F Rosa Rubicondior: Ireland to Reduce Catholic Interference in its Education System

Thursday 15 October 2020

Ireland to Reduce Catholic Interference in its Education System

A selection of religious symbols on display at Citywest and Saggart Community National School, an Education and Training Board (ETB) school.
Photograph: Eric Luke
Catholic symbols in State schools to be phased out | Irish Times

The Irish Times is reporting that Catholic influences are to be phased out in State-run schools. This is part of an increasing recent trend towards rejection of religion, especially Catholicism, in Ireland in recent years, and is an important milestone on the road to a fully secular society in the Republic.

Amongst the catholic influences to be removed will be graduation masses, Catholic-only symbols and inspection visits by Catholic diocesan inspectors.

An unpublished document obtained by the Irish times, entitled, "Framework for the recognition of religious belief/identities of all students in ETB [Education and Training Boards] schools", a number of steps are outlined for achieving a multidenominational ethos. These include:
  • Any religious symbols on display must echo the beliefs of the wider school community rather than one particular religion.
  • Schools that symbolically represent religious celebrations should ensure balance, such as a school displaying a crib at Christmas but also Islamic symbols for Eid.
  • ETB schools will not offer religious instruction or faith formation for a particular religion during the school day. Instead schools will offer the State curriculum on religious education in which students learn about a range of different religions and beliefs.
  • Religion teachers may only receive training from groups that are fully compatible with the multidenominational spirit of an ETB school.
  • The only authority that should be allowed to inspect the teaching of religion should be the Department of Education’s inspectorate, rather the diocesan inspectors.
  • Schools events that mark a specific religious event or celebration must be on an opt-in basis rather than requiring students to opt out, it states.

Although this is a good start on the process of complete secularisation of Irish Education, there are some regrettable exemptions: some 70 ETB schools have legally binding contracts with the Catholic Church that guarantee the Church's influence over the children's education. These will be honoured, however, the ETB general secretary, Paddy Lavelle, confirmed to the Irish Times that the unpublished document formed part of a wider framework for addressing the “multidenominational aspect of our schools specifically and the importance of catering for children of all religious and non-religious worldviews equally”.

Ever since the scandals of child sexual abuses and cover-ups by Catholic Clerics and the scandals of child abuse and neglect by nuns in orphanages and convent-run homes for unmarried mothers broke in Ireland, there has been a major rejection of the Catholic Church and a lessening of it's once pervasive influence in all aspects of cultural and political life in the Republic of Ireland, culminating is massive rejections of its teachings in referenda on same-sex marriages, contraception and abortion, bringing the Republic into line with most of secular Europe on these issues.

Following a fulsome, and previously unthinkable, condemnation of the Catholic Church in Ireland by then Taoiseach, Leo Veradka, following the publication of the highly critical Cloyne Report into the sexual abuses of children by Catholic clerics and how the Church had mishandled them, the Pope withdrew his legate (ambassador) from Dublin.

In the 2016 census, 'Nones' (those not identifying with any religion) increased by 73.6% on the previous (2011) figure to become the second largest demographic, while Catholicism, whilst still the largest, fell by 3.4%, and minor religions such as Judaism, Jainism, Scientology and Hare Krishna and Salvation Army recorded figures below parody religions like Jedi Knight and Pastafarian.

Ireland, that once most Catholic of European countries, whose original constitution recognised the 'special place' of the Catholic Church in Irish life, is rapidly turning its back on what turned out to be the malevolent influence of a corrupt, interfering and divisive church, and opting for an open, inclusive, caring and tolerant secular society instead.

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