At a conference to mark the first Catholic Schools Week in the Republic, Dr Martin said the Catholic school system had its rightful place within a multicultural society.
“Pluralism does not mean watering down identity. Indeed, a Catholic school which waters down its identity waters down its real contribution to society and renders itself useless,” he said.
“The survival of Catholic education in Ireland will not depend on it fitting in to an overall pluralist secularist philosophy, but on it being fully Catholic, bringing that specific contribution of the message of Jesus Christ to society.”
He said it was not about a Catholic school system attempting to dominate an entire system. It was “a temptation which was, and I think we have to say, still is there, due to the historical development of the Irish education model”.
Dr Martin said a Catholic school must never be “just a narrow Catholic ghetto, cut off from or worse still hostile to the world around it. Christianity can never be exclusivist or elitist.”.
The archbishop also questioned the success of Catholic schools in passing on the faith to young people.
“What are we to say about a Catholic school system and catechetical programmes which have produced the numerically largest cohort of unchurched young people in recent Irish history?” he asked.
“Irish young people are among the most catechised in western Europe, with religious instruction right through primary and secondary school, and yet we cannot say that they are among the most evangelised.
“Indeed, the biggest challenge that I, as archbishop, see for the church in Dublin is precisely that of the evangelisation of young people and their insertion as true and committed members of a believing and worshipping community.”
Dr Martin also encouraged parents and teachers to speak about faith to their children when they began to challenge issues.
“Rather than engaging in that dialogue, parents and teachers can be tempted to think that it is best to leave it up the young person alone to find his or her way regarding faith,” he said.
“And I think parents lose their nerve, perhaps because the church has let them down by providing very few services to help them in their task as religious educators.”
While this is the first time Catholic Schools Week has been celebrated in the Republic, it has been marked in the North in recent years. In a homily prepared for the week, Fr Martin Delaney of the diocese of Ossory noted that the special week was more common in countries where the Catholic Church and Catholic schools were in a minority. “Traditionally, nearly all schools in Ireland were either Catholic or at least were religious-run schools,” he said.
Bishop Leo O’Reilly, chair of the Bishops Commission for Education, said it was important that Catholic schools became more conscious of their identity as the schools system became more pluralist.
Catholic Schools Week, which has the theme: Catholic Schools – A Vision for Life, continues until Sunday. Events have been organised in schools around the State to mark the week which concludes on Sunday with a special Mass in Lucan which will be televised by RTÉ.
No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.
The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.