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.