Saturday, April 26, 2008

Padraig O'Malley, Peacemaker

Working for Sunni-Shia Reconciliation with the Helsinki Initiative

Padraig O'Malley's profile, taken from the Eire Society of Boston's 2008 Gold Medal Awards:

Padraig O'Malley was born in Dublin Ireland in 1942. He was educated at University College, Dublin, and at Yale, Tufts and Harvard universities in the United States.

Professor O'Malley has authored many books, among them the award-winning
Uncivil Wars: Ireland Today, Biting at the Grave, and, most recently, Shades of Difference, Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa. He is recipient of the International Association of University Presidents Peace Award (1985) and the Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Scholars (1985).

Padraig O'Malley is chiefly known for his peace and reconciliation work in Northern Ireland, South Africa and Iraq. For most of his professional life, he has been involved with the conflict in Northern Ireland. Working with all the political parties to the conflict he convened the Amherst Conference on Northern Ireland (Massachusetts, 1975), the Airlie House Conference (Virginia, 1985) and co–convened the Arniston Conference with the government of South Africa (Western Cape, 1997). In 1987 O'Malley initiated a meeting with the dissident Northern Irish hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa known as the Great Indaba. In 1992, he participated in bringing some of the South African figures in that transition to Boston for a meeting with representatives of the factions in Northern Ireland. Most recently, O'Malley helped arrange a 2007 conference at a resort in Finland, where 16 Iraqis met with experienced negotiators from South Africa and Ireland who described the processes toward peace in their countries.
Thank God there are still people like this around. From an article in the Boston Globe yesterday titled Bringing Iraqis to the table:

Under a deep shroud of secrecy, a chartered flight took off yesterday from Baghdad, carrying with it the dreams of a visionary University of Massachusetts professor and perhaps the prospect of reconciliation among some of the rival religious and political groups in Iraq.

Padraig O'Malley, the irrepressible academic, author, and peacemaker, has put together an extraordinary guest list for the trip from Iraq to Helsinki: 36 Iraqi leaders from across the country's sectarian divide - Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. They are set to spend the next three days talking, in heavily guarded privacy, about how to bring peace, or at least the possibility of political reconciliation, to a nation at war with itself.

It is the second such gathering of Iraqis O'Malley has organized as he takes on the bloody deadlock in that country, just as he previously forged unlikely dialogue between adamant enemies in Northern Ireland and South Africa. And he has high hopes for the weekend sessions, which will take place at an undisclosed location in Finland's capital.

"This is the most powerful group of Iraqis ever gathered outside of Iraq to talk about peace and finding a way forward together," O'Malley said in an interview on his cellphone just moments before boarding the plane...

The plane landed in Helsinki late last night, and the Iraqis were set to begin their talks today. O'Malley envisions the meeting as one in a series designed to find common ground in a land where compromise has become anathema - not to mention mortally dangerous. It is an exceptional enterprise, not just because it is happening at all, which is amazing in itself, but because of the approach O'Malley is using to facilitate reconciliation.

As at the first meeting, last September, negotiators of long experience in the sectarian struggles of Northern Ireland and South Africa will play a critical role.

Martin McGuinness, Denis Donaldson and Gerry Adams

From Northern Ireland come two men who wouldn't share a plane in 1997, when O'Malley brought his idealistic approach to that struggle. One is Martin McGuinness, a former Irish Republican Army commander who now serves as the leading member in the National Assembly and as a government minister. The other is Jeffrey Donaldson, a leader in one of the major Irish protestant parties, the Democratic Unionist Party. Both McGuinness and Donaldson, who once saw each other as mortal enemies, will try to help the Iraqis see, through their example, that it is possible to reach across years of hatred and bloodshed and find a way to work together.

Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley.
"Think about it," O'Malley said. "Now two people from Northern Ireland who just a decade ago wouldn't fly on the same plane . . . are working jointly to share their story with the Iraqis and tell them how they now work together in the same government."

Among the prominent South Africans set to attend the talks was Mac Maharaj, who for four decades was the head of the African National Congress underground during South Africa's struggle for freedom, and endured 12 years of imprisonment at Robben Island with Nelson Mandela.

The 65-year-old Dublin-born O'Malley, a distinguished professor of peace and reconciliation at UMass-Boston's John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, has worked tirelessly for months in Baghdad and by phone from his office in Boston to organize the session, building on the earlier gathering, which hatched what became known as the Helsinki Principles - a framework of common understandings and objectives for further talks.

The initiative, which has become known as the Iraq Project, was launched as a common effort by UMass-Boston, the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University, and the Crisis Management Initiative out of Helsinki.

Making the improbable seem possible has been O'Malley's work of the last 30 years.

Back in 1997, O'Malley organized a round of talks that brought the implacable adversaries of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland together with former combatants who had found a path to coexistence in South Africa.

It is hard to reckon with the idea today, but O'Malley sees more possibilities for peace in Iraq now than he did when first took on the Irish question.

"I think Northern Ireland was a lot tougher conflict to solve than Iraq," O'Malley said. "The violence in Iraq, the killing, is more widespread for sure. But the hatreds in Northern Ireland were deeper, more ancient."

But Sherman Teichman, executive director of the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts, noted that while many have called for dialogue, few have stepped in to fill the need. "One of the things that perplexes me is why we find ourselves filling this void," Teichman said. "I'm very proud that we've done it. It came down to the intellectual and moral courage of Padraig O'Malley who stands as an example of what one individual can do to work toward peace."

Bendetson, 56, the Tufts Trustee who has supported the effort, flew to Helsinki to serve within the working group of the talks. Before he left, he pointed out that these talks would not have happened without the tireless work of O'Malley, describing him as "the hero at the center of this story."

In an interview just before he flew to Helsinki, Bendetson added: "It's just the right thing to do. Look at how many Iraqis have been killed, how many Americans. It's just not that complicated. It's the right thing to do to work toward resolving the conflict. It's that simple."

An audio interview with O'Malley on NPR's Here and Now - "The Helsinki Agreement" (Story aired on Monday, September 24, 2007)

Padraig O'Malley's website,
The Heart of Hope

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Peter Maurin: Better or Better Off?

Words that Put Things in Perspective, or Impractical Agrarian Utopianism?

Peter Maurin, Co-Founder with Dorothy Day of the Catholic worker Movement

I want a change,
and a radical change.
I want a change
from an acquisitive society
to a functional society,
from a society of go-getters
to a society of go-givers.

As or family goes through the midst of this house-selling/house-hunting saga, in which talk of hundreds of thousands of dollars is routinely bandied about without hardly batting an eyelash, it's important to note that foreclosures are at an all-time high, the price of energy is soaring, and the price of rice has doubled in the last five weeks. In a classic case of the law of unintended consequences being brought to bear, the demand for corn in the use of bio-fuels has contributed to the worsening worldwide food shortage and spike in food prices, driving millions of those who were on subsistence diets into the real risk and danger of falling into starvation. Sam's Club and Costco are actually rationing rice. Even during World War II, we never had to ration essential foodstuffs in the United States.

The video below features words of Peter Maurin. According to our conventional economic wisdom they would be considered counter-productive and disastrous words of insanity... I have to ask, though, does the state of the world reflect the best that our conventional wisdom can do? There has to be a better way of doing things. This stuff we see is all cyclical and recurrent, and these particular wheels are running out of tread. There has to be a better way for human beings to arrange their affairs...

Peter Maurin... Madman, Fool, or Prophet?

Peter Maurin's Easy Essays

Use your rosary beads to pray the
The Chaplet of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, Catholic Workers

Monday, April 21, 2008

Still Mailing Them In For the Time Being...

Happy Patriot's Day. An Acoustic and Non-Acoustic Offering

Patriot's Day is sort of a unique Massachusetts/Maine Holiday. Paul Revere's Ride, "One if by Land, Two if by Sea", first blood at Lexington Green, "The Shot Heard Round the World" at the Old North Bridge in Concord, and the Boston Marathon.

Still too busy to put up much of substance right now, so here are just a couple of musical offerings, completely unrelated to the holiday.

Los Lonely Boys, Diamonds

I love that band.

Velvet Revolver, The Last Fight

Scott Weiland is leaving Velvet Revolver and reviving the Stone Temple Pilots. As far as personalities go, I've never been much of a fan of Weiland or of Slash, but I have to admit that Weiland does have a great voice, and I liked this song.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Doing the Right Thing

Bravo, Benedict! Giving credit where credit is due, but there is more to be done...

Survivors of Joseph Birmingham - Bernie McDaid and Olan Horne

In my last post, I issued a plea for Pope Benedict to meet with some of the victims (or should I say suvivors) of clergy sexual abuse. I had a feeling that he would quietly do so, and that hope was rewarded. By all indications, the meeting with Bernie McDade and Olan Horne (Survivors of Joseph Birmingham), Faith Johnston and others went well. I heartily applaud Pope Benedict for having done this. It was an enormously important gesture, but of course, there remains more to be done.

Before the Meeting

I am not kowtowing. I will not kiss his ring. If we walk in and we're served a large plate of platitude, I can be guaranteeing you that I will be the first person to say that this man does lack the moral authority to manage the Catholic Church. I expect more than an apology when I leave that room...

After the Meeting

We were all able to answer all of the questions that needed to be asked and for him to respond to. And he did -- and he did forthright. He seemed to intrinsically understand what we were talking about. And he spoke to those issues to each one of us in a spiritual way, in a pastoral way. And he also was very respectful of where and what we wanted to talk about. My hope was restored today from what I heard... I left there with a promise, and I can guarantee you that I will hold this man's feet to the fire on the promise that he left me with today.
--Olan Horne

There were some recent statements attributed to Cardinal Levada indicating that some changes in canon law are being considered with respect to the statute of limitations. In terms of what Olan Horne was referring to, one can assume that this includes holding bishops accountable for what happened in the past and what may happen in the future. In our particular archdiocese, this would refer of course to bishops such as Bernard Cardinal Law, Bishop John McCormack, and Bishop William Murphy. The continuing relevance of the issue of bishop accountability is especially underscored when someone like the afore-mentioned William Murphy goes on record in Newsday today praising the meeting as if the crisis had very little or nothing to do with his actions. The irony and the brass of this wasn't even noted in the article.

There were some victims and victim's advocates groups who considered the meeting to be little more than a publicity stunt, or too little from the Church too late. Unfortunately, I think there are some victims, through no fault of their own, who have become so embittered that nothing would ever serve to assuage their pain other than the utter disappearance of the Catholic Church altogether, and even that might not ease their suffering. There have also been a number of lawyers who have become very wealthy out of the litigation that has come out of this scandal. Be that as it may, justice does need to be served and laypeople do have to continue to be vigilant and to respectfully press for accountability from the hierarchy. If that pressure is taken away, we will all too easily fall back into the patterns that allowed the crisis to arise and fester to begin with. More has to be done than to simply belabor the same old points about the over-sexualization of our culture and the failings of individual priests, even if they are fair observations to make. The hierarchy needs to look inward, not just outward.

Listen on WBUR, Locals React to Pope's Meeting

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Please Meet With Some Victims...

A Plea to the Holy Father For While He's Here

Welcome to the United States. May your visit be blessed and productive.

Also, please take into consideration the VOTF's reasonable petitions.

1. Treat survivors of sexual abuse with the justice and compassion our faith demands.

2. Hold bishops accountable to the people they serve.

3. Embrace full participation of Catholic men and women in Church decision-making.

4. Require full financial transparency and accountability in all governance matters.

We believe these steps will produce:

- An open, transparent and accountable Church

- A participative Church embracing the gifts and talents of the baptized

- A Church governed by compassion, informed by justice, empowered by equality, and animated to act collegially

Six-Word Memoir

In response to William’s Meme Tag

I Could Have Been a Contender

Image and following quote are basically lifted from an old post of mine titled “An Instinct to See Life In a Comic Light”, which unfortunately is more than six words.

Noonday Rest, by Jean François Millet (1866)

”Supreme egotism and utter seriousness are necessary for the greatest accomplishment, and these the Irish find hard to sustain; at some point, the instinct to see life in a comic light becomes irresistible, and ambition falls before it.”
-William Shannon

Then again, there are times when I feel like I’m…

Making the Most of Limited Abilities

Which makes me wonder if it’s really true that…

Adversity Introduces a Man to Himself

I don’t have five people to tag outside of our small circle here, most of them have already been tagged, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to be a chain-letter killer.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What's With the State of the Catholic Blogosphere?

I noticed over at Crystal's today that Mark Mossa SJ has decided to stop posting to his blog And I let Myself be Duped. That's a damned shame. Yet another reasonable voice in Catholic blogdom feels compelled to check out. Mossa wrote:
I began blogging after finding myself victim to a certain amount of slander for writing a not wholly complimentary review of a book by George Weigel. In my subsequent dialogue with the author of the post—who publicly apologized for making uncharitable presumptions about me merely based on that review—I thought I saw an opportunity, an opportunity to bridge a gap between people of different perspectives in the Church. So, I threw my hat into the fray and it was fun, for a while. It even appeared that I might make some progress in this endeavor and perhaps even accomplish some goals that I had set for myself in becoming aware of the various dimensions of the Catholic blogosphere—trying to encourage some positive discourse, and hoping to offer a counterweight to the negative and unfair caricature of the Society of Jesus which obtains in many a corner of that blogosphere. And, at first, there seemed to be some hope of success at this, and there are still a coterie of bloggers (you know who you are) that give me hope in this regard. Yet, I’ve grown tired of swimming against the tide. The most negative of Catholic blogs still continue to be the most popular and, like myself, the more positive bloggers seem to be posting with far less frequency.
Now, I hate to sound like sour grapes, but I have to say that in regard to that last sentence I admit I've made note of the fact that the tenor and tone of the Catholicism I see in the day-in-and-day-out life of the Church in your average Catholic parish, among those who attend Mass weekly, in no way resembles what I see reflected among some of the perennial favorites in the annual Catholic Blog Awards. In some cases, fixations upon apologetics, or liturgical rubrics, or demonization and ridicule of the "other side" become a fetish to the point of idolatry. The disputations and poison-pen diatribes become substitutes for the Faith itself.

I suppose everyone who runs a blog is entitled to a rant now and then, but what is it with blogging that tends to lead us towards an utter breakdown in civility over time? I'm seeing more and more blogging weariness all around me. Do we all feel so safe behind a keyboard that we feel free to write things that we would never say face-to-face without coming to blows? I remember a high school teacher in our driver's ed class telling us something similar about the effect of sitting behind the wheel of a car. Cutting people off and flipping them the bird is a lot easier to do in a car than in a checkout-counter line, no doubt. Is the internet really a forum where the free exchange of ideas leads to mutual appreciation and understanding and lets the best ideas flow to the top, or is anger and resentment always going to be an easier sell? Does the internet bring people together, or does it divide them into smaller and smaller specialized segments where the tolerance of dissent from the mores of the particular group in question becomes a sliver of light that grows ever narrower?

Don't think that I'm saying there isn't plenty of this to go around. This happens regardless of ideology. I had to put banning software on this blog because of the outrageous incivility of one of the most (professed) liberal bloggers I've ever encountered. I noticed on Vox Nova a short while ago that some of the contributors were taking Gerald Augustinus of The Cafeteria is Closed to the woodshed (and rightfully so, IMO) for an egregious remark that had been left on his blog, and among other things Gerald responded:
Please get in line with the insults. There’s already a pitchfork-wielding mob outside because I am too ‘gay-friendly’ and advocated equal rights for gay folks. 325 comments. Some of which are far more troublesome than the one you quoted...

On the bright side, Michael, I’m getting really, really tired of blogging. Now excuse me while I keep an eye out for the Spanish Inquisition...

I took the Cafeteria tag out of my logo, btw, so spare me the umpteenth dig re: that. When I put it up, I a) meant it as a bon mot and b) had no idea that bishops would, eg, actively campaign against civil unions for homosexuals. Since I came out in favor of that and defended gay adoption (based on my wife’s prior work in the field and from the example of friends), too, my position as a ‘Cafeteria Catholic’ is firmly established and need not be brought up at every turn, as if it were a new insight. I freely admit it. The far-right and whatever you could be described as are correct in saying so.
So, there you go. Even there we see it. He's as conservative as they generally come, and he's taking heat. I have to point out, too, that even in the atmosphere of heady intellectualism on Vox Nova, the progressive contributors Michael Iafrate and Morning's Minion get hit with plenty of personal digs on a regular basis.

Is it possible that some of us do this too long? Can we be in combat-mode for too long a period? Does that explain how a Stephen Hand, author of TCRNews Musings, one of the best Catholic blogs I ever saw on the web, chucked it and traded it in for The Bride and the Dragon, a launching-pad for attacks on Vatican II, Modernists, Jews, and Freemasons, because Pope Benedict happened to have a meeting with Hans Kung?

As much as I might be tempted to despair about the state of Catholic blogdom, I noticed it isn't much better with the Protestants. The Arminians and the Emerging Church have no truck with Calvinists, and Calvinists have nothing but contempt for everyone who isn't, well, a Calvinist... Including "Hyper-Calvinists". Makes me think I'm onto something with paragraph 3.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charlton Heston, R.I.P.

From Cult Classics: The Omega Man and Planet of the Apes

The Last Man on Earth reminisces on Woodstock...

"Nope, they sure don't make pictures like that any more."

Horseback riding on Liberty Island...

"Darn you! Gosh Darn you to all to heck!"

We're putting our house on the market this week, so I'll probably be out of touch for a little while. I'll check in with you guys briefly if I can.

Be good, and pray for us. :-D