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ACP Leadership decries Ruairi Quinn’s ‘unreflective comments’

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

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  1. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Thanks, ACP. A very welcome and measured response to this off-the-cuff, rabble rousing rather than crowd pleasing comment from a Minister of Education. If he’d just see to it that all schools have well qualified and enthusiastic Maths teachers, and that Numeracy is imaginatively catered for from the earliest stages of Primary school, he wouldn’t have to fall back on such asinine jibes.
    That thoughtful Christian Rowan Williams, both as Ab of Canterbury and more recently, has criticised the squeezing or squeezing out of RE via Michael Gove’s new ‘performance measure’ of the English Baccalaureate [English, Maths, History or Geography, the Sciences and a modern Language], not only as the abandoning of a discipline which at its best can open the mind, but for the loss of a religious ethos it should underpin, as well as for its effect on the future of religious and theological literacy.
    With Ruairi Quinn’s comment, we have to wonder about the openness of mind of an Irish Education Minister, as also about just one more sign of a Labour or Coalition need to be seen to be even more politically correct than their counterparts on this other Island. True Humanism it ain’t.
    But once again, Quinn’s glib remark deserves a well thought through response, not just from the ACP Leadership, but from the whole membership, most of whom will have managerial or other pastoral links with parochial schools, from the ACI, from the leaders of schools and school trusts – and if that is done in conjunction with other movements such as Iona and with the Bishops’ spokesmen, all the better.

  2. It’s very intolerant, disrespectful, and utilitarian. It is high time we in the Church began to turn the tables on the ‘equality/diversity/tolerance’ agenda. The sword cuts both ways. The rounded, whole young person has spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and moral needs which a good education ideally provides. The minister disrespects the needs and rights of children. Shame on him. Call him out, those who have voices!

  3. Doesn’t religion class lend itself in any case to unconscious absorption of ‘core subjects’ – since the Bible is very rich both linguistically and mathematically? For example, older children could be asked to compute exactly how many times we are asked to forgive a minister for education when he makes an ass of himself – if that is seventy times seven. And then if there is ever a ‘history’ period children could be asked to find out the average length of an education minister’s period of office – and to subtract that from the age of Methusaleh. I sense that further ‘core subject’ opportunities lie just waiting to be discovered here!

  4. SeanO`Conaill@3, A notice in a nurse`s office was instructive: “If it`s not written down, it wasn`t done!”
    Similarly, you must know that this is the age of measurement in classrooms: if it can`t be measured it`s deemed not to exist or to be meaningless. We may know “unconscious absorption” works, but it appears not to be to the taste of current educational advisors. The Gradgrinds have inherited the earth, or will, if they are allowed.

  5. Thanks to ACP for this prompt response. You articulate so well what many of us wish to say to the Minister on the matter. I understand from some people who attended the conference that there was somewhat of a ‘gasp’ when the Minister made his off-the-cuff statement.

  6. I take my last comment from a posting I put up in response to Seamus Ahearne’s Post Christmas reflection few days back and offer it again here in response to the ACP statement.
    “I am reminded of the opening of Neil Postman’s book, The Disappearance of Childhood, where he suggests that “children are messages we send to a time we may not visit”.
    It implies that there is more to education than fact filling. It has something to do with the quality of life and the experience of a value system that helps us live it.

  7. Kevin Conroy says:

    The minister did not say that religious education should be taken off the curriculum.

  8. Con Devree says:

    Governor Andrew Cuomo recently declared that those who refuse to go along with state legislation on such matters as abortion and the redefinition of marriage, have “no place in the State of New York.” Like Mr Quinn he did not threaten to throw Christians to wild beasts, but the tone of the both men was decidedly imperious.

    The difference between both men is that Mr Quinn is an a-theist and is acting in harmony with his beliefs. His action also reflects his confidence that the majority of Catholics are indifferent regarding the issue.

    In the words of Joseph de Maistre, “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.” Catholics fragile in spirit who symbolically offered incense to Caesar by voting for such present leaders and representatives in the Dail and in the “Park” were either ignorant (and ignorance, unlike stupidity, can be cured) or otherwise ill-advised in placing material considerations above moral standards. But they certainly have got the government they deserve, and, in Ireland, still want, as the next election will probably show.

    One wonders about the outcomes if the same Catholic electorate were electing our bishops!

    And what is the source of the Catholic fragility referred to above? The absence of formation in Catholicism in the home? Heretofore in school? On the pulpit? The version of the Catholicism being taught – Roman, populist or cultural? Let’s not hide behind the convenient excuse of the child abuse scandal.

    (Parts of this submission are adapted from an article by Fr George Rutler)

  9. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    My goodness. This seems all so surreal in your neck of the woods where it is commonplace in others. Educators are feeling the firm grip of a Chinese culture which appears to be unrelenting in their pursuit of being the most potent economy on the planet. Is it for a lack of wisdom that Europe/North America seem to fall behind in education rankings? What would the world be like with Asia in top spot? Haven’t you realized that “mathematics” is what makes the world go round : rankings are Shanghai (China) #1, Singapore #2, Hong Kong (China) #3, Taiwan #4 and in the #5 position, Korea. Actually when considering Math, Reading and Science, Shanghai and Hong Kong are #1 and #2 respectively. So this is what the good minister means. Better watch ourselves because a world where China has the proud market share of the economy may very well be like Mordor taking over Middle Earth. The pressure is immense. China has started to take over Canada already through underground deals with our First Nations communities. Water from the small island where I live is shipped out monthly. Imagine. So the threat of falling behind in the world education rankings is real. For reasons unknown, in an attempt to prevent an atheist nation from becoming the most powerful the world over, our leaders are willing to create this very atheist nation at home. Imagine that. This has been happening in Canada for years and years.

  10. Perhaps then the minister meant that some or most of the time devoted to religious instruction in schools should be devoted to core subjects. It is fair to ask how effective is the religious instruction presently being given in schools. Look at society and the values found there. Also, what is taught at school may be may be (and often is) dumped by the young person on leaving school as something mostly pertaining to school. Have a look at how this is managed in other churches in other countries. e.g the Baptist church in UK and US, The Mormons and so on. The main argument against of course is that if it’s not done in school by people who are paid to do it it won’t be done at all, that there will not be enough instructors with sufficient dedication and conviction and authority. You might say that existing church practice is concerned not with teaching, but the practice of ritual and the maintenance of hierarchy and the practices of the existing clerical structure. You might say this is not the business of the state, something done by a person on a state salary. It’s primarily the business of the church. You might say there’s a test of conviction involved.

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