‘What’s so terrible about having a Catholic ethos?’ – Bishop Doran

Tensions exist, but Church and State agree new era for Boyle Centre

A clash between the Church and State will result in a change in the running of the Boyle Family Life Centre, a public meeting at King House in the north Roscommon town heard on Monday night. 

  More than 70 people attended the meeting which was addressed by Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran and Canon Gerry Hanly, the local parish priest, who is a member of the centre’s voluntary management committee.

  The bishop spoke at length. He explained how an impasse between the Church and state-run body Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, would result in the centre effectively being divided into two sections.

  “For some reason, they have taken it into their heads that they are not willing to work with us as a Church,” Bishop Doran said.

  “Tusla seems to have a problem with our involvement in it.”

  The new arrangement will see a Family Resource Centre based at the same location and run by a new limited company, in which the Church would not be involved, while a Family Life Centre would cater for Church-run services.

  These would provide services of a pastoral and spiritual nature to families, the bishop said.

  The new arrangement will be a departure from the running of the centre since its foundation by Dr. Dominic Conway (who was bishop at the time) in 1987.

  Originally, it was established for providing a diocesan response to the needs of families, and these services have developed over the years. Eight people are employed at the centre – part and full-time.

  Bishop Doran said that, in October last, Tusla said it would continue to finance the facility only if the Church was no longer involved.

  They said also that the centre would have to become a limited company, a concept that the bishop was amenable to.

  However, Bishop Doran wanted the ethos of the Diocese of Elphin to be reflected in the governance document of the company.

  He said: “The answer I got back from Tusla in October 2015 was to say that this would conflict with the ethos of a family and community services resource centre programme for an organisation, funded by the programme, to have a statement of denominational ethos written into its governance document.

  “In effect, Tusla was only willing to partner with Boyle Family Life Centre into the future if we were willing to operate without reference to our ethos.

  “I told them that wasn’t acceptable.”

  Bishop Doran said that Tusla’s stance was in tune with the State’s attitude towards Church-run schools and hospitals over the past few years.

  In this instance, he was not willing to back down. “I think sometimes you have to stand firm and say: ‘Well, we are not going there,’” he said.

  Tusla’s demands were “not acceptable for a number of reasons”, he said.

  “First of all, the reason they gave me was to say that they required the services to be provided in an ‘inclusive manner’,” the bishop said.

  “They weren’t able to answer me why ‘inclusive’ didn’t include us – what was so terrible about having a Catholic ethos?

  “When you talk about a Catholic ethos, it’s not about defining other people; it’s about defining who we are ourselves.”

  Bishop Doran explained that he was torn between conflicting forces. On the one hand, he wanted to secure the future of the centre for those who used its various services and the employment of its staff.

  He added: “But I also have to protect the diocese, both in terms of its responsibility for the Family Life Centre and in terms of its reputation.

  “I can’t allow a situation where I would be responsible, as the bishop of the diocese, for an agency over which the diocese have absolutely no influence, so we would effectively become managers for a Tusla programme.”

  The new compromise arrangement was best, he concluded, after consultation with the centre’s voluntary management committee and staff. It is in the process of being finalised, the bishop added.