Thursday 8 December 2016

Time to end the Catholic monopoly on our children's schools

Ruairi Quinn

Published 06/08/2015 | 02:30

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin called a forum to help his diocese and others to divest some of their schools to other patron bodies
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin called a forum to help his diocese and others to divest some of their schools to other patron bodies

If the Catholic Church was a commercial company operating in the Irish economy, the Competition Authority would order it to divest itself of at least half of its urban schools.

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The church, of course, is not operating in the economic sphere but it does have a near monopoly in primary education in Ireland. In a few weeks' time, many parents will be bringing their four and five year olds to start their educational journey in the local Catholic primary school. Many will do so with pleasure and pride, but some, a growing number, will do so with a slightly heavy heart.

They are the parents who reluctantly had their children baptised as Catholics, even though neither parent are any longer Catholics themselves and do not intend to raise their children in the faith within which they may have grown up. Why so? Well the reason is fairly simple. Ninety per cent of the 3,200 primary schools in the State are under the patronage of the Catholic Church. In many cases, the church also owns the building as well. There are today three kinds of Catholics: Catholics by conviction, Catholics by culture and Catholics by compulsion. But even this delineation is beginning to be overtaken by those young parents who are refusing to solemnly proclaim that they are something which they are not.

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