If you are still wondering about the grip that the Catholic Church has on Irish schools, here are some sample quotes from Catholic educators in their submissions to the NCCA report on the proposed new course on Education about Religion and Beliefs. You can read all of the submissions here.
Please also read Atheist Ireland’s initial response to the report itself:
NCCA report confirms that ERB and Ethics course will not meet human rights standards
The following sample quotes are from:
- Commission for Education and Formation of the Irish Episcopal Conference
- Catholic Primary Schools Management Association
- Community National Schools Management Group
- Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford
- Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare
- Derry Diocesan Catechetical Centre
- Education Secretariat, Dublin Diocese
- Education Secretariat, Cashel, Emily and Kerry Dioceses
- Board of Management, Callystown National School, Armagh
- Board of Management, Patrician Primary School, Newbridge, Kildare
- Principals of the schools in the Catholic Parish of Clonbologue, Offaly
Commission for Education and Formation of the Irish Episcopal Conference
The Catholic school exists to educate children in Catholic religious life and in Catholic religious beliefs which are normative for them.
[Under the NCCA proposals] young children could be given the impression that beliefs are things which they create themselves, as if human beings were the source of religious beliefs.
In secular approaches to Religious Education, reason is primary… In Catholic schools, Revelation is primary and the learner’s experience and reason are brought into dialogue with it.
These approaches require teachers to adopt and promote a pluralist approach to religion. This is an approach to religion that goes against the philosophical basis of Catholic religious education.
In the area of Relationships and Sexuality Education… it is explicitly acknowledged that the curriculum must be interpreted in the context of the characteristic spirit of the school. Similarly, NCCA proposals in areas such as religion and ethics should accord with the characteristic spirit of the school. The determination of the ethos or characteristic spirit of a school is not the function of the NCCA or the Minister but rests with the Patron.
Catholic Primary Schools Management Association
“Catholic schools seek to reflect a distinctive vision of life and a corresponding philosophy of education. This is based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” This statement of mission is one which is practised and aspired to everyday in Catholic Schools across Ireland.
Catholic religious education invites Catholic pupils to immerse themselves in the Catholic faith tradition and forms them in faith around the person of Jesus Christ. Pupils are called to encounter religion with the emphasis on reason informed by revelation. This encounter is not just limited to religious education but is evident in every aspect of school life; it is an essential element in the characteristic spirit of a Catholic school.
It is essential to state that in faith-based schools religious education is inseparable from the ethos (characteristic spirit) of the school. As explored in Section 3 of this document, the approach to religious education in Catholic schools does not just occur in a single lesson or subject area but permeates all activities in the school. In a Catholic school our “raison-d’etre begins with God”. Everything espoused and taught in Catholic schools therefore should communicate the same understanding of the human person and of life that is present in the Ethos or Characteristic spirit of the school.
Community National Schools Management Group
(Note: we have included this quote here because, while Community National Schools are theoretically multi-denominational, they have agreements with the Catholic Church to maintain faith formation.)
The Consultation Paper proposes that teachers will adopt the Toledo Principles of teaching ERBE in a manner that is objective, critical and pluralist. These qualities would not have been the hallmarks of faith based teaching and will require significant Continued Professional Development for the teachers.
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford
In its current form it would be impossible to implement it in Catholic schools under my patronage.
Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare
I make this submission as Patron of one hundred and sixty four Catholic Primary Schools in Kildare and Leighlin Diocese… We believe that each child in our schools is wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God.
I believe that the current NCCA proposal to introduce Education about Religion and Beliefs and Ethics represents a threat to the ethos of Catholic schools, and will make the work of upholding the characteristic spirit of our faith-based schools almost impossible.
[Under the NCCA’s secular post-modern worldview] truth can be created, no single religious tradition has a privileged position, reason seeks an understanding of belief and the emphasis is firmly placed on rational thought, self-determination and critical evaluation. In our Catholic faith tradition, truth is revealed by God, faith seeks understanding, critical reflection is on a lived experience of faith and reason is enlightened by faith.
[Under the NCCA approach] there is no space for the child to be formed by the experience of a specific religious identity as currently happens in a faith-based school.
Our teachers are leaders in facilitating the integration of children of all faiths and different stances for living into the welcoming and hospitable environment that is the Catholic school.
In a faith-based school, religious education cannot be compartmentalised but must be fully acknowledged as part of the lived reality of Catholic families.… The proposal that at some point of the school day, children and their teachers will be expected to suspend their belief system and construct a different reality as the primary educators of their children in the ways of faith.
Finally, I wish to come to the person of the centre of all that we do in Catholic education, the child and his/her relationship with Jesus Christ which were calls to foster and develop throughout the journey through the primary school.
Derry Diocesan Catechetical Centre
In Share the Good News, the National Directory for catechesis in Ireland, it states, ‘the Catholic school is identifiable by its Catholic ethos. It ‘models, and transmits a philosophy of life inspired by belief in God and in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.’
In a Catholic school context, Jesus is at the centre of everything that happens, be it policy documents, religious education, curriculum matters, relationships, pastoral care, inter religious and intercultural dialogue and education et cetera everything is viewed through the lens of faith.
The NCCA is proposing that ERB and Ethics be taught from a secular, pluralist, world view which is incompatible with that of the Catholic-christian view. The Catholic-christian view believes a child is formed by their specific religious identity and the virtues and values espoused by them are therefore informed by a commitment to their Catholic faith.
The NCCA proposals seeks to promote a secular approach to religious and moral truths. However in Catholic schools, as children grow in their relationship with Jesus, they come to know Jesus as the way, the truth and the life.
Christianity has always recognised that religious and moral truth is objective. In other words, there are truths that are the same for all human beings living in every century, culture, and circumstances. For example through the patrons’ programmes in schools children are taught that “Jesus Christ is God,” that “human life begins at conception.”
Education Secretariat, Dublin Diocese
Denominational schools exist to educate children in religious life and in religious beliefs which are normative for them, beliefs that have been revealed by God.
For Catholic schools, there is an express and implied duty that the children attending will be educated in the fullness of the faith.
We suggest that the curriculum as framed will be incompatible and unworkable, when the proposed curriculum is considered within the context of the Catholic vision of education which is rooted in its “Christian concept of life centred on Jesus Christ: he is the one who ennobles people, gives meaning to human life, and is the model which the Catholic school offers to its pupils.”
In regard to the characteristic spirit, the board of management manages the school on behalf of the patron, not on behalf of the Minister for education and skills… It is for the patron, and through the patron, that the board decides what that characteristic spirit is and how it is best upheld.
It is the function of the diocesan Secretariat to send out primary diocesan schools advisors to support and monitor the teaching of religious education and the overall ‘characteristic spirit’ in a school. This is an important function of the education secretariat across each diocese in the country. It is done as comprehensively as possible, on behalf of the local ordinary or Bishop, who is unilaterally obliged to fulfil this function.
[The NCCA proposal] is in all likelihood unworkable in a Catholic school and unfortunately we cannot therefore support this proposal as framed. It is for that reason that we feel we would breach our constitutional duty to parents to educate pupils, if we do not educate about the revealed objective truth that will ground the ethics of future citizens in a modern Irish society.
Education Secretariat, Cashel, Emily and Kerry Dioceses
One of the keystones of the proposed ERBE curriculum is that, “the teaching of ERB and ethics according to the Toledo principles should be supported by teaching that is ‘objective, critical and pluralist”’. For schools with a faith based ethos, such an approach is contrary to what those schools hold to be true.
Rev Prof Eamon Conway, Dr Kerry Greer, Dr John Murray, Dr Rik Van Nieuwenhove, Anne Hession, Dr Thomas Finnegan, Mary Immaculate College
While it is true that inclusivity is a value shared by schools of a Christian ethos, it is neither the only value comprising this ethos nor an absolute “at-all-costs” value. Furthermore, inclusivity itself is neither univocal it how it can be understood and pursued, nor neutral as to its effects on other goods.
So an agnostic approach to religious education would indeed foster a particular version of inclusivity within the classroom, but only by excluding from the classroom the truth of particular religious claims (such as the divinity of Christ or the existence of God)…
Board of Management, Callystown National School, Armagh
Callystown national school is a Catholic school and is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Armagh. The board believes that the Catholic ethos of our school is critical to its identity and is the foundation of all that is good in our school. Our Catholic ethos informs our whole day at school, not only the religion class, but it is at the heart of the academic, social, personal and spiritual work of the school.
The board believes that the introduction of the proposed new subject Education about Religions and Beliefs would compromise this ethos. It feels that a new and separate religion subject that is based only on knowledge and does not deal with spiritual development would create confusion and uncertainty with her young pupils.
Board of Management, Patrician Primary School, Newbridge, Kildare
Despite increased secularisation, so evident in our society, the passing on of a healthy faith to our children remains a critical challenge to all of us who are committed to the gospel message of Jesus Christ.… The commitment and energy of the Catholic Church has given Ireland a world-class education system. It is important that the state remembers this and continues to support the churches effort by respecting the characteristic spirit of the Catholic ethos in our schools.
Principals of the schools in the Catholic Parish of Clonbologue, Offaly
The proposed ERB curriculum, with its post-modern stance, integrated across the curriculum areas, once directly challenge the Catholic view of education which understands Catholicism to be a reality lived out in every aspect of the school.
It would be inherently contradictory for schools to attempt to interpret the curriculum in the context both of a Catholic characteristic spirit, and a characteristic spirit the privileges no particular religious tradition or viewpoint.
Category Human Rights Standards Views 1123
Church Documents for Catholic School Teachers: Annotated Bibliography
Pope Leo XIII. (1865). Spectata Fides. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_27111885_spectatafides.html
This very brief encyclical by Pope Leo XIII advances the benefits of a Catholic education.
In these days, and in the present condition of the world, when the tender age of childhood is threatened on every side by so many and such various dangers, hardly anything can be imagined more fitting than the union with literary instruction of sound teaching in faith and morals… For it is in and by these schools that the Catholic faith, our greatest and best inheritance, is preserved whole and entire. In these schools the liberty of parents is respected; and, what is most needed, especially in the prevailing license of opinion and of action, it is by these schools that good citizens are brought up for the State… The wisdom of our forefathers, and the very foundations of the State, are ruined by the destructive error of those who would have children brought up without religious education. You see, therefore Venerable Brethren, with what earnest forethought parents must beware of entrusting their children to schools in which they cannot receive religious teaching. (#4)
Pope Pius XI. (1929). Divini illius magistri. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/ hf_p-xi_enc_31121929_divini-illius-magistri.html
This all-encompassing, seminal encyclical on Catholic education was written by Pope Pius XI. The document elaborates on the mission, focus, circumstances, and final end of Catholic education. He begins by stating, “It is therefore as important to make no mistake in education, as it is to make no mistake in the pursuit of the last end, with which the whole work of education is intimately and necessarily connected. In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is ‘the way, the truth and the life,’ there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education” (#7). The means of Catholic education includes the permeation of religion throughout all subjects and grades of schooling for “…it is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety,” because “if this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence” (#80). He allows no excuse for not properly forming the consciences of young people and states this is well within the Church’s maternal supervision. The document discusses the role of parents and the State to provide education to young people.
The Pope condemns new methods of instruction based on naturalism, stating that man is both body and soul, with a fallen nature that can be elevated by God’s grace. He laments the movement by educational institutions away from the foundations of Christianity, stating a Christocentric anthropology of man and his relationship with God should be the center of the educational enterprise.
The Pope acknowledges the important role of teachers: “Perfect schools are the result not so much of good methods as of good teachers, teachers who are thoroughly prepared and well-grounded in the matter they have to teach; who possess the intellectual and moral qualifications required by their important office; who cherish a pure and holy love for the youths confided to them, because they love Jesus Christ and His Church, of which these are the children of predilection; and who have therefore sincerely at heart the true good of family and country” (#88).
Pope Pius XI. (1935). Provido sane consilio.Retrieved from https://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CATTEACH.HTM
This short document was issued by the Catechetical Office of the Holy See under Pope Pius XI to address the urgency that Catholic doctrine be taught in all parishes, schools, and colleges and that those teaching the faith be qualified and attend annual catechetical conventions and other meetings to discuss the best methods of catechetical instruction (#34-35). Also, special “Courses of Lectures on Religion [are to] be offered each year to those who teach Christian doctrine in parochial and public schools, in order that they will increase in the quality and depth of their knowledge” (#37).
Pope Paul VI. (1965). Gravissimum educationis. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vatii_
A declaration of Catholic education issued from the Second Vatican Council. This foundational document of Catholic education situates parents, by their God-given role, as the “primary and principle educators” of their children (#3) and the family as the “first school of the social virtues” (#3). It proclaims education as an inalienable right for all mankind and insists that the state should not usurp the choice of education available to families (#6). The document states that “a true education aims at the formation of the human person in the pursuit of his ultimate end” (#1). The Church, through her care and concern for her people, enters into the field of education not only to assist primarily in this formation, but also to “pursue cultural goals,” create a community “animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity,” “help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism,” and “order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation” (#8). Teachers, “who aid parents in fulfilling their duties” of education and formation (#5), are recognized as individuals who must “possess special qualities of mind and heart,” because “beautiful indeed and of great importance” is their vocation (#5). Teachers are to be carefully prepared for their apostolate and continually ready to “renew and adapt” (#5). The document attempts to address all the many forms of Catholic education, including Catholic colleges and universities, advocating for coordination and cooperation among them.
In section 8 we read,
But let teachers recognize that the Catholic school depends upon them almost entirely for the accomplishment of its goals and programs. They should therefore be very carefully prepared so that both in secular and religious knowledge they are equipped with suitable qualifications and also with a pedagogical skill that is in keeping with the findings of the contemporary world. Intimately linked in charity to one another and to their students and endowed with an apostolic spirit, may teachers by their life as much as by their instruction bear witness to Christ, the unique Teacher. Let them work as partners with parents and together with them in every phase of education give due consideration to the difference of sex and the proper ends Divine Providence assigns to each sex in the family and in society. Let them do all they can to stimulate their students to act for themselves and even after graduation to continue to assist them with advice, friendship and by establishing special associations imbued with the true spirit of the Church. The work of these teachers, this sacred synod declares, is in the real sense of the word an apostolate most suited to and necessary for our times and at once a true service offered to society. The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children.
National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (1972). To teach as Jesus did. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.
This pastoral message was issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) in response to the exhortation of the Second Vatican Council in Gravissimum Educationis. The document begins by stating, “Catholic education is an expression of the mission entrusted by Jesus to the Church He founded,” and “through education the Church seeks to prepare its members to proclaim the Good News and to translate this proclamation into action” (#7). “Christian vocation is a call to transform oneself and society with God’s help” (#7). Three main themes are proposed for Catholic education: message/doctrine (“integration of religious truth and values with life distinguishes the Catholic school from other schools,” #105); community including fellowship, life in Christ, and evangelization (“Building and living community must be prime, explicit goals of the contemporary Catholic School,” #108); and service including the transformation of society (“The experience of Christian community leads naturally to service,” #28). Scant mention is made about the qualities and characteristics of Catholic school teachers, aside from the very important facts that, “If the threefold purpose of Christian education is to be realized, it must be through their commitment to give instruction to their students, to build community among them, and to serve them” (#144) and the “integration of religious truth and values with the rest of life is brought about in the Catholic school… by the presences of teachers who express an integrated approach to learning and living in their private and professional lives” (#104).
National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (1976). Teach them. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.
This is a brief follow-up by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) to To Teach as Jesus Did, addressing the present and future state of Catholic education in the United States. Many initiatives are suggested. The document reiterates the themes of Catholic education: “to teach doctrine, to build community, and to serve.” Parent, teacher, administrator, pastor, and community roles in supporting Catholic education are discussed. Especially emphasized is “the new awareness that all members of the faculty, at least by their example, are an integral part of the process of religious education” and a “Teachers’ life style and character are as important as their professional credentials” (p.7). The twofold dimension of Catholic education as enfolding academic instruction with Christian formation is discussed stating, “the integration of religious truth and values with the rest of life” is a responsibility of teachers, because their “daily witness to the meaning of mature faith and Christian living has a profound impact upon the education and formation of their pupils” (p.3).
Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1977). The Catholic School. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_
Published by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, this document provides a deeper reflection of the Catholic school, especially in the areas of the nature and characteristics which lend to a school identifying itself as “Catholic.” The document begins by stating that the “Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the Church” (#9), “provides a privileged environment for the complete formation of her members, and …also provides a highly important service to mankind” (#16). The school is considered a “centre of human formation,” and certain qualifiers must be in place or the school cannot be considered a Catholic school (25). The school must be a “place of integral formation” and “must begin from the principle that its educational programme is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person” (#28). The Catholic school is also a place where “a systematic and critical assimilation of culture” exists (#26), where faith is integrated with culture and life, and where students are not only given the opportunity to excel academically but to live in a “community whose values are communicated through the interpersonal and sincere relationships of its members” (#32), especially the teachers who “in imitation of Christ, the only Teacher, they reveal the Christian message not only by word but also by every gesture of their behavior” (#43). The document states that the Catholic school must help the student “spell out the meaning of his experiences and their truths” (#27) and states that any school which does not do this “hinders the personal development of its pupils” (#27).
A Catholic school is founded on a Christian vision of life, with Christ as “the foundation of the whole educational enterprise” (#34), since He is “the Perfect Man” (#34). Redeemed by Him, “the Catholic school aims at forming in the Christian those particular virtues which will enable him to live a new life in Christ and help him to play faithfully his part in building up the Kingdom of God” (#36). To ensure this distinctive Christological emphasis, the local bishop has the authority to “watch over the orthodoxy of religious instruction and the observance of Christian morals in the Catholic schools,” but “it is the task of the whole educative community to ensure that a distinctive Christian educational environment is maintained in practice” (#73). Parents and especially teachers have the duty and obligation to ensure this distinctive character, especially “By their witness and their behavior” (#78).
Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1982). Lay Catholics in schools: Witnesses to faith. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_ curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_19821015_lay-catholics_en.html
This document from the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education begins by stating the importance of all those who work in Catholic schools, “whether as teachers, directors, administrators, or auxiliary staff” (#1). These “will substantially determine whether or not a school realizes its aims and accomplishes it objectives” (#1). With this statement, we see the great importance and impact of even those individuals not directly hired as teachers to the total educational environment experienced by the student on a daily basis. As all people are called to a life of personal holiness, so too are those who work in Catholic schools, since they have a privileged opportunity for giving witness (#33).
The more completely an educator can give concrete witness to the model of the ideal person that is being presented to the students, the more this ideal will be believed and imitated. For it will then be seen as something reasonable and worthy of being lived, something concrete and realizable. It is in this context that the faith witness of the lay teacher becomes especially important. Students should see in their teacher the Christian attitude and behavior that is often so conspicuously absent from the secular atmosphere in which they live. Without this witness, living in such an atmosphere, they may begin to regard Christian behavior as an impossible ideal (#32)
“Lay Catholic teachers should be influenced by a Christian faith vision in the way they teach their course, to the extent that this is consistent with the subject matter” (#49), and should be seekers of the truth, which is found in Truth Himself, Christ. They should be active participants in the school and the surrounding community, so as to act as a conduit of Catholic culture and an evangelizer of the faith. Teachers in Catholic schools possess
Professional commitment; support of truth, justice and freedom; openness to the point of view of others, combined with an attitude of service; personal commitment to the students, and fraternal solidarity with everyone; [and] a life that is integrally moral in all its aspects. The lay Catholic who brings all of this to his or her work in a pluralist school becomes a living mirror, in whom every individual in the educational community will see reflected an image of one inspired by the Gospel (#52).
Part III discusses the many dimensions of necessary formation for Catholic schoolteachers, and Part IV addresses the types and kinds of ecclesial and institutional support needed and available for lay teachers in Catholic schools whose work in education is part of the specific mission of the Church. That work includes
cultivating in student the intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties of the human person; to develop in them the ability to make correct use of their judgement, will, and affectivity; to promote in them a sense of values; to encourage just attitudes and prudent behavior; to introduce them to the cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations; to prepare them for professional life, and to encourage the friendly interchange among students of diverse cultures and backgrounds that will lead to mutual understanding (#12).
Canon Law Society of America. (1983). Code of canon law. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2N.HTM
Book III, Title III, Canons 793-806 are particular to grade schools operating under an ecclesial authority, independent or private schools using a Catholic faith-based curriculum, and parents.
Can. 795. Education must pay regard to the formation of the whole person, so that all may attain their eternal destiny and at the same time promote the common good of society. Children and young persons are therefore to be cared for in such a way that their physical, moral and intellectual talents may develop in a harmonious manner, so that they may attain a greater sense of responsibility and a right use of freedom, and be formed to take an active part in social life.
Can. 803 §2. Instruction and education in a Catholic school must be based on the principles of Catholic doctrine, and the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life.
Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1988). The religious dimension of education in a Catholic school. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_
This is the third of a trilogy of documents issued by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education on Catholic education following the promulgation of Gravissimum Educationis in 1965. (The trilogy began with The Catholic School in 1977 and Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith in 1982.) This document offers general guidelines regarding the educational climate of a Catholic school which includes the building up of a school culture animated by faith. Catholic schools should not be seen as institutions, but as communities and extensions of family life, especially for elementary school students. The document discusses the complementary role of harmonious spiritual and academic formation of the students and again focuses upon the school climate to impress upon the reader that
strong determination is needed to do everything possible to eliminate conditions which threaten the health of the school climate. Some examples of potential problems are these: the educational goals are either not defined or are defined badly; those responsible for the school are not sufficiently trained; concern for academic achievement is excessive; relations between teachers and students are cold and impersonal; teachers are antagonistic toward one another; discipline is imposed from on high without any participation or cooperation from the students; relationships with families are formal or even strained, and families are not involved in helping to determine the educational goals; some within the school community are giving a negative witness; individuals are unwilling to work together for the common good; the school is isolated from the local Church; there is no interest in or concern for the problems of society; religious instruction is ‘routine’ (#104).
Discussion regarding the teaching of religion and the importance of catechesis of those receptive to the Christian message of salvation is presented with suggestions for methodology and to look for opportunities of “pre-evangelization: to the development of a religious sense of life” (#108), the “why,” “what,” and “how” of a culture purports a religious and ethical dimension. Frequent reference to Christ and God, the Father, as well as frequent prayer create a culture and climate that is genuinely Catholic.
Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1995). The truth and meaning of human sexuality: Guidelines for education within the family. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_
This document from the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education was written for families, but it is applicable for educators and administrators overseeing courses on human sexuality in Catholic schools. As collaborators with parents in the education of their children, educators need to affirm the Church’s position that parents are the primary educators of their children. Included in this document are several quotes from Familiaris Consortio, one of which is, “Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church affirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents.” Also, the end of the document is a set of recommendations for all educators working in this area:
- Since each child or young person must be able to live his or her own sexuality in conformity with Christian principles, and hence be able to exercise the virtue of chastity, no educator—not even parents—can interfere with this right to chastity (cf. Matthew 18: 4-7) (#118).
- It is recommended that respect be given to the right of the child and the young person to be adequately informed by their own parents on moral and sexual questions in a way that complies with his or her desire to be chaste and to be formed in chastity. This right is further qualified by a child’s stage of development, his or her capacity to integrate moral truth with sexual information, and by respect for his or her innocence and tranquility (#119).
- It is recommended that respect be given to the right of the child or young person to withdraw from any form of sexual instruction imparted outside the home. Neither the children nor other members of their family should ever be penalized or discriminated against for this decision (#120).
Congregation for the Clergy. (1997). General directory for catechesis. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_
The document from the Congregation for the Clergy describes the relationship between religious instruction and catechesis, both of which are evident in Catholic schools. Paragraphs 73-75 explain the proper characteristics of religious instruction in schools. Religious instruction is to be scholastic in nature
with the same systematic demands and the same rigour as other disciplines. It must present the Christian message and the Christian event with the same seriousness and the same depth with which other disciplines present their knowledge. It should not be an accessory alongside of these disciplines, but rather it should engage in a necessary inter-disciplinary dialogue. This dialogue should take place above all at that level at which every discipline forms the personality of students. In this way the presentation of the Christian message influences the way in which the origins of the world, the sense of history, the basis of ethical values, the function of religion in culture, the destiny of man and his relationship with nature, are understood. Through inter-disciplinary dialogue religious instruction in schools underpins, activates, develops and completes the educational activity of the school (#73).
Paragraph 259-260 address religious instruction and catechesis within Catholic schools, recalling the emphasis of the Second Vatican Council’s document Gravissimum Educationis on schools as places for evangelization, human formation, and enculturation into the life of Christ.
Congregation for Catholic Education. (1997). The Catholic school on the threshold of the third millennium. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_
ccatheduc_doc_27041998_school20 00_ en.html
Written as a “state of the union” for Catholic education at the time before the new millennium, the document from the Congregation for Catholic Education highlights the exiting concerns and challenges of Catholic education, the first and foremost as a crisis of values, especially in the prevalence of moral relativism, subjectivism, and nihilism. Society has turned away from the Christian faith as a “reference point” and “source of light for an effective and convincing interpretation of existence” (#1). Stressing the importance of the Catholic school as a place for courageous renewal with its evangelizing mission, pastoral care for the family and society, and shared responsibility for the “social and cultural development of the different communities and people to which it belongs” (#5), Catholic schools are called to impart a “solid Christian formation” (#8), to offer technical and scientific skills, and above all to focus on the “development of the whole man” (#9).
The document briefly but succinctly mentions the cultural identity of the Catholic school.
From the nature of the Catholic school also stems one of the most significant elements of its educational project: the synthesis between culture and faith. Indeed, knowledge set in the context of faith becomes wisdom and life vision. The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation and coordination, bringing forth within what is learned in school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture and of history. In a Catholic school’s educational project there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom…All of this demands an atmosphere characterized by the search for truth, in which competent, convinced and coherent educators, teachers of learning and of life, may be a reflection, albeit imperfect but still vivid, of the one Teacher. In this perspective, in the Christian educational project all subjects collaborate, each with its own specific content, to the formation of mature personalities. (#14)
Catholic education’s role in service to society and the local community is discussed with the special role of teachers and their role in students development, “for the teacher does not write on inanimate material, but on the very spirits of human beings” (#19).
National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2005). National directory for catechesis. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
While not a Catholic school document, per se, the directory for catechesis from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops insists on the role of the Catholic school as a center for evangelization and catechesis, stating “its catechetical program is essential to is distinctly Catholic identity and character” (p.231). It includes an important section on the hiring of the Catholic school principal (Section 9a) as well as the role Catholic schoolteachers play as models and witness of the faith as they act to form students in what it means to live life as a Christian.
All teachers in Catholic schools share in the catechetical ministry. ‘All members of the faculty, at least by their example, are an integral part of the process of religious education… Teachers’ life style and character are as important as their professional credentials’. Their daily witness to the meaning of mature faith and Christian living has a profound effect on the education and formation of their students (p. 233).
This witness is so important, the directory goes on to say, “While some situations might entail compelling reasons for members of another faith tradition to teach in a Catholic school, as much as possible, all teachers in a Catholic school should be practicing Catholics” (p. 233).
Section 61.4b states that religion programs in Catholic schools should be in harmony with the catechetical efforts of local parishes and diocesan catechetical priorities and that Catholic schools should be affordable, accessible, and open to all.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2005). Renewing our commitment to Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the third millennium. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/upload/renewing-our-commitment-2005.pdf
This document was developed by the Committee on Education of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to reaffirm commitment to Catholic education and its fourfold purposes of “providing an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of our God is cultivated” (par. 2). The document reiterates the value of Catholic education, citing some of the previous documents released by the Sacred Congregation of Catholic Education, and discusses the importance of Catholic schools especially for the economically poor and minority students in inner-city environments. The document addresses the changing demographics of the Church in America, citing the increase in the Hispanic/Latino population and the need to find and properly train lay administrators for positions in the Catholic school environment, develop new models for economic sustainability of schools, and continue advocacy of Catholic schools in the public policy arena. It recommends meetings across the country to address “critical issues of Catholic identity, cultural diversity, finances, just wages and benefits, academic quality—especially in the area of religious education—alternative governance models, and the marketing of our Catholic schools.”
Congregation for Catholic Education. (2007). Educating together in Catholic schools: A shared mission between consecrated persons and the lay faithful. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_
This document from the Congregation for Catholic Education “considers the pastoral aspects regarding cooperation between lay and consecrated persons within the same educational mission. In it, the choice of the lay faithful to live their educational commitment as ‘a personal vocation in the Church, and not simply as… the exercise of a profession’” (#6). Catholic education is discussed from the perspective of communion, defined as union both with God and neighbor. Aspects of communion are further described, and importance is placed upon the Catholic educator as being a person living in communion, with a spirituality of communion, and living for communion with Christ and with others.
As “a consecrated person is called to testify his or her specific vocation to a life of communion in love so as to be in the scholastic community a sign, a memorial and a prophecy of the values of the Gospel, so too a lay educator is required to exercise ‘a specific mission within the Church by living, in faith, a secular vocation in the communitarian structure of the school’” (#15).
Sufficient detail is given to the professional and spiritual formation of those working in Catholic schools. All should continually update methodologies and knowledge of culture, psychology, and pedagogical approaches. Catholic educators must possess a “sensitivity with regard to the person to be educated in order to grasp not only the request for growth in knowledge and skills, but also the need for growth in humanity” (#24).
For this reason, Catholic educators need “a ‘formation of the heart’: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others”, so that their educational commitment becomes “a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6)”. In fact, even “care for instruction means loving” (Wis 6:17). It is only in this way that they can make their teaching a school of faith, that is to say, a transmission of the Gospel, as required by the educational project of the Catholic school (#25).
Communion not only includes collaboration among colleagues, but also with parents, the local community, and the entire Church.
Congregation for Catholic Education. (2013). Educating to intercultural dialogue in Catholic schools: Living in harmony for a civilization of love. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_
Primarily aimed at parents, teachers, and other personnel in Catholic schools, this document from the Congregation for Catholic Education addresses what it sees as a central challenge of education—the acceptance of various cultural expressions among all peoples and the necessity to overcome prejudices and build harmony among cultures without losing one’s own identity and pedagogical vision. Culture is defined as the “particular expression of human beings, their specific way of being and organizing their presence in the world” (Ch. 1, #1). While dialogue and clarity regarding the understanding of other religions is discussed, it is done so with “faithfulness to one’s own Christian identity” (#16). Catholic schools, as institutions of evangelization and enculturation, are seen as places where this intercultural dialogue should take place. In order for this dialogue to be effective, it must be “set-out from a deep-seated knowledge of the specific identity of the various dialogue partners. From this point of view, diversity ceases to be seen as a problem. Instead, a community characterized by pluralism is seen as a resource, a chance for opening up the whole system to all differences of origin, relationship between men and women, social status and educational history” (#27). Culture is discussed from a theological, anthropological, and pedagogical perspective before focus is placed practical applications of the transmission of culture in Catholic schools. “The contribution that Catholicism can make to education and to intercultural dialogue is in their reference to the centrality of the human person, who has his or her constitutive element in relationships with others. Catholic schools have in Jesus Christ the basis of their anthropological and pedagogical paradigm…” (#57).
Of importance to Catholic educators and administrators are the sections titled, “The curriculum as the expression of the school’s identity” (#64-69) and the sections directed toward the formation and profession of teachers and administrators (#76-86). A Catholic school’s programs “can be harmonized with the school’s original mission” (#65), and their curricula should “place on centre-stage both individuals and their search for meaning. This is the reference value, in view of which the various academic disciplines are important resources… From this perspective, what is taught is not neutral, and neither is the way of teaching it” (#65).
Catholic schools are encouraged to promote a wisdom-based society, to go beyond knowledge and educate people to think, evaluating facts in the light of values… In teaching the various academic disciplines, teachers share and promote a methodological viewpoint in which the various branches of knowledge are dynamically correlated, in a wisdom perspective. The epistemological framework of every branch of knowledge has its own identity, both in content and methodology. However, this framework does not relate merely to ‘internal’ questions, touching upon the correct realization of each discipline. Each discipline is not an island inhabited by a form of knowledge that is distinct and ring-fenced; rather, it is in a dynamic relationship with all other forms of knowledge, each of which expresses something about the human person and touches upon some truth. (#66-67)
Moreover, it must be pointed out that teaching the Catholic religion in schools has its own aims, different from those of catechesis. In fact, while catechesis promotes personal adherence to Christ and maturing of the Christian life, school teaching gives the students knowledge about Christianity’s identity and the Christian life. Thus, one aims ‘to enlarge the area of our rationality, to reopen it to the larger questions of the truth and the good, to link theology, philosophy and science between them in full respect for the methods proper to them and for their reciprocal autonomy, but also in the awareness of the intrinsic unity that holds them together.’ (#74)
The formation of Catholic school teachers and administrators is discussed as not simply an initial formation, but an initiation into an on-going, professional learning community of scholars who collaborate with each other and integrate their ideas and faith into the subjects they teach. Their camaraderie goes beyond the classroom to a personal level and their responsibilities as teachers does not end when the final bell rings, for “Good teachers know that their responsibilities do not end outside the classroom or school. They know that their responsibilities are also connected with their local area, and are demonstrated by their understanding for today’s social problems…teachers must be able to provide their students with the cultural tools necessary for giving direction to their lives” (#83).
In its conclusion, the document states Catholic schools are to “avoid both fundamentalism and ideas of relativism where everything is the same. Instead, they are encouraged to progress in harmony with the identity they have received from their Gospel inspiration.”
Congregation for Catholic Education. (2015). Educating today and tomorrow: A renewing passion. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_
This post-synodol document from the Congregation for Catholic Education focuses on the need for Catholic education to “convey vital values and principles to younger generations” and to “contribute to building the common good” (Introduction). Both the context and approach of teaching in a Catholic school are described. The context is the collaborative, unified learning and teaching environment where care and concern is exhibited between teachers and students; where a wealth of opportunities exist for students to thrive and develop their talents; where the cognitive, affective, social, professional, ethical and spiritual dimensions of the person are all addressed; and where ideas are respected, dialogue is free-flowing, and a rigorous commitment towards truth is found. The approach to teaching and learning engages one in the pursuit of knowledge and research where “Engagement in knowledge and research cannot be separated from a sense of ethics and transcendence: no real science can disregard ethical consequences and no real science drives us away from transcendence. Science and ethics, science and transcendence are not mutually exclusive, but come together for a greater and better understanding of man and the world” (II, #2). The pedagogy of teaching includes the centrality of the learner within a relationship where teachers are trained and prepared to guide and accompany students toward deeper learning and challenging goals.
Challenges of Catholic education are to “make young people realize the beauty of faith in Jesus Christ and of religious freedom in a multireligious universe. In every environment, whether it is favorable or not, Catholic educators will have to be credible witnesses” (III). The educational vision for Catholic education must sit within a “philosophical anthropology that must also be an anthropology of truth, i.e., a social anthropology whereby man is seen in his relations and way of being; an anthropology of recollection and promise; an anthropology that refers to the cosmos and cares about sustainable development; and, even more, an anthropology that refers to God” (III).
Education is not just knowledge, but also experience: it links together knowledge and action; it works to achieve unity amongst different forms of knowledge and pursues consistency. It encompasses the affective and emotional domains, and is also endowed with an ethical dimension: knowing how to do things and what we want to do, daring to change society and the world, and serving the community. Education is based on participation, shared intelligence and intelligence interdependence; dialogue, self-giving, example, cooperation and reciprocity are also equally important elements (III).
Challenges to Catholic schools include an increased hostility toward private, religious education by local and national governments.
The document addresses Catholic higher education and its challenges and then concludes with a quote from Pope Francis to educators (below) and a questionnaire.
Do not be disheartened in the face of the difficulties that the educational challenge presents. Educating is not a profession but an attitude, a way of being; in order to educate it is necessary to step out of ourselves and be among young people, to accompany them in the stages of their growth and to set ourselves beside them; Give them hope and optimism for their journey in the world. Teach them to see the beauty and goodness of creation and of man who always retains the Creator’s hallmark. But above all with your life be witnesses of what you communicate (Conclusion).
 A public or private school with an educational philosophy compatible with Catholic schools (#47).
 “The belief that traditional morals, ideas, beliefs, etc., have no worth or value; a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.