St Patrick's Church of Irleand (Anglican)
When the President spoke in Belfast last Sunday, June 17th, he said:
“There are still wounds [in Northern Ireland] that haven’t healed, and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air.” … “If towns remain divided – if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs – if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.”
Northern Ireland has come a long way since President Clinton mediated the “Good Friday Peace Accords” of 1998. Sectarian violence has receded and Catholics have been given a more proportionate share in the economy as well as government and social services. But prejudice, anger, and hatred still simmer below the surface. And the separate schools do not help but provide reinforcement for the stereotypes and intolerance that still run through Northern Ireland society.
You will notice that the President challenged not Catholic Schools but sectarian schools—Catholic or Protestant—in Northern Ireland. Don’t compare the situation in Ireland—North or South—to the American experience of Catholic Education. The Republic of Ireland, which does not include the six counties of “Northern Ireland,” has an excellent system of public schools. It does not have “parish schools” as we have had in the United States and what Catholic Schools there are, are what we would call “private schools”—rather upper crust and select—and inclusive of students from a variety of religious backgrounds. Unlike American public schools, there is room for religion in the public school curriculum. The vast majority of citizens in the Republic are Catholic. Until the recent scandals the vast majority were devout Catholics. But the Catholic Priest, Church of Ireland (Anglican) Minister, Methodist and Presbyterian Parson all have access to the school where their congregants study to teach religion to their respective students. Such public schools put Catholic and Protestant youth on the same teams rather than pitting them against one another. Friendships are formed across denominational lines. And the political, social, and economic tensions that continue to divide the Catholic and Protectant communities in the North have long vanished in the South.It is a bit of a canard to go after President Obama for “attacking” Catholic Education when he did nothing of the kind. But then the voices raised against him are the same voices that decry his administration’s lead on health care , immigration reform, same-sex marriage, and other contemporary issues. And the dissatisfaction with these policies more often than not is, like this flap over Northern Ireland, based on faulty facts and distorted simplifications. It becomes obvious over a period of time that the problem is not the issues, but the man. And what is there about the man that excites such anger? Hmmm. The answer is too obvious to name, is it not, Paula Deen?