Church and State and schools


Sir, – Patsy McGarry clearly sympathises with the sentiments expressed by the Catholic archbishop of Dublin in a recent speech in Würzburg, Germany (“Archbishop Martin proved right about school patronage”, Rite & Reason, July 12th).

Dr Martin regretted the reluctance of many parents, boards of management and trustees to consent to the divestment of their own particular Catholic school. Surely a tribute – in the face of much ecclesiastical, political and media pressure to the contrary – to the strong grassroots attachment to the work and underlying values which ground these schools? Perhaps, too, an expression of a very practical Irish wariness about giving yet more power to the State?

In charting a course towards a genuinely more pluralist future for school patronage in Ireland, policymakers, educators and church leadership may find powerful incentive for this work by reflecting on mid-20th-century German experience. Following the second World War, the founders of the new Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) were adamant that the state should never again be allowed to play the only and major role in education, mental orientation and identity formation of young people. Religious communities were identified as appropriate partners in the work of educating the next generations. Hence – in accordance with the principles of the German constitution – the important role that the churches and religious communities play today in cooperation with the state in the provision of religious education in German public schools. – Yours, etc,


South Boston,


Sir, – Regarding Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s comments, and Leslie Lawless’s letter (July 12th), if the ideal is a tolerant, pluralist society, why shouldn’t the church have some input on State-funded schools? Catholics pay taxes, which fund these schools, as well as secularists. Why should the latter have a monopoly on the State’s resources? – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.