As another school year gets under way with the Year of Faith due to commence next October, it is appropriate to reflect on where today's Catholic schools are heading in terms of educating their pupils in the basics of the faith.
In light of the miniscule rate of religious practice among young Catholic school leavers, there is an urgent need to determine the causes and put in place solutions which will allow the schools to fulfil their principal function of imparting the truths of the faith to the next generation. There are now many Catholic and other religious schools which show how this can be done successfully.
A disturbing phenomenon in recent years has been the gradual "greening" of many classrooms, with environmentalism in some cases effectively becoming a parallel, if not replacement, religion. Youthful idealism (combined with scientific ignorance) in wanting to "save the planet" can be all too easily exploited, especially when teaching the harder Catholic doctrines to sometimes bored, restless teenagers can assume the proportions of a mission impossible. Environmentalism is seen as a lifebelt in the circumstances.
In this regard, the efforts of Catholic Earthcare Australia to spread the climate change message throughout the Church's institutions, including schools, with talk of limiting "carbon footprints", need to be reined in by the bishops (see pages 16-17). This is needed since the claims of the alarmists are being exposed as untenable, even as they contribute to economic hardship for those least able to afford the costs of reducing "carbon footprints".
While a sensible, balanced regard for the environment should be encouraged in schools, e.g., discouraging graffiti, vandalism and littering, the claims of the climate change industry and the anti-Christian policies of the Greens should be subjected to intense rational scrutiny.
The challenge for Catholic schools is to find more effective ways of presenting the full range of Catholic teachings, especially at the secondary level, while avoiding the distractions of passing obsessions like global warming alarmism.
Michael Gilchrist is the Editor of AD2000 (email address available on request)