January 22nd, 2006

I See You!

Theological Notebook: Attitudes as Reported in Ireland 14 Years After Bishop Casey

Attitudes Toward Priests Change in Ireland


Jan 21, 11:12 PM (ET)

GALWAY, Ireland (AP) - Bishop Eamonn Casey fled Ireland 14 years ago in shame for having secretly fathered a son. But he is coming back to a dramatically changed, forgiving Ireland that appears willing to accept Roman Catholic priests who are not celibate.

Galway Bishop Martin Drennan announced Saturday that his disgraced predecessor, who has spent his exile on missions from England to Ecuador, soon would resettle in the western Irish county.

Drennan said he was personally "very happy."

And on the steps of Galway Cathedral where Casey was once denounced as a hypocrite, Mass-goers said Casey's sins no longer seemed so severe - not in a country, and an Irish priesthood, so battered by a decade of pedophile-sex scandals.

"I'm delighted Eamonn's coming home. I wish he'd never felt he had to leave. Ireland's grown up a bit since he was away. Maybe he'll finally feel free to have a normal relationship with his boy," said Mary Gibney, a Galway homemaker.

Just days ago, news broke that another Galway priest, 73-year-old Maurice Dillane, had fathered a son with a 31-year-old teacher he had been secretly dating for years. He resigned from his post.

Locals and commentators were surprised by the gulf in age between Dillane - known as "Mossie" - and his partner, but solidly supported the priest and criticized church superiors for forcing him from his parish.

Galway Bay FM, a radio station taking an informal poll on the issue, got 197 positive comments about Dillane and just eight negative one.

"He told me that he had a girlfriend. He wasn't a bit worried," said one of Dillane's friends, Jim Kennedy, a former priest himself.

"I wouldn't mind going to Mass with Mossie tomorrow morning," said another former priest and golfing partner, Liam Keane.

"We have lost a priest at a time when there is a shortage of priests, and that is a sad event," said Justin O'Byrne, chairman of the parish council where Dillane worked. He said worshippers would like Dillane back if possible, and were mostly concerned that his partner and child received sufficient community support.

"There's certainly no anger. ... We've all moved on a lot since 1992," he said.

The Ireland that Casey fled in 1992 was an overwhelmingly Catholic country with double-digit unemployment and heavy emigration.

But over Ireland's past decade of dynamic economic growth, the church has lurched from scandal to scandal over its policy of shielding sexually abusive priests from prosecution. Weekly attendance at Mass, once rated at over 90 percent, has fallen to around 40 percent of Catholics today.

More than 250 priests in this country of 4 million are under investigation for alleged abuse of children.

Public anger at past cover-ups of clerical abuse has fueled a growing public belief that a priesthood without mandatory celibacy would reduce the risk of pedophilia and promote greater honesty.
I See You!

Theological Notebook: "Swiss Guards Do Not Smile..." (Not so theological, per se...)

A Swiss Guard, part of an honor corps in their full blue- and-yellow bloomered dress uniforms and red-plumed helmets, stands at attention in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican as Pope Benedict XVI, not seen, addresses them at the end of the Angelus noon prayer he celebrated from his studio window, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006. The pontiff thanked the Swiss Guards for their 500 years of service protecting popes as the Vatican opened its official commemorations, and recalled how Pope Julius II had summoned the mercenaries to protect him and the Vatican in 1506. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) .

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Vatican Honors 500 Years of Swiss Guards

Jan 22, 8:47 AM (ET)

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI thanked the Swiss Guards on Sunday for their 500 years of service protecting the popes, as the Vatican opened its official commemorations of the anniversary of the first mercenaries' arrival from Switzerland.

An honor corps of Swiss Guards, in their full blue- and-yellow bloomered dress uniforms and red-plumed helmets, stood at attention in St. Peter's Square as Benedict addressed them from his studio window. He recalled how Pope Julius II had summoned the mercenaries to protect him and the Vatican. They arrived Jan. 22, 1506.

"Thank you for your service of 500 years!" Benedict told the guards in a special blessing, to applause from tourists and the faithful also gathered for his traditional Sunday greeting.

More senior guards in red velvet barked out orders as the few dozen guards marched in lock step to the tunes of a marching band and the tolling bells of St. Peter's Basilica.

Earlier in the day, Benedict's No. 2, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, celebrated an intimate Mass in the Sistine Chapel for members of the current corps and their families - the official start of the Vatican's commemorations for the half-millennium the Swiss have been protecting popes.

In his homily, Sodano recalled that Julius had summoned the Swiss because they had proven themselves "defenders of the freedom of the church."

"And thus started the long series of generous and strong young men who wanted to come to defend the Cathedral of Peter," Sodano said.

The Swiss Guards, known for their traditional halberds, have since protected 42 popes. Some are armed with guns.

Over the next six months, Vatican and Swiss authorities will host ceremonies, concerts, exhibits and commemorations that will culminate with a symbolic re-enactment of the march from Switzerland to Rome of the first 150 Swiss mercenaries.