A Haunting Monument

Dublin 3This Famine Memorial of life-size bronze sculptures can be found on the quayside by the Dublin Custom House.  The figures are depicted in this setting as they would have appeared walking toward a ship such as the Perseverance which left here on St. Patrick’s Day bound for New York.  The 74 year-old captain, named William Scott, brought ALL crew and passengers safely to America.


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Joseph Bewley: A Friend to those in want

Dublin » Food & Drink » Cafes » Bewley’s Grafton Street Café  The Grafton Street Bewley’s – Dublin

Quaker Joseph Bewley was an Irish tea and coffee merchant – yes, the same Bewley family that established those wonderful cafes in Ireland and broke the monopoly of the East India Company by importing tea directly from China to Ireland.  In 1846, Joseph Bewley helped establish the Friends’ Relief Committee that set up soup kitchens to provide direct, no-strings relief in an organized manner during the Famine.  This was done without British (government) help, being funded privately from a variety of sources.  Joseph Bewley didn’t just talk about aid or raise money, he put his beliefs into practice.  As a result, he was one of 15 Quakers (out of a population of 3,000 in Ireland) who died in the Famine as a direct result of his work with those in need.  As explained elsewhere on this blog, the Quakers were noteworthy during the Famine for doing so much given their small numbers and for doing it without an agenda (religious or political).  Help was given to those in need – food in the beginning and then seeds/training later on in the hope that alternative crops to potatoes could be established.

So, when you next stop by Bewley’s (or Java City in the U.S.) remember Joseph Bewley – a man celebrated for his humility and self-sacrifice who paid the ultimate price for his beliefs.

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Souperism and the Politics of Aid

Dugort Strand, County Mayo, Ireland

When Quakers opened soup kitchens to feed Famine victims, they faced a number of obstacles – logistics, financing and a London government philosophically opposed to providing outright aid.  But the most heart-breaking challenge they faced was from the starving themselves, for Irish Catholics were suspicious of well-meaning Protestants.  And for good cause.

Souperism – the giving of food by well-heeled Protestants to poor Catholics provided the latter abandoned their faith or at least pretended to – had a long history in Ireland.  Although the VAST majority of Famine-era Protestant clergy abhorred and excoriated this practice, a vocal minority did embrace it.  One infamous example is that of Reverend Edward Nangle, a Protestant evangelist who viewed the Famine as G-d’s judgment upon the Catholics whom he saw as guilty of idolatry given their belief in transubstantiation (bread and wine become the Eucharist).  From his base in Dugort, Achill Island (County Mayo) Nangle did all he could to exploit the tragedy and further his own agenda, sending forth his minions to condemn and convert Famine victims.  Although his name lives in infamy, the damage done by Nangle was long ago eclipsed by the good affected by Quakers and Church of Ireland clergy who worked side by side with their Catholic counterparts to defeat the scourge of hunger.

Offering aid with strings attached, whether the proselytism advances a religion (as during the Irish Famine) or a political system (as today when the needy of ‘good’ countries who embrace democracy are rewarded while others are not) is nothing new.  But it bears remembering that missionary zeal in any form is an affront to decency for self-interest, however enlightened it may appear to be, has no place in the politics of aid.

Posted by Ariella Cohen, author of the Irish e-book The Ninth WaveTo view the novel’s trailer or read a free 50 page excerpt, visit http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/29512

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The Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue

A character in The Ninth Wave is forcibly laicized – defrocked for those of us not brought up in R.C. Faith.  There are a few ways this can be done; for my purposes, I chose for him to be expelled from the priesthood for an act of conscience – or lack of discipline, depending on your perspective.

Priests can be laicized for sinning against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue (“Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery”).  The implied prohibition in the language ic clear:  priests may not have sex with married women.  But the Church (read St. Augustine and St. Ambrose) also holds that there’s an implied duty of modesty and purity in the Sixth Commandment: thus, priests are not only prohibited from being impure, they’re enjoined to be pure.

As interesting as all of these legal backflips are – and to me and many lawyers they actually are – they weren’t where I wanted my character to find conflict.  Too easy that.  No, I wanted him to reside in the grey area of Canon Law created by Pope Benedict’s January 2009 decision to delegate to the Congregation for the Clergy the authority to laicize priests WITHOUT judicial trial (although such ecclesiastical due process is observed even with suspected child abusers brought before the CDF – the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the body charged with their oversight).  The Pope included three categories of priests in this 2009 “executive order”:  those living with women, those who’ve abandoned their ministries for more than 5 years; and, those guilty of grave sins against the Sixth Commandment.   The last bit is what interested me.

Given Pope John Paul II’s February, 2003 modification of the Code of Canon Law 1388,  § 1, in which he extends the Code’s language to include indirect violation of the sacramental seal as a sin against the Sixth Commandment, I don’t see why the scenario that plays out in the novel couldn’t take place.   And the fact that Pope John Paul made this change moto proprio means that it reflects his personal feelings,  was not legitimized by the Papal Seal and did not result from consultation with the cardinals.  Thus, the change creates a sort of grey legal area – just the kind of place writers, and lawyers, like to explore.

Although priests dismissed from the priesthood pursuant to Pope Benedict’s 2009 order  are entitled to an ‘investigation’ by their supervising bishop, they have no right to a judicial trial as such.  Do they get access to a Canon lawyer; how much opportunity do they have to defend themselves?  Good questions all.

A penultimate note:  as the Chicago Archdiocese can attest to, laicizing priests who no longer perform (either up to expectation or without scandal)  saves the Church lots of money in health benefits, room and board (although said priests do retain their pensions).  A final note:  regarding the Church’s  non-compete requirements, laicized priests are prohibited from ever teaching theology – even in a secular educational setting.

- Posted by Ariella Nasuti, author of the Irish ebook The Ninth WaveTo view the novel’s trailer or read a free 50 page excerpt, visit  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/29512.

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An Exchange of Vows: Monogamy for Celibacy

In The Ninth Wave, the defrocked priest struggles with his growing feelings for the protagonist, arguing that even if the Church has released him from his vow of celibacy, he is not prepared to renounce it.  Refreshing stuff in an age when vows and promises are taken less and less seriously.  How is the issue resolved?  Suffice it to say that an older priest/advisor plants a seed when he suggests that the vow of monogamy as it culminates in the sacrament of marriage may allow one to serve God in this world as effectively as upholding priestly vows.

Some background on the celibacy obligation/vow.  Eastern rite Catholic priests can marry and even Roman Catholic priests who are converts from Protestantism (Episcopal for instance) can be married.  This has been the rule since the 1930’s.  The prohibition against married men becoming priests is more a rule than dogma, which means it can change.  Why then doesn’t the Vatican consider allowing priests to marry?  Wouldn’t doing so aid in recruitment and help parishioners identify with their clergy more readily?  One would think so, but then I’m an outsider – not a Catholic.

One other aspect of Catholicism that I examine in the novel, via the priest’s perspective, is what I’ll call the loss of mystery.  Vatican II and similar measures might not have gone far enough to emancipate priests, but it went too far in demystifying Catholic rites by watering down the Mass.  I think what’s needed is a return to tradition – not as interpreted by the present Pope, but as celebrated by Catholics for centuries.

The Mass should be in Latin and the Host should be handled only by priests.  The Mass isn’t a public meeting or a banjo-playing sing-a-long.  It’s a ritual.  There are rules.  In the Eucharist rite (Holy Communion for Roman Catholics) something ‘magical’ happens:  the wafer and wine are transformed (transubstantiated) into the body and blood of Christ.  Only a consecrated priest can affect this change or truly understand the Divine mystery that makes it possible for the bread and wine appear unchanged to our senses.  By taking the Host into their own bodies, Catholics become part of the rite but only after consenting.  How does this happen?  Not only by physically being present at the Mass but by acknowledging the transubstantiation.  When offering the Host, the priest says ‘The body and blood of Christ’ and the receiver must say ‘Amen’ before accepting it – by this means he consents and agrees to the Divine mystery.

A casual survey of modern Western society may lead one to conclude that there is no place for a return to orthodox Catholic practice, but I would disagree.  If one views the secular fascination with magic and the Other World as simply another means of reaching out to the Divine, then mankind is as receptive to the unseen as ever.  Perhaps more so, for Westerners feel more comfortable than ever speaking of spiritualism (albeit one devoid of religion).  Why, then, doesn’t the Vatican step into the breach with a God-centered view of Nature and what might appear to be magic?  That is the true mystery.

Posted by Ariella Nasuti, author of the Irish e-book The Ninth WaveTo view the novel’s trailer or read a free 50 page excerpt, visit http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/29512

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Fixing the Time for Easter: The Role of the Irish Church

St. Laserian’s Cathedral in County Carlow (now a Protestant church) was built on the site of a 6th Century monastery.

As discussed in The Ninth Wave, the nascent Christian Church often adopted pagan imagery and places of worship as its own when suppressing or extirpating these earlier faiths wasn’t an option.  This ‘rebranding’ (the Queen of Heaven to replace Mother Nature, etc.) was articulated best in 601 when Pope Gregory the First exhorted his clergy not to destroy places of pagan worship when instead they could ‘bless and convert them from the worship of devils to the service of the true God.’    In Ireland, this practice resulted in the establishment of Saint Gobban’s monastery in Old Leighlin, County Carlow where a centuries-old debate within the Church would be put to rest.  At issue was a most fundamental question:  When is Easter?

Following the death of Jesus, a split arose in the Christian community concerning the date on which the resurrection was to be observed.  One faction held that it should fall on the Jewish Passover (a date determined by the lunar calendar) as it was at the Passover meal that Jesus revealed to his disciples his role as the sacrificial lamb.  Another faction within the Church held that the date must always fall on a Sunday regardless of the lunar calendar.  The argument was that on that day the tomb was found empty; thus, Sunday was sanctified above all other days and celebrating the resurrection on a weekday would diminish Easter’s significance.  By 325 C.E., the Sunday proponents had won the day, so to speak, but splits in the Church remained as Eastern Christians were still guided by the Jewish, lunar calendar regarding when Easter Sunday should be observed.   Constantine urged Church leaders to fix a date specific for all of Christendom and the Council of Nicaea, convened in that same year, agreed with him that all Christians should observe the SAME Sunday, but which one?  That question was answered five years later when the pope sent Saint Laserian to St. Gobban’s Monastery in Old Leighlin, County Carlow, Ireland.   Saint Laserian oversaw a conference that eventually fixed the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.   He stayed on in Ireland as abbot of the monastery which grew to 1500 monks.  By the 13th Century, the site had been transformed into the Cathedral of Saint Laserian, parts of which survive to the present (albeit under the control of the Anglican Church).

Posted by Ariella Nasuti, author of the Irish e-book The Ninth WaveTo view the novel’s trailer or read a free 50 page excerpt, visit http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/29512

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Parliament’s Oath of Renunciation and the Irish Church

  In the wake of King James’ defeat at the hands of the Protestant King William of Orange, some Catholic priests fled Ireland, some were induced to convert to Protestantism (for a payment of 40 pounds a  year), and some were arrested (a reward of 100 pounds was paid if one turned in a bishop, 30 pounds for a Jesuit).  Many priests, however, went underground or otherwise operated below London’s radar.  Not content to have any Catholic clergy remaining in Ireland, in 1703 Parliament passed a law that required all Irish Catholic clergy to register with the authorities so that ‘the government be truly informed of the number of such dangerous persons as still remain among us’.   1089 priests came forward to register their identities.  Within a few years, Parliament passed the ‘Popery Act’ which aimed to insure that the Protestant succession to the throne was recognized by all.  It required that Irish Catholic clergy take an oath of allegiance known as the Oath of Renunciation (or Abjuration).  Although the Pope forbade the taking of such an oath, 33 Irish clergy did do so, thus affirming the right of Protestant Queen Mary and her heirs to rule.  

One is tempted by these facts to get caught up in condemning those clergy who caved to pressure, but instead we should  marvel that so many didn’t at a time when Rome was hardly in a position to protect her servants any more than the Catholic aristocracy could for many of them had fled Ireland with the defeated James.  So, for me, the story here is to be found in the lives of 1056 priests who clung to their faith in the face of adversity or, to paraphrase Lillian Hellman, refused to cut their conscience to fit the fashion of the times.

Posted by Ariella Nasuti, author of the Irish e-book The Ninth WaveTo view the novel’s trailer or read a free 50 page excerpt, visit http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/29512

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