Church must give up control of schools, says Archbishop of Dublin

‘We need a church which can respond more effectively to change,’ says Diarmuid Martin

The Catholic Church must free itself from control of schools and other institutions, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has said.

“The church is slow to change. Inertia may seem to mean that things can go on as they were and are; but the opposite is the case,” he said.

At a Mass in Dublin yesterday marking 150 years of the Catholic Institute for Deaf People, he said: “We need a church which can respond more effectively to change.

“I spoke some time ago of a ‘reality check’; I could also have said ‘a wake-up call’. Times have changed in Irish society and the church must change.”


He continued: “The church must change not to go along with society and neither to opt out of society but to find the best space possible to be free and unencumbered to bring the challenging message of Jesus Christ to society.

“The church must free itself and become unencumbered even from positions which may in the past have been positive and useful to both church and society, including in the control of schools and institutions.”

Weight of inertia

The church was slow to change. “Inertia may seem to mean that things can go on as they were and are; but the opposite is the case. The message of Jesus is always a wake-up call, and wakening up – at least for someone like me who is not an early-morning person – is always uncomfortable,” he said.

When the church “becomes trapped into a logic of looking after its own privilege and power first, then a situation arises very quickly in which nothing else counts,” he said.

“Jesus says of the scribes that they were even prepared to ‘swallow up the property of the widows’ to achieve their own satisfaction and we know that in biblical terms widows and orphans represent the marginalised of any kind.”

Archbishop Martin noted that “Jesus is reminding his hearers – and indeed reminding us many generations later – that the temptation to hypocrisy and disregard for others is in fact a temptation which is recurrent in history, a temptation which can continuously repeat itself.”

In a reference to the abuse of deaf children, he said: “When we reflect on the history of this institute, we have to remember that that history was marked over the years also by dark moments in which the cry of children was not heard, betraying the message of Jesus.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times