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Posted in World Catholic News, World News, on June 18th, 2013

Irish Bishop chides Obama for echoing ‘Protestant/Catholic caricature’

By Michael Kelly
Catholic News Service

President Barack Obama speaks to 2,000 guests at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, June 17.

DUBLIN (CNS) — A bishop in Northern Ireland accused President Barack Obama of a “hackneyed” analysis of the political situation in the region.

Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor said some parts of the president’s June 17 speech in Belfast, Northern Ireland, echoed “the Protestant/Catholic caricature that has actually receded into the background in Northern Ireland.”

Obama was in Northern Ireland June 17-18 with leaders of the Group of Eight nations for a summit aimed at tackling controversial issues including the civil war in Syria and the global financial crisis.

Before the summit got underway, however, Obama addressed 2,000 young people and community leaders at Waterfront Hall and called for a renewed focus on reconciliation, 15 years after the Good Friday peace agreement.

Looking to the future, the president said, “if towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden — that too encourages division and discourages cooperation.”

Bishop McKeown said the 1998 accord “was clear that the core problem in Northern Ireland was a political one. … It is significant that religion did not appear in the agreement on what is primarily a political problem.”

He said that “it is the Catholic schools in Northern Ireland that are now actually among the most racially and linguistically mixed. And, while so many young people are very open to new friendships and opportunities, it needs to be stated that it is adults outside schools who promote mistrust for their own political and personal agendas.”

“A simplistic denominational vocabulary fails to do justice to where we are,” added Bishop McKeown, who chairs the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education.

“We all welcome the president’s presence,” the bishop said, “but would encourage his speechwriters to support a less hackneyed analysis of our situation and prospects.”

The White House had no immediate response.

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2 Responses

  1. The Obamas sent their kids to an exclusive U of Chicago school. His wife had a sinecure job with the U of Chicago hospitals that included discouraging area hospitals from sending their often poor patients to U of Chicago hospitals, since it would cost U of Chicago hospitals money. The Obamas always opposed aid to non-government school. The Obamas sent their kids to the same exclusive Washington, D.C., school to which the Clintons sent their kids. Durbin, Duncan, and Obama got the Bush-Kennedy vouchers for those schools eliminated. Boehner brought some of the kids to a State of the Union Address. He got the vouchers restored.

    A reason Catholic school existed was that the government schools taught the Protestant faith.

    President Grant wanted non-government schools eliminated, especailly on the grounds that evangelical schools were thought by him to be divisive. Blaine tried to get a constitutional amendment to ban aid to non-government private schools; he failed; but he got various Blaine amendments passed in various states. Then because Blaine wanted to be President, he backed down on his amendments, partly as an effort to get the Catholic vote. States like Wisconsin and Indiana are leading the way with government support for either non-government schools or for parents to get vouchers to send their kids to such schools.

    Just this week there was a withering report on the ineffectiveness of American teachers, especially, one would think, in our government schools, including in Chicago–Sec. of Education Bennett once rated theirs the worst in the nation–and in Washington, D.C., which has some of the highest expenditures and worst educational product. Indeed the unions in Washington, D.C., got both the mayor and the education czar there thrown out for favoring reform. No wonder Blocker favors vouchers.

    By: Richard L. Schaefer on June 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm

  2. President Obama has honored Catholic Education in the past. He has welcomed teachers and students into the White House and has given tribute to their innovation and dedication (January 25, 2012). Indeed part of Obama’s education was in a Catholic School system in Indonesia.

    This was a speech about division. A house divided against itself cannot stand (Who said that?). Bishop McKeown states that Northern Ireland’s problem is a political one. He goes on to state that the schools are integrated but the families promote the mistrust among peoples. It seems Bishop McKeown is abdicating his responsibility in this matter. One of the points that Catholic school supporters make is the ability of the teachers and administrators to work with families to promote good Catholic values in the home and the schools. The dignity of all people, be they Protestant or Catholic, is a Catholic moral value. If it is the families and the country that is to blame, the Catholic schools must share part of that blame. The Catholic Schools are the moral leaders. They seem to have fallen down on that responsibility though the bishop wishes to will it onto others..

    I find it hard to believe that with 92% of all students going to separate but equal schools that Bishop McKeown can claim that Catholic Schools are integrated… How can that be.

    By: Chuck Weigel on June 21, 2013 at 11:50 am

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