Cardinal defends 'right' to be in schools
CARDINAL Sean Brady yesterday dismissed claims that the Catholic Church had no right to be involved in public schools as "a red herring and blatantly unjust".
He said it would be wrong to dismiss the "superb work" of so many people involved in Catholic education "because of the terrible failings of some priests and bishops".
The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland staked the church's claim to a continuing role in Irish education in the wake of the damning Ryan and Murphy reports on clerical child sex abuse.
And he insisted Catholic schools "should not apologise for who we are" and that in an increasingly diverse culture their future lay in becoming more authentically Catholic.
Cardinal Brady was speaking at the launch of Catholic Schools' Week, which saw the inauguration of a new religious umbrella group, encompassing the bishops' and religious congregations, the Catholic Schools Partnership, to guide Catholic education into the future.
He said the findings in the clerical abuse reports were a stark reminder to the bishops and the religious congregations of the depth of anger and disillusionment caused by mismanagement of some church leaders.
But any lack of confidence in school patrons would be more appropriately addressed through stronger State systems of inspection and accountability, he said, rather than "by dismissing the rights of parents to a faith-based education".
Cardinal Brady pointed to a recent poll suggesting that a majority of the public wanted the Catholic Church to give up its role in the management of primary schools but said there was no clear indication as to their preferred alternative.
It was suggested that a key factor in the result was the anger with bishops and religious orders over the findings of the Ryan and Murphy reports, "but what then of the implications of the less publicised but very significant criticisms of State-run organisations in the same reports?" Cardinal Brady asked.
Defending the right to publicly-funded Catholic schools, Cardinal Brady said it was important to point out that Catholic parents were taxpayers.
"It would be helpful if the idea that the Church has no right to be involved in schools which are paid for out of public funds was acknowledged as a red herring and blatantly unjust."
He added there was "no such thing as a value-free school".
Parents' representatives last night said they should have the right to choose the ethos of children's school, including those who want a Catholic education.
National Parents Council Primary chief executive Aine Lynch said it was concerned that some parents did not have a right to so choose because more than 90pc of primary schools were Catholic, although they accommodated children from other beliefs.
Brady promises to meet abuse victims before Pope synod: Page 18