Debate: Should the Church end its reliance on the state?

Catholic chaplaincies at prisons including Wormwood Scrubs, above, could be under threat by attempts to create a single 'generic' chaplaincy (Photo: PA)

Last week it emerged that England’s most senior prison chaplain had resigned from his post after a row with the Government over his role. Mgr Malachy Keegan, principal Catholic chaplain at the National Offender Management Service, was asked to spend just 10 to 20 per cent of his time with Catholic chaplains, and the rest with chaplains of other faiths.

The move has raised fears that the Government may try to save money by replacing Catholic chaplains with generic, all-faith chaplaincies. But should the Church be relying on the state to provide Catholic prison chaplains? Surely parishes can raise money for these chaplaincies themselves.

In many of its activities – overseas aid, social action, education – the Church relies enormously on state support. If it were to cut its links with the state, it would be free to run its operations entirely in line with the magisterium, without the compromises and constraints of dealing with a secular state.

The down side, of course, would be money: the Church would have to scale down these operations dramatically without Government support.

So, should the Church end its reliance on the state? Or is it still possible to work with a secular Government?