Priest says demand for secular schools is low
Catholic parishes ‘have no intention of handing over their local school to anyone’
Fr Brendan Hoban. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
The vast majority of parents want the present system of school patronage retained, according to Fr Brendan Hoban, a founder member of the Association of Catholic Priests.
The real demand is not for secular schools but for school places, he said, and “providing adequate places is the responsibility, not of the Catholic Church, but of the State”.
It was a “fatal presumption that the Archbishop of Dublin (or any other bishop or collection of bishops) could deliver the divesting programme by, say, issuing an edict from Maynooth”, he said.
“Only Catholic parents can make that decision,” he said.
Fr Hoban said the experience from parishes was that after spending money buying sites, building schools and fundraising to develop facilities, parishes had “no intention of handing over their local school to anyone”.
He also said the presumption there was huge demand for a secular school system was not correct.
Surveys conducted by the Department of Education indicated that “support for secular schools ran at between 1 per cent in rural and 8 per cent in urban areas”.
Atheist Ireland should “build their own schools, propose their own curriculum, fundraise and all the rest of it”, he said.
“The presumption in media circles is that the only impediment to resolving the situation is for the very bold Catholic Church to do the bidding of atheist Ireland and those who imagine Irish parents are waiting with bated breath for a religion-less, spirituality-neutral system of education.”
There was as much chance of that as his local Moygownagh GAA “giving their football field to Cricket Ireland”, he said.