Somebody was looking for a report on the recent conference in Limerick so hopefully this will suffice. It was a conference on the Mission of the Family organised by the Catholic Voice newspaper, which is run by Anthony Murphy in Kildare but who was brought up in England, and in association with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which is a Latin mass order fully inside the Catholic Church and which has taken over an old and partly ruined Jesuit Church in downtown Limerick, with the main speaker being Cardinal Raymond Burke. The first topic, after some words by the Cardinal, was raised by John Lacken who is a father of 8 living in Knock and is founding an organisation in defense of the family. He was very good, forceful and inspiring but to be honest I was wondering a little about the whole conference when I was listening to him. Is there much point in a conference like this attended by traditional Catholics because of course everybody is just going to say that the traditional family is great and down with the liberal forces wrecking Ireland etc etc. Which of course is true enough but could it turn out to be a boring repetitive thing where the speakers are only preaching to the converted? And luckily I was completely wrong in that, I learnt an awful lot I did not know before from the speakers. The next up, as far as I remember, was Olivia Connolly who described a kind of ecology organisation which was spreading across Catholic parishes, aided by the priests, but which does not foster normal prayers and instead seems to revert to a kind of worship of nature. The facts she had were quite compelling and unfortunately disturbing, one place particularly mentioned by the way was the Dominican convent in Wicklow town. Anthony Murphy also said that he was talking to a parish priest recently who in taking up his job went to the local convent and was told that a priest was not needed there anymore because they have a shamanic cleric of some type to do that job! Incredible isn't it? Anthony Murphy himself was then going to give a talk on the science of homosexuality, based mostly on a recent book on the subject by I think a Dutch academic. He didn't give the full talk - because of time pressure - but nonetheless he gave us the outline. It turns out that science does not say that Gays are born that way but rather that they are made so, including by bad relationships at home, or even abuse of some type, etc etc. Also science strongly supports the idea that it is a very difficult, unhealthy, and unfortunately overwhelmingly lonely and unhappy life for those caught up in it, contrary to the whole media spin. Then the local superior of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest gave a talk that was originally going to be given by the overall superior of the Order, Monsignor Giles Wach. It was on St Joseph, and other saints, and the proper role of fathers in families etc and was well delivered by our late replacement based on Monsg. Wach's notes. Around about this time Cardinal Burke gave his address. It was a description of a Vatican document that outlines the proper form and purpose behind marriage. It was quite interesting although involved a lot of reading out from the document which was quite technical. This great and clearly holy cleric was much better when he was speaking without a script. Dr Eanna Johnson was next up and he gave a very informative outline of the state of religious education in the Irish schools. Of course its a bit of a disaster with the terrible Alive-O program being replaced by something a little better in some areas but a lot worse in others. In particular they are now going to teach comparative religion from the very beginning of the school life. Hence when a 6 year old is told about the Trinity he is then immediately informed that Muslims believe x and Buddhists y and in this confusing atmosphere how are any of them going to take religion seriously? This is in Catholic schools incidentally, in case one is not aware of the system. Matthew McCusker followed with a report on the Vatican synod that has just ended, he was accredited to the synod as a reporter for the Voice of the Family. He described how some clerics are trying to twist Church doctrine in the name of using more inclusive language in Church documents. So for example they say ('they' include Archbishop Cupich of Chicago, Fr Rosica who was the English language Vatican spokesman during the synod, and even maybe Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin) that the phrase 'indissolubility of marriage' is not very welcoming or easily understood and should be changed to something like the 'faithfulness of marriage' or words to that effect. But of course thats a different thing, a phrase like the latter raises the question that does a marriage cease to exist when one party is unfaithful? Hence its materially different to the 'indissolubility' wording, and this is no accident according to Mr McCusker. It was a very interesting, well thought through and intelligent contribution which incidentally did not contain any criticism of the Pope, real or implied, in case anybody is wondering. Finally Jose Antonio Ureta gave a very revealing outline of the activities of modern Catholic action groups across Europe. This was very interesting because it included so many details from the distant corners of Europe that are otherwise ill highlighted by the media in Ireland, unsurprisingly. We are talking Slovenia, Estonia, Slovakia etc etc and including the new movement that is going on in France which is quite big and inspiring. Actually its quite an interesting and by no means universally bad picture, some countries have even come quite close to reversing laws that allow same sex marriage, for example. In conclusion Cardinal Burke spoke again, this time without notes and from the heart I thought. You could have heard a pin drop when he spoke, the previous speaker wondered if it was his Irish blood that inspired the Cardinal and actually the Cardinal said he thought it was! He is clearly sincerely attached to Ireland and is convinced that all is not lost here, that this island and its people will again become a beacon to the world. The conference then ended with Benediction led by Cardinal Burke in the still mostly dilapidated Jesuit Church. It was atmospheric to be there in what we hope will be a metaphor for the Irish Church, ok still in a ruinous state but with a new lick of paint here and there bringing back to life a former beauty. Speaking for myself I spent the rest of the night chatting away in a pub to three other attendees and we had a fascinating conversation. Anyway the death of the Irish Catholic is much exaggerated!