Speaking at the “Celeberation of Catholic Education: Past, Present and Future” event in Galway. Archbishop Martin said that ”the willingness of the Catholic Church to foster pluralism in educational patronage runs up against opposition, especially at local level. That opposition comes often from within local Catholic communities, and it can come – as I have said to the Minister – from local political representatives including some from the Labour Party.”
Archbishop Martin also said that “Pluralism is something we should welcome. The Catholic children of the Ireland of the future will live in a climate of pluralism and must learn not to fear pluralism but to be able proudly and confidently to live their faith in a pluralist culture, a faith which hopefully will be nourished to maturity in the Catholic school. Young Christians need strong roots in their faith in order to flourish in a pluralist society.
Archbishop Martin went on: “(Catholic schools) can be, and most of them are, inclusive. There are people in Ireland who wish their children to attend schools without any religious ethos. The State would be failing in its duty if it did not see that such citizens can exercise that right.
“The State would, however, also be going outside its remit if it were to impose on Catholic schools a radical re-dimensioning of their religious ethos. Where parents wish their children to receive education with a Catholic ethos, the State has the obligation to support that choice. Catholic schools which provide the same educational service as other schools should receive the same support also with regard to the cost of management services.”
The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, established by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn recommended, among other things, that religion be taught at the start or end of the school day, that Rule 68 of the rules for primary schools, which allows the ethos of the school to ‘vivify’ the whole school day be abolished and that prayers be ‘inclusive’.
Archbishop Martin praised the role of religious education in society, saying that the reasons for encouraging it were about more than just parental choice. He repeated his call for a more authentic Catholic ethos in the in the schools remaining after the divestment process, saying “Education is more than just curriculum. It is about preparation for life. You can be good at honours maths and become a corrupt banker. On the other hand, you can frequent a Catholic school system for twelve years and come out anything but a convinced Catholic or even having a rudimentary understanding of what faith means.
“To face the culture of tomorrow, Catholic education must look more closely at what its purpose is and thus at the definition of the Catholic school. The Catholic school must produce good citizens, young men and women who can flourish in their personal talent but also have a real commitment to place their talents at the service of the common good. The public interest in religious education springs not just from the expression of the rights of parents, but also from the contribution which authentically lived religious values contribute to the life of a pluralist society.”