"The Minister said he wanted to see at least half the schools currently under Church patronage move to an alternative guardianship." this is a quote from the Irish Times. I think the Minister for Education needs a new calculator! And what is the point of the "Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector", if the Minister has already decided on the numbers?
But just imagine the senario for a moment. Ruari Quinn gets his way and 50% of Catholic primary schools are no longer Catholic. The Minister says that this will happen by choice, this is something that parents must choose, there will be a process. Parents can make their choice and be happy, simple as that. But will it be so simple? How do we prevent a disaterous Irish solution? How many will want a non-Catholic school, but also First Holy Communion? Can we reconcile a rejection of Catholic education, with a seemingly contradictory demand for the sacraments? How many of those who opt out of Catholic education will seek/demand religious instruction, and sacramenetal preparation for their children?
In Drogheda we have one non-Catholic Gael Scoil, and two "Educate Together" primary schools. All of these schools offer Catholic religious instruction for their Catholic students, in school, after school hours. (The laugh is, these children have probably received better sacramental preparation in their after school classes, than mine received in their Catholic school from I think lapsed Catholics! but that is another issue.)
This week my parish Church has three first confession nights, one for the parish girls school, one for the parish boys school, and another for children from other non Catholic primary schools. Will the Church be able to provide this service nationwide to the 50% of divested schools? Will our already over stretched clegy want to? This is going to be messy, and thats before we even look at the minefield of teachers. How do we get the Catholic teachers into the Catholic schools etc? Fun indeed!
On a brighter note, hopefully, the schools that we are "allowed to keep" will eventually become stronger Catholic schools.