Veto fears over Govt's chaplaincy funding scheme

Reacting to the Federal Government's pledge to fund chaplains in every Australian school, NSW Catholic Education Commission head, Brian Croke, says that a government veto over Catholic school staff especially in religious matters "would be unprecedented".

Fearing interference, the Catholic schools sector says a requirement for the Federal Government to vet each appointment will make it think twice about the Prime Minister's plan, the Age reports.

Mr Howard said yesterday that under the $90 million scheme, all schools could apply for $20,000 a year towards the cost of chaplains to provide "pastoral care and spiritual guidance".

But NSW Catholic Education Commission director, Brian Croke, said: "This would be unprecedented, I would suggest."

The scheme, budgeted to cost $90 million over three years, requires schools to contribute some of the cost which is expected to be up to $70,000 for a fulltime chaplain. Federal funding would be limited to $20,000 a year per school, regardless of the number of chaplains appointed.

Mr Howard said he did not think there was anything sensitive about the proposed checking of chaplains, including Muslims.

"I think it's just common sense ... the great majority of people will support this as a very sensible initiative and I am quite sure that Islamic schools and Jewish schools will be as enthusiastic about this as Catholic and Protestant schools."

But the Government reserved the right "to say no to somebody who is plainly unacceptable", Mr Howard said.

The idea for the national chaplaincy program was first proposed in June by Federal Liberal MP Greg Hunt after he noticed schools in his Mornington Peninsula electorate were struggling to raise enough money to fund chaplains.

Chaplaincy programs exist in most states and operate largely without state or federal government funding.

Catholics and Carr wary of school chaplains plan (The Age, 30/10/06)
School chaplain plan gets go-ahead (The Age, 30/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Education Commission, New South Wales

Chaplains on agenda for state schools (CathNews 19/6/06)
Sydney Archdiocese to double chaplaincy on campuses (CathNews 31/5/2005)
NSW Govt "backflip" on hospital chaplaincies (CathNews 11/2/05)

30 Oct 2006