Catholic schools 'need faith communities'


THE DEBATE about the future of Irish education, the place of religious education in schools and church patronage cannot be separated “from the broad question of what the role of a Catholic school really is”, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

“I see very little point in being the patron of Catholic schools which are not truly Catholic. Catholic does not mean sectarian. But a Catholic school is more than just an ethos; it is more than just a school where attractive First Communion and Confirmation services are celebrated,” he said.

Speaking at Blackrock College in Dublin last night at the launch of the book Frank Duff – A Life Story,by Finola Kennedy, he said “unless a Catholic school exists within a faith community of parents who are themselves rooted in a broader believing and practising faith community, then that school will be Catholic in name alone.”

He was “pleased to see the work that is being done by the Government’s Forum on Patronage.”

He had “no fear of plurality in school patronage where parents desire it. I believe that the plurality desired by parents is greater than some think.

“That said, I believe that the Catholic school retains its particular place which must be fostered. But the Catholic school will not survive isolated from a faith community,” he said.

“There is no way today that the school alone will be able to foster a truly Catholic faith unless there are solid bonds between school, parents and parish community.

“The faith of the child and of the young person will only develop where there is an integrated relation between all three.

“It is unfair to expect teachers to take on responsibilities which go beyond their capacity and indeed their duty.”

Praising Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion of Mary, as “an extraordinary person, a man very hard to fit into any conventional categories”, he said Duff was “acutely aware, decades ago, how the institutional structure of the Catholic Church in Ireland which outwardly appeared so robust, in fact had within itself an innate debilitating factor, namely the lack of faith formation of lay men and women.”