ETBs pay Church For Catholic Youth Leadership courses

Thanks to the generosity of the donors to our crowdfunding campaign, Atheist Ireland has been continuing to analyse the results of some FoI requests towards the ETB sector. ETBs are Education and Training Boards. They are state bodies that directly run schools, in contrast to schools that have a religious patron body.

In the latest revelations, we have seen that many ETB schools are not only incorporating extensive Catholic faith formation activities into the school, but they are also paying significant fees directly to the Catholic Church for Catholic Youth Leadership courses.

These Youth Leadership courses are to train students to develop a community of faith within themselves,  their school and also their community. The ETBs are funding an explicitly Catholic course to train students from a Catholic background in Youth Leadership.

Ember Faith Leadership Programme

The Ember Faith Leadership Programme is operated by the Archdiocese of Dublin. The purpose of the programme is to create a team of senior students in schools who will promote Catholicism towards the youngest students. ETB colleges, which are fully State-funded and have no religious patron, are paying The Scripture Union to create these Catholic Youth Leadership teams within their schools.

This is not a hyperbolic interpretation of the purpose of the retreats that ETB schools are paying for. As described in the extract below, the development of Catholic faith in the youngest students by the senior students, is one of the explicit goal of the courses.

Goals of the Ember Faith Leadership Programme

Goals of the Ember Faith Leadership Programme

Structured evangelisation of junior students

These are not merely casual suggestions for the senior students either. The objectives of the Ember Faith Leadership Programme are to create highly organised and active teams, that will evangelise more junior students in a structured manner. The extract below describes the retreat that the senior students participate in, and how they will be told to structure their weekly meetings once they return to their schools.

Objectives of the Ember Faith Leadership Programme

Objectives of the Ember Faith Leadership Programme

The cost of evangelising students

These retreats don’t come cheap. Confey College is a ETB school in Leixlip, with no religious patron. Nevertheless, the school was able to find €1,320 this September to create a team of 12 students, who can work on developing Catholicism within the younger students.

It is amazing that ETB schools are able to find money for this kind of programme, while many non-religious parents with children in various ETB schools are told that budget restrictions mean they can’t opt out of religion (as there is no funding available to supervise children elsewhere). An example invoice to Confey College from The Scripture Union for the Ember Faith Leadership Programme, is illustrated below..Invoice for Ember Faith Leadership Programme paid by Confey College

Invoice for Ember Faith Leadership Programme paid by Confey College

The Meitheal programme

This is not an isolated case in just one diocese. A very similar programme called Meitheal, operates in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin too. What distinguishes payments for the Meitheal Young Leadership Training is that they are made directly to the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. In fact, the direct involvement of the bishop is an intrinsic part of the training, as illustrated in the extract from the Meitheal Information Booklet below:

Extract from the Meitheal Information Booklet

Extract from the Meitheal Information Booklet

For example, Scoil Chonglais college in Baltinglass, which has no denominational patron and is fully State-funded. However, the invoice illustrated below describes payments that they have made for Meitheal, directly to the Catholic Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin Faith Development Services.

Invoice for Meitheal Youth Leadership Training paid by Scoil Chonglais

Invoice for Meitheal Youth Leadership Training paid by Scoil Chonglais

Conclusion

The State has created a network of ETB/VEC schools with no religious patron, which have been presented as the alternative to the dominant Catholic school sector. Having done so, we are now seeing those schools pay the Catholic church to train students to be Youth Leaders in their schools and their Dioceses.  This can only be seen as an endowment of religion as it goes way beyond helping parents with the religious education of their children.

It is also religious discrimination as the ETBs are not paying for the training of children from minority backgrounds to become leaders within their school. Why are our ETBs paying the Catholic Church to train children from a Catholic background to become Youth leaders in their Dioceses?

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