Catholic schools should remain ‘true to ethos’ despite challenges

Vatican official claims ‘teaching of faith’ acts as a guard against fundamentalism

Guest speaker Fr Friedrich Bechina, undersecretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, also defended the “teaching of faith” – as distinct from teaching about religions. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Guest speaker Fr Friedrich Bechina, undersecretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, also defended the “teaching of faith” – as distinct from teaching about religions. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Sat, Mar 1, 2014, 01:00


Primary schools under Catholic patronage should remain “true to our ethos” and not shy away from challenging teaching, the new general secretary of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) has said.

Delivering his first address to the association’s agm in Dublin, Fr Tom Deenihan criticised the “false” idea that Catholic schools were discriminatory, and he urged school management to stick up for their beliefs. “Catholic schools, by their very nature, recognise that we are not made for this world only and so we teach about and prepare our students, as best we can, for an eternal life with God. Are we to be deterred from doing that, are we to shrink from this belief and responsibility so that we will not cause offence?

“The argument, of course, is false because it is not so much a case of either/or than it is of both/and. Catholic schools prepare their students for this world – and the next.”

Guest speaker Fr Friedrich Bechina, undersecretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, also defended the “teaching of faith” – as distinct from teaching about religions. “The experience is that if religious education is removed from the public sphere, then it runs the risk of becoming separated from human reasoning and may subsequently develop in a more fundamentalist way,” he said.

“I believe that the underlying question is: ‘What is the model of education that we want?’ If we want education which is tailored exclusively to produce highly skilled professionals, and therefore to enhance economic growth, then we could eliminate creative subjects like art, music and physical education.” However, he said he believed these, like religious education, were of the utmost importance to holistic development.