain its effects.  But public opinion is not quite the same as ownership.  Public opinion can be manipulated; it can be emotional rather than rational; it can easily treat superficially and reduce to apparent simplicity situations which are in fact quite complex.  The judgement of public opinion is a blunt tool, with very little space for subtle details.  This is especially true in situations in which a culture of spin begins to dominate.  You can win many battles with spin, but spin in the long run weakens victory of the real war which is about trust and confidence.   When spin gets out of control, then it gets tied up in knots and people are left adrift not knowing where they stand, where the truth is to be found, and the confidence in institutions is weakened.  When that occurs in public institutions and in public life then the consequences of a failure in trust are serious. Spin is a huge business in Ireland and spin is rarely the friend of transparency.
 Ethics must have an independent foundation.  Ethics is not ideology or just a pragmatic programme of ideas.  The very nature of ethics is that personal responsibility must at its centre.  We are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of our acts. Independent personal responsibility is always at the heart of ethical behaviour.  Ethics is not an ideology which we trot out, or a handbook of does and don’ts that we turn to for ready answers.  Ethics is always about the way we responsibly and authentically structure our own personal behaviour.  It is about the responsible application of fundamental ethical principles to the decisions we make.  In the long term a just society is attained by people who live justly and with integrity.
 In today’s society in which demands are on the increase, funding is being cut back and ever higher standards of medical care are rightly being set, the level of risk for members of boards of governors is unnerving.   There is always insurance which covers financial liability, but one also has to think of reputational damage that could result from the wrong decisions of others.  Boards of governors of voluntary organizations need recognition and even more so require training and support.
 In corporate governance also the concept of personal responsibility is central.  It can be very easy to say that I did not know and that the blame is with someone else.  When things go wrong and it comes to the crunch, resignations often take place at the lower levels.   This is a problem also in the Church where the particular autonomous position say of a bishop leaves him as the sole legal representative for actions and where there is a tendency to think that therefore there is no corporate responsibility.  I was stunned on the occasion of the scandals of child sexual abuse to encounter what I came to call the “baking the cake culture”.  I only put in the sugar and he only put in the flour, but neither of us have any responsibility for the cake because were not there when it was put into the oven.  We are all responsible for the foreseeable consequences for our actions and for our omissions.  Real corporate responsibility can only be constructed on the foundation of an acute sense of personal responsibility.
 There are rarely totally black and white ethical decisions.  Yes, good is to be done and evil avoided will be accepted by all.  Most would agree that the exploitation of vulnerable individuals is unethical.  But there are so many ways in which our consumer driven society exploits all our vulnerabilities.
 I recently attended a fascinating seminar sponsored by the Dublin Archdiocese’s Parish for the Travelling People on “Debt and Dying”.  It was a fascinating cultural insight into the pressures that are placed on traveller families to spend exorbitant amounts on lavish funeral services and monuments.
 The discussions showed the peer pressure that was put on families, but also the economic pressure that was placed on traveller families to be more extravagant than their relatives.  Much of the pressure came from undertakers who know exactly the type of products that their clients would like, but do not need.
 What was interesting was the wisdom of some of the older members of the travelling community who saw the extravagance and it uselessness.  But they also had responses that were very practical.   I had thought that they would have been asking me to preach and to condemn abuses and hopefully then to change people’s hearts and attitudes.  They were in fact much more practical and said that that was needed, for example, was for cemetery authorities to impose a ban on monuments over a certain height and to enforce that ban.
 Ethics must be value generated, but the enforcement of ethical standards can often be attained not through preaching and moralising but by establishing a down to earth legal and governance framework which makes unethical behaviour less likely and less attractive.  In the mid-nineties the World Bank wished to draw attention to the enormous social and economic cost of corruption in Latin American countries.  The conventional wisdom of the time, however, was that international organisations had no right to intervene in the internal affairs of independent sovereign states. Loud anti-corruption campaigns were never going to be tolerated.  The World Bank approached the question proposing packages of technical reform of the tax systems.  The existing systems were so complex and involved so many passages – and therefore many hands to be greased – that the simplification of the tax system made the system much more efficient and greatly reduced the possibility of corruption.  Ethics do not always require preaching and moralising to be applied.
 Ethics requires governance and regulation and enforcement because we live in a world of human beings and where corruption will always appear on the order of the day.  It should also be noted that one of the most common forms of corruption is inefficiency, which robs people, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable of the quality services which are their democratic due and for which they pay anyway.  In this sense there should be no real conflict or tension between ethics and effective leadership and management of an organization.
 Transparency is an essential part of efficient governance.  Transparency involves allowing all stakeholders in business and in public service to know their rights and to be able to claim their rights and entitlements.  A survey done at the turn of the century, again by the World Bank, called Voices of the Poor was the widest ever consultation of the poor and how they viewed their needs.  Interestingly the poor identified as the single most significant factor that would help them rise from poverty “voice”.  They found that the very institutions which were institutionally constituted to defend their rights – police and local authorities - were often the ones who deprived them of their rights and that they were left with no recourse.
 A business just as an economic system must not just be marked by transparency; it must be also be fit for purpose; it must clearly understand its mission as a service.  Pope Francis, in his message to this year’s World Economic Forum, in Davos expressed the hope that humanity might be served by wealth and not ruled by it.
The economy has a social function.  Economic growth and profit and wealth, no matter how important they are, are never simply ends in themselves.  They should lead to social equity, to an equitable growth of society and to enhancing the people and the human infrastructures which strengthen society. Economic growth always brings with it social responsibility.
There has never been a successful project of sustainable social development and inclusion which was not accompanied by sustained economic growth.  But sustained economic growth has never on its own attained social progress.  The difficulty of maintaining this balance could be seen here in Ireland and still can be seen in how we manage the tension between growth and austerity and how we manage to foster growth and maintain social sustainability.
Are there then non-economic values which economic growth requires to achieve social progress and inclusivity? Where do we find economic models which manage to foster both growth and equity?   What is the place of ethical values in the design of an economy?
The economy is part of a wider social framework.  This is not just moralising.  An economy is more sustainable if it springs up within a stable society in which human needs are addressed and in which people have voice, in which all feel that they can be participants.  Exclusion weakens any society; exclusion damages an economy.  A society which fosters innovation and participation is a society which fosters a knowledge based economy.  An economy which fosters passivity will be a weaker economy.
For many leading economists, economics belongs within the framework of ethics.  What Kant said of politics can be applied to economics, namely that for economics to move forward it must first of all give precedence to ethics.  Amarthia Sen stressed that an absence of reference to moral philosophy leads to an impoverishment of economics.  Pope John Paul stressed that there are fundamental human needs that do not belong in the market place, as goods that can be bought and sold.  Pope Benedict called for the insertion into economic models of the value of gratuity as a complement to profit alone. He stressed that “when we loose hope in a transcendent horizon, we loose a taste for gratuitousness, a taste for the good for its own sake.”
Even the most capitalistic systems see a place for corporate social responsibility.  Economics cannot be based on individual or corporate profit alone but has responsibilities towards the common good.   Pope Francis stresses that one of the greatest contributions to the common good today is job creation.  Again an interesting link between economic and ethical language!
Social and economic progress belong together.  At a time of rapid change or at a time of challenge such as ours, ownership of social change is vital if change is to be accepted and fully embraced. Ownership of social process does not mean exclusive private possession of the process on the part of any sector.   Each sector of society must be able to find ownership within the terms of its own heritage. 
The market can only function in an ethical and judicial framework where the vulnerable are protected and the natural arrogance of the powerful is curbed.  We see today how gross and unregulated individual misbehaviour in market activity affects the stability of companies but also of countries and then of the men and women who make up the society in which we live.  Irresponsible traders do not just gamble with the future of a big multinational firm – they eventually affect the lives of people all over the world.
Government and business need to work together. Government and business have the same interest in many ways when one is talking about economic growth.  Governments have the responsibility to provide a favourable environment for the growth of business.  This means that there can be a legitimate corporate interest in shaping aspects of the politico-economic environment.  But this interest can become dangerous where there are insufficient regulatory mechanisms in place.  We need the market and we need a market which has the freedom to operate as it should. But market and regulator should never become bedfellows.  Unregulated market speculation or unfair interference in competition law damages the economy.
Business needs government.  But governments can also fall prey to corruption.   Smaller government may be more desirable than some of the past experiences of massive and unproductive government interference in society and the market.  But lack of effective government is equally disastrous, just as inefficient government is. Government is essential to guarantee the ethical and juridical framework within which the market can flourish and within which ethical market behaviour will be fostered.
Running a good business means ensuring gain for the shareholders, making a profit through providing a quality product or service and of course that this also involves giving employment. The market involves risk and no one should complain when the person who takes risk makes a healthy profit.  That has traditionally been the way in which the businessperson looked at good business.   And anyone who challenged that viewpoint would be reminded – also rightly - that putting yourself out of business through increasing your costs helps no one.
On the other hand we should all feel a certain discomfort about huge and disproportionate profit within business.  Business is embedded in the reality of society and attains benefits from a healthily managed society and must then share some responsibility for society.   In some way, part of profit should be directed not just to the shareholders but also to wider concerns of the society in which the business is embedded and from which it benefits.  Investment will be attracted to places where a creative and innovative workforce is available.  But can business simply take that for granted and then plea for a form of small government which is then less able to provide on-going investment in the type of education and research which made strong growth possible in the first place?     Everyone must assume responsibility.   In a globalised world, taxation should be more closely linked with the concrete services from which business draws benefit.
In today’s Ireland where we have very high levels of youth unemployment, the answer is not just sending more and more people to third level education and even subsidising it.  There must be more room for apprenticeship and the involvement of business in the task of generating employment prospects for the young. Countries like Germany and Switzerland have done this successfully.
Business also needs law and we need law enforcement and we need that especially today within an architecture of business which has become international and reaches beyond national boundaries, both as regards its activities and its effects.  It is interesting to note that organised crime was one of the first groups to recognise the advantages of globalisation. I don’t just mean drug or weapons dealers, but also new forms of irresponsible speculation and dishonest behaviour within the business community.  An ethical framework is not just pretty words on a piece of paper or in a mission statement but is something that must be integral to the way people work and exercise their role in society.  The new globalised nature of the economy requires new structures on an international level to combat irresponsible and criminal behaviour and that is urgent.
When I speak of law and law enforcement I feel strongly that in Ireland today we need to restore confidence in the workings of the law.  While there have been failings within an Garda Síochána, a culture of constant criticism of our police force is not good for society or for the economy or for the mainstream of a force which is highly dedicated and highly professional.  The regrets expressed at the closure of Garda Stations is in itself a real expression of appreciation for the contribution the Gardai make within our communities and the respect in which they are held.
What can and should a religious leader say in the current situation.  Should he or she just leave it to “the experts” and return to the sacristy?  Can religious values influence economic and social stability?
The job of the Christian churches is to preach the message of the Gospel. This is a message that is addressed to every individual and that has social implications for the people who choose to follow the message of Jesus Christ. The basic message of the Christian churches is about the love of God, and there are two characteristics of the love of God that I believe are particularly interesting in the modern world. One is gratuity. God loves people without any conditions. Take the story of the Prodigal Son, who comes back home to find that his father is there waiting for him. The son has his little negotiating speech ready, but he doesn’t have to use it. The son is just welcomed – that is gratuity.   The other is super-abundance. The love of God surprises you – it is so generous that it turns you head over heels.
These two values stand in contrast to a market-driven consumer society in which everything is precisely measured out.  If the label says 16 oz, you won’t get an ounce more. If we truly lived in an environment like this, where you got only what you paid for and nothing beyond, none of us would be where we are today.  We are all where we are today because someone gave us a break; someone put enough trust in us to give us a chance.  The world needs the values that create generosity; that make you care about another person even if that person is weak; that motivate you to make an investment in people.
          The market is an extraordinarily effective instrument.  But there are basic human needs which do not belong in the market place, which cannot be bought or sold like commodities.  For those we need something else.  The economy will attain its role if it is complemented by effective government, but also by a society with a heart and with generosity.  This last will be needed more and more in hard times.
Pope Francis is an amazing person who has made his mark on today’s society.  This is due to his extraordinary personality, which is based on his holiness and his understanding that simplicity in life can bring fulfilment in a way which a ruthless and relentless search for wealth cannot.  One of the great challenges, especially for leaders in the Church like myself, is that we can easily admire Pope Francis, but not imitate him.
 Pope Francis is a man of God but he has also shown a remarkable sense of how to govern.  One of the sub-questions posed for this Conference is about combining good leadership and good governance.  Pope Francis has shown remarkable sense of leadership.  He has achieved something that is the real dream of any CEO:  he has turned around the image of his office and of his organization.  He has moved from an organization which was uncertain about its way, bogged down with scandals and challenges.  Pope Francis has given many a new hope and a feeling that that there are reasons why believers can be proud of their Church.   He attained this from the first moment in which he appeared after his election, without the help of expensive public relations strategies and spin doctors.
 He has also taken on the question of governance.  He decided not to live in the traditional Papal apartments, in what was the centre of Vatican administration, but in a community house where he eats every day with the other guests.  This is not just a gesture of humility.  He has totally put out of business those who had traditionally made it their business to manage privileged access to the Pope. He has shown very much that no one is going to tell him how he should behave as a Pope.  He keeps his private diary locked up.  He keeps his phone line busy.
 There is an ethics of leadership and that is an ethics of responsibility and of leading by example.  It is an ethics of leadership which springs from an interior freedom which enables one to disengage from antiquated structures and to reach out freely to people.  One of the most striking examples of Pope Francis was an encounter he had with a young man whose face was covered in sores.  The Pope did not do what most of us would probably have done: greeted him from a safe distance or simply asked him what disease he had. No, he stopped and kissed the man.  There is a basic ethics of leadership which must be a basic ethics of humanity, which is the most challenging ethics of all and one in which all of us, me included, continuously fail.  That fundamental ethics of humanity is however the one without which all our other ethical projects will fall flat. 

 text courtesy of Archdiocese of Dublin

Thursday, 27 March 2014


Vatican City, 27 March 2014 (VIS) – The dialogue between God's lament and man's justifications was the theme selected by the Holy Father in the homily he pronounced at this morning's Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, attended by Italian ministers and members of parliament. Pope Francis spoke about the infidelity of the People of God, a generation that does not accept His messages, and in their place, seek justifications for their sins. “It was a very great task to drive idolatry from the hearts of his people, to make them docile to His Word. But they followed this route for a little while, before turning back”.

“From being sinners, they went on to become corrupt”, he continued. “It is very hard for a corrupt person to turn back. The sinner, yes, because the Lord is merciful and awaits us all. But the corrupt are fixed on their affairs, and these people were corrupt. They therefore sought to justify themselves, because Jesus, with his simplicity, but with his strength in God, made trouble for them. And, step by step, they ended up convincing themselves that they had to kill Jesus, and one of them said, 'It is better for a man to die for the people'”.

“These people had taken the wrong path. They resisted the salvation of the Lord's love, and drifted from faith, from a theology of faith to a theology of duty: 'You must do this, this and this …'”. Describing them as hypocrites, Jesus said, “'They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them'. They rejected the Lord's love and this rejection set them on a path that was not the dialectic of freedom offered by the Lord, but that of the logic of necessity, where there is no room for the Lord. … They have become 'behavioural': men of good manners, but with bad habits. Jesus called them 'whitewashed sepulchres'. This is the Lord's pain, God's pain, God's lament”.

Pope Francis mentioned that during Lent “we would do well to think about the invitation from the Lord to love, and to ask ourselves, all of us: am I on this path? Or do I risk justifying myself and taking another path? A road with many junctions that does not, however, lead to any promise. … And we pray that the Lord gives us the grace to always follow the path of salvation, to open ourselves to the salvation that comes only from God, through faith, not that which is proposed to us by these 'professionals of duty' who had lost the faith and who led their people with this pastoral theology of duty”.