Yet again, the Catholic Church is desperately trying to hold on to the idea that they should have ultimate control over primary schools. The vast majority of primary schools in Ireland are privately owned by the Church. In practice, the Bishop of the diocese is 'patron' or owner of the school, and normally appoints the parish priest to be on the board.
Cardinal Sean Brady has made another statement expressing his concern for the future of our schools, saying, "Children ... have a right to know God. They too have a right to receive the truth and life which God offers them in the Sacred Scriptures, in the sacraments and in prayer".
Maybe they do have that right, but in this day and age, no one from the Catholic Church should be on any board of a primary school. Religion and faith should be a subject that is taught alongside mathematics and geography. A subject that can be learned, discussed, argued and if one wants -- dismissed.
By being chairman of the board, the parish priest has the right to change or dismiss the rest of the board if they so choose, because they OWN the school.
What if someone on the board wanted to employ an openly gay teacher? What if the school wanted to promote safe sex with condoms or other forms of contraception? Would the chairman be happy to go along with that?
What if the school wanted to deal with bullying of young gay people in the school yard? How would Father Chairperson react to that?
What if the school wanted to give atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism equal credence alongside Catholicism?
Basically, primary schools are governed by the people who have shown in recent years that, really and truly, they should take a step back from being in charge and hand it over to the people.
The Church has no place in running public schools -- they restrict openness, discovery, questioning, and debate. They demand an undying allegiance to their truth.
Pope Benedict has called homosexuality evil, he refers to it as a "disorder". In 2004, he wrote a Vatican document urging women to cultivate "feminine values" such as "listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting".
What sort of an ethos is that to bring into our schools? If I had a daughter, and wanted to teach her life's important values, why on earth would I send her to a school that is owned by a church that wants her to "wait"? Wait for what? Wants her to "listen"? Listen to what? I would want my daughter to cultivate values like speaking out, fighting for her rights and those of others who are deemed "evil" when truly they are not.
I would want her to shout from the hilltops about injustice and poverty.
And I would challenge her to challenge any man or woman who said she should not.
Catholic faith is important to people -- it is supportive, consoling, enlightening, invigorating. It gives people purpose, and makes them happy.
But in 2010, it has a place in people's hearts, in people's churches, but it should not have a place on the board of primary schools.
Cardinal Sean Brady is aware that the support for him and the boards of primary schools being run by the Church, is waning.
If they have learned anything, they will know that they cannot be stubborn, dismissive or deaf to the voices of the public -- a public who says that it is time to get out.