educational integration the Catholic Church’s response



Bishop Donal McKeown, chair of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education


Yesterday we praised Peter Robinson the DUP First Minister’s call for integrated education in Northern Ireland. Today we have a response from the Catholic Church to ponder.

The chair of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education Bishop Donal McKeown said that the right of parents to choose a faith-school need to be recognised. He said:

“This key principle, which recognises the right of parents, is guaranteed by the European Convention for Human Rights.

“It is worth pointing out that parents who choose faith-based schools for their children, pay taxes toward the provision of that education.

“The Catholic Church has also contributed substantial funding and resources for the provision of Catholic schools over generations, and this has ultimately saved the taxpayer money.

“Long experience across this island, north and south, shows that Catholic schools are committed to welcoming pupils of all backgrounds and to building a cohesive society in the service of the common good.”

Now looking at the ECHR, there is no specific requirement for schooling or education. The only mention of teaching and religion comes in Article 9:

Article 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
  2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

What is noticeable is that though teaching is mentioned it does not related directly to education in full. How else would states such as nominally Catholic France be able to offer fully secular education. The teaching of faith is not enshrined in the classroom, or in any school.

The only rights that seem to relate to parents (families) that the Bishop seems to suggest are a guarantee are in article 8:

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

But this related to private life and family life. There are arguments that national security, safety, prevention of disorder and crime could all be best served in an integrated education system where Seamus who goes to mass every Sunday on Monday is sitting in school alongside Johnnie from the Protestant church up the road. Also the economic argument for integrated schooling rather that duplication of resources in some areas, or indeed triplication in three sectors (state, catholic and integrated) makes sense.

The argument for health and moral case is one that the churches (both catholic and protestant) may take an exception to. While they may think that teaching their morals is all well and good it doesn’t meet the ultimate test. The teaching of abstinence and confining it to mixed-sex relationships through RSE classes (Relationships and Sexuality Education) is not meeting the need. There are teens heterosexual and homosexual across Northern Ireland who would have benefited from an inclusive education on these matters before it was too late.

As Liberal Democrats we don’t believe anyone should “be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” one of the ways to ensure that ignorance doesn’t damage the health of our young people is to take the faith out of schooling, provide full and frank discussion for all. Without opting out because it is comfortable for the information provider when it is the receiver’s needs that require to be met.


6 thoughts on “educational integration the Catholic Church’s response

  1. It is a totally unwarranted assumption to think as Catholic Bishops invariably do, that they speak for ‘Parents’. If Catholic parents enquired into the atmosphere obtaining in ‘Catholic’ schools or dared to imagine what political consequences these schools have in the overall Papal design, I think they would think twice before committing their offspring to the care of any priest-run institution.

    In the RoI, which is now — thanks to Catholic educaiton — entirely bankrupt — and when it is not bankrupt it is entirely run by the most medieval and the most mediocre minds in Europe.

    It now appears that the wretched Church/State system, entirely set up and controlled and maintained by the RCC , has virtually enslaved this and future generations to repay the enormities of Chruch and other speinding in AIB (the sister of Anglo Irish Bank) and Anglo Irish Bank. The Church’s portion of this lucre dared not be enquired into lest the bond holders are traced back to the bishops and the Opus Dei barons.

    How can anyone who says that they love NI or their fellow countrymen suggest that it is a good thing to tie themselves to these religously corrupt entities the RCC or the RoI??? If Sinn Fein ever loved NI a hair’s breadth more than they do Rome, then the answer is plain — the secular way is the way forward, and the Protestants have always known it:that’s why they have reformed their church in line with their Parliament. Catholics have neither founded nor reformed either. Indeed, Catholics have no opinons on the matter , save what their clerical supervisers permit. Isn’t it time for the ordinary Northern Irish Catholic to examine their blind allegiance to both the RCC and the political parties it has created!

    Seamus Breathnach

    • John McMahon

      If Seamus Breathnach really wants integrated education in Northern Ireland, why did he not send his own children to a State school in Portadown, Ballymena or Carrickfergus? Why did Mr Breathnach let a good thing go past himself? Perhaps, Mr Breatchnach, like most other Eirefolk, thinks that anything is good enough for Ulster Catholics!

  2. No matter what Eirefolk think, you still have to grow up for yourself and no one else. And if you are so apprehensive of Portadown, Ballymena and Carrickfergus, then I suggest that you take a second look at Peter Robinson’s suggestion, for, ironically, you speak in support rather than in denial of his ideas.

    The alternative — that is, of listening soley to the your inner fears and those who put them there, is to capitularte entirely to a repetition of the violence Ulster has just survived. Which is really why you should ask yourself why you prefer your internlised prejudices to a free confederacy that would dissolve those very apprehensions you cling to.

    Make a leap for Ulster; make Ulster yours, to keep it in common, not with or for Holy Romans or English Protestants, but in common with other Ulstermen.

    Seamus Breathnach

  3. G

    I think Seamus makes the case for catholic education better than most.
    The idea that children might be exposed to that kind of bigotted rant.

  4. Stephen Glenn

    Sorry for the delay in getting to you gentlemen, I’ve been rather busy with the referendum campaign.

    While I agree with Seamus that a secular approach is the way to go I disagree with his way of expressing it. Being secular doesn’t negate a need to understand the cultures around you, what may not be to your liking may be supported by someone else beside you. We cannot move on without learning from our pasts or placing that in the context of our present.

    The sniping back and forth is just the reason the children of today and our tomorrows need to learn a different way, in a different environment, in a shared and inclusive situation.

  5. John McMahon

    If the schools in Northern Ireland were integrated and the worst fears of Ulster Catholics proved well-founded, would Seamus Breatnach come hot-footing from Dublin to rescue defenceless Catholic children? Or would he stand idly bye as his people did in August 1969?

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