Catholic schools in danger of becoming elitist – Archbishop

Baptising children to attend a specific school ‘abuse’ of sacrament, says Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “I have no interest in being patron to any school which does not have an avowed Catholic ethos” Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “I have no interest in being patron to any school which does not have an avowed Catholic ethos” Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has warned that sought-after Catholic schools are in danger of becoming elitist by excluding students with special needs or ethnic backgrounds.

He also warned that parents who baptise their children simply to gain access to a Catholic school were abusing the sacrament.

He said it was natural for parents to choose schools on the basis of their good reputation.

However, he warned: “The temptation can easily emerge to look on those with learning difficulties or from different cultural or social background as a threat to such success, a temptation to close ranks.

“Every Catholic school has an obligation to make an annual examination of conscience and carry out its very own ‘elitist check’.”

Dr Martin said Catholic education should be a realistic free choice and possibility for parents who genuinely wish it. “Baptising children simply to be able to attend a specific school is an abuse of baptism.”

Patronage

He said it was necessary to have plurality in the education system if the church wished to maintain a proper space for Catholic education.

“I have no interest in being patron to any school which does not have an avowed Catholic ethos,” he said. “Parents who do not wish their children to attend religious education have a right to see their wish respected. Teachers who do not believe should not feel compelled to teach religious education or faith formation.”

He added: “Those who do not believe – who may be very well men and women of great personal integrity and goodness – are in any case not the ones who can transmit what faith means.”