Archbishop confirms that state-funded Irish schools are vital centres for Catholic evangelisation

In a speech last week to a conference on Catholic education, Archbishop Eamon Martin said that Catholic schools remain ‘vital centres for evangelisation and catechesis’. Atheist Ireland has for years been pointing out this damning fact: that our publicly funded school system is part of the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church.

Atheist and secular parents, as well as religious minorities, are obliged to send their children to State-funded schools whose very purpose is to evangelise them.

The Catholic Church tells parents that these schools are inclusive and welcoming. But how can a ‘vital centre for evangelisation’ be inclusive and welcoming for those who don’t want to be evangelised?

Minorities in Ireland know well enough what a Catholic welcome is. It means that the children of minorities are second class when it comes to access to their only local publicly funded school.

And what happens within the school is much more important than the problems with admission policies. If you get your child into a State-funded Catholic school, try opting your child out of this evangelising mission in a school where, as the Archbishop put it:

“We can name and demonstrate the experiences, Gospel values, knowledge and understanding, attitudes and behaviours which we want to pervade everything that we do.”

An astonishing sense of entitlement to public funding

The Archbishop displays an astonishing sense of entitlement to public funding. He and others become upset when their privilege is challenged. They see this as an attack on the Catholic Church. It is extraordinary that so much state funding goes towards the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church.

There is no funding for minorities to exercise their Constitutional and Human Right to opt their children out of the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church, while they are exercising their right to education.

There is enormous state funding for one Church to influence the minds of young children against the wishes of their parents. This influence can cover areas such as abortion, contraception, same sex marriage, and homosexuality.

Many Catholic parents do not accept all the various teachings of the Catholic Church, but their children will also be evangelised into the official teachings of the Church in relation to all these issues.

Schools in Ireland put children in conflict with the values of their families in relation to abortion, contraception, same sex marriage, homosexuality and many other areas where families do not and cannot agree with the teaching of the Church on the grounds of conscience.

As the Archbishop put it:-

“In cooperation with diocesan advisers, it is important that there is a strong catechetical component to Religious Education so that all pupils can systematically learn the truths of the Catholic faith, be instructed in all aspects of the moral life and grasp the essentials of Catholic social teaching.”

Instead of respecting the Constitutional and Human Rights of minorities in publicly funded schools, the Catholic Church are evangelising their children. The Catholic Church are tightening their grip, to ensure that they stay in control over the education system in what the Archbishop refers to as an ‘Intentional Catholic School’. Our publicly funded schools are now ‘Intentional Catholic Schools’ where:

“Everything that happens in the school community is rooted in the Gospel values of Respect for Life, Love, Solidarity, Truth and Justice; the Catholic school seeks to harmonise faith and culture. “

Catholic Church wants even stronger Catholic ethos

If the Catholic Church ever hands over some schools at primary level to the state, their intention with the schools left under their control is to have an even stronger Catholic ethos. The Catholic Church has a policy of segregation which the state endorses.

Plurality of patronage will never achieve pluralism in education. It will achieve the segregation of children in local communities. There will always be parents in some local community that have no choice but to send their children to the only local publicly funded school, where their children cannot opt out of the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church.

When the Archbishop referred to Catholic schools in his speech, he was speaking about our publicly funded school system. At primary level, there are 2800 publicly funded National Schools under the patronage of the Catholic Church. At second level over 50% of schools are under the Patronage of the Catholic Church.

In the other ETB schools and colleges, the Catholic Church has control over religious education and the hiring of religion teachers. Our teacher training institutions are training teachers to become part of the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church.

Think about all the public funding heading towards the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church in Ireland. This is all public funding in a country where the state cannot endow any religion.

This breaches the Constitutional and Human Rights of minorities

The Archbishop seems to believe that just because you send your child to a public funded National School, that means that the Catholic Church can evangelise them. The Archbishop stated that:

“In choosing to send their children to a Catholic school, parents not only exercise their human and constitutional right to have their children educated in accordance with their religious beliefs, but they are also placing trust that the school community will assist THEM in accompanying THEIR children on their itinerary of faith.”

But most minorities do not ‘choose’ to send their children to Catholic schools. All parents are obliged to send their children to school. Minorities just send their children to their only local public funded school.

They do not expect their children to be evangelised into the Catholic faith. Evangelising the children of minorities undermines their Constitutional and human rights to ensure that the teaching of their children is in conformity with their convictions.

And what the Archbishop failed to mention is that there is no Constitutional or Human Right for any State to fund a particular type of education. The State is obliged to respect all parents’ convictions, be they religious or philosophical throughout the entire education system.

There are also constitutional conditions to the State funding of these schools. One of those is that children can opt out of religion. Whatever happened to the right to opt out?

It is difficult to understand how the Constitutional right to opt out,  and the Constitutional right to respect for parents convictions, has come to mean that their children can be evangelised by the Catholic Church while accessing their right to education.

With the help of successive governments, our publicly funded school system has become part of the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church. Publicly funded schools are places where minorities leave their Constitutional and Human Rights at the school gate, and where their education is heavily influenced by the teaching of the Catholic church.

That is quite a privileged position for the Catholic Church to be in.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Mark Carter October 29, 2017

    A well written and deeply frustrating article. A couple of years back, when the question of the 8th amendment to the constitution had started to raise its ugly head again, an English Jesuit friend told me that the Church in Ireland would almost prefer to see abortion on demand in Ireland than to lose their control of the schools. Seems they weren’t wrong.

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