Irish Catholic Schools Cannot Form Catholic Faith

Sep 16, 2020 | 1 comment

Irish Catholic Bishops must stop relying on Catholic schools to form Catholic faith in Ireland.

That has become even more obvious with changes to enrolment criteria for Catholic primary schools in Dublin, a sign of what must soon follow elsewhere.

So argued a letter at the top of the Irish Times letters page on 16th Sept. 2020.

…this infantile approach to faith formation trivialises religion, and the vast majority of young adults have given up regular religious practice even before they leave school… With no change, the young priest, like the young nun today, will soon be a thing of the past.

With primary schools in the Republic now unable to prioritise the admittance of siblings of existing pupils, the numbers of pupils who are either not from Catholic families or are from families tuned out from Catholic practice, must continue to increase.  In any such class, Anthony O’Leary argues,  faith formation is most unlikely to happen.

In reality, all faith formation classes, like sacramental preparation, should be moved outside the school day because the current system for faith formation is simply not working and should be changed. Anthony O’Leary

Irish bishops may deduce that the Irish Times has highlighted this letter to increase secularist public pressure for change in the management of Irish Catholic schools. However, for years the faith formation issues raised by Anthony O’Leary have been sidelined and long-fingered by the Irish hierarchy, and meanwhile a possible alternative plan launched by them in 2011 (‘Share the Good News’) has stalled completely.

With only one diocesan priest to be ordained in 2020, with the average age of serving priests now 70 and with a viral pandemic further depressing Catholic practice, the situation described by Anthony O’Leary adds another unavoidable item to the formidable in-tray of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, meeting next October 6&7, 2020.

For ACI’s thinking on Faith Formation issues, click here.

1 Comment


    The mistake that is made with Catholic schools, both primary and secondary, is that they are expected to take on the instruction and evangelisation in the faith of young people. The best they can do is to impart knowledge of the Catholic religion but that on its own will never encourage or ensure young people remain faithful to their Catholic faith in later life. The Catholic schools’ role in religious education has become more and more problematic as they appoint teachers who are not Catholic or practising Catholics and seek to protect their existence by enrolling increasing numbers of children of other faiths or of no faith.

    The primary role for the evangelisation of young people is a partnership between home and parish, with the parish running courses to help train parents for their vitally important and primary part.


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