THE Government’s ‘shared future’ policy has come under attack from the Catholic Church, which believes that integration would undermine the Catholic ethos in education. While the Church may regard integrated education as “offensive”, demand for it is nevertheless growing, and while no Catholic child is ever likely to be denied a place at a Catholic school, hundreds of children are denied places at integrated schools every year. Despite its own policy, the Government’s support for mixed education is at best half-hearted, so maybe the Church has little to worry about anyway.From the Irish News:
Bishop warns of ‘offence’ to school system
By Maeve Connolly
A senior bishop has warned that government descriptions of the school system as segregated has “offensive” overtones for the Catholic sector.
Bishop of Down and Connor Patrick Walsh was speaking at St Mary’s University College in west Belfast last night as he presented religious education certificates to graduating teachers.
He said they were entering the profession at a time of “great uncertainty” and expressed concern at government policies on a ‘shared future’.
“In ministerial statements, including statements from the secretary of state, there is constant reference to education being segregated,” he said.
“There are overtones in that word ‘segregation’ which we in the Catholic sector find offensive.”
Dr Walsh insisted that the strong religious identity of Catholic schools had “so much to offer for the common good”.
Although successive education ministers had assured the ethos of schools would not be diluted, the bishop said government documents on a shared future did not appear to support this when they talked of parallel
services being “unsustainable both morally and economically”.
Bishop Walsh said parents had the right to choose a school which would help them pass on their religion to their children and this right must be respected and facilitated by government.
“In statements on a shared future there are references to political identity, to cultural identity – one has to search very hard to find a reference to religious identity,” he said.
“And it is precisely on the basis of religious identity that we have the Catholic school sector.”
He added that St Mary’s College was “integral” to the Catholic sector and that single-faith schools and universities are not “closed in” on themselves.
“We are committed to a shared future, to working with our educational partners for the common good, to sharing with others from the richness of our tradition and to be enriched from the traditions of others.”