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So the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said "it is no longer tenable" for the Catholic Church to manage 92% of all primary schools. What a revelation! And it’s taken the Church until now to work that out?

Dr Martin, of course, is furiously back-peddling, squirming to try and salvage some form of "face" in the wake of the damning Ryan Report into what it described as "endemic" child abuse by clerical institutions in Ireland, and the public backlash that has ensued both here and abroad. But there’s no face to be saved… the Church’s reputation is in tatters. Any parent worth their salt will tell you that its involvement in even 1% of our primary schools should be more than "untenable"… it should be absolutely criminal!

Those are emotive words because, quite frankly, when it comes to the safety and security of my children I am emotional!

It fills me with palpable dread and seething anger that the church has any involvement in my daughters’ education. There’s no viable reason for it. It’s a throwback to a bygone era, a time when the Irish State, by all accounts, abdicated its responsibility to educate children, and the Church stepped into the breach to consolidate its power base and spread its cloying influence over Ireland’s youth.

But that time is long gone; it’s time for the Government to step in, stand up to the church and take it’s responsibility to protect and educate our children seriously.

The horrific levels of systemic abuse, neglect and persecution of children revealed by the Ryan Report are compounded by the weasel words of the Church hierarchy — senior clergy like the "Most Reverend" Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, who asks us to acknowledge the "courage" of clergymen being forced to revisit an unpalatable past, and his warnings that the revelations of the Ryan Report "overshadow" all the good they also did. Of course they do… and rightly so. Because no amount of good can possibly atone for the evil those people did — or for the systematic cover-up by the institution that chose to protect them… and protects them still!

A few weeks ago I went to vote at a nearby primary school for the local and European elections. It was a perfectly ordinary primary school, everything as you’d expect, until you realised that the neatly trimmed archway cut into the privet hedge at the end of the playground led directly to the parochial house next door. Direct access from priest to playground, playground to priest… it turned my stomach!

I’m not saying that anything untoward happened there… there’s no way for me to know… but you have to ask why. I’m also not suggesting that all priests should be tarred with the same brush… far from it… many priests do sterling work in local communities, and go out of their way to help disadvantaged people around the corner and around the globe. I applaud their efforts.

What I am saying, however, is that any organisation with a track record of harbouring paedophiles and shielding them from prosecution should be summarily disqualify from involvement in any form of childcare in perpetuity.

The Catholic Church should be forced to release it’s insidious, unhealthy grip on our nation’s children. I’m not talking about reducing it’s involvement from the current 92% of schools to Dr. Martin’s suggested level of 87% to reflect the Catholic proportion of the Irish population. I’m talking about completely divorcing the association between education and the Church… full stop!

Our children are the most innocent and vulnerable sector of our society; we have a duty of care to  protect them from predatory monsters — whether those monsters wear robes or not.

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  2 Responses to “Time to decouple school and religion”

  1. As a priest, a religious and someone involved in education I too share horror at what has happened to people in Catholic institutional care in Ireland and the emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children by clergy, religious and laity. It is sickening and there’s more to come with the Dublin Diocesan report. The safety of children must be a priority but taking the schools off the Church (if its even possible) is not a solution. Firstly the system goes back to the 19th Century and the British Gov’s plan to educate all the children of the UK and Ireland. The cheapest and easiest way was using the established parish systems. The cost was and is shared by the local Church and the State. The Irish Gov inherited and maintained the system because it works very well. Today the people have rights to representation on Boards of Management and have more hands on say in the education of their children than many people do around the world. While most Parish priests would be only too glad to be rid of the onerous job of School Manager the State cannot afford to both compensate the Parishes for the loss of their property (usually the land the school stands belongs to the Parish) and then pay a School Manager. The State would also have to come up with the full cost of running every school. There’d be some cutbacks to meet that bill. If the State were to take total control then the control of the schools would move away from the local area to faceless bureaucrats in the Dept. Take it from someone who works in education we don’t want that.
    As regards your remarks about priests. I too get angry at the abusers. But most priests, the vast majority are not abusers. The majority of abusers are not priests, nor are they religious. They may use religion as a screen but that is less effective today. Child protection must apply everywhere and there have been more than enough scandals involving child abuse in state run, secular institutions.
    There are those who are using these scandals to push their own agendas, those who want to engage in social engineering or want to get rid of religion or Christianity or just Catholicism. We must not allow our hurt and anger at what has been done and how it has been mishandled to blind us to the other dangers out there. It would be tragic if we were to try to protect children from one evil or groups of evil-doers only to expose them to another.

  2. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for commenting… and apologies for my tardiness in replying.

    I appreciate all of the points you make, but for my money, and my perception is that it’s a view shared by lots of people out there, particularly parents, it’s time to change things.

    The fact that things have been done a certain way for a long time, regardless of the historical merit of the original decision, isn’t a valid reason for continuing with what is ultimately a flawed model.

    Again, I reiterate that I’m not anti-Church, or any religion. But I do vehemently believe that any organisation, religious or no, that has failed to protect children from the predatory monsters within its ranks — worse, has harboured and protected those monsters, compounding and spreading the horror of abuse — should be absolutely disqualified from any involvement in our children’s education.

    Yes there are difficulties surrounding the ownership of property, and the cost of school management, but there are solutions. The truth is that the Church has been shielded by its status. Had the horrors exposed and the subsequent cover-up been perpetrated in any private or public sector organisation you can bet your life that the authorities would have stepped in long ago.

    Yes there are other dangers out there… as you point out… but I don’t subscribe to the notion that “better the devil you know” applies when it comes to our children’s safety. I don’t have any hidden agenda here… no raging campaign against Church or religion, no desire for social engineering. I’m just a parent, concerned for the safety of my children… and I’m not alone.

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