Faith formation and cultural heritage


Sir, – In his letter “Faith formation and decline in vocations” (September 28th), Anthony O’Leary questions the value of religious education in schools.

He is right that the hope for more priestly ordinations is not a good reason, comparing numbers in Ireland with those in secular France.

One might add that currently only half of those classes, namely baptised male students, can consider this path.

Preparation for sacraments should also not be the task of schools but of parishes drawing on the commitment of parents.

But why is this subject offered in publicly funded schools in many European countries?

Why did the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur deplore the ignorance of foundational texts of western culture, such as the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, produced by its exclusion in France?

Citizens will only be equipped for encounters with other cultures if they know the origins, contingent turning points, retrievals (also by Irish monasteries founded in Europe), conflicts and transformations of their own culture.

Freedom of religion requires university-educated teachers also in other faith traditions.

Students will learn to spot the difference between well-reflected convictions and fideism and develop reliance on a different source of meaning than renown on social media and external motivations.

Cutting out the biblical and theological heritage with its interactions since antiquity short-changes one’s education as a European citizen. – Yours, etc,



Professor in Theology,

School of Religion,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Anthony O’ Leary presupposes that the main function of Catholic Schools is to produce ordinations to the priesthood and that is the standard by which they are to be judged.

Surely the function of education is to create the necessary conditions so that young people can develop into well -rounded people.

Maybe at some stage of their intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual development young men may decide to join the Catholic priesthood, but that is their option.

Unfortunately young women students are excluded from such an option.

Maybe this exclusion explains why there is such a catastrophic fall in Catholic vocations. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.