Friday, May 18, 2018

"Remembering Father James Good - Pastor Bonus" by John Cooney

Doctrine and Life, May-June, 2018.            
Father James Good, theologian, philosopher and educationalist by training, and tireless missionary priest by choice in the remote east African Turkana desert in Kenya for 27 years, died after a fall in his native Cork on March 21, 2018, his 94th birthday. Fr Jim was the only Catholic churchman in Ireland to disagree publicly in 1968 with Blessed Pope Paul VI’s controversial condemnation of artificial contraceptives, which he called “a major tragedy”. 1. For the text of the encyclical issued on July 25 and the worldwide reaction of national hierarchies see Horgan, John, Editor, with Analytic Guide by Austin Flannery O.P. Humanae Vitae and the Bishops, (Irish University Press, 1972.
For this act of conscientious objection, he incurred the wrath of the Bishop of Cork and Ross, the formidable Cornelius (Connie) Lucey. ‘Bishop Lucey had no option but to suspend me from diocesan functions – preaching and hearing confessions’, Good later acknowledged in a cursum vitae, an invaluable overview of his long life, which is among his papers in the archive of University College, Cork. 2. I am indebted to Dr William Fennell for giving me a copy of this document from which most quotations in this article are taken.  
In early August 1968 John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, wrote congratulating Lucey on his swift action. In reply, Lucey described Good as ‘a man of firm views once his mind was made up’. 3. Quoted in John Cooney, John Charles McQuaid. Ruler of Catholic Ireland, (O’Brien Press, 1999, p. 393). This referred to how Fr Jim had become convinced by the arguments of the papal commission investigating the birth control issue, set up in 1966, that the natural law arguments cited by Pope Pius XI in his 1930 encyclical, Castii Conubii, were no longer tenable. This argument was rejected by Paul, who favoured the status quo, thus polarising world Catholicism into ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’.   
Born on February 4, 1924, in the centre of Cork City in Nicholas Street, his parents Thomas Good and Margaret Penney were working class with relatives in the Fenian movement and later with De Valera in the Civil War. A sister Mary, a teacher, died in 2002. Educated by Presentation Sisters at Evergreen Street and later by “superb” Christian Brothers on Sullivan Quay, J.G. won a scholarship to secondary schooling. Nurturing a priestly vocation, he wanted to join the Society of African Missions (SMA), but a cousin drew his attention to an advert for a scholarship to the diocesan seminary of St Finbarr’s, Farranferris, which he duly won. There he won two University College Cork scholarships which persuaded Bishop Daniel Cohalan to allocate him a free place to the national seminary of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. 
At age 17, he entered Maynooth in September 1941, where he acquired a BA in ancient classics, followed by a Bachelor of Divinity in 1947, and was ordained in June 1948. Halfway through his course, when he realised he wanted to join the SMA’s. the elderly Cohalan wrote ‘a very kind letter’ telling him to stay on in Maynooth. ‘However, when we met on the day of ordination, he mused aloud as to what degree I should do, and eventually murmured, “Go away and do theology”.’
Two years of ‘pleasant and not too stressful’ post-graduate study at Dunboyne House resulted in a Doctorate in Divinity in June 1950 and an appointment to teach at the Vincentian-run All Hallows College in Dublin’s leafy Drumcondra. Fr Jim became such a popular ‘guest’ Vincentian that when his three- year secondment was up, they applied to the new Bishop – Lucey -  for another five years. Lucey agreed but changed plans and ordered Good to take philosophy at Innsbruck University, Austria, where he himself had studied in the 1930s.
On the day Dr Jim sailed to Fishguard on the Inisfallen mailboat, he received word that his mother had died suddenly. He rushed home. ‘This put a bit of a damper on my year in Innsbruck,’ he recalled. Another difficulty was that for the first time classes were conducted in German, not Latin. Nonetheless, he enjoyed Innsbruck, where he was exposed to the nouvelle théologie being taught by scholars like Karl Rahner SJ.        
By June 1954, he submitted his PhD thesis, titled, Ireland and the Servile State (an essay in Social PhiIosophy), relating Hilaire Belloc’s middle way between capitalism and communism, based on distributism, to Dr Noel Browne's episcopally condemned 1950-51 Mother and Child Scheme in Ireland. Aware that Fr Jim had done excellent work in a year rather than the normal three, the examiners also tested him orally on the philosophical writings of George Berkeley, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cloyne, which he knew. On his return to Cork with an Innsbruck PhD, he was appointed to UCC’s new post of Lecturer in General Philosophy, the brainchild of Dr Alfred O’Rahilly to make philosophy available to lay people. It was also designed by Lucey to end the hegemony of the Capuchins over metaphysics at UCC. 

Recalled Fr Good: ‘I got a letter from Bishop Lucey giving me several different posts in the diocese, including what was in effect a full-time post – the running of St Anne’s Adoption Society. I also was chaplain to Greenmount Industrial School and assistant editor of the diocesan magazine, The Fold, and a judge in the diocesan matrimonial tribunal, in addition to pastoral duties in Lough Parish.’ 

Another post followed. In 1970 UCC offered a Higher Diploma in Education in Limerick’s Mary Immaculate College and in collaboration with the college president, Sr. Loreto O’Connor and the Department of Education, he was appointed Director. ‘I moved to Limerick in September 1970, still holding my UCC posts and commuting to Cork to lecture in Medical Ethics to medical students (still another addition to my work).’

The Redemptorists invited him to live in their house in Limerick. ‘I was given accommodation in a luxury corridor and was treated as a member of the community. These years (1970-5) were among the happiest of my life. It was only when other non-Redemptorists joined me that I realised that this was a project to ‘protect’ and care for would-be trouble-makers. I promptly named our quarters ‘the Psychiatric Corridor”.’ One of ‘the Reds’ was a young Tony Flannery.

This idyllic period ended in 1975, seven years after Humanae Vitae, when Good told Lucey he was off to Kenya. Then, to his surprise, when Lucey retired, he joined him in Turkana. On a ‘Fr Ted’ occasion, Good ‘panicked’ when during a Mass in Lorogumu six bare-breasted ladies danced to the altar. To Good’s surprise, rather than reacting censoriously to this liturgy a la Turkana Lucey described them as ‘very beautiful’.
Although the two Corkonians never shared a cross word, Jim was irritated by a persistent misconception of his being unforgiving of Lucey. Indeed, in his last newspaper interview, he spoke of how in the desert heat they worked harmoniously4. Patsy McGarry, Humanae Vitae and the suspension of priest opposed to it, Irish Times, January 22, 2018.  
Detecting in 1982 that Lucey was dying of leukemia, the caring Good brought him home to Cork to die peacefully in the Bons Secours Hospital. As Fr Jim’s own days were closing, he wrote: ‘I thank God for having had what was probably the most varied life a priest could have’. Indeed, his archive which includes correspondence from the 1970s onwards with Catholic activist Stephanie Walsh and theologian Hans Kung, shows he was not a troublemaker by temperament. In his fidelity to daily Mass and devotion to Our Lady, he was in the pious mould of a Jean Vianney, the Curé D’Ars. According to Irish philosopher, Dr Patrick Masterson, ‘James was a latter day St Vincent de Paul whose motto was “Evangelizare pauperibus misit me”.’  5. Paddy Masterson to John Cooney, April 26, 2018.
Revealingly, Fr Good descried himself as ‘a gadfly’ in an address to the Sisters of Mercy at their chapter in Cork, telling them that it was only very slowly dawning on Catholic consciousness that the text from the gospel of St Matthew – ‘Going therefore teach all nations’ – had no direct reference whatever to teaching secular subjects in schools. 
            Unfortunately, much of our theology of education has been built on 
            the assumption that this text from St Matthew justifies our position in
             the schools as it stands today. It is equally unfortunate that this official
            position is taken up in the last great encyclical on Christian education, 
            the encyclical Divini Illius Magistri, par. 17. We have to look elsewhere
             for a theological vindication of the Church’s position in the schools if we
            are still convinced that it is a defensible position.  6. James Good, The Role of the Religious Sisters Today, Supplement to Doctrine and Life, July-August 1973.
After his return to Cork in 1999, Fr Good assisted in Douglas and celebrated Mass at weekends in two nursing homes. He received an honorary doctorate from UCC, and in recent years published books with Lettertec Ireland Ltd / Selfpublishbooks, Ten Birthdays, A Story of the Turkana DesertThe Editor Regrets and Mary, Mother of God.
At his Requiem Mass Monsignor Kevin O’Callaghan said Fr Good, the oldest priest in the diocese, spent his final days being ably assisted by the youngest priest in the diocese, Fr Ben Hodnett; Bishop John Buckley said Fr Good had performed ‘great service to Christ and his church’ and suffered ‘hardship’ and ‘separation’ from loved ones during his time in Africa, while former Bishop of Lodwar, Patrick Harrington SMA, told mourners Fr Good wrote to him a few years ago about his relationship with Bishop Lucey: ‘We never had a problem while we were together except when I had to avoid the words “Connie dodgers”, the large biscuits that Cork bakers made so that those on the Lenten fast could stave off the pangs of hunger while staying within the letter of the law. Fasters were allowed a biscuit or two in the morning during fast and the big biscuit was a way of harmlessly breaking the rules.’

Emeritus Professor John Hayes first got to know James Good in 1975 when he took over from him as lecturer in Philosophy at Mary Immaculate College,and kept in touch even though he soon departed for Turkana. ‘In the book I edited, The Selected Writings of Maurice O’Connor Drury (Bloomsbury, 2017),’ says Dr Hayes, “I relate his memories of philosophy lectures in Maynooth given by Rev. Professor Peter Coffey, a student of Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier, whose two volume, 831-page, textbook, The Science of Logic (1912) was reviewed—his first publication— by Ludwig Wittgenstein under the title ‘On Logic and How Not to Do It’. James Good later was to write a newspaper article entitled: “They never told us about Wittgenstein”. 7. John Hayes to John Cooney, April 20, 2018. 
‘In recent years’, Dr Hayes continued, ‘the man I had come to call “Jim” and I engaged in a research exchange when I was preparing articles on C.S. Lewis (for the Irish University Review, Summer 2009) and on the famous illustration ‘The Last General Absolution of the Munsters’ for the North Munster Antiquarian Journal (2015). The connecting link between these two subjects was Mrs. Jessie Louisa Rickard, a popular novelist from my home town of Mitchelstown, Co. Cork.  The death of her brother, Paddy Moore--an intimate friend of Lewis’s--in World War I profoundly affected the life of Lewis because he shouldered post-bellum fraternal responsibilities for the dead fellow soldier’s mother and daughter.  Mrs. Rickard  was,  moreover, wife of the regiment’s commanding officer pictured on horseback in the Fortunino image, alongside Fr. Francis Gleeson, also on horseback. Towards the end of her life Mrs. Rickard came to live in Cork and in 1948 after suffering stroke moved into the Montenotte home of Denis Rolleston Gwynn, Research Professor in the History Department of UCC; they were long-time friends.  Fr. Good was asked to visit her there and administer the Blessed Sacrament and so he came to know her; she had a fascinating life in London in the 1920’s and 30’s, where her closest friend, Lady Hazel Lavery was fellow-convert (at the hands of the Vincentian, Fr. Joseph Leonard.  After her death in 1963, Gwynn donated a portrait of Mrs. Rickard to the Dublin City Gallery.’
   
Stephanie Walsh’s friendship with James Good goes back to 1963-4 when she was a student in UCC. ‘As a member of Pax Romana we invited him to give series of evening lectures on Vatican Two; he was marvellous with students returning week after week to listen to informed, entertaining opinions on contemporary trends in moral theology - especially concerning contraception. 
‘In 1964-5 he was Professor of Education when I was doing my Higher Diploma: again he was inspirational among banal lecturers.’ 
Stephanie did not meet him again until she and her husband, the renowned Dr Ed Walsh, returned from the US in 1970. ‘As I knew no one in Limerick, I was delighted to spot JG at a reception. So I immediately went to talk to him. He took me aside to say “It’ll do you no good to be seen talking to me here.”
‘Then he placed “an unmarried mother” with us: she was in year behind me at UCC. He came to visit us at our house in Castletroy where I came to know him better. 
When he left in 1975 for Kenya I began to write to him and he was a great correspondent. He took an active interest in research I was doing for a Master’s in Education on Sexuality giving me references, encouragement and ideas while he was out in Turkana.’ 8. Stephanie Walsh to John Cooney, April 24, 2018). 
When I became Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times in October 1972, Fr Good became a valued source for news-stories and comment. In regard to a series on ‘Theology in the Universities’, he sent me an article he had written on ‘Theology at UCC’: ‘The experiment in Cork is not very well known,” he wrote. ‘And perhaps the only relic of it visible nowadays in the College Calendar is the heading: “Theology – Professor…. Vacant”. Nor will it be filled!.’ 9. James Good to John Cooney, From Mount St. Alphonsus, Limerick, March 5, 1975.  
At a lunch in Dublin’s Wynn’s Hotel, in summer 1975, Jim told me of his pending departure to Turkana. I felt saddened by the voluntary exile of another liberal voice in the Irish Church in a year which saw ecclesiastical disciplining of Fr Desmond Wilson in Belfast by Bishop William Philbin and of Fr Frank Purcell by the Columbans. Within a year, Brussels became my Turkana.  
   
·         John Cooney is an Emeritus Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times and Irish Independent. This articile appears in the May-June issue of Doctrine and Life, the theological journal of the Irish Dominicans. 

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