Archbishop defends right of schools to put Catholics first in queue
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has defended Catholic schools' right to prioritise children who are baptised.
The Archbishop, who is patron of 470 primary schools in the archdiocese of Dublin, said: "In Catholic schools, they obviously prioritise people who are Catholic."
He was responding to a parent's claim at the weekend that her four-year-old son had been denied a place in several primary schools in south Dublin because he was not baptised.
Dr Martin suggested the real problem was "a lack of places" which was also an issue for the non-denominational Educate Together in some areas.
And he said a problem for Catholic schools was that "the vast majority of them" had a reputation for being a good educator and so "everybody wants to go there" leading to oversubscription.
He said that the process of divesting "to guarantee a plurality of patronage in education" is "too slow".
However, he said: "It is not fair to blame the Church."
Instead the Church leader pointed to the opposition within communities where schools are selected for divestment, as well as from local politicians.
"Communities don't want change, teachers don't want change, and even in some cases local politicians, who belong to parties who are committed to divesting, create obstacles locally," he said.
Dr Martin also warned that if there is no "real plurality" where people can exercise choice with regard to the school they send their child to, then Catholic schools risked losing their identity.
"I think communities have to make up their minds," he said.
He was speaking to the Irish Independent in Artane, after concelebrating the opening Mass of a special novena in the Dublin parish of St John Vianney, who is a patron of the priesthood.
The Archbishop was unenthusiastic when asked if he would be supporting Bishop Leo O'Reilly's proposal for a married clergy.
The Bishop of Kilmore has said he will bring the proposal to the table in the autumn for discussion with the Irish bishops as a possible way of off-setting the decline in priest numbers.
However, Dr Martin said that married priests "isn't a magic solution to the problem" and that the Anglican Church, which has a married clergy, still had "some difficulties".
"I think the important thing is that we find priests who are very committed and dedicated.
"We are very fortunate to have that with our priests - they are facing greater challenges. People have to pray for their priests and for more priests."