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Catholic schools must be a choice in pluralist Ireland

By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 December, 2015

Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Of The Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.The mass celebrated those involved in the service of Education in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Pic John McElroy

Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for those involved in the service of education in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Pic John McElroy

Baptising children simply to be able to attend a specific school is an abuse of baptism, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin warned on Monday at the annual school Mass in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Dublin.

In his homily, the Archbishop said he believes the country’s educational system must be inspired by a real passion for education and which transmits a passion for learning and a passion for an understanding of education which goes way beyond the simple transmission of information.

He warned that the future of education in Ireland will not be served by “polemics or sectoral interests or using education as a political stick either in elections or to score points over people whose views are different”.

Mulling on the possible contribution of Catholic education and of the Catholic school to the future of Irish education, the Archbishop acknowledged that some consider him to be “somehow less than favourable to Catholic schools”.

This was because he had called for divestment or restructuring of the current configuration of patronage to respond to the situation in a changing Ireland.

“I believe that it is necessary to have plurality if we wish to maintain a proper space for Catholic education in pluralist Ireland,” the Archbishop said.

He also referred to his criticisms of the slow pace of change in the divesting of patrons and his statement that he has no interest in being Patron to any school which does not have an avowed Catholic ethos.

Pic John McElroy

Pic John McElroy

“Parents who do not wish their children to attend religious education have a right to see their wish respected. Teachers who do not believe should not feel compelled to teach religious education or faith formation,” the Archbishop stated on Monday evening.

However, he also underlined that he is “strongly in favour of the presence of Catholic education as a component of a new pluralism in education in Ireland”.

To those who, in the name of pluralism, would wish to exclude denominational education from the overall framework, the Archbishop rebuffed their efforts saying they sounded like “an ideologically truncated pluralism”.

As to those who argue that publicly funded education should contain no traces of denominational education, the Archbishop responded that if parents, the primary educators, wish their children to receive education with a robust religious ethos, why should a pluralist society exclude support for their decision?

“Catholic education is not poison, as one might sometimes get the impression from certain debates,” he emphasised.

He added that it was up to those involved in Catholic education to convincingly show the values of Catholic education and how they find a place within the pluralist systems of many different nations and cultures.

Pic shows twin brothers Ciaran (left) and Andrew Nolan aged 11 as they light candles after the Mass. The two boys attend St Clare's primary school Harolds Cross, Dublin.Pic John McElroy

Pic shows twin brothers Ciaran (left) and Andrew Nolan (11) as they light candles after Mass. The two boys attend St Clare’s primary school Harolds Cross, Dublin. Pic John McElroy

“Those involved in Catholic education must learn not just to defend their vision but constantly to improve it.”

He said Catholic education should be a realistic free choice and possibility for parents who genuinely wish it.

Recalling Pope Francis’ warning that stressed the danger of Catholic education becoming elitist, Archbishop Martin urged every Catholic school to make an annual examination of conscience and carry out its very own “elitist check”.

The Catholic school must imbue its pupils with a sense of responsibility for placing their talents at the service of others and of society, he suggested.

He added that the Catholic school must enable its young pupils to engage with others and to work with young people from non-faith backgrounds and to explore together, to respect each other and to work together for the good of society.

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