There is much emphasis today on inclusion and diversity in educational systems. As the place of religious belief remains a significant factor in such debates, there is a need for shared understanding of the language and purpose of Religious Education in schools. Given the substantial international footprint of Catholic schools, the conceptual framework of Religious Education in Catholic schools merits serious scrutiny. The Catholic Church’s written teaching on education has a strong focus on the contemporary school as a site of intercultural dialogue. The related teaching on Religious Education in schools, however, remains underdeveloped, with strong voices debating the desirability, or otherwise, of a strong focus on ‘faith formation and practice’ as an outcome of Religious Education. Problematically, terms like ‘Religious Education’ have inconsistent translations in the official documents of the Catholic Church, leading to a plurality of understandings internationally of the ultimate aim of the subject. A presentation of the linguistic inconsistency between English and Italian translations of documents of the Holy See reveals the scale of the challenge. This unsatisfactory arrangement needs reform. Rooted in a close critical study of Catholic teaching on education, the article presents two arguments designed to initiate the reform process: (a) the Catholic Church’s settled teaching on Religious Education must develop greater internal cohesion before it can make a meaningful contribution to intercultural dialogue, and (b) an International Directory of Religious Education, written collegially by qualified lay people and clergy, will build stronger foundations for shared understanding of the aims and scope of Religious Education among key stakeholders in Catholic schools. This shift in direction will harmonise Religious Education expectations in Catholic schools, and offer firmer ground for dialogue with those who manage and teach Religious Education in so-called ‘non-denominational’ schools.
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