Key themes from the Instruction

Below are selection of key themes to begin discussion. Any reference without initials before it are from ICS. Any quotations in italics are from one of the other Vatican documents listed below. A PDF handout of significant quotes from all three chapters is available here. A ppt on 10 take-a-ways is available here.

Education is intertwined with formation and a universal right. Education, as the formation of the human person, is a universal right (#11). Catholic education provides a guide beyond the limited horizon of human reality (#41) and educating is a passion that is always renewed. “In the Catholic school’s educational project there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom.” (CSTM #14)

A Catholic school is an ecclesial entity (#30) – a school of the Church. The purpose of the instruction is to underline this truth and enhance the ecclesial unity and communion (#4) by strengthening that understanding. The educational action pursued by the Church through schools cannot be reduced to mere philanthropic work aimed at responding to a social need, but represents an essential part of her identity and mission (#10)…a Catholic school is endowed with a specific identity (#20): i.e. “its reference to a Christian concept of life centred on Jesus Christ” (TCS #22). The whole school community is responsible for implementing the school’s Catholic educational project as an expression of its ecclesiality and its being a part of the community of the Church. (#38).

Welcome and dialogue. The history of Catholic schools is characterised by welcoming pupils from different cultural backgrounds and religious affiliations (#27). Catholic education is for all, especially the weakest (#22). As it is for all, it calls for the responsibility of all (#12). In this context, “what is required […] is courageous and innovative fidelity to one’s own pedagogical vision” (EIDCS #Intro), which is expressed in the capacity to bear witness, to know and to dialogue with diversity (#27). For the Catholic school, a great responsibility is to bear witness (#28). Witness leads to …dialogue, as an authentic expression of our humanity, not as a strategy for achieving specific goals, but rather a path to truth (#30). A Catholic school must therefore “practise the ‘grammar of dialogue’, not as a technical expedient, but as a profound way of relating to others” (EIDCS #57).

Responsibility of all. Since education is a right for everyone, the Council called for the responsibility of all. (#12). Everyone has the obligation to recognise, respect and bear witness to the Catholic identity of the school, officially set out in the educational project. This applies to the teaching staff, the non-teaching personnel and the pupils and their families. At the time of enrolment, both the parents and the student must be made aware of the Catholic school’s educational project. (#39). Teachers, who through their teaching-pedagogical skills, as well as by bearing witness through their [teachers] lives, allow the Catholic school to realise its formative project. In a Catholic school, in fact, the service of the teacher is an ecclesiastical munus and office (#45) reflective of the teaching office of Jesus Christ. In “an atmosphere characterised by the search for truth …teachers of learning and of life, may be a reflection, albeit imperfect but still vivid, of the one Teacher” (CSTM #14).

Unity and communion with the Catholic Church defines the school as “Catholic” at all levels (#54) …no initiative can claim the title “Catholic” without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority (#56) (The Archbishop for MACS) who plays a central role in discerning the “Catholic” identity of a school (#59). The role of the Bishop, Conference of Bishops and Apostolic See are outlined in detail (#59-66).

An ‘open’ Catholic school. There is a conflicting perception of the Catholic identity of educational institutions because ‘Catholic’, is a complex word (#68). We must not confine ourselves on an island or lose our missionary impetus. This would contradict the vision of an ‘open’ Catholic school that intends to apply to the educational sphere the model of a “Church which goes forth”, in dialogue with everyone (#72). Catholic identity should be a place of encounter, a tool promoting the convergence of ideas and actions. Even in the most serious conflicts, the unity of lived faith based on the Gospel remains the guiding compass (#87).

Benevolence and trust. More effective than any legal norms or definitions, the promotion of individual responsibility to the benefit of the identity of the institution often appear to be more effective. The following attitudes and measures to create a climate and behaviour expressing benevolence and trust towards all members of the educational community create living realities of Christian virtue:

  • individual and collective self-assessment procedures within the institution
  • guidelines on desired quality standards
  • permanent formation courses
  • the promotion and strengthening of professional skills, incentives and rewards
  • collection, documentation and study of good practices (#78).

Vatican documents quoted

CSTM – The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium28 December 1997

EIDCS – Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools. Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love, 19 December 2013

ICS – The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue, 25 January 2022

TCS – The Catholic School19 March 1977