“I think we need to dismantle the relationship between Church and State. We can’t have an equal society when the State is funding 90 per cent of schools to indoctrinate their pupils in the Catholic faith. I don’t think Catholicism is compatible with feminism. We need to get the Church out of the school system, but out of our hospitals as well.”
So says feminist writer, Emer O’Toole, in an interview with Anne Sexton in the latest edition of Hot Press on her new book Girls Will Be Girls. As a succinct statement that’s familiar to most of us but not particularly radical, it works fine. As a basis for a national aspiration informing a future referendum, why not? It works perfectly from where I’m sitting. Well, slightly hunched.
My fantasy doesn’t end there. The referendum takes place in 2016 to coincide with the centenary of the Church’s crossing of the national threshold to all-encompassing power.
But..but.. what about parental choice?
My fantasy doesn’t end there. Campaigners will invoke the original aspiration of a Republic that cherishes all its citizens equally and the fight to safeguard equality of access to education. Including the ‘minority’ of us.
But..but.. what about the census figures?
My fantasy doesn’t end there. Practitioners of the faith will not be banned from continuing to practice that faith. There will be a few possible nixers up for grabs through a Sunday school type initiative, if families are keen on collective instruction. Catholicism won’t be ignored in the classroom. Consideration will be given to its place in the market place of religious ideas and world religions. And confirmation outfits will be positively welcomed during the 6th class coming of age graduation ceremony. All’s not lost.
But..but.. what about the legalities and autonomy of boards of management?
My fantasy doesn’t end there. Irish people are proving themselves to be committed to equality and inclusiveness, so I anticipate consistent commitment to same through vociferous arguments in favour of children having access to education. Equality 2016 has a certain ring to it. I can see blogs and banners festooned with these badges.
“Excuse me, Miss, why is my friend not allowed to come to our school?”
My fantasy doesn’t end there. Emer O’Toole also had something to say about our national whataboutery. “Most people will agree with social justice up to a point, but as soon as it seems that real equality will be achieved, the more right-wing elements will claim you’ve gone too far, that oppressors have become the oppressed.”
But I’ve more faith in Irish people than that. I know we can rely on our Catholic parents and neighbours to do the right thing when the time comes. They will keep their chants going; their voices raised; their protest against the misplaced dominance of clerical authority in focus; their social media campaigns strong.
One fight coming up, many more to go.
Fantasy referenda – feel free to add your own…