Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The last Word

Despite my own and Fr. Seán's criticism of his theology, Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, SVD, Editor in Chief, has captured the essence of the WORD magazine in his valedictory summing up of this very worthy publication. According to Fr Twomey, the Word was the largest selling magazine of any kind in the early 70s:
“It was a time when Ireland was a different place. The magazine wasn’t just religious, it was of general interest. At that time there were no glossy magazines or papers. People didn’t travel. The Word provided glimpses of mysterious cities like Prague, Vilnius and Riga and this was a breath of fresh air."
The sad announcement of its demise appeared on the magazine's website in early December last.

When I was growing up this was the best magazine in the world. It's production standards were outstanding in its day and have held up very well since. The content was first class with contributions from many of the world's top writers and photographs from the world's top photographers.

This was no mere religious magazine. It was a first class magazine in its own right despite coming out of a religious stable.

The final edition, or the last WORD, so to speak, is currently on sale (at €1.50!) and will hopefully become a collector's item in time (and, no, I haven't bought them all up, yet!). It is packed with a selection of some of the best items from years past and gives a very good idea of the broad range and quality of the content of the magazine.

On the literary front there is an interview with Brian Friel (1970), articles by Mícheál MacLiammóir (1970), Graham Greene (1974), and Paddy Kavanagh (1962). Bro. Hurley has a piece (1991) on "Famous Last Words", where he observes that "dying words tend to live on. But their standard seems to be declining, maybe because more people now die in hospitals - and outside visiting hours". There are pieces on: social and cultural affairs, at home and abroad; archeology; moral issues (euthanasia); lifestyle (Cardinal Suenens on the need to relax!); medical matters (NAPRO or Billings 2); biography (Thomas à Beckett & Agatha Christie); and, the next life (Fr Twomey on Purgatory - he attempts to extricate himself from the literal fire but does little to solve the temporal aspects and the role of prayer and indulgences).

Fr Twomey has a long editorial in the final issue. He is now going to write for the magazine Inside the Vatican. That magazine claims, inter alia, to introduce you to "movers and shakers of ecclesiastical policy". A flavour of the writing in the magazine can be got from the owner/editor in chief's review (PDF) of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ.

Best, perhaps, to finish with parting thoughts from Bro. Paul Hurley, SVD, who founded the modern version of the magazine in 1952 and edited it for 40 years.

"Yes, there’s a time for everything. Now it’s time to thank all our readers and, especially, our most generous and loyal promoters, our contributors and all those who helped us in various ways. And, sadly, it’s also time to say goodbye."


[Note: 20/6/2014 - on revisiting this post I see that links to The Word site no longer work.]


Benny the Bridgebuilder said...

I see from today's Irish Times that Fr. Twomey has refused to take part in a debate on adoption by homosexual couples at the UCC Philosophical Society on next Monday 26/1/08.

Fr. Twomey bases his refusal on the contention that the debate would be "an exercise in propaganda with no concern for the truth". In support of this he refers to the Society's hosting of a debate on stem cell research, at which Dame Mary Warnock spoke (24 Nov 2008). Dame Warnock has recently become a patron of the society.

Fr. Twomey is quoted as saying: “Just as I am not prepared to be associated with any debating society that would embrace Nazi or Marxist ideology, so too I am not prepared to be associated with a philosophical society that supports the killing of children even for the most noble of motives.”

This seems a bit extreme on his part in relation to a debating society whose objective is to put both sides of any case. While the stem cell debate led to the house supporting such research there have been other recent votes which might have been more to Fr. Twomey's liking. For example, the house came down against legalising assisted dying (6 Oct 2008). The house also came down in favour of a motion "That this house believes the Catholic Church is a Cult with Great PR" (17 Nov 2008). While the precise wording might not have suited Fr. Twomey, I would have thought that the conclusion was flattering to the RC Church in the light of what is going on at the moment on the child abuse front.

Fr. Twomey's objection seems to go beyond the Philosophical Society. UCC has itself recently voted in favour of undertaking stem cell research. The College is the first third level instution in the country to have done so and the decision was carried in the Board of Governors by one vote in an open ballot.

It will be interesting to see who, of Fr. Towmey's undoubted theological and philosophical standing, is found to take his place and have the courage to put the RC Church's case at this debate.

Anonymous said...

Benny, I'm curious, did anyone take Fr. Twomey's place in the debate? Karen

Benny the Bridgebuilder said...


I don't know. UCC Philosoph are not technologically advanced enough to follow up on this on their site. I will keep an eye out and post a comment when I figure out what eventually happened.


Benny the Bridgebuilder said...

I see Fr. Twomey is also taking to the Irish Times to express his views in defence of his former professor.

I wonder if he ever considered how much more powerful would be the appeal of the pope's argument for "A" and "B" if he had not so foolishly endorsed the ban on "C".


Benny the Bridgebuilder said...

Sorry. In my enthusiasm in posting the previous comment I forgot to include the link to Fr. Twomey's apologia.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Benny the Bridgebuilder said...

I have deleted the previous comment as it was an anonymous personal attack on Fr. Joseph Ryan. I have not mentioned Fr. Joseph Ryan in the above post or in the comments, so I am at a loss to see why this attack on him was posted here.

I have no intention of allowing this blog to be used for personal attacks on people, unless I am the one making them, in which case I will take full responsibility for my own actions. I will not allow myself to be used as a messenger boy by anonymous detractors.

Benny the Bridgebuilder said...


I have followed up with the UCC Philosophical Society who tell me the records and minutes are posted on a voluntary basis and I will just have to keep an eye on the Wiki.

I have checked again today and there is still no sign of the minutes, almost a year later. Doesn't say much for the Philosoph.

I give up. Here is the reference to the Wiki maintained on a voluntary basis by the Philsoph. Perhaps in the course of the current millennium ... !

Karen - Nihil Obstat said...

Hi Benny, your memory is amazing! Thank you for trying. Here's a question for you - I have been trying to get hold of Cardinal Suenens remarks on stress and leisure. It would be great to be able to use them in a post I'm planning about Christmas. Do you know where I might find them? I wrote to his office and never heard back. I haven't had luck on the web. Thank you for any help you can give me. If not - well, thank you for your thoughts and friendship. Warm regards. Karen

Benny the Bridgebuilder said...


Re your query on Cardinal Suenens: emailed you at your curial addy :)