THE CATHOLIC HERALD FEBRUARY 3 2012
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Irish party debates screening civil servants ‘loyal to Rome’
BY ED WEST
THE IRISH Labour Party is to debate a motion demanding that civil servants dealing with the Church should be “screened” to ensure they do not show “inappropriate deference” to the Church or consider themselves “Catholics first”.
The proposal, which was first set forth by a Dublin constituency party, will be debated at Labour’s next national conference in Galway in April.
It is contained in a report on the Church’s role in national schools drafted by party activists and adopted by a constituency council in Dublin. The document, called “Illegal Religious Discrimination in National Schools in Ireland”, recommends a number of proposals, including that “Catholics first” admission policies be abolished for all schools.
The report, written by party activist John Suttle, claims that state-funded Catholic schools prioritising Catholic children are discriminatory and were never allowed under the law.
The report claims that this was allowed to become practice over the decades because of “inappropriate deference by officials of the state”.
To resolve this, recommendation 15 from chapter 11 of the report says: “All senior officials in state bodies which are likely to have to deal with the Catholic Church should be screened to ensure that they will not show inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church. Those who feel they are ‘Catholic first and Irish second’ should seek promotion in other organs of the state.”
The report, which was adopted last year by the Dublin NorthCentral constituency council, will be proposed by the Clontarf branch at the conference, and would become official party policy if passed.
Mr Suttle said: “When it comes to state-supported schools in the primary sector, religious discrimination on entry is illegal and is not allowed under anything.”
Dublin North Central TD Aodhan O Riordain, vice-chairman of the Dáil Education Committee, said he supported it.
Mr O Riordain, who previously called for the abolition of the Dáil prayer and is a close ally and adviser on educational matters to the Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn, said he had a “particular view on the relationship between Church and state” – that “religious ethos has no place in the education sector of a modern republic”.
A spokesman from the Catholic Communications Office disputed this and said parents should be able to choose to have their children educated in the ethos of a Catholic school – or schools belonging to other faiths.
The Catholic Church “is committed to providing Catholic schools to cater for the needs of parents who wish to exercise their constitutional rights to provision of faith education.” Cardinal Seán Brady, the primate of All Ireland, said that the Church “holds the view that the children of Catholic parents have first claim on admission to Catholic schools, just as Protestant children have first claim to admission to Protestant schools, and Muslim children have first claim to admission to Islamic schools and so on.
“Of course wherever possible – provided they have places and resources – Catholic schools welcome children of all faiths and none.”
Cardinal Brady said that Church schools were a “good example of cooperation between the parents, teachers and community”.
David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute think-tank, said the proposal was “indicative of the sort of thinking that is going on” and “deeply undemocratic and McCarthyite.”
He said: “If you were a weekly Massgoer you would be noticed.
This goes beyond anti-clerical. It’s a secularist screed.”
Mr Quinn said : “The Clontarf Report is completely mistaken in its assertion that denominational schools are breaking the law when they admit children of their own faith ahead of other children. This is explicity permitted, for example by the Equal Status Act. To pretend otherwise is simply an attempt to bully denominational schools.”
He continued: “However, the report’s recommendation that senior civil servants should be screened to ensure that do not show ‘inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church’ is deeply undemocratic and would amount to a witch-hunt against Catholics in that it would single out Catholics from among all other civil servants.
“This recommendation is an echo of the suggestion made in the Dáil by Ruairi Quinn in 2009 that some officials in the Department of Education were ‘members of secret societies such as the Knights of St Columbanus and Opus Dei’, a suggestion for which he provided no evidence whatever.”
Mr Quinn added: “Why not screen civil servants to ensure they are not unduly deferential towards a given political party, including Labour, or towards some other vested interest? Where would such a ‘screening’ process stop?”
He concluded: “The fact that this report has been adopted by the Dublin North-Central constituency branch of the Labour party is bad enough. If it is somehow adopted by Labour at its annual conference it would be much worse.”
Archbishop hails ‘pilgrim college’ on anniversary
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE ARCHBISHOP of Westminster has described the Venerable English College in Rome as a “pilgrim college”.
During a homily at a Mass marking the 650th anniversary of the college’s hospice Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: “At the heart of all that is done here should be the same spirit of pilgrimage that is expressed in that image: a student body, on its knees, seeking out the person and truth of Christ, and encouraged to do so by his, and our, Blessed Mother. In this sense, above all others, may this be a pilgrim college.”
He continued: “This community, above all, must be a community of pilgrims. Of course those who are formed here pursue an academic programme, seeking out the best of the learning in the Church for their future ministry. They also learn about Roman diplomacy and the need for skill and sensitivity in the work of the Church. They also meet and are formed by many leaders, from different walks of life, and rightly may aspire, as may all seminarians, to leadership roles themselves in the service of the Lord.”
He described pilgrimages as the “hallmark of Christian life and a feature deeply embedded in the life of a continent”.
He said: “Who can fail to recall the great flood of young people who, in the course of the World Youth Day held here in the year 2000, passed continually through the Holy Door of St Peter’s for three days, including, I believe, during most of the long night hours too: a seemingly unending stream of humanity going ‘ad limina apostolorum’?
“Remember, too, the millions who came here in 2005 to pray for Pope John Paul II, the successor of St Peter, as he lay in death. They came to touch base again, here at the seat of that succession.”
The English Hospice of the Most Holy Trinity and St Thomas was founded in 1362 and has welcomed English pilgrims to Rome since that time. The English College was founded 217 years later in 1579 .
Archbishop Nichols described the importance of the hospice for shelter, nursing care and diplomacy.
He said: “A pattern of great change, instructive for us today, can be seen in the role of this hospice across the centuries. This hospice offered shelter to the pilgrim. It also offered nursing care and burial to the sick and the dying.
“It also became a place of great diplomatic activity, with all the comings and goings connected to the great See of Peter. Indeed, we can recall with pride that diplomatic relations between our countries and the Holy See can be traced back to 1479 and this hospice must have played a crucial role in them.
He added: “This hospice also served as a home for those coming here to study the New Learning and to bring the fruits of Roman academic life to the Church in England and Wales.”
David Howell, a seminarian at the English College, said that the anniversary reminded him that Catholicism was ingrained in England’s identity.
He said: “It is possible to think today that England has abandoned its pre-Reformation heritage and that the Church must start from scratch, but this anniversary celebration reminded me that England’s Catholic past is an integral part of its identity which can be put to use in evangelisation today.”
Cafod celebrates 50 years with Mass at Westminster Cathedral
THE CATHOLIC Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod) celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday with Mass at Westminster Cathedral.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster concelebrated Mass for hundreds of
Cafod supporters. During his homily, Bishop Arnold said that human dignity is integral to development. He said that real development “lies in allowing people their innate dignity and well-being. It means allowing people to create their own sustainable livelihoods, giving people a voice so that governments may be called to account for their policies and their actions, both in their domestic and foreign affairs and allowing for the exposure of what can be the ruthless pillaging of natural resources by multinationals with no thought of benefit for the people of a region – so often the root causes of poverty. Cafod has to develop its own expertise in so many of these areas such as livelihoods, healthcare, HIV/Aids, food and nutrition, advocacy, the environment and climate change.” Charterhouse: Page 20
Worshippers put off by cathedral parking charges BY ED WEST
NOTTINGHAM’S Catholic Cathedral has lost 100 parishioners a week and is losing almost £2,000 a month in donations after the city council introduced parking charges on Sunday.
After charges were introduced all day Sunday Fr Geoffrey Hunton, dean of St Barnabas Cathedral, said that the Cathedral had lost about 10 per cent of its congregation, amounting to a loss off £400 a week, while choir services had also been disrupted.
Patrick Carragher who serves on cathedral’s parish council said that they were losing £450 in some weeks. He said “they were quite satisfied” that a correlation existed between the decline in attendances and the charges.
Officials at the cathedral have requested a further meeting with council staff in late February, although the council has said that the changes are here to stay.
Mr Carragher said that the current charges were not consistent with road planning guidance, which “makes it clear that revising parking arrangements must be with managing congestions. He added that from 8am to 8pm there are significant hours during which there is no congestion,” since Sunday shopping is still restricted to six hours for most outlets.
Mr Carragher said that typically there were few cars parked outside the cathedral during its 10am service and that there was also a great deal of space outside the six o’clock Mass, the largest.
He said that the cathedral provided a valuable service to the entire community in the work it did with groups such as alcoholics.
“We want to impress on them the full value of the civic life. We cater for a very mixed community, a wide crosssection of society, people from around the world,” Mr Carragher said.
Before the changes from Nottingham City Council allowed the cathedral to issue pre-paid voucher books that would save £70 per year, but with an initial outlay of £50 there has been little uptake.
“We’ve got a massive refurbishment in the cathedral, and in the current economic climate it is difficult to get people to put more on the plate.” Mr Carragher said.
“We have a lot of people on low wages. We are feeling that pinch. If we can get any easing from the council we will be grateful.”
Many other English councils have introduced Sunday charging, including Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford and Stoke.
But, last month Westminster borough council withdrew plans to charge for parking on Sundays after a campaign by businesses and protests from church groups.
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