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Iona paper: ‘Will modern Ireland tolerate Catholic schools?”

A new paper from the Iona Institute argues that Catholic schools must be prepared to stand up for what they believe in, even as the pressure might increase to stop teaching truths deemed ‘offensive’ in modern Ireland. 

“What will Catholic and other faith-based schools be allowed to teach in the future?” the Institute asks in introducing the paper ‘Will Modern Ireland Tolerate Catholic Schools?’, written by theologian and chairman of The Iona Institute, Dr John Murray.

“He draws attention to the danger that Catholic schools can end up adopting a relativistic approach to the faith, sometimes without meaning to, in order to be ‘inclusive’. This must be avoided because the cost is the ethos and identity of those schools, which violates the rights of parents who want their children taught in a Catholic setting,” director of the IOna Institute, David Quinn said.

“As Ireland becomes more secular, the pressure could increase on faith-based schools to stop teaching certain claims about truth and morality that might be deemed ‘offensive’.

“For example, will a Catholic school be discouraged from teaching that ‘Jesus is Lord’, or that ‘abortion is wrong’? Might these claims be deemed ‘disrespectful’ to those of other beliefs? Will we have to teach that truth and morality are really matters of opinion?”

The paper points out that the Iona Institute has long argued “that there should be more divestment of Catholic schools to better reflect our changing population, but also that the remaining schools must be allowed to teach what they believe to be true”.

“But it is possible that the ‘doctrine of diversity’ is becoming so all-pervasive that even this will not be permitted either through official State education policy or by informal, social pressures on schools,” Mr Quinn said .

The Iona paper points out that Catholic schools are already “very diverse in practice and do a good job respecting all their pupils without a need to further water-down their ethos”.

It argues that Ireland will actually lose diversity if the identity of faith-based schools is reduced to meaninglessness.

Dr Murray says our schools must be prepared to stand up for what they believe in.

Iona Institute says that the paper is being sent to Catholic education stake-holders, among others, to help inform the ongoing debate about the place of denominational schools in Ireland.

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