A legislative bill, which deprives Catholic schools of the possibility of prioritizing Catholic students on their waiting list, has passed.
In Ireland, 90% of schools are run by the Church and funded by the State. These schools, that wished to preserve their identity, were able to choose children baptized in the Church over unbaptized children: on the Isle of Saints this is known was the “Baptism barrier”.
The Irish minister of Education, Richard Bruton, began a struggle with the episcopate in June of 2017, in the hopes of suppressing this freedom of choice.
The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference contests the way the Minister presents the question: the real question is not some “injustice” towards the parents of unbaptized children, but rather “the lack of schools in big cities”. The bishops also denounce a “plan of secularization” with the Catholic Church “as a target”.
Secularization has indeed increased in Ireland: in 2017, over one third of conjugal unions were contracted civilly and not religiously, and 20% of families say they are atheists or have “no religion”.
The Roots of Secularization
This secularization has several causes, one of the most fundamental being the fact that the State abandoned its official religion, a choice that has made its cruel effects felt for 50 years now.
Despite its rather liberal wording, the Irish Constitution promulgated in 1937 begins with the following preamble:
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial, gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation, and seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations, do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.
It ends with, “For the glory of God and the honor of Ireland.” But when a nation forgets or despises the glory of God, it falls into dishonor.
On June 8, 1972, the Third Amendment ratified the Republic of Ireland’s entrance into the European Communities. This was followed by the ratification of the Single European Act (1987), the Treaty on European Union (1992), the Treaty of Amsterdam (1998), the Treaty of Nice (2002), and the Treaty of Lisbon (2007).
In parallel with this ongoing process of integration into the European Union, Ireland adopted increasing liberal and permissive laws, such as the right to divorce in 1996, the right to abortion on foreign soil (1992), extending the conditions for access to abortion and even so-called homosexual “marriage” (2015), and most recently the Irish people voted in the legalisation of unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy (2018). Now it seems that all efforts are being directed towards removing the Church's influence in all schools.
The Responsibility of the Council
This evolution was made possible only because the privileged and organic relations between Church and State were abandoned with the approval of the ecclesiastical authorities. Six short months after entering the European Union (1972), the fifth amendment, adopted on January 5, 1973, abrogated Article 44.2 that recognized “the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens”. The article was replaced by the following paragraphs:
Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.
1. The State guarantees not to endow any religion.
2. The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status.
This is a public application of the doctrine on religious liberty taught by the Second Vatican Council in the declaration Dignitatis Humanae (December 7, 1965), which led to the secularization of laws and life in society. Archbishop Lefebvre, particularly in his book They Have Uncrowned Him, never tired of pointing out the great danger this presents for the salvation of the souls of citizens, and the happiness of peoples and States.