Now Minister Bruton wants to pay Catholic Church for Christian ETB schools to use their buildings

The Minister for Education has announced yet another consultation process in relation to religion and education. This time he hopes to pay the Catholic Church rent for school buildings, if they agree to a different Patron body running a small number of schools, while the State also pays for the operation and wages of the schools that the Catholic Church still runs.

Even if this happens, the vast majority of schools will still be run directly by the Catholic Church. Most areas will still have only one school, and that will be Catholic. And the Catholic Church is seeking to trade off divesting a small number of schools for a stronger Catholic ethos in the vast majority that they will retain.

The Education and Training Boards (ETBs), who operate the Community National Schools, will likely to be competing with Educate Together to be the new Patrons of the small number of schools that might be transferred. The ETBs will also be overseeing the negotiations that will end up with the Catholic Church choosing which new Patron to go with.

ETBs are State bodies. The State has already entered into an agreement with the Catholic Church, to have Catholic religious education and formation in Community National Schools operated by the ETBs. The Community National Schools were launched as Inter-denominational Schools. Inter-denominational schools are Christian schools.

The new language being used by the Minister

The Minister is trying to rename the ETB schools as being multidenominational. He also seems to be trying to position Educate Together schools as non-denominational, and the ETB Community National Schools as a middle ground compromise between Denominational schools and Educate Together schools.

The Minister is also now referring to Religious Formation/Catholic Catechesis and Religious Education as Faith and Belief Nurturing. His agenda is to make it all sound more palatable. We are not fooled. ETB schools are obliged to teach religion in accordance with the agreement with the Catholic Church, which opposes objective teaching about religions and beliefs.

Last week he said Community National Schools reflect international best practice in the area of faith and belief nurturing. He is wrong. He says that international best practice encourages schools to celebrate religious festivals and rites of passage. Actually, it is the exact opposite: that schools should teach about, but be careful not to celebrate, such events.

Please read this article alongside these other two articles, also published by Atheist Ireland:

Management of process has multiple conflicts of interest 

The Minister has put the ETB in charge of this process. The ETBs are the prospective Patron body that will ensure the teaching of the Catholic Religion will be exactly the same as in denominational schools. The only difference will be that they will have new words to describe it; nothing will actually change on the ground.

The organisation that will benefit from the extra endowment of funding from the State on an ongoing basis (the Catholic Church), will be able to decide if they prefer the ETBs (Community National Schools with an agreement in place to teach Catholicism) or Educate Together (who have Catholic religious instruction outside the school day).

Of course, this is all dressed up with a new language like faith and belief nurturing and telling minority parents to attend religious ceremonies and festivals to show friendship and respect! If that doesn’t make you feel guilty, you can look forward to more segregation, indoctrination and evangelising.

The fact remains that the Community National Schools are religious schools, and will operate within the agreement made with the Catholic church. Given the stated teaching of the Catholic Church, what do you think is going to happen here?

CNS schools are Interdenominational Christian schools

The agreement for the teaching of religion in the Community National Schools as published in a Press Release from the Department of Education states that:

“They will be inter-denominational in character, aiming to provide for religious education and faith formation during the school day for each of the main faith groups represented”

Somewhere along the line, and for reasons that are now quite clear, the powers that be decided to rename these schools Multi-denominational instead of Inter-denominational. You could just as easily refer to them as Denominational.

The change of language is to enable Church and State to pull the wool over our eyes and to try to convince us that the teaching of the Catholic religion will be different in state Community National schools managed by the ETBs than publicly funded schools with a Catholic Patron.

In Ireland, you can get away with claiming that schools are inclusive while those same schools discriminate in access on religious grounds and evangelise minorities into a religious way of life.

Renaming the designation of schools to suit the Minister’s agenda

The Minister is renaming the designation of schools under different Patron bodies, in order to promote the Community National Schools and the agreement already in place between Church and State for the teaching of religion in these schools.

The various designations for schools in Ireland are not legally defined, so it is possible to decide for yourself what category you would like to place a particular Patron body in.

It obviously suits the agenda of the Minister to now refer to Educate Together Schools as non-denominational, and to refer to Community National Schools as multi-Denominational.

This is despite the fact that the teaching of the Catholic Religion in the Community National Schools is the same as in the vast majority of denominational schools.

Forum on Patronage said we have no non-denominational schools

Also, the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism found that there are no non-denominational secular schools in Ireland.

The Forum outlined the different Patron bodies and their designation. They stated:

Denominational patronage: A school under the patronage of a single religious community. Such a school provides religious education according to the traditions, practices and beliefs of the specified religious community. It may also provide a wider education about religion and facilitate parents of other faith traditions to enable them to provide for religious education in their belief system.

Inter-denominational patronage: A school under the patronage or trusteeship of more than one religious faith community. Such a school provides for a variety of religious education opportunities.

Multi-denominational patronage: In the Irish context, two types of primary schools are categorised as multi-denominational:

• firstly, those schools that do not provide religious education as formation, during the school day, but do provide education about religions and beliefs. If they so desire, parents may arrange for denominational religious education outside school hours in such schools

• secondly, those schools that provide education about religions and also provide some faith formation for different denominations, depending on parental requests, during the school day, over a 3 or 4 week period.

Non-denominational Patronage: Schools under the patronage of a secular body and which has an explicitly secular ethos. This does not preclude the provision of a programme on education about religion. As yet, there are no non-denominational national schools in Ireland.

Religious Instruction versus Religious Education

The agreement between Church and State for the teaching of the Catholic Religion in the ETB/Community National schools is the same as taught in denominational schools with a Catholic Patron. The Catholic Church got everything they asked for when the consultations were taking place over the teaching of religion in the Community National Schools. The Catholic Church in Ireland are supportive of the Community National Schools.

Look carefully at the wording of the original press release from the Department of Education. It refers to religious education and faith formation. Those are two distinct issues.

  • Faith formation is what we know as religious instruction. The opt-out in the Constitution refers to religious instruction not religious education.
  • At present Religious education is what is integrated into the State curriculum in denominational schools. You cannot opt your child out of religious education that is integrated into the curriculum. Schools are not obliged to write down where they are integrating religion into the State curriculum.

Vatican opposes objective teaching of Religious Education

It is the educational philosophy of Catholic Church that religious education must not be taught in a neutral and objective way. It is also the teaching of the Catholic Church that if religion is not integrated into secular subjects and the daily life of the school it will put Catholic children’s faith in peril. This is what ethos is all about.

The Vatican has stated that:-

“Moreover, if religious education is limited to a presentation of the different religions, in a comparative and “neutral” way, it creates confusion or generates religious relativism or indifferentism. In this respect, Pope John Paul II explained: “The question of Catholic education includes […] religious education in the more general milieu of school, whether it be Catholic or State-run. The families of believers have the right to such education; they must have the guarantee that the State school – precisely because it is open to all – not only will not put their children’s faith in peril, but will rather complete their integral formation with appropriate religious education.”

Implications for Religious Education in CNS schools

This teaching had implications for the Goodness Me / Goodness You course in Community National Schools, and it also has implications for the proposed new course the the NCCA are developing on ERB and Ethics. Do you think for one minute that the agreement between the Catholic Church and the State with regard to the teaching of Religious education in the Community National Schools does not agree exactly with the teaching of the Church?

The Catholic Church would not agree to any religious education course being taught to the children from Catholic families in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. Remember that the Catholic Church has control over the training and hiring of any teachers that teach children from Catholic families. They train teachers not to teach religion objectively, as otherwise it would undermine their mission to evangelise.

Catholic Religious Education and Faith Formation

The Catholic Preschool and Primary Religious Education Curriculum for Ireland describes Catholic Religious Education.

“Religious education is a process that contributes to the faith development of children, adolescents and adults. Religious education helps people to develop religious ways of thinking feeling and doing, which give expression to the spiritual, moral and transcendent dimensions of life and can lead to personal and social transformation. Religious education can also teach people to think profoundly, allowing them to make free and consistent choices in the way they live their religious, and other, commitments (Share the Good News 38),”

The Catholic Church refers to Religious Instruction in a number of ways. They call it faith formation and they also call it Catechesis. They describe it in this manner:

“Catechesis describes the educational process whereby the Good News of the gospel is announced and the faith of the Church is handed on to believers in the Church community. Catechesis presumes an initial conversion and openness to ongoing conversion. Through the experience of learning about the faith, liturgy, morality and prayer, ‘catechesis prepared the Christian to live in community and to participate actively in the life and mission of the Church.” (GDC 86)

As you can see, Catholic Religious education and formation are two different things. The Community National Schools are obliged under the agreement with the State to ensure both Religious Education and Religious Formation are taught in the Community National Schools.

The Minister is now referring to Religious Formation/Catholic Catechesis and Religious Education as Faith nurturing. His agenda is to make it all sound more palatable. We are not fooled. ETB schools are obliged to teach religion in accordance with the agreement with the Catholic Church, which opposes objective teaching about religions and beliefs.

Please help Atheist Ireland to campaign against this development

Please consider joining Atheist Ireland to help us to campaign for a human rights based education system that respects equally the rights of all parents, children, and teachers. You can find details here.


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