EVERYONE WHO works in a Catholic school can make a positive contribution to its ethos and religious life, regardless of their own faith, a new guide has argued.
The authors press strongly for schools to have an inclusive approach to non-Catholic teachers and support staff, given that around half are not members of the Church. "By virtue of the fact that the head teacher and school governors have given you the job, you are deemed to be someone who can enrich the faith life of the school and community," the guide states. "So what does that mean? Well, it has nothing to do with converting to Catholicism or forcing you to believe anything. It has everything to do with your work and your work environment, and knowing that you have a significant contribution to make in every aspect of the school's life including its faith life The guide, entitled How to Survive Working in a Catholic School (Redemptorist Publications), is written by Sr Judith Russi, an education adviser, and Raymond Friel, the head teacher of a Catholic school. The foreword is by Bishop Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service.
The guide holds that the only person who should not work in a Catholic school is "the cynic with a closed mind". While employees must be comfortable with the Catholic "way of life, thinking and being", it says that this does not mean they are not allowed to question or challenge.
The booklet deals with several myths about what is taught in Catholic schools, including that "all sex is sinful". It points out that sex education is situated within church teaching that says "sex is a gift from God, a beautiful expression of love and the sacred." But the Church will speak out against the marketing of sex, which devalues a person's dignity.
The writers suggest a non-judgemental approach to teachers: "It's OK to be where you are today in your life journey. Tomorrow you will be in a different place, and that's OK too."
Asked about the question of gay teachers living in civil partnerships, Sr Judith told The Tablet: "The important thing is that the first response is always to love the person." But she pointed out that if an individual was demonstrating a "counter-witness" they needed to be reminded of the boundaries in church teaching.