The Irish Times Peter Boylan


Recent revelations of the horrific extent and nature of sexual, psychological and physical abuse over decades at schools owned by the Catholic Spiritan order have prompted renewed shock and trauma on the one hand and the standard church response of belated apology and promises of reform on the other.

The horror of clerical abuse has been especially pervasive in Ireland given the extent of the control exerted by the church in this country.

We are familiar with the historical circumstances in which responsibility for and ownership of education and large swathes of health and social care was both ceded to and actively acquired by the church over more than 150 years. I see it as a twin legacy of both colonisation and “Cullenisation”, ie the success of Paul Cullen, the mid-19th century archbishop of Dublin, in fostering and promoting Catholic religious orders in Ireland.


Cullen was instrumental in securing separate and clerically controlled – but state-supported – Catholic education, overturning the aims of the 1831 national school system which envisaged non-denominational tate education. After 1922, the Church’s grip on education increased.

Seven of the largest “public” hospitals in Ireland are owned by private Catholic entities and receive more than €1 billion of State funding each year, and more in capital grants.

Catholic control of the private healthcare sector is even greater. Twelve of Ireland’s 18 private hospitals adhere to Catholic ethos

The significance of Catholic ethos extends beyond women’s reproductive healthcare. We have started a debate in this country about assisted dying, but Catholic teaching holds that this would be intentional taking of life and never permissible. Should a future dying with dignity Act be passed, Catholic hospitals will opt out precisely as they do today on abortion, IVF and contraception.

The Catholic Church is fully entitled to provide health and education, but if it wants a “parallel and alternative option” to that of the State, delivered according to its ethos, it should not be funded by the State.

Peter Boylan is a former master of the National Maternity Hospital


The Irish State should no longer be funding RC institutions, be it hospitals or schools.

The involvement of the RCC in schools, hospitals and other institutions has been a cathostrophic failure and an international scandal.

The experiment of the RCC running institutions that were funded by the tax payer has been a total disaster for over 100 years.

If the state needs new partners in the private sector, those partners need to be beyond reproach and subject to the strictest possible inspection and scrutiny.

The partnership between the Irish State and the RCC has caused untold suffering and misery.