More variety in education should allow Ireland’s Church-owned schools to be truly Catholic, Killaloe’s Bishop Fintan Monahan has insisted.
While demand for non-denominational schools is low outside Dublin, it is growing, Bishop Monahan said, explaining that “it is in everyone’s interest that this demand would be catered for with a greater number of non-denominational schools”.
“If there was more choice available with many different options either through new schools growing organically or divestment from the old model – there would obviously be more scope for those who choose to remain in the ‘Catholic’ system to be more authentically Catholic,” he told The Irish Catholic.
Parents will be key to ensuring this happens, according to Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin.
“I think it’s important to understand that parents, both in Church teaching and in the Constitution are the primary teachers of their children,” he told this newspaper.
“We’re only involved in education in order to support parents who want a Catholic education for their children – I’m not running schools for the sake of running schools,” he continued.
Describing parents as “the ultimate guarantor of the schools”, Bishop Doran said: “The single most important factor in making sure our schools are authentically Catholic schools is active engagements of parents in in the whole process.”
For Prof. Eamonn Conway of Limerick’s Mary Immaculate College, a genuinely Catholic ethos should be the hallmark of such schools.
“We need Catholic schools that are allowed to be Catholic schools, but it can’t just be more of the same,” he told The Irish Catholic, criticising the State for advocating a plurality of providers while Government “policy is producing a bland uniformity.”
“A Catholic ethos must be allowed to permeate every aspect of the school’s life,” he said, explaining that “ethos is what we teach while we are teaching”, and that it’s “the respect and dignity that we communicate to each individual, which we believe to be God-given, which we communicate while we are teaching”.
Schools with such an ethos would not be “Catholic ghettos”, Prof. Conway added, stressing that “precisely because they are Catholic they will be inclusive and respectful of other faiths and traditions”.