Vatican document on the identity and mission of Catholic schools

A new Vatican instruction clarifies issues and responsibilities in relation to Catholic schools and encourages living the Catholic identity of these educational institutions in dialogue and in the community. The Vatican released the document in several languages ​​this Tuesday.

“Identity of the Catholic School – For a culture of dialogue” is the title of the document of the Vatican Congregation for Education, which addresses the objectives and challenges of the Catholic education system. The document was published in Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and Italian. A German version is not available at the moment.

Catholic profile

The Vatican said the Catholic identity of schools and educational establishments around the world should become more aware and more coherent from many quarters, the newspaper said in the introduction. At the same time, there have been multiple conflicts and complaints in relation to interpretations of the concept of Catholic identity in a global, intercultural and interreligious context. In this context, the Congregation for Education has developed the principles now published for the orientation of Catholic schools.

Divided into three parts, the document analyzes the evangelizing mission of the Church (chapter 1), identifies the mission and responsibilities of all those involved in the educational mission to promote and ensure the “Catholic identity” (chapter 2), and then analyzes some points “(Chapter 3). in the context of today’s globalized and multicultural world. The fundamental principles enunciated by the Congregation for Formation are placed in the broader horizon of the” Global Pact for Education “proposed by the Pope, based on the conviction that a strong and politely united Church can fulfill her mission of evangelization and contribute to building a more fraternal world.

Mother and teacher church

In the first section of the document, under the title “Catholic schools in the mission of the Church”, the Church is defined as “mother and teacher”: her pedagogical action is not a “philanthropic work” but an essential part of her mission. Education recalls the universal right to education and the general educational mandate of parents, of the State and of the Church, in which evangelization and holistic promotion of the human being are intertwined. In addition, the education and continuing training of teachers, cooperation between parents and teachers and between Catholic and non-Catholic schools are essential. Catholic schools should be “communities” in which freedom, solidarity and charity are taught and open to all, especially the most vulnerable. Also remember the importance of “positive and thoughtful sex education” to support students as they grow up.

Rooted in evangelical principles, in Catholic schools a dialogue between reason and faith should be practiced in order to open up to the truth and “give an answer to the deepest questions of the human soul, which is not addressed only to the immanent relating to reality”. a particular concern of Catholic education is the ability to develop a “culture of care.” Each individual is called to act “as a team, ecological, inclusive and peace-building” in the world. The basis of this culture of care is recognition of the dignity of every person, of every community, of every language, of every ethnic group, of every religion, of every people and of all the fundamental rights that derive from it. “A true ‘compass’ for society, the culture of care shapes people dedicated to listening, constructive dialogue and mutual understanding “.

The newspaper recommends both ordained and lay teachers as teachers for Catholic schools, which should be in fruitful exchange and should continue to be trained. With passion and conviction, they should transmit values ​​such as justice and solidarity and, above all, the ability to dialogue, an important “grammar of dialogue” for building a peaceful society. According to the Vatican, Catholic schools have a missionary mandate here – even in countries with an ancient Christian tradition, education emphasizes and references the global importance of dialogue and work for peace. The testimony of these schools should be “visible, indisputable and aware”, and these educational institutions should be open to all, especially the weakest.

Catholic identity

In the second chapter, under the title “Responsible for the promotion and verification of Catholic identity”, it is elaborated that all those involved in the Catholic education system at all levels should work towards the realization and protection of the Catholic identity, students as well as parents, teachers as well as directors and elders. It should be remembered that ecclesiastical recognition is necessary so that schools run privately or by individual lay people can define themselves as “Catholic”.

Below, the document presents in detail the powers of the diocesan or eparchial bishop in this context, who here exercises a central control function. The bishop reviews the new schools, officially confirms them, and appoints or approves teachers of religion. He can also fire teachers or ask for them to be fired if the relevant requirements are no longer met. At the same time, he should promote constant dialogue with all teachers.

The Holy See has “a subsidiary responsibility for Catholic schools”, it is said. In general, through the Vatican Congregation for Education and its rules for the management of Catholic schools in the world, it guarantees that “the fundamental principles of Catholic education, as proposed by the Magisterium of the Church, are increasingly deepened, affirmed and made known by the people of God ».

Some critical points

The third part of the education addresses various challenges and complaints related to Catholic schools. The Congregation for Education noted that in many of these cases “there is a conflicting conception of the Catholic identity of schools”, which “is often due to the not always correct interpretation of the term ‘Catholic’ and the lack of clarity. of the competences and provisions of the law “.

In this context, the Congregation for Education warns against a reductionist, imprecise or too restrictive interpretation of the “Catholic”. “Essential principles, dimensions and requirements of the Catholic faith” should not be excluded. Not even people who do not correspond to a restrictive interpretation of Catholicism: “This would contradict the responsibility of the school community as a whole and of each of its members”. Catholic schools are not islands open only to thoroughbred Catholics – such a degree would be contradictory to an open-minded, missionary church. The goal should not be a “completely egalitarian society” or “moral or disciplinary perfectionism”.

Critical situations are sometimes “due to a lack of clarity on responsibilities and legal provisions”, he continues. In such cases it is “above all necessary to maintain an adequate balance of competences according to the principle of subsidiarity”. Working together requires “mutual trust”, composure and an “attitude of dialogue and change”, he continues. The Vatican admits at this point that some statutes “are out of date” and need revision.

The document also recognizes “disciplinary and / or doctrinal conflicts” that “could discredit the Catholic institution and cause a scandal in the community”. Decisions on such cases must begin in the local ecclesiastical context, says the instruction, “for which the canonical principles of gradation and proportionality of the measures to be taken must be observed”. The dismissal of teachers should be the “last option”. In the case of state laws that conflict with the freedom of religion and the Catholic identity of a school, it is first of all necessary to seek dialogue with state authorities. One could also appeal to the competent courts.

dialogue and unity

To consolidate the Catholic identity of a teaching institution, it is essential to promote dialogue, build unity among all those involved, promote development and seek “real and lasting” and constructive solutions. Referring to Pope Francis, the Congregation for Education warns against becoming “prisoners of conflict” and “projecting one’s confusion and dissatisfaction onto institutions, thus making unity impossible”. On the other hand, it can sometimes be more constructive to “endure the conflict, resolve it and transform it into a link in a new process”.

With the instruction on the Catholic identity of educational institutions we want to give food for thought and offer “some guidelines that should help shape the missionary change of the Church”, it is said in conclusion.

In an explanatory interview with the Vatican media, the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Education, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, added that the Church with its teaching institutes wanted to propose Catholic values ​​and not impose them: “Identity is not a a defensive concept, but a proactive concept “, said the Prefect.

-Updated at 4.57pm-

(Vatican news – pr)

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