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BROTHER MAURICE KIRK FSC AND FATHER MICHAEL SWEETMAN SJ

Added on October 3, 2006

[Explanatory Note: I was a novice in the De La Salle Brothers in Castletown, Co. Laois, Ireland in the year 1966/1967. It was the peak experience of my life and the main reason why I have been engaged in the fight against false allegations of child abuse directed against Catholic clergy .

My novice master was Brother Maurice Kirk. In August/September 1967 a Jesuit priest Father Michael Sweetman gave us our final Retreat" (spiritual conference) before we were professed as De La Salle Brothers.

I left the Brothers in March 1969. Recently I deposited some material in archives and the following is part of a covering note.]

Rory Connor

As to the wider significance of these events, I was in the [De La Salle] Novitiate in 1966-67 at the time when vocations to the Catholic Church were at their height. This was immediately after Vatican 11 and just before the student revolts of 1968. Brother Maurice was, I suppose, a modernising conservative. Among the main texts we studied were ?A Map of Life? which was a classic from the 1930s and also the Grail Simplified documents of Vatican 11. I?m sure that Brother Maurice was trying to forge a link between tradition and the modern world. Father Michael Sweetman was something of a ?radical priest? so inviting him to preach the Retreat before our profession would have been a daring act.

Obviously Brother Maurice did not succeed. I briefly met with a former fellow novice years later - Brother ..... I think who left like most of us. He told me he thought that Brother Maurice had been an ?intellectual bully?. Maybe that is true and maybe most leaders have to be. Maybe the increasing secularisation (and increasing viciousness) of society could not be overcome by any means. I think that Father Sweetman felt that at the end of his life - although I did not know him at all as well.

Another historical point. I recently read a review of a book about Pope Pius X11 and the Nazis which was written by a Jewish Rabbi. The Rabbi said that the lies about Pius as ?Hitler?s Pope? came from 3 separate sources [1]:
Stalinist propaganda during the Cold War (1940s and 50s)
The ?New Left? in the 1960s
?Liberal? Catholics after the Vatican Council who saw Pius X11 as the hero of ?reactionary? Catholics and demonised him as a way of demonising them.
I think that our child abuse hysteria originated in somewhat the same way. Pat Rabbitte and Judge Pat McCartan are former members of the Workers Party that was Stalinist in the most literal sense - party officials went on cosy visits to Kim Il Sung?s North Korea. Doctor Moira Woods (who slandered Eddie Hernon) was also a member of this Party. I think that Mary Raftery was a member (though I can?t swear to it). Doctor Noel Browne was not in the Workers Party but his hatred of the Catholic Church really took off in the late 1960s. John Horgan mentions in his biography of Browne that a savage article by Browne in the Irish Times in 1970 drew criticism from Father Michael Sweetman [2]! The late 1960s really do seem to be a critical time.

Regarding ?liberal? Catholics I know that the National Catholic Reporter in the USA has thrown its full weight behind the child abuse witch-hunt. It even sees nothing wrong with convictions on the basis of ?Recovered Memory Syndrome?. This is voodoo brain science and is almost unknown in Ireland. The NCR sees the scandal as a useful way of gutting the traditional church and advancing its own ?liberal? agenda. - in relation to women priests, gay priests, the laity etc. I don?t know if there is an equivalent group in Ireland - I am concentrating my fire on journalists.

Maybe I am exaggerating the importance of my time in the De La Salle Novitiate. But then again maybe not!


Rory Connor
September 2006

Notes:
[1] The book is "The Myth of Hitler's Pope" by Rabbi David G. Dalin

[2] The date should be 1968 not 1970 which tends to prove my point! In "Noel Browne, Passionate Outsider" John Horgan writes:
" In 1968 [Browne] had written a speech for a meeting in Trinity College which contained a number of harsh criticisms of the Church, but had thought better of it and deleted them from the remarks he eventually delivered. The original speech, however, was published in the Irish Times, and for this he was mildly chastised by another speaker at the meeting, the radical Jesuit Fr Michael Sweetman". [The Irish Times, 6 December 1968].
This seems to be the last time that Noel Browne entertained any doubts about the Catholic Church. After that, it was shrieking denunciation all the way, with the Church being blamed for every evil in Irish society. I think that 1968 was the year our Irish "liberals" started to go crazy!

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