Pope says Catholic education is evangelisation- Secular Sunday #551 || 17 July, 2022


Pope says Catholic education is evangelisation

Pope Francis has said that Catholic education is evangelisation. This confirms again what Atheist Ireland has been saying for years: that our publicly funded school system is part of the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church.

The Pope made this statement during a private reception in the Vatican in April for educators including from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. He also told a gathering of Christian Brothers to evangelise by educating, and educate by evangelising.

The Pope absurdly elaborated that not to speak ‘the truth about God’ in schools, out of respect for those who do not believe, would be like burning books out of respect for those who are not intellectuals. By ‘the truth’, of course, he means his particular beliefs.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, has previously said that Catholic schools are vital centres for evangelisation and catechesis, and that through Religious Education all pupils should systematically learn the truths of the Catholic faith.

As is often the case, the Catholic Church leadership talking internally, and Atheist Ireland talking publicly, are the only groups open about this fact, while the Department of Education and other state bodies pretend that this is not the case.

Atheist Ireland campaigns for a secular education system that respects everybody equally, regardless of their religious or nonreligious beliefs, and that does not promote or favour either religion or atheism.

As always, you can help us to continue our work by joining Atheist Ireland as a member, or by asking anybody who you think may be interested in joining us to do so. We are an entirely voluntary body with no paid staff, and we depend on our members to continue our work. You can join Atheist Ireland here.

- Secular Sunday Editorial Team


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English translation:

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Atheist Ireland News


Pope confirms Catholic education is evangelisation

Pope Francis has confirmed that Catholic education is evangelisation, and has compared not speaking the truth about God in education to burning books, during a private reception in the Vatican on 22 April for educators including from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. He also told a gathering of Christian Brothers to evangelise by educating, and educate by evangelising.
This confirms again what Atheist Ireland has been saying for years: that our publicly funded school system is part of the evangelising mission of the Catholic Church. As is often the case, the Catholic Church and Atheist Ireland are the only groups open about this fact, while the Department of Education and other state bodies pretend that this is not the case.
Catholic education is evangelisation — Pope Francis
At the April meeting referred to above, Pope Francis said that:
“Catholic education is also evangelisation: bearing witness to the joy of the Gospel and its power to renew our communities and provide hope and strength in facing wisely the challenges of the present time. I trust that this study visit will inspire each of you to rededicate himself or herself with generous zeal to your vocation as educators, to your efforts to solidify the foundations of a more humane and solidary society, and thus the advancement Christ’s kingdom of truth, holiness, justice and peace.”
Pope Francis also said that:
“Not to speak the truth about God out of respect for those who do not believe would be, in the field of education, like burning books out of respect for those who are not intellectuals, destroying works of art out of respect for those who do not see, or silencing music out of respect for those who do not hear.”
When Mary Immaculate College reported on the reception on their website, they highlighted the section of the Pope’s speech in which he said Catholic education is evangelisation, then quoted project leader Daniel O’Connell from MIC as saying that: “Meeting with Pope Francis and other speakers was such a gift, a source of encouragement and inspiration for us all.”
Evangelise by educating, educate by evangelising — Pope Francis
In May Pope Francis addressed participants in the 46th General Chapter of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. He concluded:
“It is your way of realizing what Saint Paul wrote: “Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19). To educate in this way is your apostolate, your specific contribution to evangelization: to make the person grow according to Christ. In this sense, your schools are “Christian”: not because of an external label, but because they take this path… Thank you for what you are and what you do! Go forth with the joy of evangelizing by educating  and of educating by evangelizing. I bless you and all your communities.”
Vital centres for evangelisation — Archbishop Eamon Martin
In a speech in 2017 to a conference on Catholic education, Archbishop Eamon Martin said that Catholic schools remain ‘vital centres for evangelisation and catechesis’. He said:
“Despite a changed context, Catholic schools remain as vital centres for evangelisation and catechesis, closely linked to parishes and local communities. It is reasonable, then, for boards of management of Catholic schools, in establishing their admissions criteria, to be concerned about ensuring that pupils from the local parish or group of parishes, are able to access their Catholic school.”
The 2018 Admissions to Schools Act has prevented Catholic Bishops from discriminating in this particular way, but the Bishops lobbied the government last year to be able to do this again in return for divesting some schools to multi-denominational patrons.
In the speech above, Archbishop Martin went on to say:
“In cooperation with diocesan advisers, it is important that there is a strong catechetical component to Religious Education so that all pupils can systematically learn the truths of the Catholic faith, be instructed in all aspects of the moral life and grasp the essentials of Catholic social teaching.”
“Everything that happens in the school community is rooted in the Gospel values of Respect for Life, Love, Solidarity, Truth and Justice; the Catholic school seeks to harmonise faith and culture.”
Catholic schools vital to new evangelisation — Archbishop Eamon Martin
In an article in Catholic Culture in 2014, Archbishop Eamon Martin wrote:
“A few weeks ago we celebrated Catholic Schools Week, acknowledging that our schools are distinctive – they are not only centres of excellence and learning, but they are also places of faith. So, if the Holy Father is calling on our young people to be agents of the new evangelisation, it is important to ask ourselves: to what extent do we, in our Catholic schools, facilitate young people in grasping the truths of faith, growing in love of God and neighbour, and in becoming witnesses for Christ?”
“Pope Francis has no doubt that Catholic schools are vital to the New Evangelisation. Just before Christmas he published the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, (The Gospel of Joy) in response to the XIII Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelisation. In ‘The Gospel of Joy’ he says: ‘Catholic schools, which always strive to join their work of education with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, are a most valuable resource for the evangelization of culture’.”
“Obviously this means finding more opportunities in Catholic schools for pupils to hear or read God’s Word, and then to reflect on what it is asking of them. The Word of God is the ‘wellspring of renewal’ in the life of the Church and in our own personal lives (Verbum Domini). But if this is to happen then we need to make the Bible a more natural part of the daily life of our schools.”
“Our Catholic schools remain a valuable resource in helping our young people, parents and teachers to understand and bear witness to our faith in public and to bring the Gospel of Joy to the world. In reflecting with you on the New Context, a New Mission and New Partnerships this evening, I am inviting our superb Catholic schools to join us in the New Evangelisation and help us to sing a new song to The Lord!”
The relevance of religion — Irish State religion course
The Irish State continues to help the Catholic Church to evangelise schoolchildren. Children are taught to respect religious beliefs and their codes of conduct. This is not just in the religion courses developed by the Patron bodies, but also courses developed by the State. The Main Aim of the State Religious Education course at second level is:
“Religious Education aims to develop knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and values to enable young people to come to an understanding of religion and its relevance to life, relationships, society and the wider world.”
If the main aim of any course was to develop values to enable all students to see the relevance of atheism to their lives, it would be seen as indoctrination. But the people who control and influence our education system cannot see the problem with doing this for religion.
These are just some examples of how the Catholic Church evangelises culture in Ireland, and how it specifically uses our publicly funded schools to evangelise Catholicism. This church-state coalition of evangelisation has to stop. Atheist Ireland continues to lobby for full separation of church and state, and a secular state that respects equally everybody’s right to freedom of religion or belief without taking sides in favour of either religion or atheism. Read online...


Loreto school in Balbriggan wants to control ‘NPRE’ parents and their children


In Loreto second level school in Balbriggan, students who exercise their Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction are referred to as ‘NPRE students’, and their parents are referred to as ‘parents of NPRE students’.

‘NPRE’ stands for Non Participation in Religious Education. It could more accurately be described as ‘Not Protecting Rights Equally’.

This Loreto policy breaches the Constitution and the Education Act. It also breaches GDPR law, as the school draws up a list of these ‘NPRE’ students and puts their names on a database along with the reasons why they are not participating in religious education.

This Loreto policy is absolutely disrespectful to minorities and undermines pluralism and the right to freedom of religious and belief. It reflects Catholic power and control over our education system.

We are aware that publicly funded Catholic schools are not inclusive, and that they discriminate on religious grounds. However, this policy is worse than that. It attempts to actively control how atheist and other minority belief parents bring up their children in accordance with their own personal philosophical beliefs.

The Department of Education simply ignores the Constitutional rights of parents. In particular it has failed to put in place an Administrative scheme to give practical application to the Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction under Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution.

Constitutional rights of parents

Article 44.2.4 states that students have a right to attend any school receiving public funds and ‘not attend’ religious instruction. Article 44.2.4 does not say ‘opt out’ or ‘not participate’ in religious instruction. It clearly says ‘not attend’, which means the right to physically leave the classroom. Nor does it say that reasons must be given for not attending.

Section 30-2(e) of the Education Act 1998 reflects this right. This right is the responsibility of the Minister for Education. There is no dispute in relation to the right to ‘not attend’. The Constitution is clear and so is the Education Act.

The Oireachtas has also decided that practical application must be given to Constitutional rights (Section 6 (a) Education Act 1998) and that Boards of Management of schools must ensure that the Constitutional rights of all are complied with.

The Supreme Court in the recent Burke case has upheld parental rights and said that parental authority over the education of their children was a foundational pillar of the constitution. Not in Loreto for the NPRE parents and students though. They obviously missed that Supreme Court case.

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 obliges schools to put in their Admissions policy the arrangement for students not attending religious instruction.

The vast majority of schools just ignore that legal requirement and the Minister for Education, Norma Foley has done nothing about this. Schools simply put in their Admission policies that parents should come into a meeting to discuss the issue.

Loreto, Balbriggan Admission Policy

In the case of the Loreto in Balbriggan, this is what their Admission Policy says:-

“16. Arrangements regarding students not attending religious instruction.

Where the parents, or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student, have requested that the student attend the school without attending the religious instruction in the school, arrangements are set out in the school’s policy on Non Participation in Religious Education as per the school website. This policy is available on the school website or by contacting the school office.”

As an aside, by putting ‘Non Participation in Religious Education’ as their response to the law about ‘Religious Instruction’, they are acknowledging that ‘religious education’ and ‘religious instruction’ are the same thing. This is significant as some schools and patron bodies deny this fact.

Loreto, Balbriggan ‘Non Participation in Religious Education’ policy

The policy says that Religious Education is a non exam subject in Loreto. We are aware that this RE course was also developed by the NCCA for schools that do not have Junior Certificate Religious Education as an exam subject.  We can always depend on the NCCA to assist in undermining the rights of minorities in schools.

Loreto, Balbriggan say that:

 “The general aim of Religious Education is to continue to awaken our students to faith and to help them throughout their lives to deepen and strengthen that faith”

The school policy then claims that the course is open to students of all faiths and none. It is open to all faiths and none if parents wish for their child to be evangelised into the Catholic religion. They actually claim that the course is inclusive and promotes diversity.

The Loreto school policy then says that students who do not participate will be supervised in the religion class, and if that is not satisfactory then parents are responsible for the supervision of their child. So they just ignore the Constitution and the Education Act 1998 with regard to the right to not attend religious instruction. Read more...


Calling concerned teachers

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Buy this book "Is My Family Odd About Gods?"

**Schools Special Offer**
Atheist Ireland are offering the book ‘Is my family odd about godsfree (excluding postage and packaging).  This means that you can get this book for the total price of 10 euro. This offer is aimed at families with school going children, who would like to read this book. This offer is limited to one book per family unit and for postage within Ireland only. Read more...

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Opinion and Media

Material on atheism, secularism, human rights,politics,science etc. collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement. We aim to include a variety of diverse opinions and viewpoints.

Blogs & Opinions




More Mother and Baby Home survivors to take legal action if they're excluded from Redress Bill


By Órla Ryan

MORE SURVIVORS OF mother and baby homes, county homes and similar institutions are considering taking legal action against the State if the Government does not amend its planned redress scheme.
The Oireachtas Children’s Committee yesterday recommended that the Government scrap the six-month time limit and legal waiver in the redress scheme.
Under the current proposals, all mothers who spent time in an institution are eligible to apply for redress – but a person who spent time in an institution as a child is only eligible if they spent at least six months there.
People who receive compensation via the scheme would also have to sign a waiver saying they won’t pursue legal action against the State.
The Children’s Committee also recommended extending the scheme to include people who were boarded out (a precursor to fostering), and compelling religious congregations to “contribute significant finances to fund the scheme”.
The recommendations are included in the Committee’s report on Pre-legislative Scrutiny of the Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Bill 2022.
Norman Spicer – a solicitor at Coleman Legal Partners, which represents around 600 survivors of mother and baby homes and other institutions – welcomed the Committee’s recommendations.
Speaking to The Journal today, Spicer said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the Committee’s recommendations may be taken on board by the Government. However, if amendments are not made to the Bill, a number of his clients may pursue legal action. “The mood is positive, certainly it’s not too late [to change the Bill]. Read more...


Abortion law falls short of women’s needs and creates ‘chilling effect’ on clinicians, HSE report warns


By Kitty Holland

Abortion legislation in Ireland “falls short” of women’s needs, creating anguish and shame, while causing a “chilling” effect on clinicians, a Health Service Executive report published on Tuesday warns.
The Unplanned Pregnancy and Abortion Care (UnPAC) study, conducted by Trinity College Dublin, finds the legislation “problematic” for women seeking abortions at all stages of pregnancy but particularly “harrowing” for those facing diagnoses of fatal foetal anomalies (FFAs).
Commissioned as part of a review of the Health Regulation (Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 it draws on in-depth literature and policy reviews, along with interviews with focus groups, stakeholders and with 58 women who sought abortions.
Abortion services in Ireland
The Act, which came into effect on January 1st, 2019, provides abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks’ gestation, and after that where there is a risk to life or health of the mother, or in cases where it is judged the foetus will die before or within 28 days of birth.
Of the 12 women interviewed who experienced serious foetal anomaly diagnoses, just six qualified for abortion care in Ireland. Among the words used by them to describe their experiences are: awful, draining, anguish, arduous, harrowing, uncertain, protracted, cast out, shame, highly distressing, alone. Read more...




NSS urges MoD to address Christian-centric approach to welfare


By The National Secular Society

The National Secular Society has urged the Ministry of Defence to ensure its welfare provision is fully inclusive of all service personnel, irrespective of religion or belief.
In a letter to Chief of Defence People James Swift, the NSS said former and currently serving members of the Armed Forces had raised concerns that chaplaincy is discriminatory and "failing to provide inclusive welfare services".
The letter follows the recent publication of the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) Defence People Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2022 to 2027, which says chaplaincy is "key to providing support and wellbeing to defence people".
Chaplaincy in the army
Only ministers of a select group of eight 'sending churches', all Christian, may be chaplains of regular army units. The Armed Forces has appointed "advisers" for members of five other faiths instead of chaplains, while there is no equivalent pastoral support for nonreligious personnel.
The 'sending churches' include denominations with anti-LGBT views, including the Free Church of Scotland, Elim Pentecostal Church and the Salvation Army. As military chaplains are required to "set forth God's word at all times" according to the Royal Army Chaplains' Department, LGBT soldiers "may reasonably doubt these chaplains' ability to give impartial and non-judgmental counselling regarding issues of relationships and sexuality", the NSS said.
Recent research into chaplaincy in prisons, where there is also an institutional Christian bias, found nonreligious inmates are less likely to receive the pastoral help they need, which may lead to poorer outcomes. The research also found this may amount to unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Figures consistently show the number of nonreligious members of the Armed Forces is increasing rapidly. UK Armed Forces Biannual Diversity Statistics for April 2022 revealed an increase of 21% over the past ten years in the proportion of tri-service regular forces professing no religion, to stand at 36% in April 2022 compared with 60% Christians.
NSS: Army chaplaincy "increasingly unsustainable"
NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: "Like the UK population in general, the army is growing less religious and more religiously-diverse year by year. Read more...


House of Lords votes against inclusive RE during Schools Bill debate


By Humanists UK

An amendment to the Government’s Schools Bill that would have reformed religious education (RE) in schools without a religious character was defeated in the House of Lords last night. Humanists UK has long called for changes to the law in this area, and worked with members and supporters of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group to see the amendment tabled. However, during last night’s report stage debate there was strong opposition to the plans from both the Bishops’ bench and the Government. That meant the amendment was defeated at the vote by 145 to 82.

The amendment, tabled by crossbencher Baroness Meacher, would have made it explicit that RE outside of faith academies must be inclusive of humanism – in line with what is already required by case law; and renamed the subject accordingly to ‘religion and worldviews’.

The principle of the reform was in line with the recommendations of the 2018 report of the Commission on RE. The Commission was convened by the RE Council – the subject association for RE – to review the legal, education, and policy frameworks for RE, and was made up of 14 experts from different fields and of varying religions and beliefs. Its Chair was the Very Rev Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster and former Chief Education Officer for the Church of England and its commissioners included the previous Ofsted lead on RE, the CEO of the National Governors’ Association, and the Director of the Centre for Research and Evaluation in Muslim Education. Since the Commission report was published, this change had also been the policy of both the RE Council and the National Association of Teachers of RE. In other words, it was what the RE profession has wanted for four years now.

However the Bishop of Durham, speaking up against the amendment, felt that it was too soon for reform:

    ‘It is purely a matter of timing that we disagree on, rather than the direction, I think. It is very important that the content of the RE curriculum in schools with a non-religious character be given attention, but I think it is better to wait for consensus about that content to be reached before mandating it in this way.’

Humanists UK has also been told that the Catholic Education Service opposed the reforms at a more fundamental level.

Making RE explicitly inclusive of humanism and teaching it in an objective, critical, and pluralistic manner, would also provide legal clarity for what is already in case law, through the 2015 judgment Fox v Secretary of State for Education. That case was taken under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion) and Article 2 of the First Protocol (right to education). Following on from that judgment, the Welsh Government recognised that RE needed to be inclusive in these ways, and through the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 changed primary legislation accordingly. This principle was also used in a recent case in Worcestershire where a school backed down under legal pressure from a humanist parent, in order to make its RE curriculum inclusive of non-religious worldviews. Read more...


Humanists International welcomes new Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief


By Humanists International

The UN Human Rights Council has appointed a new Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr. Nazila Ghanea.
Dr. Ghanea is a professor of international human rights law and director of international human rights programmes at the University of Oxford. She was appointed by the Council on 8 July, during the 50th session of the Council. Dr. Ghanea is taking over the mandate from Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, who served as rapporteur from 2016-2022.
During his term, Dr. Shaheed published thematic reports on a wide range of issues, including a seminal report on the relationship between freedom of religion or belief and gender equality, a report on freedom of religion or belief and expression, and one on the human right to freedom of thought. Humanists International was involved in consultations that preceded the writing of these reports.
During the 50th session, the Council also appointed several other Special Procedure mandate holders, including a new Special Rapporteur on education, Ms. Farida Shaheed, and a new Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Dr. Alice Jill Edwards. Farida Shaheed has previously served as the UN Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights.
UN Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the Council to report and advise on human rights issues. They serve in their personal capacities and do not represent their countries of citizenship, allowing them to carry out their work impartially and independently. They are elected for 3-year mandates, which can be renewed for a further three years. Read online...
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