DUBLIN, Ireland -- At what appears to be a critical time for Irish Catholicism, Ireland's only Catholic newspaper, The Irish Catholic, has changed hands. Up until now, in the somewhat incongruous ownership of the Irish Farmers Journal, it has steered a cautious line between a majority of traditional Irish Catholicism and rapidly growing minority who are either leaving the church or rebelling against the way it has dealt with the clerical child abuse scandal.
This is the first of an occasional series of articles about the Second Vatican Council that will appear this year in NCR leading up to 50th anniversary of the council's opening on Oct. 11, 2012. In October, NCR will publish a special edition devoted solely to the council's 50th anniversary. Read more about it here.
Wednesday, the Catholic church should have celebrated -- but didn't -- an important anniversary, the day 53 years ago when Pope John XXIII invited 18 Curia cardinals to accompany him to a ceremony at St. Paul Outside the Walls. It was the feast day of St. Paul, who is believed to have been executed in Rome about 67 A.D. and buried where the basilica named after him now stands.
It was also the final day of the Octave for Christian Unity, an objective close to the pope's heart. Presumably because of the attendance of so many Vatican higher-ups, the ceremony lasted longer than usual. The result was that the content of the carefully timed announcement the pope made to the cardinals had been released to the media before the cardinals were told.
Google “Bloody Sunday 1972” and the Wikipedia entry will show you a camera shot no one who saw it on television that Jan. 30 will ever forget. It was of a Catholic priest in the Bogside area of Derry in Northern Ireland. It shows him crouching down and waving a bloodstained white handkerchief. Behind him come four men carrying a dying man out of the range of British soldiers who that day shot 26 innocent protestors, 14 of whom died.
The priest was Fr. Edward Daly, who later became bishop of Derry from 1974 to 1993. His book A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop has just been published by Four Courts Press.