Why the Irish Catholic Church has big Questions to Answer this week.

Simon Lewis
2 min readApr 26, 2024
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This week has presented the Catholic Church with very big questions about its identity in Ireland. My interest is in its role in primary education.

Earlier in the week, a study of 4,000+ teachers revealed that over half under 50 don’t believe in a personal God. Census records of 25–29 year olds in 2022 show only 53% identify as Catholic. Today Catholic marriages are at their lowest point at under 35%.

The mismatch between Catholic practice and Catholic education can be explained but can it be continued? It is equally disrespectful to genuine Catholics who see their church treated with contempt; and to non-Catholics that have to either join the pretence or to sit at the back of the classroom.

I know people will describe me as being anti-Catholic, but I argue that those who are taking advantage of the church’s light-handed touch on their communities as being the ones that are anti-Catholic. I also feel the hierarchies in the church must take some responsibility for allowing their churches to become Antiochus’ Temple in Jerusalem.

The divestment/reconfiguration model has been and continues to be a complete failure with fewer than 20 schools divested from control. Of the schools divested, most were tiny schools at risk of closure.

As much as I admired the intentions of the 2011 Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, it was always doomed to failure. We desperately need to have real conversations about what primary education is going to look like in the future with the intention of everyone winning, not the majority, not the minority. Compromise will be part of this but, to quote Yvonne Connolly, the first black headteacher in the UK, we must focus on the commonalities rather than the differences. I believe this is where the solution lies and I’d love to get people together to discuss it.



Simon Lewis

Primary school principal, podcaster and poet. 👨🏼‍🏫 Writes about the Irish primary education system. Tweets from @simonmlewis