The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) believes that the suggestion of the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn (to Primary School Principals) that time allocated to religious instruction should be devoted to core curriculum subjects instead, is unhelpful, unwarranted and unacceptable. It seems at best a hapless effort to devise educational policy “on the hoof’ and, at worst, an indication of an intention to undermine religious education in the vast majority of our schools.
The Minister’s comment will be widely interpreted as an effort to undermine religion and religious-run schools and may damage the negotiations, at present at an advanced stage, to provide a wider choice for parents. The Minister may be unhappy with the pace of change, and with the power of parents to influence decisions, but his unreflective comments could have the effect of placing a huge question-mark over the Minister¹s intentions. Is the debate on patronage and the process that attends it really meant to facilitate the hand-over of a minority of schools to facilitate a more diverse form of patronage, or is it part of a more ambitious attempt to remove religion from the public square?
Populist opinions, expressed as ‘suggestions’, do little to further educational change, even when everyone agrees that it is necessary. And opinions which will be interpreted as threats fail to reassure those in discussion with the Minister, or the large numbers of Catholic parents who have a right to the religious education of their children.
We would be generally supportive of the shift from school to parish for sacramental preparation and explicit faith formation but believe that religious education should remain part of the educational curriculum.
Fr. Brendan Hoban 086 6065055
Fr. Gerry O’Connor 087 2320295
Fr. Seamus Ahearne 087 6782746