It's almost like a blood type," he says. There are more secular schools being set up, and the church has said it is committed to withdrawing slowly from the education system if that is what people want. Like many of his contemporaries, Dunbar was baptized as a child, but had slowly drifted away from the Catholic faith until he found himself a complete atheist by his late 20s. But the church is so deeply woven into the fabric of Irish life, it is difficult for many ordinary Irish people to distance themselves from it. Breda O'Brien, a church school educator and newspaper columnist "On census forms, lots of people fill out 'Catholic' as though it's an ethnic group, not a religious belief.
It's almost like a blood type," he says. Their continuing presence on the rolls inflates the church's membership. In helping others to defect, Dunbar says he hopes that will diminish the church's influence on the state. But if public sentiment against the church is growing, Dunbar says apathy prevents disaffected Catholics from officially leaving the church. The recent Irish Times poll showed that 61 percent of respondents said the church should give up its control of the school system. They are the successful indoctrinators now, not the churches. Then came the publication last year of two government reports that detailed the systematic abuse of Irish children by monks, priests and nuns, and the cover-up by the church hierarchy. Ninety-two percent of primary schools are still run by the Catholic Church and most of the best schools are Catholic. It's a very difficult time to be a committed Roman Catholic in Ireland. A poll commissioned earlier this year by the Irish Times found that 74 percent of people polled said the church had not responded adequately to the scandals revealed in last year's reports. There are more secular schools being set up, and the church has said it is committed to withdrawing slowly from the education system if that is what people want. Their two-year-old son Oisin will in a few years reach school age. We are trying to change that. O'Brien supports more separation between the church and Irish society. She says the transition period will be difficult as Irish society tries to work out the new balance between the religious and the secular. On census form, lots of people fill out Catholic as though it's an ethnic group, not a religious belief. Breda O'Brien, a church school educator and newspaper columnist "On census forms, lots of people fill out 'Catholic' as though it's an ethnic group, not a religious belief. But his wife suggested that he not be too hasty. And she fears in many ways that consumerism and materialism has replaced Catholicism as the credo of the new Irish society. Another report revealed that pedophile priests had engaged in sex abuse between and and several bishops had mismanaged victims' complaints. If you want to try it I would just wish you lots and lots of luck," says O'Brien. He is now a self-proclaimed atheist. Paul Dunbar, founder of a Web site to assist people who want to "defect" from the church Eoin Smith, 33, an accountant, stopped practicing as a Catholic when he left high school. But the church is so deeply woven into the fabric of Irish life, it is difficult for many ordinary Irish people to distance themselves from it. The church is involved in education and health care, and its imprint on the Irish national identity is deep.
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Ireland prepares for Pope visit amid Catholic abuse and adoption scandals
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