Monday, 23 October 2017


New rules for pupils opting out of religion

Pupils who opt out of religious instruction classes in community and comprehensive secondary schools must be given access to tuition in other subjects under new rules due to come into force soon.
The move will be seen by many as the latest step on the part of the State in wresting back control of the education system from the Catholic Church.
Department of Education officials are finalising a circular aimed at modernising decades-old rules that cover the teaching of religion in community and comprehensive schools. Minister for Education Richard Bruton has confirmed that a new circular will insist on “a proper timetable of beneficial work” for children who opt out of religion. The rules will affect students in more than 300 of the State’s 700-plus secondary schools. While these schools were set up by the State as multidenominational schools, the Catholic Church plays a significant role in many of them and is often involved in their governance.
Parents have a right to take their children out of religion classes in these schools but in practice this often does not occur. Children are regularly left to sit at the back of the class during religious instruction and may be prohibited from studying other subjects, wearing headphones or completing schoolwork, according to parents.
Some schools run by Tipperary Education and Training Board, for example, have rules which state that children who opt out of religion should not have access to other classes, as it would given them an “unfair advantage”. They also regard themselves as “Catholic schools”.
Wider community
Mr Bruton, however, insisted community and comprehensive schools are multidenominational and are obliged to service the wider community.
“We are in a process of a dialogue to sort that out with new formal arrangements,” he said.
“There is a circular to be developed later in the year which will give clear guidelines, but the intention is – and has always been –that every child that turns up should be treated as an individual whose needs are to be accommodated.”
“Instead of being seen as someone who is just opting out, the school [should] seek to accommodate those children in the best way possible.”
Senior officials say the circular is likely to insist that children be provided with access to meaningful education or a time-tabled class.
Deeds of trust
Many community and comprehensive schools are required to have two hours of religious instruction under deeds of trust. They are also required to make provision for students of all faiths and none.
Parents, in theory, have a constitutional right to opt their children out of religion instruction classes in schools. The reality is often different.
Parents say it can be close to impossible to exercise their rights, even in schools operated by the State rather than religious orders.
Children are regularly left to sit at the back of the class during religious instruction. They are often prohibited from studying other subjects.
Take the case of Tipperary Education and Training Board. It, in theory, is a multidenominational patron body owned by the State.
However, its policy for second-level students is that they must remain in religion class at all times and not take part in any other activity.
“The rationale for this is to ensure that no unfair advantage accrues to students opting out of religious education, but rather to ensure that all students have equality of opportunity time-wise when it comes to exam preparation during the school day,” it states, according to documents obtained by Atheist Ireland under the Freedom of Information Act.
Moreover, the same organisation regards its schools as having a belief, ethos and characteristic spirit that is Catholic which “needs to addressed in all policies”.
These rules now look set to change. Department of Education officials are finalising a circular aimed at modernising rules over the teaching of religion in community, comprehensive and Education and Training Board schools.
Minister for Education Richard Bruton has confirmed it will require schools to have a “proper timetable of beneficial work” for children who opt out of religion.
This is likely mean a separate class for another subject on the curriculum.
The move is good news for many parents, and students, who have long felt they were treated as second-class citizens in a system which was supposedly to cater to all.
It will also be welcomed by school management bodies for the sector who have been looking for the rules which govern religious instruction to be modernised.
However, it will also pose an administrative and resource headache for schools. They will argue they will need extra resources to do so.Some say numbers could climb dramatically if students have access to extra classes for exam subjects.
More broadly, the move is likely to be seen as the latest attempt by the State to wrest back control of its schools from the Church.
Today, one in 10 of the population has no religion. More than one in three people in some parts of the State – such as Dublin City, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Galway – are non-Catholic.
As far as the State sector is concerned, at least, the education system is finally catching up with the reality of the modern classroom.

Image result for church schools power


Ulster Bank has even put a figure on it – they said with almost 60,000 children making their Communion this year, nine and ten year olds had €27.9 million to spend and saved €13.3 million.
That means the make about €460 on average for their big day and they save around half of it – although our Communicants are the poor relations. Or they have the poor relations, to be more precise because children here pocket an average of €369 compared to those in Dublin who make an average of €533.
The other side of this equation is the cost of your typical First Holy Communion Day with all the trappings and trimmings – because it runs to almost €1,000 on the day, making the religious industry worth €57 million, according to a recent survey.
That’s not including those who trouser up for stretch limos – or even helicopters – to take their little darling to the Church


Personally, I believe that all schools should be state schools and that religious education and sacramental preparation should be provided at home, in the parish and at a church Sunday school.

Of course, we should not forget, or be ungrateful for the fact that religious orders and dioceses provided schools when the state was young and unable to.

Nor should we forget that the Catholic Church, its dioceses, and religious orders accrued hundreds of millions of pounds from the state for providing these schools.

AND - priests, brothers, and nuns told us that they were DOING IT FOR GOD!

They have received their financial reward in this life and if there are due a reward from God they will get it in the next life.

We live now in a pluralist and secular 21st century when religion is on the decline and it is contradictory for any church to own and run confessional schools.

Many parents are lazy about their own religion and want the school and the teachers to do the job for them.

That's why we have the common phenomenon of scores of children being marched up church aisles for sacraments like Holy Communion and Confirmation and the following Sunday only a small fraction of those communicated or confirmed show up at the Sunday Mass.

Communion and Confirmation have become a social and financial feast with children arriving for sacraments in white limos and even helicopters.

Image result for holy communion limos

And in many cases, it's just an excuse for a big meal and a piss up!

Churches and parishes should be centres of REAL FAITH and not just annexes to hotels, theme parks, and pubs.

Image result for white helicopter

Parents and grandparents get a kick out of seeing their little Paddy's or Mary's dressed as little brides and little grooms at Communion and Confirmation.

A lot of poor families end up thousands of pounds in debt after these occasions. It would be far better for the children to wear their ordinary school uniforms to these events with a modest celebration afterward in the parish hall.

There is also a big difference between SPIRITUALITY and RELIGION.

Current faith schools are giving people a superficial religion and not a life lasting spirituality.

Faith schools are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

They give local priests immense POWER over children, parents and teachers.

Many, if not most teachers have tales to tell about being victims of such clerical power when it comes to jobs and promotions.

Let the Church and its dioceses spend their ammassed fortunes on providing social housing for homeless and struggling people.

That would be a more relavant mission today - rather than running exclusive schools for the rich or weilding and abusing power in towns and villages across the land.


  1. I teach in a Catholic school, and am head of Religious Studies. My curriculum is about Religion and Faiths. We teach themes, like Persecution, The Moral Life, Matters of Life and Death. Not simply from a Catholic point of view but as experienced in many faiths. We also try to link and understand current events to people’s beliefs. To banish RE from the classroom is to limit a child’s world view. I agree that spirituality is the responsibility of the family and faith community. What is needed is a overhaul of the RE curriculum.

    1. Have you come across bad decision making in appointments and promotion?

    2. 1. Put Information in the classroom.
      2. Put Formation into Sunday school.
      3. Put Bishop control for promotions and appointment of school chaplains into the bin.

    3. with grammar like that is it any wonder your a religion teacher.

    4. @11.34 ne-naw ne-naw
      The grammar police have arrive, all now down to the sad cynic.

    5. Personally, I believe R.E. can be a fascinating subject...from an academic, rather than Faith, perspective. For this fully to happen, however, there must be complete freedom of intellectual thought: the ability to be openly critical (if such is a student's honest inclination) of such sacred orthodox cows as the Eucharist, without incurring any kind of penalty.

      Sadly, Roman Catholicism has traditionally not been so open-minded, its sole objective being to promote, and to present itself to the world as, a doctrinal monolith.

      I am delighted to see Roman Catholicism's grip on education being loosened in the Republic. Hopefully, the same will happen soon in Northern Ireland.

    6. @ 11,34
      "'re a religion teacher"

  2. As ususal, Bishop P., you're a voice of reason crying in the wilderness of other people's stupidity.

    1. Magna, if you want to offer ignorant remarks like the one at 00.59, leave them under your rock. Why do you feel the need to use adjectives like "stupidity" and other derogatory words when you disagree with others? The issue being discussed today deserves respectful language. Pat's is not the only reasonable voice. You, Magna, should open your ears a little more and you'll hear very measured and reasoned debate. If this blog isn't up to your intellectual mind, go elsewhere!!

    2. A pity Magna Carta wouldn’t reciprocate with some reasonableness and cease from dismissing everything that doesn’t fit with his limited understanding as “stupidity” and worse.

    3. 12:27, do you lack personal insight?

      You accused me of making 'ignorant remarks' and of using 'derogatory words', yet you yourself tell me to leave such 'under your rock'.

      I don't want to alarm you, but lack of personal insight can be a sign of psychosis.🙊

    4. Magna, you're at it again - displaying your condescension, rudeness and inability to accept that you are abusive in your language against those who disagree with you. From my academic qualifications be assured I'd never fall into the category of "psychosis". I have sufficient self insight and caring family and friends to prevent that happening to me. However, if you absorbed and accepted the justifiable criticisms of you recently re: your derogatory and abusive language, your sneering contempt of intelligent bloggers, you could draw no other conclusion other than that you, Magna, are the one who lacks self awareness. Thus the psychological condition you ascribe to me - "psychosis" - more aptly defines you inner state. In all humility, I don't wish to add to your angst in making this observation!! Sleep restfully.

    5. Lack of personal insight is something you very obviously suffer from, MC, so you are hardly in a strong position to identify the condition in others.

    6. Magna, stop being so disrespectful! You talk of people's "stupidity"
      That is not very nice.

  3. Pat, you think there is no place for Catholic schools, do you?
    Where do you think the next generation should learn about their Faith or are you happy enough that it should disappear even further? Don't tell me you seriously think it will happen in the homes of the vast majority of present-day children whose parents don't even go to Mass anymore!
    I explained here on the blog a few weeks ago that I noticed over the generations of my life as a Catholic teacher that the syllabus was being watered down and weakened more and more until we are now sending P 7 pupils to Secondary school unable to say their prayers and ignorant of the basic facts of their Faith.
    Is this what you want - only even more so? It certainly sounds like it.
    I also find it shocking and so disappointing that a lay person like me has to actually remind a priest that Catholic education(at its best) is a far greater and richer experience than the impoverishment of thinking of it as a purely academic half hour that has nothing to do with the attitude etc of the teacher and ethos of the whole school during the rest of the day.
    I feel too tired and dispirited to try once again to spell out the reasons why our Catholic schools are precious and essential if our Faith is to survive. But then of course, that's exactly what some people want. I cannot even start to tell you how disgusting it is to hear Catholic education being denigrated by so - called priests! Attack after attack on the Church, Pat. I hope you feel happy and proud of yourself. (I have sent you many lovely blog posts,Pat -some relatively recent - whenever I felt that you, yourself needed reassurance or empathy or just a little bit of kindness but tonight I feel nothing only anger that you have such hatred for the Church and that there is no point in trying to explain anything to you.. You trample on everything I hold valuable)

    1. I did not mean to hurt or anger an obviously good person like you.

      But do you really believe Catholic schools are working when it comes to passing on the faith?

      A teacher friend of mine prepares children for Communion and Confirmation.

      30 children get these Sacraments on a weekday and 2 turn up at Mass the following Sunday!

  4. I have come to agree with the Sunday School model of religious education. Schools should teach R E in it's wider form introducing children to different faiths and this knowledge should be tested like any other subject. I also think the stretch limo communion brigade is totally rediculous.

  5. Isn't it amazing that the Trustees of Maynooth opened themselves to the NUI on their campus and didn't provide for two hours a week of theology classes in the deeds of trust. That might have bumped up the theology classes.

    Anyway, this is a great decision by the powers that be. Next we should boot religion out of school entirely and leave it to Sunday school.

  6. Why is the Catholic Church against selection by academic merit in north of Ireland schools but all for selection by money in the south for elite private schools where rich parents pay between 5000 and 20,000 Euro per year for education in a church school? This is when a year at Cambridge costs about 9,000 sterling for tuition fees.

  7. A thought provoking piece today, though I wouldn't express my thoughts in Pat's gleeful manner, as if to condemn or outlaw completely the role of the Church in Education. For many years priests have been battling to make realities of First Comnuniin and Confirmation known to Diicesan authorities. These two monents have the potential to be meaningful, real celebratiins of our faith within the community. Teachers do their part, priests theirs but many parents are averse to participating in any parish programmes. Those who do are very supportive, yet the reality is that after these two days, we rarely see families in Church again, even the following Sundays!! There is an urgent need to place the sacraments for children - Eucharist and Confirmation - in the context of genuine understanding, meaning and relevance of these faith moments of God's love and the implications for living out of their meaning for Christians. The present way of celebrating these sacraments has reduced them to social occasions, rites of passage. With the shirtage if ckerical personnel and the changing nature of iur sicuety it is imperative that the Church authorities become more imaginative, honest and visionary. We have already dwindling congregations but the "remnant" should be enriched and nourished to be a greater "leaven" and "light" in our communities, living the true vision of Christ and his gospel.

    1. A very good comment and I accept your reprimand.

      I think that it is time the Church stopped sacramentalising people in lorry loads.

      Give these Sacraments to the children of practising families only and not to the let's have a party to celebrate our beautiful little bride or groom.

      It would mean a smaller Church - but those going would be committed???

    2. Matthew 19:14

      Aramaic Bible in Plain English

      But Yeshua said to them, “Let the children come to me and do not forbid them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

    3. Maybe stop enforcing sacraments on a child full stop. I had no idea what was happening at my first communion and confirmation. I was essentially being inducted into a club without my express permission. a club which I cannot formally ever leave.

    4. Oh, I'm sure you will cope somehow..

    5. 11.43. I'm sure you're cooing as I imagine you have used your freedom to chhose not to adhere to Catholic or any other faith. Just do it!

    6. My comment at 13.46 should of course read - "I'm sure you are choosing . .not (cooing!) "....We have the freedom to stay with or walk away, as many do, from our Catholic faith. Or just be plain lazy, indifferent or apathetic...

    7. I'm afraid, Tom, that while Jesus' arms and heart were open to all children willing to love and to trust in him, the institutional Roman Catholic Church remains, like those Jews who tried to prevent the little ones gathering round Christ, choosy about who may or may not run to him.

      It seems a second Catholic diocese in the US has put up the theological and liturgical 'STOP' sign to those children of Jesus who happen also to be LGBT. Guidance has recently been circulated to parish priests in the diocese of Madison, which instructs that Catholic funerals be denied to couples in same-gender marriages, unless the deceased had 'repented'. In part of the guidance titled 'Consideration of Funeral Rites for a Person in a Homosexual,Civil or Notorious Union' it even suggests that it may be appropriate not to name the deceased. The reason for this guidance? To avoid 'the risk of scandal or confusion'

      There's a sense of déja vu here, of the institutional Church's historic modus operandi for dealing with 'the risk of scandal or confusion': just cover it up as if it never had happened. Even if it means human lives and love.

    8. At 19:19
      It was the Jewish disciples of Jesus who sought to prevent the children.

    9. 20:10, I stated 'those Jews ...'. Jesus' disciples were still Jews.

      What point were you trying to make?

  8. When I was a curate in Kilkeel I was the secretary of 5 primary schools.

    I was put under pressure to appoint and promote clerical favourites. I refused and appointed on merit.

    There was also a "diocesan black list" which I ignored.

    This is a very big problem all over.

    1. It's a disgraceful problem and has a disgraceful name: 'cronyism'.

      The institutional Roman Catholic Church is itself a disgrace.

    2. By the way, good for you, Bishop P., for showing the courage to do the right thing.

      You must have paid a personal price.

  9. only the secretary? arent priests meant to be the chairman of the board?

    1. My PP was the chairman.

      I was the curate secretary.


  10. I felt huge sadness to read Anonymous 01:03
    It is in essence what I believe is wrong with the Catholic Church today, the idea that prayer being recited amounts to spirituality. Any child like a nursery rhyme can learn prayer and recite it endlessly. What needs to be taught is gentleness, goodliness, spirituality and kindness. Often seen lacking in the youth of today. And dare I say it, today’s Mass is often the same, recited with little feeling, input, or spirituality. Is it no wonder that the parents don’t go to Mass and congregations are dwindling, as it has no soul? When you understand the joys of gentleness, goodliness, spirituality and kindness then prayer becomes part of your life, not the other way around.

    1. Thank you to Casimir for responding (I am poster at 1.03 earlier today)
      Your kindly and empathetic remarks in which you referred to my comments on Catholic education were noted by me and very appreciated. So thanks for taking the time..

  11. Pat, hove you forgotten about us in the North???
    Only focus on the Republic.....
    Maybe on your blog tomorrow we'll read about your views on integrated education.

    1. I wrote today about my experience in Kilkeel.

    2. Oh believe me - - we already know those views..

  12. Pat
    At 10:19 you said you ignored the blacklist and you should be commended for doing such.
    After applying for numerous jobs in the 80’s and not being successful I gave up and went to England. It was years later that a priest, who had been on one of the interview panels, confided I was never to get a job but would not elaborate.
    As one who suffered as a result of it would you be prepared to tell us how it operated? Who was on it (not individual names), how it was shared with interview panels and how independent panel members never objected when the best candidate didn’t get the job as the result of it? Would you have a copy of it in your files?

  13. Priest governors telephoned each other and made recommendations and enquiries.

    Clergy relations to the front.

    Any teacher who stood up to clergy were blacked.

  14. Also to the front of the queue are Daughters and Sons of rich business people who invite the Priest Governor to meals and support him financially plus free services from their place of business. I know one school where the Head and PP Chair of Governors decide who is appointed between them and often over expensive meals and drinks out.
    Sr. Mary

    1. Much of the unseemly display at First Communions, which is wholly inappropriate to the occasion, could be avoided by
      following the custom frequently found in France: all the children,
      girls and boys, wear identical albs.

    2. Don’t know what an alb is
      But those disgusting white bib thingys over suits and dresses are a real pain.
      You wd think the kids belonged to the first order of god knows what.
      What exactly is their purpose.?
      My granddaughter told me i5 was to over possibledisplay of cleavage... lol

    3. Think they have them them in the Derry dioceses at confirmation
      As if the ceremony isn’t boring enough.

  15. What Order do you belong to Sr. Mary? It sounds like you a real mischief maker. Is it not past your bed time or should you not be in the scullery scrubbing the floor clean. You seem to be pontificating on here a lot recently.

  16. Are you the Sr. Mary from Armagh who has been causing trouble with certain clergy I wonder?

    1. Try to stay on topic, old boy. Address her post, not her person.

      Now do you have anything sensible to offer the blog's readership?

  17. One of the really important reasons why Catholic schools are so essential is that good parents should be able to trust that the advice and ethics and moral education that their child hears in school will not conflict with what they would tell their child at home. Believe me, even in well-regarded integrated schools that very often is not at all the case. And what if the Catholic parents are not so careful and conscientious at home? - - Well, doesn't that make the quality of the moral education that they get in school all the more important?
    Either you care what values and notions are being passed on to your children or you don't.... and some of it can be quite subtle and insidious. Also, s lot of this harm can be unintentional but it is still worrying and I have definitely been surprised and on occasion, even shocked both as a teacher and parent. Just because s person has an MA or Doctorate in say Languages or Science it doesn't necessarily mean I want them to subtly pass on their atheistic or loose morality to my impressionable daughter who trusts their opinion on all things equally.

    1. MourneManMichael25 October 2017 at 10:05

      Anon @23:45: "to subtly pass on their atheistic or loose morality to my impressionable daughter who trusts their opinion on all things equally"
      Quoting your own words above, may I ask:
      1) By phrasing atheism with loose morality are you saying that the two issues are interrelated to the extent that 'loose morals' is a consequence of atheism?
      2) If your answer to Q)1 is in the affirmative, could you please give your evidence for this assertion, preferably in the form of objective studies or research?
      3)Given your stated belief that your daughter trusts persons placed in a position of power, control, and teaching role, how proper is it for parents to pass on to children their own religious and faith based beliefs, the evidence for the validity of such being highly questionable, and the value of such, in relation to extreme religious beliefs is considered morally and socially reprehensible?

      Could I just say that the well worn mantra of much of RC religious 'explanation' in the form of "It's a matter of faith", is regarded by many as simply a result of the indoctrination processes at the heart of the matter here, and as such, carries no weight whatsoever.
      So, may I thank you in anticipation of an objective, researched well thought through reply?

    2. Good man MMM. As ever, you ask the hard questions, and, if i may say so, in thoughtful non confrontational manner more effective than some of the more Misguidedly Confrontational ones we regularly see here.
      On the matter of indoctrination, it seems that those inveigled in childhood into the RC mythology, especially if they subsequently have very limited experience outside of the Northern Irish tribal allegiances, are the least likely to question the nature and basis for their religious belief. They blindly cling to their cradle catholicism, motivated more by social and tribal convention than any deep understanding.
      But things are changing: thankfully.
      And in relation to the blog discussion: surely schools ought to focus on social, moral and ethical considerations of how we live together in harmony, rather than perpetuating religious beliefs which have caused so much discord for centuries?

    3. MMM 10.05,you seem threatened by sone questions about the notion that without religious faith or catholic indoctrination of some kind that you may be perceived as without a mora/ethical compass. I believe we all hsve an innate sense of right and wrong, that in our humanity we can be a force for good or bad. It is good for us to have a firm grounding in the principles of moral right and wrong, that we have an innate compassionate conscience, that we vow to care for one another. I believe Christianity gives me the highest ideals to strive for - love of God expressed through love of neighbour. Thus this principle for the common good of all requires us to get out and walk the talk. By this I mean, let us be beacons of light, truth, justice, mercy, compassion, that irrespective of our relugious or non relugious vision, we build a society where the poor are hurt no longer, where we give them a safe sanctuary, that the needy and honeless are valued and given the dignity of a home, that we trest everyone with decency and respect, to believe in a society where we truly value all people and allow them.the potential to contribute meaningfully with purpose and mesning. By all I mean those ablebodied as weell as disabled bodied, those we deem unwanted. In this visiin I look to the vision of Jesus and his gospel. And in a patticular way tge Gospel of the Beatitudes.I firmly believe we all have somethin to give - but for me the outlet for my givingbto others and bejng involved in justice projects and community support groups is through my local Parish Community.It's an inevitable follow on from the Eucharistic Table - we become what we receive, i.e - the Body of Christ. MMM, incidentally we canot reduce our beliefs simply to being a matter of faith when challenged. Jesus didn't make them complex - love of God and love of neighbour. In these two we have a framework to build a truly just, caring society.

    4. MournemanMichael26 October 2017 at 00:36

      Thanks Anon@22:44. Many of your aspirations are commendable and I agree even though my life's principles are not in any way based on a religious or faith conviction.
      I believe the innate sense of right and wrong you speak of comes primarily and on an individual personal level from our developing consciousness imprinted on by caregivers and authority figures. Behaviour modification clearly plays a part.
      But the individual's moral compass is part of humankind's evolving development of social and ethical foundations of guidance best summed up by the Golden Rule much much older than Christianity: "Do as you would be done by "
      I do not believe a religious conviction necessary to lead an ethical and moral life

  18. The last few days posts have been depressing. Hope you have some pulpit pooftah antics to report on soon.

  19. What’s ur interest? In the closet? Or wish you were?