Religious education in schools

Mon, Jul 7, 2014, 01:08

Sir, – Dr Gareth Byrne (“Religious education helps create a cohesive society”, Opinion & Analysis, July 3rd) makes a case for religious education in schools, both primary and secondary, saying that “some recent commentary appears to indicate a lack of knowledge of, or perhaps interest in, the transformation of religious education (RE) after the renewal of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s and since. It has changed from a wholly content-focused subject to a student-focused one; from learning off questions and answers to discussion of personal experience and response”.

Does Dr Byrne, himself a Catholic priest and chairman of the Council of Priests of the Dublin Diocese, really expect parents of children who have a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender orientation, to believe that their children will feel free to share their “personal experience” with RE teachers or chaplains who have been trained to promote Catholic ethos in that school?

Even if the RE teacher is enlightened, as many are, they would not keep their jobs long if they supported, say, marriage equality, including church marriage equality, for same-sex couples.

It is disingenuous of Dr Byrne to imply that RE teachers might be free to say what they truly feel on every subject.

He also speaks of a “response” which the student will receive after expressing his/her “personal experience”. What kind of authentic “response” might a LGBT student receive from an RE teacher who fears losing his or her job if they speak what they believe to be the truth?

Dr Byrne speaks of a need for a “holistic” approach to education and suggests that RE provides this.

I respectfully suggest that in its present form it cannot do so for young LGBT people. It can only impart psychological and spiritual damage. – Yours, etc,

DECLAN KELLY,

Whitechurch Road,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.