Special Issue "Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Humanities/Philosophies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2021) | Viewed by 11292

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Eamonn Conway
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Limerick V94 VN26, Ireland
Interests: catholic education; faith and culture; systematic theology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Globally, Catholic education serves some 62 million students at preschool, primary and secondary levels and an additional 6.5 million in higher education (Wodon 2020), making the Catholic Church the largest non-governmental provider of education in the world. Enrolment in Catholic institutions of higher education worldwide has doubled over the past fifty years.

Generally, the contribution of faith-based education to diverse societies continues to be valued and acknowledged. However, in many detraditionalized cultural contexts and especially in those where the Catholic Church has in the past been culturally dominant, Catholic schools and universities are under public pressure to divest ownership and governance to secular providers (Byrne and Devine 2018). This is particularly the case where such institutions are publicly funded. 

Meanwhile, institutions that continue under Catholic ownership and governance can find themselves undergoing a process of ‘internal secularization’. Reasons for this include decline in adherence to religious beliefs and practices in these societies, growing public demand for greater diversity in educational provision, equality legislation relating to staff recruitment, and policies in respect of inclusion, diversity and state-mandated curricular reforms that are at odds with Catholic Church teaching.

There are other factors that contribute to ‘internal secularisation’. The increasing predominance of the ‘mercantile paradigm’ in education (O’Sullivan 2005), accompanied by an emphasis upon competitiveness and performance, adversely affects the capacity of Catholic schools and universities to facilitate reflection upon questions of ultimate meaning (MacIntyre 2006).

The growing demand for so-called ‘safe spaces’ on school and university campuses, in many instances, leads to the denial of academic freedom, the abandonment of collaborative searches for truth (Sacks 2020) and the weakening especially of ecclesial identity.

Lastly, managerialism in education is also a cause of concern (McKinney and Sullivan 2013; Ginsberg 2011). It has been argued that the rise of managerialism is linked with the prevalence of secular liberalism which causes public discourse regarding what constitutes the human good to be relegated to the private sphere (Williams 2012). The resulting vacuum in the public sphere is filled by preoccupation with issues such as compliance procedures, performance metrics and audit trails (Conway 2015).

In response to these developments, Catholic educators are exploring creative ways to re-affirm the unique value and contribution Catholic schools and universities can make to the common good and thus to re-positioning Catholic education in plural and multi-cultural contexts. New trans-national forms of collaboration and co-operation between Catholic educators have been formed and exciting theories of Catholic education based not only upon the Catholic tradition but also upon high quality contemporary empirical research are emerging.

Renewed efforts are underway to demonstrate how Christian anthropology, at the heart of which is the understanding of human beings as imago Dei, provides a unique counterbalance to educational theories and curricular policies that tend to reduce education to the ‘the logic of the economy’ (Boeve 2006). It is argued that such reductionisms reveal not only a truncated understanding of what it is to be human but also of what it is to truly educate. Strengthening and fostering Catholic education in this new and challenging environment requires the inter-disciplinary co-operation of thought-leaders, religious educators, philosophers, theologians and researchers in the social sciences in order to generate creative and integrated responses.  This new and challenging context for Catholic education is the focus of this special volume of Religions.

Of particular interest are original research papers that explore the following topics:

  • The self-perception, mission and identity of Catholic education;
  • Catholic education since Vatican II: developments and emphases;
  • Have secular states a legal and/or moral duty to provide for faith-based education?
  • Secularist challenges to Catholic education;
  • New approaches to encouraging religious literacy among teachers and managers in Catholic schools;
  • Developing and maintaining spiritual capital in Catholic schools and universities;
  • Catholic approaches to and curricular developments in mental health, mindfulness, wellbeing and resilience education;
  • Catholic sources for and policy responses to inclusion, diversity and equality policies in education;
  • Innovative approaches to teaching the Christian virtues in secular and multicultural contexts;
  • Distinctively Catholic perspectives on ecological education that challenge the ‘technocratic paradigm’;
  • Catholic education and contemporary biblical scholarship;
  • Catholic education in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue concerning ‘fraternal humanism’;
  • Catholic social teaching and integral humanism in the Catholic school;
  • Catholic (re-)sources for justice, forgiveness and reconciliation education;
  • What detraditionalized cultural contexts can ‘receive’ concerning Catholic education from the global south.

The editor particularly encourages the submission of papers that have been co-authored by emerging and early-career researchers working in collaboration with scholars already established in their respective fields of expertise.

References:

Lieven Boeve. The Identity of a Catholic University in Post-Christian European Societies: Four Models. Louvain Studies 31: 238–58.

Richard Byrne and Dympna Devine. 2018. ‘Catholic Schooling with a Twist?’: a Study of Faith Schooling in the Republic of Ireland during a Period of Detraditionalization. Cambridge Journal of Education 48: 4461–477.

Eamonn Conway. 2015. Vatican II on Christian Education: A Guide through Today’s ‘Educational Emergency’. In Ireland & Vatican II, Edited by Niall Coll. Dublin: Columba Press, pp. 253–273.

Benjamin Ginsberg. 2011. The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters. Oxford: OUP.

Alisdair MacIntyre. 2006. The End of Education: The Fragmentation of the American University. Commonweal 133: 10–14.

Stephen McKinney and John Sullivan. 2013. Education in Catholic Perspective. Surrey: Ashgate.

Denis O’Sullivan. 2005. Cultural Politics and Irish Education since the 1950s. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, p. 112.

Rowan Williams. 2012. Faith in the Public Square, London: Bloomsbury.

Quentin Wodon. 2020. Global Catholic Education Report 2020: Achievements and Challenges at a Time of Crisis. Rome: International Office of Catholic Education.

Jonathan Sacks. 2020. Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times. London: Hodder & Stoughton, p. 173.

Prof. Eamonn Conway
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • catholic education
  • secularism
  • detraditionalization
  • spirituality
  • Christian anthropology
  • Christian humanism

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

Article
Interrupting Christian Identity Construction: Catholic Dialogue Schools and Negative Theology
Religions 2022, 13(2), 170; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13020170 - 15 Feb 2022
Viewed by 609
Abstract
In a recent article, Didier Pollefeyt reflected on the worrisome observation that young children seemingly successfully raised in the Christian faith in Catholic schools lose this faith by the end of secondary education. According to him, the combination of an all-too-positive theology and [...] Read more.
In a recent article, Didier Pollefeyt reflected on the worrisome observation that young children seemingly successfully raised in the Christian faith in Catholic schools lose this faith by the end of secondary education. According to him, the combination of an all-too-positive theology and positive psychology in primary schools (turning these into safe havens) should be complemented by theologies of vulnerability and responsibility in order to present a Christian faith that is able to assist youngsters in situations of conflict, suffering, etc. In this contribution, however, I argue that a more fundamental analysis is to be made to solve this problem, not only for pedagogical but especially for theological reasons. A theological recontextualisation in dialogue with the current context will show us that the interruption of (all too) positive theologies urges these theologies themselves to change from within, into theologies of interruption. After summarising Pollefeyt’s argument, I will analyse the current context of detraditionalisation and pluralisation, pointing to the challenges it poses to all identity construction (including Christian identity construction) that are to be interrupted by difference and otherness. Afterwards, I will shed light on the precise way in which the dynamics of negative theology foster a radical critical hermeneutical consciousness at the heart of the Christian faith, challenging any attempt at solidifying it within closed, self-securing narratives, and thus opening up these narratives to be interrupted. I will illustrate my point with a short reflection on the Gospel of Mark as a Gospel for our times. In the conclusion, I will apply the insights gained to the project of the Catholic dialogue school in order to prevent the counterproductive outcome of self-securing identities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
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Article
The Perennial Impact of Salesian Accompaniment in a Context of Detraditionalisation
Religions 2022, 13(1), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010022 - 27 Dec 2021
Viewed by 661
Abstract
This article will begin by referencing briefly the notion of detraditionalisation—referencing scholars such as Lieven Boeve, who has written extensively on the issue. By way of contrast, accompaniment constitutes a perennial theme in a Christian context, best encapsulated in the Emmaus story (Luke [...] Read more.
This article will begin by referencing briefly the notion of detraditionalisation—referencing scholars such as Lieven Boeve, who has written extensively on the issue. By way of contrast, accompaniment constitutes a perennial theme in a Christian context, best encapsulated in the Emmaus story (Luke 22:13–35), when Jesus accompanies the two disciples on what could be described as a journey of discovery. This journey paradigm, which underpins many religious education programmes, constitutes a central feature of the Salesian education vision known as the Preventive System. St John Bosco (1815–1888), the founder of the Salesians, was concerned with the transformation of the lives of every young person with whom he came into contact, resonating with ‘the uniqueness of the individual’, one of the key principles of Catholic education. According to one of his first Salesians, Bosco encouraged them to ‘go to the pump’, to meet young people where they had gathered and to engage in a genuine encounter. This article will explore the extent to which this model of effective presence and encounter reflects, firstly, Jesus as the Shepherd and, secondly, the vision of St John Bosco which involves the teacher/pastoral worker and the accompanied meeting each other and having frequent encounters in informal ways in a variety of environments, marked by openness, trust and availability. Research will be retrieved to exemplify the perennial impact of Salesian accompaniment in Salesian secondary schools in England in which students are, in general, familiar with the Christian faith and its central tenets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
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Article
‘So, Is It True?’ Time to Embrace the Hermeneutical Turn in Catholic Religious Education in the Republic of Ireland
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1059; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121059 - 29 Nov 2021
Viewed by 907
Abstract
A key challenge for educational provision in the Republic of Ireland has been the need to develop appropriate approaches to religious education that are effective in terms of meeting the needs and rights of students in a democratic pluralistic society. At the centre [...] Read more.
A key challenge for educational provision in the Republic of Ireland has been the need to develop appropriate approaches to religious education that are effective in terms of meeting the needs and rights of students in a democratic pluralistic society. At the centre of such discussions, although rarely explicitly recognised, is an attempt to grapple with the question of truth in the context of religious education. This paper argues that religious education, in attempting to engage with this evolving context, is challenged in two trajectories: (a) by approaches that operate from the presumption that objective truth exists and (b) by approaches that are sceptical of any claim to objective truth. It will be argued that proposals, such as those offered by active pluralists, to deal with religious truth claims in religious education are limited in terms of their capacity to adequately treat such claims and the demands that these carry for adherents. This paper argues for a hermeneutical treatment of the context for Catholic religious education in the Republic of Ireland, which is considered under the following headings: (1) irruptions from the periphery, (2) the theological matrix, (3) the status of religion, and (4) the position of students and teachers in religious education classes. From this it will be suggested that promoting religious education as a hermeneutic activity allows for a respectful engagement with competing truth claims. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
Article
Life to the Full: Sustaining the Catholic Curriculum
Religions 2021, 12(11), 983; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110983 - 10 Nov 2021
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Abstract
Catholic schools. has articulated There are concerns that the curriculum of Catholic schools has been increasingly dominated by pressures to conform to a programme of education legitimised by an intrusive secular state and designated as a ‘national curriculum’. Accordingly, the curriculum of Catholic [...] Read more.
Catholic schools. has articulated There are concerns that the curriculum of Catholic schools has been increasingly dominated by pressures to conform to a programme of education legitimised by an intrusive secular state and designated as a ‘national curriculum’. Accordingly, the curriculum of Catholic maintained schools is regulated within a standardised framework that is directed by government. Contentiously, it has been asserted that, as a result, the curriculum in Catholic schools in England has effectively been ‘de-Catholicised’. This claim has been contested. For example, it is maintained that the matter is more nuanced than this and the situation cannot be interpreted in such an unequivocal way. However, it might well be asked: what should a Catholic curriculum look like? In the face of this question, leaders in Catholic schools are encouraged to consider renewing and restoring a distinctive curriculum by permeating it systematically with the principles of Catholic social teaching. Ultimately, the writer argues, the curriculum of Catholic schools should provide students with an understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
Article
Identity, Ambiguity, and Professionalism: Dilemmas for the Diocesan Advisor in the Republic of Ireland
Religions 2021, 12(11), 973; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110973 - 08 Nov 2021
Viewed by 872
Abstract
A deficit in empirical studies regarding the role of the Diocesan Advisor at second-level schools in the Republic of Ireland prompted research in this area. The findings of a study carried out by the authors are outlined in this article. Perspectives of 19 [...] Read more.
A deficit in empirical studies regarding the role of the Diocesan Advisor at second-level schools in the Republic of Ireland prompted research in this area. The findings of a study carried out by the authors are outlined in this article. Perspectives of 19 Diocesan Advisors were gathered qualitatively. The concept of “visible” and “invisible” maps provided a framework. In Ireland, State inspection relies on visible mapping of inspection processes that are accessible to all stakeholders. The Diocesan Advisor, on behalf of the bishop, uses invisible maps, observing how the school is living out its Catholic remit and how religious education is carried out within the curriculum. The study identified that the role is under-resourced and lacks clarity, resulting in a widespread deficiency in the monitoring of Catholic schools’ identity and the non-examinable religious education currently on the curriculum. The study further revealed an uncertain future for the role of the Diocesan Advisor in a changing landscape. A discussion on the implications of the findings is included, and possible options for the role in the future are explored. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
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Article
Reimagining Adult Religious Education and Faith Development in a Detraditionalised Ireland
Religions 2021, 12(11), 963; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110963 - 03 Nov 2021
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Abstract
The culture of provision of adult religious education and faith development, whereby talks or courses are made available at parish level and/or in formal educational settings, has undoubtedly dominated the Irish scene for many years. The low level of uptake of such opportunities [...] Read more.
The culture of provision of adult religious education and faith development, whereby talks or courses are made available at parish level and/or in formal educational settings, has undoubtedly dominated the Irish scene for many years. The low level of uptake of such opportunities or long-term engagement, however, coupled with the recognised decrease in regular church attendance would suggest that this culture of provision does not meet the needs of the adult population. This mismatch was a key driving force behind the inception of the Adult Religious Education and Faith Development (AREFD) project. Cognisant of cultural and societal changes, a core aim of the project was to assess this traditional culture of provision within a detraditionalised context. The present study is based on data gathered in phase two of the AREFD project consisting of fourteen semi-structured interviews and focus groups conducted between December 2019 and April 2021. The participants were involved for a number of years in adult religious education and faith development in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and across a variety of settings. The purpose of these interviews was to gather together the rich insights from the wealth of experience of the interviewees on the practicalities and possibilities central to adult religious education. The findings affirm dissatisfaction amongst participants with the current state of AREFD in Ireland, but indicate that there is hope for the future. Fresh and innovative engagement with adults is called for. This paper outlines key themes emerging from the data which contribute to the conversation of how innovative engagement with adults can revitalise church culture in Ireland. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
Article
Re-Presenting Christian Tradition as a Source of Inspiration and Integration for Educators in Catholic Schools—A Proposal
Religions 2021, 12(11), 961; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110961 - 02 Nov 2021
Viewed by 636
Abstract
A significant challenge facing leaders of Catholic schools in Ireland today is to ensure an appreciation for, and understanding of, the Catholic identity of the school among members of staff. A first aim of this research project was to create a ‘vital idea’ [...] Read more.
A significant challenge facing leaders of Catholic schools in Ireland today is to ensure an appreciation for, and understanding of, the Catholic identity of the school among members of staff. A first aim of this research project was to create a ‘vital idea’ to re-present Christian faith to people working in Catholic schools, in a way that might resonate with the real world of teaching and learning and with their own lives. Drawing from Fratelli Tutti), we used the phrase ‘A Love that impels towards communion’ as the ‘vital idea’. A second aim was to present it to principals of second-level Catholic schools and garner their responses to it. We did this with twelve principals, using a focus group methodology. We first explained the thinking behind the ‘vital idea’, and then gathered their responses to it. The reaction of the principals was favourable. It made sense to them personally and chimed with much of what they are doing professionally. However, the word ‘communion’ was found not to be helpful. A further finding relates to values: while the values in the ‘vital idea’ were embraced and talked about easily, there was little explicit reference to God, the source of those values. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
Article
The Naked Truth: Temptation and the Likely ‘Fall’ of Catholic Education
Religions 2021, 12(11), 958; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110958 - 02 Nov 2021
Viewed by 617
Abstract
This article highlights one likely ‘fall’ to which Catholic education is susceptible in the modern era due to the oppressive climate in which it operates. Our critical method in arguing for this position is to oscillate between two texts—one written and one visual: [...] Read more.
This article highlights one likely ‘fall’ to which Catholic education is susceptible in the modern era due to the oppressive climate in which it operates. Our critical method in arguing for this position is to oscillate between two texts—one written and one visual: Genesis 3: 1–18 and Masaccio’s painting of ‘The Expulsion’. The hope is that one will inform and enrich a deeper understanding of the other. As part of this exercise in creative hermeneutics, we first argue that the dramatic story of the fall through pride or amor sui (self-love) and its resultant feeling of shame is a universal one in which readers (listeners) glimpse the long history of their own fears and desires. Second, we show how one 15th century Italian painter represented the tragic consequences of the Faustian self by examining Masaccio’s painting in some detail. Third, we investigate St. Augustine’s writings on this narrative and suggest how some forms of self-elevation align dangerously with the promotion of the autonomous self in contemporary education. We also critically examine exegetical writings from Jewish and Christian perspectives to draw out further meanings of the narrative. Fourth, we point to the themes of hiding and forgiveness embedded in the account which leads us neatly into the last fifth section where we discuss the text’s implications for contemporary Catholic education. Here, the focus is on one likely ‘fall’ of Catholic education when it fails to live up to its distinctive mission to place love unconditionally at its centre. In a highly market-driven, managerial climate of competition where league tables, bureaucratisation, and data analysis assume an overwhelming significance allied to institutional survival and kudos, the temptation is to show the worth of the school by emphasising its examination success and employment rates rather than through its service to others, especially those who have been forgotten. Although we are highly sensitive to the conflictual demands on Catholic institutions at the present time from a variety of stakeholders, we conclude that their healthy continuation depends on their public, ethical avowal to love everyone unreservedly with assistance from God’s grace and when this aspiration fails, to seek forgiveness. The article is not concerned with strategies of resistance against those developments in education contrary to a Catholic philosophy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
Article
Teaching the Unteachable or Why Too Much Good Is Bad. Religious Education in Catholic Schools Today
Religions 2021, 12(10), 810; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100810 - 27 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2218
Abstract
This article deals with the strong disaffiliation of Church and Catholic faith we see in the Western world, especially when students go from primary to secondary school, and when leaving the Catholic educational system. Based on empirical data, the hypothesis is formulated that [...] Read more.
This article deals with the strong disaffiliation of Church and Catholic faith we see in the Western world, especially when students go from primary to secondary school, and when leaving the Catholic educational system. Based on empirical data, the hypothesis is formulated that Catholic schools use a pedagogy that is too much concerned with positive theology and psychology, an approach that does not stand the test when life shows its complexities and vulnerabilities. The article presents theologies and pedagogies of responsibility and vulnerability as a complimentary approach, rooted in the Catholic tradition, as a possible way to form more resilient believers and citizens for the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
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Article
Utilizing Authenticity: Options for Catholic Education in a Particular Detraditionalized Cultural Context
Religions 2021, 12(10), 807; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100807 - 26 Sep 2021
Viewed by 671
Abstract
This paper addresses some conceptual options for Catholic education in a particular cultural context. This context is where the Catholic school system is large, stable, and well established but in the wider cultural context, the place of religion in society is detraditionalized. This [...] Read more.
This paper addresses some conceptual options for Catholic education in a particular cultural context. This context is where the Catholic school system is large, stable, and well established but in the wider cultural context, the place of religion in society is detraditionalized. This detraditionalization is reflected in Catholic school enrolments where increasing numbers of students come from non-Catholic backgrounds, where, amongst Catholics, engagement with traditional structures is low or where there is no religious association at all. To initiate discussion a simple dichotomy is introduced; do Catholic schools promote religious identity or do they address a wider demographic by stressing harmonized common values and policies? To elaborate on this initial position several conceptual perspectives are offered. A key discussion point centres around the human community of Catholic schools and how they align with the various options that are proposed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
Article
Catholics, Culture and the Renewal of Christian Humanism
Religions 2021, 12(5), 325; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050325 - 06 May 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1047
Abstract
If Catholic educators are to equip students to engage with contemporary culture in a way that is credible and winsome, they need first, to be able to draw upon the living tradition of their faith appreciatively, critically and creatively, and second, to articulate [...] Read more.
If Catholic educators are to equip students to engage with contemporary culture in a way that is credible and winsome, they need first, to be able to draw upon the living tradition of their faith appreciatively, critically and creatively, and second, to articulate a renewed form of Christian humanism. This paper addresses the second of these prerequisites by taking two steps towards the development of a Christian humanism for our times. First, I propose a rationale for the task of rethinking the case for Christian humanism as a resource for both cultural engagement and for educational practice. Second, I consider three potential sources and guides for becoming confident and competent in communicating this renewal of Christian humanism: Jacques Maritain, Romano Guardini and Pope Francis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Education in Detraditionalised Cultural Contexts)
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