Tag Archives: religion

Senior Cycle Debates

Today I was teaching Religion with a group of of Senior Cycle students, and we were looking at ‘The Search For Meaning & Values’.

I’d stumbled on the following interview with Kurt Cobain.  At one point he talks about his friendships with women, and how he felt that women were oppressed. (The clip is only 5 minutes long – and worth watching)

As a group we then started debating more about whether the group felt that women were actually oppressed in the modern world.

Unsurprisingly, the girls in the class all said ‘yes’ that women are oppressed.  Interestingly for me, they focused on the idea of women being expected to stay at home to cook and clean.  The guys felt that women were not oppressed.    And chaos ensued for the next few minutes!

The idea that women are not treated as equal was new (and news) for some of the lads gathered.  But, fair play to them, they were willing to listen and consider the implications.

I added the idea that oppression becomes apparent when women are excluded from top jobs in some companies.  But what really opened up the discussion was when we spoke about the Stanford Rape Case.  I brought up some sections of the victim’s letter (The full version is here), and it really brought up a good discussion among the students.  (Students?  They are young adults.  Some of the class are 18 years, and all have a maturity way beyond that which I possessed when I was their age).

What becomes tricky is how to handle such a debate when you have a group of young adults.  I have a particular set of values – and no guarantee that the students share them with me.  Of far more importance is the fact that students could be affected by what we were discussing.  When guiding such a debate you need to be familiar with your group.  The debate may not be appropriate or possible depending on who’s sitting in front of you.

I was so impressed by the quality of thought process of the students.  And of the basic goodness of many of them.  They dealt with many of the issues brought up by the letter in such a mature manner.

It’s a good start to the year with them, and I’m looking forward to many more debates.  Hopefully they will examine their own values in a conscious manner, and actively take part in developing their own sense of Meaning and Values.

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Voting Yes

With just over two weeks to go until the Marriage Referendum, things have begun to get ugly in the debates (arguments) between the two camps.

This is perfectly understandable.  Many of us hold quite strong views on marriage, and what it stands for.  The problem is that marriage is not something that is tied down to a simple definition or set of beliefs.  There are as many views on what marriage is as there are married people.  We all hold some kind of opinion of what our own marriage is about – or what we think marriage should be about.  Most of us are in one of two camps.

As you may guess from the title, I’m in the ‘Yes’ camp.

Underpinning many of the arguments of the ‘No’ camp is a set of beliefs based on, well, belief.  Based on faith, and on the doctrine of the Catholic Church, a church of which I’m a member.

One part of Catholic faith that is not pursued in either camp is the idea of an informed conscience.  We each have a conscience and can make choices in our lives, so long as we inform ourselves as to what the choices and consequences are.  For me this means going beyond the headlines of the poster campaigns, and actually thinking about what the referendum means for our country, and for the thousands of people who will be directly affected by our vote on Friday 22nd.

I have written before about some of the main reasons for the ‘No’ vote and why I don’t agree with them.  So I’ll try not to repeat myself here.

Really, it’s this simple:  What is the referendum about?

Forget all the posters, forget all the fancy slogans.  Think – what does this referendum mean for you, for your understanding of marriage, for your understanding of family.

If you believe that marriage is about love, then vote yes to allow those who love each other the chance to proclaim their love in front of friends and family.

If you believe that your faith speaks against this referendum, then consider this.  Not all bishops agree with the Irish Hierarchy.  Recently  German Bishops voted to allow same-sex couples to keep their jobs in the Church.  (In Ireland a teacher can lose their job in a Church funded school if they come out as being Gay.  Apparently we have a long way to go)

For me a faith based argument against the referendum is based on a tenuous premise.  Not everyone in Ireland is Catholic, and of those who are, not everyone agrees with some of the rules of the Church.

And, apart from any of this, I base a lot of my faith on the sayings and actions of Jesus.  He was there for people who were excluded, He was there for those who needed a voice, those who needed love.

Based on this alone, I am voting yes.

Defensores Fidei, and why so many have missed the point

This has been a bad week for a lot of people.

One wit on twitter said it was a bad week for organised religion after the discovery that approximately 800 babies and small children had been disposed of (Not even buried) in what appears to be a septic tank. In other news a woman was killed by her family outside of a court in Pakistan for marrying for love, and in Sudan a woman was given the death penalty for changing her religion.  The wit missed the point.  It was a bad week for women.

A local historian by the name of Catherine Corless went through records and discovered the identities of 796 children who died while their mothers were incarcerated in ‘The Home’ a place for women who had become pregnant outside of marriage.  You can read a full article here.

My friend, Donal O’Keeffe wrote about it here and was published in the Journal here, and brilliantly draws on our humanity, and comes to the depressing conclusion that, as a nation, we simply didn’t care.  And in this I think even Donie missed the point a bit.  People did care, but they cared about the wrong things.

This comes out mostly in the commentary that you can follow online if you look at the attacks on Donal over on the tweet machine, or following his article in the Journal.  Plenty of people seem to care a lot, all right, but they care about protecting an institution.  They are more worried about a perceived attack on the Church rather than on the horrific tragedy of what happened to so many children.

And that is where we lose humanity.

Here’s my messed up theological version of events:

The Catholic Church in the 20th century was resurgent in a new republic after a few centuries of repression.  Suddenly it was the official church, and its leaders were afforded an elevation and power that they were simply not suited for.

The Church as institution became all too powerful, to the extent that people believed more in the Church itself rather than the deity that the Church is supposed to guide people towards.

I believe in God, and I believe that Jesus walked and lived on Earth and taught us a lot of things, and that what he taught us boils down to two ideas – how we should relate to each other and how we should relate to God.

Safe to say that many of the things that happened in the name of the Church during the 20th century are wildly off the mark of how Jesus wanted us to live.  Whatever happened to ‘Love your neighbour’, the lessons of the ‘Good Samaritan’ or ‘the Woman caught in sin’?

After the brutal exposure of so much child abuse you would have hoped that we learned lessons.  That hurts need to be exposed.  That we need to think more of the victims.  That nobody is served when we focus on protecting an institution.

The people on the attack over the past week, the people who think they are protecting the Church, they have missed the point.  The core of this story is the hurt that was endured by hundreds of young mothers and their babies.  The Christ I believe in would not lose that focus.  He would not be involved in attacks on those who have done so much to bring this story to light.

Some Notes:

  • If you want to follow Donal O’Keeffe on Twitter, he’s @Donal_OKeeffe
  • ‘Defensores Fidei’ means ‘defenders of the faith’ Just in case you can’t be bothered going to Google Translate!
  • To whoever wrote the comment ‘it’s been a bad week for organised religion’. Apologies for not referencing you.  I couldn’t re-trace where I’d seen your line originally.

The Minister’s Real Speech

It’s A Tuesday in Easter…

Teachers, it’s a pleasure for me to have the chance to speak to & berate you today.

This is my fourth year addressing you, and I’m determined to make headlines today.  Enough of Man U holding the limelight today.

Now, where was I?  Oh yeah, the primary lot.

Yes.  We’re in a hole.  i’d like to blame the other lot, but I’ve used that line enough already. So let’s talk about how you lot are underqualified. First up, you only had to do three years in college to train as primary teachers, I’m changing that.  Plus, you lot aren’t good enough at maths.  Lets see, a starting point is that you’ll have to do honours maths for the leaving.  You see, girls are lazy.  You’re going to drop honours maths after the Junior Cert if we give you half a chance.  So, you have to keep it on.  So there.

Second.  I’m a bit upset.  All the women in here and I don’t even get a cup of tae?  What’s the point in having a feminised profession if you lot can’t even put on the kettle?

To address this, I’m changing the law.  We already have FEMPI, but I’m now changing the education act to get rid of teachers that are sub-standard.  And to keep an eye on these standards I’m the one who sets the standards.  There.  That should reassure ye.

Now, about this religious malarkey.  I got an idea yesterday.  How’s about we put the religion classes at the start of the day, or at the end?  I know, I know.  You then have students who have no room to go to.  Look, I know I’m taking as many teachers out of the system as possible, but can’t you just play musical chairs with them.  And yes, I do include all you lot who’d be in one-teacher-schools-if-I-get-my-way.

I’m not anti-religion. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll quote Hans Kung.  There, see?  But I will take the chance to boast that my first full day on the job was the day I started to look for ways to get the church out of as many schools as possible.

Remember I’m not anti-religion.  We must respect the rights of families who want their children to be given a religions education.  That’s in the constitution.  Unfortunately.

Later that day…

You lot are the secondary teachers, yeah?

First up.  Have you got around to telling me what you want yet?  Don’t bother with that resources rubbish.  I want to know what you want so that you will do what I want.

Here it is.  Let’s work to support inclusion and giving students a chance.  Let’s not let that bit about the guidance counsellers come between friends.  Come on.  You know that wasn’t a real job.  If the kids really cared then they’d find out what their subject choice and college options were.  I mean, that worked for me and my buddies in the bish.

Now.  the JCSA.  Let’s be clear.  We all agree that the current Junior Cert needs reform.  The best advice that I can get (while avoiding teachers) is that my pet-project is the way to go.  What we have isn’t working, and I’m the boss, so what I say goes.  Yes, I will pretend to keep listening to you lot, but consultation is not spelled n-e-g-o-t-i-a-t-i-o-n.

Now it seems to me that your unions don’t like what I have in mind.  So, I think that they aren’t doing their job.  They seem to think that you are not up to the task of working over 60 hours a week.  I say let’s prove them wrong.  I’ve already gotten away with taking about 20% of your pay, forcing you do do S&S and adding 33 hours of meetings.  Let’s face it, it’s not as if I trust you to work unless I get the principals to roll-call you after hours.

To re-enforce that point I’m changing the law and the Teaching Council will be allowed to continue the beatings until morale improves.

I look forward to seeing you all next year.  By then I hope that you’ll be too knackered to kick up a fuss.