Moses Basket Case

David Quinn expects great things of Cardinal Sean Brady, mainly based on the fact that he is a nice bloke and a team player who shuns the spotlight to deliver the goods. A bit like Phil Neville, but more like Moses.

There’s a wonderful story about how, when he was rector of the Irish College in Rome , he used to regularly help out a homeless Irishman who would call to the college from time to time.

Why, that’s frickin’ marvellous: an Irish priest who helps the homeless Irish. Clearly a pastor who knows his own (Irish) sheep. Next week: I have a wonderful story about this Irish doctor who used to help this Irish sick person from time to time.

My interest in church politics is scarcely more elevated than my interest in the relative effectiveness of shaving equipment for ladies. But it always amuses me how, in this world of cloisters and incense, the divine seems to sit unhappily on the same pew as the mundane. On the significance of Brady’s appointment:

But in fact it would have been quite insulting to Armagh and to Sean Brady if they were passed over again.

Unlike Jehovah’s victims in Egypt. More to the point, would anyone under the age of 65 in the Diocese of Armagh have really cared? And would humble and mild-mannered Sean Brady -who is as orthodox as they come, apparently- have been entitled to feel insulted? One trembles with indifference at these questions.

Quinn says that one area in the real world where Sean Brady might come in handy is in his own hobby horse of schools.

Obviously there are too many denominational schools in this country. But reducing their number is not enough for our die-hard secularists who want them reduced to zero. To achieve this end they are using extremist language comparing the enrolment policy of faith-based schools with the apartheid regime in South Africa. This is rhetorical nuclear war. They dream of a system entirely dominated by the State and in which parental choice counts for nothing.

One presumes that ‘rhetorical nuclear war’ is an ironic use of ‘extremist language’.

Now that I’m a parent, I feel nicely enabled to preface remarks on any matter at all concerning children with ‘Speaking as a parent…’, thus endowing them with an unshakeable moral weight. Speaking as a parent, I do not give a rat’s ass about ‘parental choice’ when it comes to picking a school. For me, it really does count for nothing.

I don’t want a choice. I want a decent school for my child and other children in the community to attend, paid for by my taxes. Children shouldn’t be denied access to a decent education and decent educational facilities as a result of their parents’ religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and if the Catholic church or any other religious agency is creating an obstacle to this, then the obstacle needs removing. I have no idea who the satanic ‘die-hard secularists’ are here, and am inclined to infer that they are mere men of straw.

Let me continue with the matter of parental choice for a moment, bearing in mind that in Quinn’s terms of reference, parental choice means having the choice of sending your child to a denominational school or not.

Since these schools educate many thousands of children whose parents worship many false idols but no God, and thousands of others whose denomination is not that of the school, we should be asking whether Quinn’s apparent viewpoint -that greater choice exists now than would be the case if the number of denominational schools were significantly reduced- is accurate.

Well, for starters, many are sending their children to denominational schools because they have no choice. For those lacking in any religious principles, the possibilities are often a well-established and well-equipped denominational school or a non-denominational school based in a series of mobile classrooms. It is equivalent to the choice between fillet steak and frozen turkey goujons (no disrespect to the many teachers who do a fine job making the most of what they have in the latter establishments).

The only people who benefit -in terms of choice- under the current system are those (overwhemingly Catholic in denomination) who, driven exclusively by religious convictions, can happily take their pick from different denominational schools.

Therefore, reducing the number of denominational schools would actually increase parental choice.

If you are not religious, why else (apart from the aforementioned factors) would you choose to send your child to a denominational school? I am agnostic on the question of whether Ireland ever benefitted from the existence of ‘faith-based schools’, which until recently were known simply as ‘schools’. (I am thinking here about the ‘faith-based’ bit, and not the ‘schools’ bit.) Catholic Church-run schools have educated countless criminals, corrupt politicians and robber barons in this country, but it is impossible to prove if this is a direct consequence of learning Hail Holy Queen off by heart. Likewise, it is impossible to prove a direct link between improved literacy rates and the Memorare.

To continue with Quinn’s Moses comparison, here’s hoping that Cardinal Brady, like Moses, will say “Let My People Go -and run their own bleedin’ schools.”

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