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: 30 September 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Eamonn Conway
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.


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

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


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

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Catholics, culture and the renewal of Christian humanism

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 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.

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