Thursday, July 16, 2009

Count me out

Although I somehow never realised this when I grew up in Ireland and did all my schooling there, the Catholic Church has near monopolistic control of schools in the Republic of Ireland. 98% of primary schools are funded by the state and yet are managed by the local Catholic bishop. One of the reasons is that it's assumed that the Republic of Ireland is overwhelmingly Catholic. In this article, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin says that 87% of people in the country are Catholic. He must not be including the north in that figure, but in any case that 87% would include people who are nominally Catholic but do not practice. If those people were to somehow "opt out" of being included in that 87% figure, then that would give more impetus to moves to provide more education choice in Ireland.

That is what the "count me out" website is all about. It is for people who want to "de-identify" (to use a horrible neologism) as Catholics.

Not being "counted in" in the first place, I can't "count myself out" from the ranks of Catholicism. But still it's interesting, in an objective way, to view the FAQ for the Count Me Out website. I had to chuckle when I saw so many guilt-ridden questions, like "What if my parents find out?". The answer to that one may be "once you leave, all that guilt will be gone, so by definition you won't feel guilty about it" :-)

On a more serious (and controversial) note, I've often wondered how much the militant anti-Catholicism from the north influences the more liberal anti-Catholicism of "south" of Ireland, and Dublin in particular. I've often read through the Irish Times and stories bemoaning Catholic Church influence on education are just a click away from stories about Catholic primary schools being burned and daubed with hateful graffiti in the north. The big difference, it seems to me, is that the anti-Catholicism of the south is mostly evident within the lapsed Catholic population, not the non-Catholic population, whereas up in the north it's a different story of course...

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