Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 7th 2013 Contents interview
www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY, JULY 7, 2013
with Clevon Raphael
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of
Port-of-Spain, Monsignor Joseph Har-
ris, is flexing his muscles to prevent
the whittling down of the role of the
church in education in T&T.
His Grace feels some people in author-
ity would be glad to see the church keep
quiet on certain things, while others
would like the opposite in order to obtain
The 71-year-old Archbishop is steering
clear of the e-mail bacchanal on which
he commented last month and which
caused, according to him, an unexpected
furore.Q: Your Grace, the immediate
past prime minister of T&T
Patrick Manning, promised
to join the clergy on demitting his polit-
ical office. Do you have any plans to
become a politician at the end of your
(Stifling a laugh at his Flood
Street, St Clair, office, Wednes-
day afternoon) No. And I would
tell my friends if ever I get involved in
politics to commit me to St Ann s. I have
But apart from that the canon law
doesn t allow us to get into public office
even when we retire.
Didn t you inadvertently dip into the
political pool with your recent pro-
nouncements on matters political
including the e-mail controversy?
Well, it all depends on how you define
politics; its proper definition is the search
for the common good...
It s the first time many of us are hear-
ing this definition of what is a very
emotive topic and isn t this a bit difficult
for the average citizen to comprehend?
All of us are political, and if we are
to survive as human beings we have to
create the atmosphere in which all people
can enjoy the good things that God has
given to us in this world.
Hold on. There is a difference with
partisan politics...that is what I will not
get involved with at all.
You have done something that is not
exactly common with our clergy,
although some have indeed ventured
into the politics. With your recent out-
Well, I wouldn t call it an outburst. I
was preaching a homily, and one of the
complaints is that the church is irrelevant
and if you are preaching a homily and
if you want to be relevant, you have to
frame it in what is happening at the
moment, so that you can apply God s
word to the situation to see how it can
Or weren t you trying to be contro-
(Glancing at Raphael, head bowed,
with eyes peering over the rim of his
glasses) I was not trying to make con-
troversial headlines; I had no intention
of making headlines. In fact, I was speak-
ing to my flock and I was very surprised
with the entire furore.
I don t want to put you on the spot,
Your Grace, but do you think our politi-
cians are following the course of the
common good, or do they have ulterior
(Hands clasping his tummy below his
pants waist) I will not get into the motives
why politicians act in the way that they
do and many of them really think that
they are doing what is best. But at times,
when the situation warrants it, I think
all religious leaders have to speak about
what is right and what is wrong...
But Your Grace....?
And, let me add, without getting into
There has always been this debate as
to whether the clergy should actively be
involved in the politics even to make the
most mundane statement.
There are some people who would
like the church of course to remain locked
up in the sacristy and get involved with
nothing. There are other people who
want the church to be involved in things
for their benefit.
There are people who think the church
should not be engaged in education, for
example, in health care or social works.
Isn t it surprising, Your Grace, that
there is that sort of thinking in this day
(Furrowed brow); Even though the
church is involved in it and there are
people who would wish the church were
not. And that the Government, whichev-
er one is in office, should be in charge
totally of education.
Is that the position of most govern-
Well, and more people will tell you
that rules are being made and created
which would seem to suggest that the
church should not be.
Here in T&T?
(Eyes closed and nodding in the affir-
mative) Yes. Yes.
Are you fearful that there might be
a trend in this direction?
We will always work against it, we
will always work to ensure that people
have a right to decide how they want
their children educated and whom they
want to educate their children.
At times you see rules being applied
or being made which would seem to
want to limit the role of churches.
Let me put you on the spot: can
I get an example of this happening
at this time?
(Chuckling) You want to put me
on the spot?
At the moment we are having
problems in the placing of teachers
in our schools. Many of them are
We have spoken about it we have
made representations and we will
continue to make representations.
When that happens (understaffing)
we cannot deliver the quality of edu-
cation we would like to deliver.
Continues on Page A11
Archbishop Harris: Too many
young people functionally illiterate
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