Church happy to debate role of Catholic schools, says Brady


THE CATHOLIC Church is willing to be an enthusiastic and constructive partner in the debate about future educational provision, Cardinal Seán Brady said yesterday.

The church, he said, was not interested in retaining schools simply for the sake of having them.

“The belief that the Catholic Church wants to manage as many schools as it can, irrespective of parental demands, is unfounded.”

Department of Education officials are assessing 10 areas where changes to patronage may be warranted. On Thursday, Minister for Education Mary Coughlan said it may be necessary to identify some further areas if some of the initial 10 locations appear unsuitable.

The department hopes to complete the assessment within the next month and forward the list to the Catholic authorities for their consideration.

Dr Brady said the church recognises how changing patterns in religious practice “make it necessary to look at relinquishing ownership of some Catholic schools. Therefore, it will be necessary to look at new models of shared provision in some cases and, in other cases, to consider how existing Catholic schools can accommodate diversity more effectively.”

What’s needed, he said, is a constructive dialogue based on a realistic assessment of needs and resources.

Dr Brady said Catholic schools had a vital part to play in national recovery. They are, he said, a critical part of a society in search of a new realism and balance between the excesses of the Celtic Tiger on the one hand and a historic memory of poverty on the other.

He also lamented the lack of significant and ongoing dialogue between the churches and the main political parties about issues of common concern or interest.

Cardinal Brady was speaking at a conference on Catholic Schools in Loughboy, Co Kilkenny.

Addressing the media before the conference, which continues today, Cardinal Brady rejected suggestions there was “a split” within the hierarchy over the future of Catholic schools in the country.

Questioned about recent claims by the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin that the church was over-represented in primary education, Cardinal Brady said: “I wouldn’t say there’s a split but maybe in different parts of the country there are more parents who wouldn’t be keen on Catholic managed schools.

“In other areas they’re quite keen and I wouldn’t like to go out to too many parishes to tell them we’re going to close their Catholic schools.”

Last night was as one of the Cardinal’s first public appearances since he collapsed during a confirmation ceremony in Co Tyrone last month. Speaking on his health, Cardinal Brady said he was feeling “not bad at all, getting back to myself”.