As parishes transfer more schools to non-religious patrons, the law must be changed to allow remaining schools to be unapologetically Catholic.
Bishop Tom Deenihan told The Irish Catholic there is a need for the Government to remove a controversial law on school admissions that risks preventing Catholic schools from catering for the needs of those who want an authentic faith-based education.
Bishop Deenihan of the hierarchy’s Council for Education said that in a ‘post-divestment’ context, where an increasing number of schools begin to divest and no longer have a Catholic ethos, current legislation preventing schools prioritising Catholic children will cause “a difficulty”.
“Our position is that if parental choice is the determinant – and I think it has to be – then parents who wish for a Catholic education have to be accommodated,” Bishop Deenihan told The Irish Catholic.
“It’s more of a question of how we can ensure that those who wish for a Catholic education can be prioritised in relation to the remaining Catholic schools,” he said.
The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 ended the use of religion as a criteria in school admissions in almost all cases. This means Catholic primary schools can no longer give preferential treatment to Catholic children when it comes to school admissions when the school is over-subscribed. However, other minority religion schools are allowed to continue to discriminate in favour of children of their own faith.
The bishop said: “I think critically there has to be some sort of commitment to parents that in a post-divesting context, they will still be able to avail of a Catholic education if that is what they wish for.
“The bishops are saying that we are in favour of divesting because plurality of patronage helps all schools be true to their own patronage.
“I think if Educate Together are forced to take Catholics, or if the Muslim schools have to take Catholics, or the Catholic school has to take kids who don’t want a Catholic education, then there’s a knock-on effect in terms of ethos,” he said.
Read more here – Being realistic about delivering school divestment