Pluralism should not give rise to ‘elitism’, Archbishop Martin says

Catholic ethos will benefit from provision of alternatives, Catholic school managers told

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “a clear plurality will make it easier for teachers to find an environment in which they can be true to their convictions”. Photograph: Alan Betson.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “a clear plurality will make it easier for teachers to find an environment in which they can be true to their convictions”. Photograph: Alan Betson.

Thu, May 1, 2014, 01:00


Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said that the longer the Catholic Church exercises a “near monopoly” in primary education, the more difficult it will be to foster and maintain a genuine Catholic ethos in those schools.

In an address to Catholic school managers at the Joint Managerial Body annual general meeting in Galway last night , Dr Martin also said pluralism should not give rise to “elitism” or “social division”.

Nor should it give rise to a culture which “seeks to maintain unviable schools just because they are Catholic or local to us”, he said.

“I am a firm believer in the value of Catholic schools and the Catholic school system, but I believe for that system to work and to be able to provide authentic Catholic religious education, it requires that there be a viable, accessible and tested system of alternatives which make real the choice of parents who wish a different ethos,” Dr Martin said.

“Pluralism is something we should welcome,” he said, but there was a “tendency in some circles to use the name pluralism to opt out of pluralism and keep away from schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged children”.

“Pluralism should not produce negative rivalry or antagonism,” he said, urging the construction of “positive relationships within the entire educational community”.

“A clear plurality will make it easier for teachers to find an environment in which they can be true to their convictions,” Dr Martin said, and pluralism in education was “not about creating separate silos”.

Pluralism required a “new and mature culture of dialogue about values, including religious values, and a culture which respects religious values,” he said.

Dr Martin noted that the willingness of the Catholic Church to foster pluralism in educational patronage ran up against opposition, especially at local level. “That opposition comes often from within local Catholic communities, and it can come – as I have said to the Minister [for Education] – from local political representatives including some from the Labour Party,” he said.