Bishops and patronage of schools


Sir, – Jonathan Tiernan, in his article on an approach for the Catholic hierarchy on the issue of patronage of primary schools, makes sense (“Catholic education needs radical change”, Opinion & Analysis, July 30th). It is nonsense for the bishops to insist on patronage over and Catholic identity for schools that to a very large degree has become nominal.

Such is evident in the absence of religious practice on the part of many of the faculty expected to teach religion as well as the non-attendance at church by so many of the families whose children attend the schools. A priest accurately commented a few months ago about most children rarely entering a church from the day of their first communion until they make their confirmation. Statistics suggest that increasing amounts of those children, when matured, will not have a church wedding.

The hierarchy should surrender authority over most of the schools, while retaining control of some and/or constructing a number of new schools, which would have a distinct Catholic character manifest in the curriculum and in the faculty. The appropriate financial compensation that should be given for the surrender of patronage could contribute toward the costs of new schools. Naturally tuition would be expected from those the parents able to afford such. In turn, those parents should obtain State assistance comparable to the State contribution to the cost of education a child in what would now have become non-sectarian national schools.

Naturally this type of arrangement should apply to schools of other religious denominations.

Such seems entirely appropriate in an Ireland that boasts of its pluralism. – Yours, etc,


Professor Emeritus

of History,

Fordham University,

New York.