November 14, 2005

Row erupts over Church-State relationship

Irish Emigrant

Comments by Progressive Democrat TD Liz O'Donnell about the relationship between the Catholic Church and the State sparked a rebuke by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. This in turn led to further media debate. During a Dáil debate on the Ferns Report on clerical sexual abuse, Ms O'Donnell criticised the Church on all fronts but particularly its role in education. She called for an end to the "cosy phone calls" between All Hallows seminary, which is in the Taoiseach's constituency of Drumcondra, and Government Buildings. She demanded that there should be no further consultation on a range of issues. Among those she mentioned were abortion services, stem-cell research, in-vitro fertilisation, homosexuality and adoption. Ms O'Donnell also proposed that the Church's finances should be the subject of a State audit.

The Taoiseach responded forcefully, defending his relationship with All Hallows, where his father had worked for a half-century. He accused Ms O'Donnell of misunderstanding the role of All Hallows and the Vincentian Order. The seminary, he said, had educated young priests not for Ireland but for dioceses around the world. Mr Ahern added, "The Church is an important part of civil society and is critical to the faith, values and identity of many citizens". He went on to acknowledge the Church's contribution to education over the years, saying it had contributed greatly in the development of the country. He noted the Church's role in managing some 3,000 primary schools, "If they were to pull out tomorrow, we wouldn't be able to manage the education system".

Posted by kshaw at November 14, 2005 08:31 AM