Former Irish Education Minister Wants to Impose Secularism in Catholic Schools

News: Crisis in the Church
by Christine Niles  •  •  November 5, 2015   

New curriculum is proposing a religion class taught from a secularist perspective

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DUBLIN ( - Ireland may soon impose a form of religious relativism on all Catholic schools.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), part of the government's Department of Education, released a paper Tuesday with proposals for a new religion course mandatory for all schoolchildren in the country's 3,000 primary schools.

The proposed curriculum would require all schools — including Catholic schools — to teach a course on ethics and world religions from a secular perspective.

Currently, the overwhelming majority of Catholic schools in Ireland create their own religious curriculum, teaching about world religions from a distinctly Catholic point of view. Schools are permitted 30 minutes per day on such religious instruction, which in Catholic schools usually focuses on teaching the Faith as well as preparing children for First Communion and Confirmation.

With the proposed new religion course, this could cut into the 30-minute time period, replacing part or all of it with a secularist perspective on world religions. The Department of Education has determined that teaching about other faiths through the lens of one particular belief system is not a good idea.

At least one teacher — Professor Eamonn Conway of the Mary Immaculate primary teacher training college — is wondering why "a faith-based school would be required to offer what is essentially a secularist understanding of religious faith."

In his view, such a course would "undoubtedly adversely affect religious instruction and a faith-based school's characteristic ethos."

Behind the proposed curriculum changes is Ruairí Quinn, former liberal Minister for Education and Skills, who has cheered loosening restrictions on divorce, abortion and same-sex laws. Quinn's animus against the Catholic Church is public record.

In 2010, while making an impassioned plea on the parliament floor to push through the gay civil partnership bill, labeling it a "piece of liberation," he also condemned the Catholic Church as no longer relevant or reputable. Instead, he praised the model of the United States for its "absolute separation between Church and State."

There was a time when those same officeholders [disgraced Catholic bishops] would've told this assembly what to legislate for, how to legislate, how far we could go, and how far we cannot trespass beyond the boundaries which they set for us. ... That day's gone. That day no longer exists. That day will no longer return in my lifetime and I hope not in the lifetime of my grandchildren.

Quinn also voted "Yes" on Ireland's same-sex "marriage" referendum in June 2015.

In 2011, Quinn created the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, whose purported aim was to offer recommendations "to ensure and promote greater diversity and inclusion in primary schools." Despite its stated goal, the Forum's recommendations result, in practical terms, in a dilution of Catholic identity in primary schools.

In a 2014 press release, the Forum stated:

Despite the changed nature of Irish society with more people practicing different religions and none, some 96% of all primary schools have religious patrons, with almost 90% of these under the patronage of the Catholic Church.

The Forum made a series of recommendations on issues which included:

Future patronage arrangements;
Divesting of patronage;
Irish language provision; and
Promoting inclusion of diversity in existing schools.

The recommendations came in light of the Forum's findings, published in 2012, that "Ireland is less homogeneous than it used to be and is more diverse in its culture and belief systems," and thereore "there is a need for a greater diversity of school type to meet the needs and rights of citizens in a more pluralist society."

In the 2014 press release, Quinn said, "It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ensuring all schools are inclusive and welcoming." He added that the goverment must "make sure that schools are as welcoming and as inclusive as possible to all pupils of all backgrounds, beliefs and nationalities."

Although Quinn resigned in 2014, the current Minister of Education continues to carry out the agenda he set in motion.

Irish citizens are encouraged to voice their opinion about the proposed curriculum changes here.


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