Chairman of Irish School Board Resigns After Distributing Pro-Life Propaganda to Children

After spending some time as the spokesperson for now-retired archbishop of Dublin Cardinal Desmond Connell, Eddie Shaw became the chairman of a Catholic school board. Maybe that position makes sense for someone who has spent a long time within the Church environment, but what he did a couple of weeks ago (no, not that) has led to his resignation.

Shaw asked all teachers to send home with students — some of whom were as young as five years old — a leaflet promoting an anti-abortion Vigil for Life rally:

“… The parent body were outraged that the children were being used as vehicle to promote a controversial campaign,” [minutes from a parents' association meeting] said.

Parents who spoke to The Irish Times were very angry at their children being used in this way. One parent of a five-year-old was asked by the child what an abortion was and felt deeply annoyed to have been put in that position.

Shaw apologized at the meeting and admitted that he made a mistake, adding that he really should’ve sent those leaflets home in an envelope, a solution one parent correctly said “[missed] the point entirely.”

If this happened in a public school in America, it’s very doubtful Christians would get very worked up about it and it’s highly unlikely anyone would get fired over it. So when a Catholic school official promotes a pro-life rally at a Catholic school, can we really expect anything different?

Apparently, we can.

A petition started, calling for Shaw’s resignation for “using children to push the anti-abortion agenda of the Church.” Whether it was the petition that did it, I don’t know, but the conclusion was all the same: Shaw resigned last night:

Eddie Shaw

Tonight, a statement from Shaw was released to media. It says: “I have, after careful consultation and reflection, submitted my resignation as Chairman of the Board of the Harold School with immediate effect.”

I want to repeat my unreserved apology to teachers and parents for the deep distress and understandable upset caused by my action. The responsibility for this action was mine, and mine alone.

Shaw said that his own children attended the Harold School and he has been involved in the school “in a personal and voluntary capacity for the last 30 years and have always had the best interests of the school at heart”.

He concluded:

I wish the board, Principal, parents, teachers and all involved in the continuing education and development of the children in this great school every possible success and fulfilment.

Not only was that a happy ending, it suggests an ever-widening gap between Catholic leaders and their followers. The parents, despite sending their kids to a Catholic school, did not want Church propaganda regarding abortion being given to their children. I would hope they’d be equally upset if it was pro-choice materials, but the fact remains that they took action over an issue that’s generally part of Church teachings. Good on them!

(Thanks to Ben for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Gus Snarp

    I don’t know, I don’t think this guy resigning was the right answer, I think all those parents pulling their kids out of Catholic schools would be much better. If you think the fliers coming home with your kids is a problem, and would even think so if they’d been in sealed envelopes, then why are your kids in Catholic schools? We say this every time, but seriously, the Catholic Church is not its believers, it’s not some pure truth that you think is hidden behind the mistakes made by its leaders. It IS its leaders. It always has been. It’s a hierarchical, patriarchal, dogmatic organization entirely defined by the Vatican and the official pronouncements of the Pope. It is anti gay, anti woman, anti common sense about birth control, and anti choice. If you don’t agree with its views, you should abandon it now.

    • ortcutt

      In the Republic of Ireland, the Catholic Church runs 91.1% of public primary schools, so it would be hard for parents to pull their children out.

      • The Irish Atheist

        And that number is finally dropping.

        • ortcutt

          Yes, thankfully. I just wanted to counteract the misapprehension that the parents voluntarily subjected their children to this. Some commenters are coming to this with the (reasonable for Americans) assumption that there is a non-sectarian public school system that the parents opted out of.

          • The Irish Atheist

            I was at Omagh. That was only 15 years ago. Believe me, Ireland is slowly headed in the right direction.

            • Geoff Boulton

              For those who don’t know what Omagh refers to

              • The Irish Atheist

                Most Americans know what Omagh was, just as most Irishmen know about 9-11.

                • Gus Snarp

                  I think you’ll find you’re quite wrong about that. Most Americans are incredibly ignorant of anything that happens outside our borders.

                • The Irish Atheist

                  I’m in your borders. Perhaps I’ve been hanging around the right Americans.

                • Michael W Busch

                  I personally knew about it, but had forgotten what details I had known. So Geoff’s linking Wikipedia is useful.

                • Feminerd

                  I didn’t- I was thirteen and living in Asia at the time, so not a lot of access to news (or other people who spoke English outside my immediate family). So I appreciate the link

                • Wren

                  I’ve never heard of it before and I am probably better aware of things outside this country than 75-80% of the American population.

      • Gus Snarp

        Do you mean public in the U.S. sense or public in the U.K. sense? If it’s the former, then the correct solution is still not for one Catholic official to lose his job, it’s for the entire Catholic Church to be stripped of its role running schools immediately.

        • ortcutt

          Public as in state-funded, so the U.S. sense. The Churches have made it difficult to get them out. See, the Catholic Church owns the school buildings, even though they are built at public expense. So, the state would need to get the buildings from the Church. It’s not just a matter of swapping one management for another.

  • CultOfReason

    I have mixed feelings on this one, and a hard time feeling sympathy for the parents. This is a Catholic school after all. I agree that the flyers should have been put in a sealed envelope,leaving it up to the parents to decide what, if any conversation, they will have with the child. However, I think a resignation is over the top.

    What will the parents complain of next, a flyer sent home reminding them to not eat meat on Fridays during Lent? If the parents don’t agree with the Catholic Church’s’ teachings, then perhaps they shouldn’t be sending their kids to Catholic school where the kids are constantly indoctrinated with this sort of stuff.

    • ortcutt

      In the Republic of Ireland, the Catholic Church runs 91.1% of public primary schools, so these parents didn’t choose to send their kids to a Catholic school. They just sent them to their local public primary school, which is run by the Catholic Church. Another 5.7% of public primary schools are run by the Church of Ireland, so if they wanted non-sectarian education, they would need to send their children far away to one of the handful of non-sectarian schools.

  • Hat Stealer

    Wow, responsible, sensible responses from all sides. That is certainly something I was not expecting.

  • The Irish Atheist

    When I was growing up in Ireland, the Christians butchered thousands of my people. It’s a testament to how far my generation has fought to end the religious dominance of Ireland that this is now considered a religious outrage.

  • Carmelita Spats

    I don’t have empathy for the parents just like I don’t have empathy for “moderate” Muslims when the monster they coddle and tame comes back to bite them. The RCC is an ORGANIZED CRIME SYNDICATE, FFS! Their level of pedophilia and its cover-up would not be tolerated in any other organization. These parents would be LIVID if their viciously raped nine-year-old was legally obligated to undergo a pregnancy and a C-section but they have no qualms about supporting an institution that would inflict this monstrosity on a third grader in a poor, podunk, pisswater, Brazilian outpost. They support an institution that is busier than a cat covering up crap on a marble floor when it comes to silencing crimes.

    Hell, I think the RCC should be honest and send the kids home with information about keeping minors safe from pedophiles because pedophilia is not “pro-life”: “And remember kids, when we say “adult”, we actually mean “priest” and you should never be alone with one unless the door is wide open or some other adults know where you are or there is a giant window in the room
    through which other wary adults or perhaps police officers can see if
    said priest begins to give the holy sacrament to your crotch. Next up:
    God loves bunnies! ” Fuck them…the parents, not the kids.

    1. Nine-year-old rape victim:,8599,1883598,00.html

    2. Fifty reasons to leave the RCC:

    • The Irish Atheist

      The Irish people were dominated by the Catholic church for hundreds of years. Yes we are fighting back but it takes time. As was stated above, in Ireland the choice is often to send your kids to anCatholic school or no school at all. Don’t blame my people for what our parents and grandparents did when we are fighting our hardest to push the church out of our lives.

    • Art_Vandelay

      In a rational society, whenever someone states that they are a Catholic, wouldn’t the immediate next question for them be “Why do you support and fund an organization that you know for a fact has spent billions of dollars settling pederasty cases and played musical parishes with known sex offenders?” I mean…what is the fucking answer to that question? “I think it might make me immortal”? Yet, if I asked that question, I would be the one perceived as being rude. That’s the problem. Nobody holds the moderates accountable. They should own that. If you’re going to reap all the social advantages that come with being a Catholic…you need to wear that on your sleeve as well.

      • Pofarmer

        The answer is, at least in America, “We’re all sinners”. Yes, that’s the answer given. The Church can do no wrong for the true believers.

        • Art_Vandelay

          Well, that answer sucks.

          • Pofarmer

            I didn’t say it was a satisfying answer. When you have been brainwashed your whole life, it’s hard to give up. For many, their whole identity is Catholic.

            • Art_Vandelay

              No, I know. I wasn’t putting that on you. I’m almost positive I’d get either that or something of equal ambiguity.

              • Pofarmer

                Well, there are lot’s of problems. You see, Catholics have deified their clergy. They “stand in” for Christ, with all of his powers, when the magically transform communion into the blood and body, also during reconciliation and other rites. Catholics have got themselves convinced that you MUST have the Eucharist, preferably every day, or else your soul will die, or something to that effect. So, they have to have the priests to do the Eucharist to keep their souls saved. And how could someone with such power do evil things? There was a case last summer, where a priest not far from here was MAKING child porn. A repair technician at a computer store found it on his computer and turned him in. The Bishop KNEW about it beforehand, but did nothing. When he was asked why he didn’t turn the priest in, his response was, “It’s not my job.” He is now doing 3 years for obstruction of justice. Not sure what the Priest got. When I mentioned this to my Catholic wife, she pointed out, “Yeah, and there was a case not too far away where a teacher supposedly molested a child.” Well, O.K. One of her superiors turned her in IMMEDIATELY, when it was found out. I don’t know what the answer is, but they hold these guys up as holy, and it’s hard, hard to break.

          • GodlessPoutine

            Who says you “deserve” a non-sucky answer, you sinner!

            Man, I’m getting cranky. Time for another coffee.

      • Miss_Beara

        “Why do you support an organization that lies to Africans about condom use, therefore spreading AIDS instead of educating them honestly about sexual health?” I also I heard that “We’re all sinners” line before. Even if that was true, why would that make it ok to rape thousands of children and covering it up? “We’re all sinners” so I can look the other way and continue my undying support to the RCC. It is disgusting.

        My cousin converted to Catholicism a few years ago, much to my dismay. Not just a casual Catholic, a full blown church (occasionally in Latin) once a day anti gay anti woman crucifixes adorning every wall various bibles in his room books about Pope John Paul and Ratzy and pro purity/shaming culture. Yet, I am the weird one for breaking away from Catholicism beginning at the age of 10 (not that it was very difficult) and becoming an atheist. Go figure.

        • pagansister

          Have often head that a convert to any religion is much more “religious” than those who are born into a faith—-

    • closetatheist

      holy hell. I have no words to describe the horrific injustice that the RCC almost forced on that little girl on Brazil. I feel icky inside just knowing that other humans believe that stance to be right. Also, since Brazil has legalized abortion in rare cases, shouldn’t the RCC excommunicate the nation? It’d be a win-win for both sides.

    • Timothy (TRiG)

      Er, this is Ireland. Half the time, Catholic schools are the only ones available. (This may be less true in Dublin, but with the current shortage of school places, it may well be true even there.)


  • MD

    I remember when I was in 6th grade in a Catholic School in the U.S. and our teacher had us write letters to our congressmen urging them to protect the unborn. Good times. I refused, because regardless of my thoughts about abortion, I hated being told what to write, and hated being used as propaganda tool.
    This event didnt raise a single eyebrow in my school. Glad to hear Irish parents have more sense.

    • The Irish Atheist

      When the Catholics have spent years raping our children or blowing them up in the streets, we’ve gotten slightly jaded.

      • pagansister

        Northern Irishman (or woman) by any chance? Sounds like if from your comment.

        • The Irish Atheist

          No. Irishman from the Republic. I had family members murdered by the Protestant side of the Troubles and was terrorised by the Catholics as well. Christian terrorists don’t care who gets in their way, Catholic, Protestant, pagan, atheist, Republican, Unionist, as long as they make a holy war for god.

          • pagansister

            Thanks for answering my question. Am sorry to hear that you have been so personally touched by “Christians” in such horrific ways. .

    • allein

      My former roommate teaches at a Catholic school, and they take the middle schoolers (7th and maybe 8th graders) to the March for Life in Trenton every year. She said the first time she went as a chaperone a lot of the kids got very upset by some of the more graphic signs, because no one had thought to tell them what to expect to see there. (This also happens outside, in January; when they went a couple years ago it was about 20 degrees out. She had the bus driver stop and she bought them all hot chocolate for the ride home.)

      • MD

        What a jolly field trip. This beats the letter writing.

        • allein

          I know, right? When she first told me about it I was a little shocked. Aside from the fact that I don’t think it’s an appropriate field trip for school in the first place, I would think if you were going to do it at all, late high school would be a better time. (But then I guess the whole point is to do it when they’re still most likely too young to have really thought about the subject. I don’t know what I would have thought at age 12/13, but by 16/17 I had definitely formed an opinion (and that opinion would never have squared with the Catholic church).)

          I just hope the parents were better informed than the kids when they signed the permission slip. I know my ex-roomie made sure to let the kids know what they were in for after that first year she went. She is not anti-choice, and she didn’t want to ambush the kids with those images.

  • M. Elaine

    Anyone else notice Mr. Shaw’s hair has a greenish hue?

    • The Irish Atheist


      • M. Elaine

        Is his hair greenish? Yes. Does that mean I believe all Irish are X and therefore Y? No. I work in graphics and color-correction so I tend to notice when colors are off, regardless of context. Would your kneejerk reaction be different if you knew I’m not even white and am technically a minority?

        • Feminerd

          I am fairly sure he was being sarcastic/ironic. No one has naturally occurring green hair as far as I know.

          I could be wrong, since I’m not so great at mind-reading. That’s just my take on it.

        • The Irish Atheist

          …It was a joke. I took it as a humourous reference to how most Americans think we’re all leprechauns and responded with humour in turn.

          • M. Elaine

            In that case, my apologies. There was also a down-vote at the time of your comment so the two struck me as quite un-sarcastic. Humor on!

      • MD

        It’s no like she said Shaw was ginger.
        I’ve tried green hair, but it doesn’t last long.

        Edit: corrected that damn autocorrect.

    • GloomCookie613

      I’d guess bad photo/editing or bad dye job to cover the greys.

  • pagansister

    At least the parents are reading the stuff sent home by the school! In my Catholic school teaching days, we were lucky IF the parents even looked for or asked the kids if there were any notes that day, from school.