A subject "like any other"” “

The teaching of the Catholic religion" "" "

The teaching of the Catholic religion in schools and the pastoral care of the people are the two main issues on which the attention of the Spanish Church is being focused at the present time. In Spain Catholic religion in schools will in future be “a subject to be evaluated like history or mathematics, and will thus have the dignity of other subjects”. This is the recent provision of the Spanish government, which has opened a controversy involving the teaching unions, schools, the Church and parents’ associations. Hitherto, it was possible to study religion at school, but the marks or grade received did not count for university entrance. In the new system, teachers of religion will be responsible for the teaching of confessional religion. Religion will form part of the area of the school curriculum called “Society, culture and religion”. There are two options open to the student: either a subject of confessional character (Catholic, for example), or non-confessional character, aimed at studying the plurality of the religious phenomenon in society. Teachers of history or philosophy will teach the alternative to confessional teaching. In conformity with the LOCE (Organic Law of quality in education), the new subject of religion, which will be introduced in the academic year 2004/2005, will form an integral part of the student’s academic curciculum. The system currently in force will continue next year. Called “Catholic religion and morality”, it was established in 1979, the year of the accords between the government of Adolfo Suárez and the Spanish bishops, in which ethics can be chosen as an alternative subject. Among the alternative options, there is the possibility – not subject to assessment – of choosing table games, football or other pursuits. The Church has long protested about this situation which it regards as “offensive” towards religion. At the present time 82% of parents would choose the subject of religion for their children. In a press release, Manuel de Castro Barco, general secretary of the Spanish Federation of Catholic Teaching (FERE), an organization to which 1,871 private schools belong, considers “the decision of the government right”. “This subject – declares Castro Barco – must have the same academic treatment as the others, because only in this way can the necessary scientific and culture rigour be attributed to it”. In the view of Castro Barco, “it’s difficult to understand why people should speak of unconstitutionality and why they should wish to appeal against the Government’s decision”, referring to the decision of the opposition to lodge an appeal to seek a ruling that would declare the provision anti-constitutional. There are 18,000 teachers of religion in Spain. They are selected by the bishops, but paid by the State.

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