In Ireland, parents have a constitutional right to opt their children out of school classes, including religious education, if what is being taught is not consistent with their philosophical beliefs.
In practice, it is hard to exercise this constitutional right, because some schools will not supervise children who opt out and because the Catholic ethos of the school is integrated into the entire curriculum.
But next week will be even worse. Can you opt your child out of an entire week of the school calendar that is specifically devoted to promoting Roman Catholicism?
Next week is Catholic Schools Week in Ireland, starting on Sunday 27 January and end on 3 February. It is part of the Catholic Church’s Year of Faith, declared by the Pope as an opportunity for Catholic schools to recommit themselves to strengthening and celebrating their Catholic identity.
Aims of Catholic Schools Week
- CSW 2013 will firstly encourage schools to take time in prayer giving thanks for the gift of faith and praying for growth in faith.
- Secondly during the week schools will be encouraged to reflect on the witness of the Christian life that is available to us in the lives of those around us and in the lives of the saints that we celebrate during CSW 2013 (Monday 28 January – St. Thomas Aquinas, Thursday 31 January – St John Bosco, Friday 1 February- St Brigid).
- Finally we will be encouraged to look to Christ because faith has its starting and finishing points in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The Catholic Bishops also say about this week that:
Share the Good News highlights the synergy between the aims of the of the Year of Faith and the day to day work of the Catholic School: ‘Catholic primary schools in the Republic and in Northern Ireland are required to follow a religious education and formation programme that fosters and deepens children’s Catholic faith.’ (#100 Share the Good News p. 14).
The Directory comments further that ‘the local Catholic school, a constitutive part of the parish, contributes generously to the children’s faith development, seeking “to inculcate in pupils the qualities of personal integrity and moral courage which are marks of an authentic Christian personality”.’ (#91 Share the Good News p. 131)
They say that the key characteristics of the Catholic School are:
- We are Called to be Followers of Christ
- We have a Catholic Understanding of Education
- The School is a Christian Community
- The School is an Agent of Personal Growth and Transformation
- Religious Education is an Integral Part of the Life of this School
Promotional video for Catholic Schools Week
Here are some quotes from Bishop Bishop Brendan Kelly in the Catholic Church’s official promotional video for the week. The video is produced by the Catholic Communications Office of the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference.
We have a vision for our pupils, primarily. That vision is that each child that comes through a Catholic school is going to discover himself, and deepen his understanding of him or her self as a child of God, a unique and irreplaceable individual made in God’s image, with a unique gift for this world and with a destiny that will take him beyond this world to eternal happiness…
The theme (for Catholic schools week) first of all tells us that Catholic schools are not an isolated reality, that they are deeply embedded part of a Christian community, in other words the parish, and secondly it tells us that the purpose of a Catholic school is that it be a place where good news is shared, specifically the good news of Jesus Christ, the good news about who we are as men and women, the good news about God’s gift to us in the Gospels…
There will be a special emphasis on prayer, because after all the human person is made to be somebody who responds to the wonder of God’s creation all around us, we are people who appreciate the gift of creation…
And there will be a great emphasis, there will be a special emphasis, during Catholic schools week this year on prayer, prayer particularly within the school itself, and also prayer within the home. And we’re not just talking about verbal prayer, we are also talking about contemplative and meditative prayer….
Catholic Schools Week infringes on the rights of atheists
Catholic Schools Week infringes directly on the right of atheists and other parents to have their children educated consistently with their philosophical beliefs.
The Catholic Church has every right to preach its teachings to its members, but the State should not allow this to happen in state-funded schools that any child can attend.