Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has called for a review of education cutbacks that disproportionately affect disadvantaged children.
Archbishop Martin, who is patron of over 460 schools, said the cutbacks have to be addressed.
Asked about the rejection by many Catholic women in Ireland of the Church's ban on artificial contraception, he said the Church in Ireland had never really grappled with the radical change in the role of women in society.
However, he added that the advance of secularism is linked with wider questions of what autonomy and freedom mean.
Referring to last year's leaking of correspondence from the now retired Pope Benedict's office alleging corruption in the Vatican, he said all the indications are that the problem is more serious than at first thought.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, he said the "Vatileaks" scandal revealed last year saddened him.
He added that there was something very rotten when information was used in this way to damage people.
The "Vatileaks" affairs - where then Pope Benedict XVI's butler was caught stealing and leaking documents to the press - revealed infighting, nepotism and alleged corruption within the Curia, the Church's governing body.
Archbishop Martin said during his time in the Vatican he met some great people but he also met some nasty people, some ambitious people, prepared to walk on others.
"This isn't the Church" he said.
He said the Catholic Church in Ireland has reached what he called a "critical juncture".
He said the Church has to "wake up" and realise where things are not going well and address them.
Dr Martin also asked for improved dialogue with non-believers on what is replacing the culture of Catholic dominance in the Republic.
He proposed they discuss where young people can get the idealism to devote themselves to working constructively for the country's future.