07 January 2016, The Tablet

Catholic schools have a responsibility to students of other faiths

by Alfred Agius

Teachers play a key role in building the Catholic community and passing on the faith but in modern Britain they also have responsibilities to others What makes a school Catholic? Nothing is said about the Catholicity of the staff, the students or the parents in Canon Law. Rather, it describes a Catholic school as one “which is under the control of the competent ecclesiastical authority …” (Canon 803). So a state school in Malta, where practically all the staff, students and parents are Catholics is technically not a Catholic school. My first appointment as a Jesuit priest was as headmaster of a Hindi medium Catholic school that served tribal people in north-east India. I was the only Catholic on the staff; nearly all the rest were Hindus. The student body was more than
Get Instant Access

Continue Reading

Register for free to read this article in full

Subscribe for unlimited access

From just £30 quarterly

  Complete access to all Tablet website content including all premium content.
  The full weekly edition in print and digital including our 179 years archive.
  PDF version to view on iPad, iPhone or computer.

Already a subscriber? Login

User Comments (1)

Comment by: AlanWhelan
Posted: 13/01/2016 12:15:00
Phrases such as "so many traditional Catholics here who think that Catholic schools shoud only be for Catholics" and "some people feel threatened by change" are as meaningful or meaningless as phrases which insert the word "non" in front of traditional or "do not" in front of feel!

Having been a governor of many Catholic schools and served on the leadership team of several others I am quite clear that it is the strength of faith and Christian commitment of governors and staff of Catholic schools that are critical to their Fitness for Mission. Each of the schools in which I served were very different in respect of strength of Catholic ethos. Strength of ethos also tended to change over time with changing staff and student populations. These sometimes subtle changes were reported upon in regular diocesan inspection reports. In one case where the school was no longer Fit for Mission the diocese withdrew its support and deployed its limited resources to better effect elsewhere.

In my roles as governor and as principal the issue that always concerned me was the ability to recruit senior staff with a clear understanding of Catholic Vision. In the three dioceses in which I worked there was very effective training for governors and for senior staff and this paid dividends in ensuring the distinctive nature of their Catholic schools.

I remain committed to Catholic education but I have no fear in exploring other ways of proclaiming the Good News to today"s youth.