The role of religion in school is fast becoming a controversial topic these days. To me, this is one more sign of the bleeding secularist mentality that’s emanating from many so-called developed, but actually troubled, countries like the US and those in Europe.
What’s a secularist mentality? That’s a mindset that has driven away God and anything related to him, the spiritual and supernatural truths, from their man-made world. Not only, driven away. Some have gone berserk in their hostility toward God.
Obviously, this is a sociological assertion at best, a generalized view that admits of a lot of exceptions, some small, but others can be qualified as significant.
So we should approach this topic with a grain of salt. We should never be too negative and pessimistic about the problem. There’s always hope. We just have to continue supplying reasons for our beliefs, and to keep the channels of healthy dialogue with different parties open and active.
Truth is there are expanding sectors that, for example, would not like to have any kind of prayer done in public or religious figures displayed. Obama, for example, had the crucifix covered when he gave a speech in Notre Dame U.
That, to them in their so-called enlightened logic, would already constitute a breach of freedom and human rights. It certainly is an issue worth pursuing in a cordial dialogue.
This disturbing development has led the Vatican, particularly its Congregation for Catholic Education, to recently send a circular letter to Bishops and those involved in education all over the world.
In it, basic principles about the nature, character, function and purpose of Catholic education or, in short, the role of religion in school, are reiterated.
It might be good to go over them, also because in our midst, though we still can brand ourselves as a religious and pious country, there are indications of neglect, confusion, even outright error, in this delicate area of concern.
There are four main parts of the letter, each of them quite self-explanatory but worthwhile re-articulating, since with all the information overdrive we have, we tend to have only partial, incomplete and unsystematic grasp of the issue.
These parts are: (1) the role of schools in the Catholic formation of new generations; (2) nature and identity of the Catholic school-the right to a Catholic education for families and pupils; subsidiarity and educational collaboration; (3) religious education in schools; and (4) educational freedom, religious freedom and Catholic education.
Perhaps to put these four parts in a more organic whole, we can say that while schools are needed for the Catholic education of children, Catholic schools, mainly established by parents who are the primary educators, have a right to exist.
These Catholic schools should not be subjected to undue pressures. Quite the contrary, they should be not only welcomed but encouraged by the civil authorities who also have a right to check on them for some basic civil requirements.
This parental right is not meant to contravene other initiatives originating from the state or special groupings that may wish to put up schools. It’s just a basic right that needs to be recognized, respected and where possible fostered and assisted by higher entities.
These schools highlight the crucial role of religion in the education of children. While they respect those with different views, those behind these schools believe religion is indispensable in forming children to be mature, responsible citizens and believers.
Thus, these schools should not treat religion as a marginal subject, but should rather treat it as the queen of all the sciences taught there. That might sound too big to say, but it has real basis. It just needs to be reiterated, renewed and constantly revalidated, especially by the life-witness of those involved.
This has to be said because there are now so-called Catholic schools that are increasingly diminishing the importance of religion in their educational efforts. Their Catholic identity is wavering, as if gripped in fear or shame.
It also has to be said that these schools are a result of educational and religious freedom. But it’s a freedom that is not of the anything-goes type, but recognizes the authority of the Church that has the duty to set standards.
There are questionable ideas of academic freedom that need to be corrected. Sadly, they can sometimes dominate in some big Catholic centers of learning.
In short, there are many things to be taken care of to see that the nature, rights and duties of Catholic schools in teaching religion in schools are respected.