Catholic Church will 'not easily surrender' its role in education


THE CATHOLIC Church will not “easily surrender its long-established role in education”, retired Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Dublin Gordon Linney has said.

And while he agreed reform in education was needed, it should not be “on terms dictated by a secular agenda represented to be inclusive when it is not”.

He accused the Department of Education of taking “revenge” on his church by cutting back on funding for Protestant schools and contrasted this with the generous 2002 indemnity deal the department concluded with 18 Catholic religious congregations which ran institutions for children investigated by the Ryan commission.

He also said that since publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports last year “Church of Ireland clergy have been abused on the streets of Dublin”.

Writing in the latest issue of the Church of Ireland periodical Catalysthe said that, prompted by the Ryan and Murphy reports, some now advocated “a takeover by the State of church schools and the creation of a one-model-fits-all secular system”.

He pointed out “those who advocate more State control, however, ignore the fact that the State was heavily implicated in the cover-up of [child] abuse although the politicians are skilfully avoiding scrutiny of their role”.

The problem, however, “was not church control or church-owned schools but a shortage of school places which arose from the failure of the State to plan for the future especially in developing areas around our towns and cities”, he said.

Any proposals to alter current educational structures raises concerns for minority churches and other faith communities about how and if they are to be provided for into the future. “There is a real danger that we could end up with a secular State system on the one hand – probably underfunded – and a Catholic system on the other with little in between for minorities,” he said.

“Experience teaches that this country still has a problem respecting the rich diversity and interests of its entire people,” he said. “People generally don’t realise how overbearing the characterisation of Ireland as a Catholic country is for those of a different tradition. Minorities must remain alert to ensure that their identity, their culture and values are not neglected or forgotten.”

He recalled that in the budget of October 2008 the Government “singled out the Protestant secondary schools for severe financial cuts” and the withdrawal of other vital educational supports without warning and with immediate effect.

“It was seen by many Protestants as revenge by the Department of Education for a High Court action taken against them by the schools some time earlier,” he said.

He contrasted the cutbacks with concern the department had shown 18 Catholic religious congregations which ran institutions investigated by the Ryan commission and with which it concluded the controversial 2002 indemnity deal that also helped protect the congregations from risk arising from child abuse claims.

“The initial saving to the State of the budget cutbacks to the Protestant schools was less than €3 million. The cost of the bailout for the Roman Catholic orders is already well in excess of €1 billion and likely to rise.”

He said it gave rise to questions about the extent to which the political establishment and State agencies sustain the “special position” of the Catholic Church once enshrined in the Constitution.

The credibility of all churches had “been damaged and the integrity of clergy and religious brought into question” by the Ryan and Murphy reports, he said, while “some Church of Ireland clergy have been abused on the streets of Dublin”.