Should A Child Learn About Other Religions Before Confirmation? (Original question.)
I do not believe the Church has an official stance on this issue, one way or the other, but logically it would seem more fitting that children should learn about other religions after they have a grasp of their own faith first. This is why the sacrament of confirmation is administered after sufficient study and learning about the the truths of the Catholic Faith has been undertaken.
Religious educational classes in Catholic schools
have classes about other religions. This is a norm in most Catholic schools.
Do Catholic schools teach about other religions?
Yes, all Catholic schools are required to teach about other religions as part of the Religious Education curriculum. This is a feature of Catholic RE in all stages of a child's development, from the beginning of primary school until the end of secondary school.
Why do Catholic schools teach about other religions?
Teaching about other religions is important for several reasons:
Learning about the religion and cultures of those who do not share the Catholic faith is one of the ways in which Catholic schools embody the call to love one’s neighbour. As the Church says, “The love for all men and women is necessarily also a love for their culture. Catholic schools are, by their very vocation, intercultural.” (Congregation for Catholic Education p61).
It is required by the Bishops, who state that the Catholic nature of our schools entails “a willingness… to try to understand better the religion of one’s neighbours, and to experience something of their religious life and culture.”
Many of the children in Catholic schools are practicing members of other faiths and our schools need to be places of hospitality for these children. It is an act of respect and courtesy that our curriculum helps them to reflect on the nature of their own religious identity. As the Church says, “All children and young people [including those of other faiths in our Catholic schools] must have the same possibilities for arriving at the knowledge of their own religion as well as of elements that characterize other religions.
It prepares the pupils in our Catholic schools for life in modern Britain, giving them an understanding of the beliefs of others. This in turn will improve social cohesion and contribute to the common good by increasing mutual respect between those of different religions.
How much of the Religious Educational curriculum is given to the teaching of other religions?
The RECD does not prescribe how much of the curriculum ought to be devoted to the teaching of other religions, however it is clearly an expectation that it should happen in every key stage. In practice, most Catholic schools would spend approximately one half term per year on the teaching of religions other than Catholic Christianity. The requirement in the revised GCSE that 25% of the study should cover a second religion is not incompatible with this practice. This is because in Catholic schools the 10% of curriculum time which is given to RE is more than is required to teach a GCSE which is designed to be taught in fewer hour than this. The expectation has always been that this additional time which Catholic RE departments have is to be given to the supplementing of the GCSE syllabus in such a way as to allow it to achieve the broader aims of Religious Education outlined above. As a rough estimate, 25% of the GCSE would amount to around 10-15% of the curriculum in KS4 in a Catholic school.
Catholics high schools and institutions of higher learning can be a places for “dialogue and serene exchanges to encourage attitudes of respect, listening, friendship and a spirit of collaboration.”
Catholic schools and institutes of higher education are important places for this education. What marks an educational institution as being “Catholic” is its addressing the Christian concept of reality, “its Catholic quality, namely its reference to a Christian concept of life centred on Jesus Christ.” Therefore, “Catholic schools are at one and the same time places of evangelization, well-rounded education, inculturation and initiation to the dialogue of life among young people of different religions and social backgrounds.” Pope Francis, addressing an Albanian school, which “after the long years of repression of religious institutions, resumed its activity in 1994, accepting and educating Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim children as well as several pupils born into agnostic milieus”, declared that “the school is thus becoming a place for dialogue and serene exchanges to encourage attitudes of respect, listening, friendship and a spirit of collaboration.”
In this context, “education must make students aware of their own roots and provide points of reference which allow them to define their own personal place in the world.” All children and young people must have the same possibilities for arriving at the knowledge of their own religion as well as of elements that characterize other religions. The knowledge of other ways of thinking and believing conquers fears and enriches ways of thinking about the other person and his or her spiritual traditions. Therefore, teachers are duty-bound always to respect the human person who seeks the truth of his or her own being, as well as to appreciate and spread the great cultural traditions that are open to the transcendent and that articulate the desire for freedom and truth.
This knowledge is not sufficient in itself, but opens up to dialogue. The more abundant the knowledge, the more it can sustain dialogue and co-existence with people who profess other religions. In the context of as open dialogue among cultures, different religions can and must make a decisive contribution to forming an awareness of common values.
In turn, dialogue, the fruit of knowledge, must be cultivated for people to co-exist and build up a civilization of love. It is not a matter of playing down the truth, but of realizing the aim of education which “has a particular role to play in building a more united and peaceful world. It can help to affirm that integral humanism, open to life’s ethical and religious dimension, which appreciates the importance of understanding and showing esteem for other cultures and the spiritual values present in them.” Within intercultural education, this dialogue aims “to eliminate tensions and conflicts, and potential confrontations by a better understanding among the various religious cultures of any given region. It may contribute to purifying cultures from any dehumanizing elements, and thus be an agent of transformation. It can also help to uphold certain traditional cultural values which are under threat from modernity and the levelling down which indiscriminate internationalization may bring with it.” “Dialogue is very important for our own maturity, because in confronting another person, confronting other cultures, and also confronting other religions in the right way, we grow; we develop and mature … This dialogue is what creates peace”, affirmed Pope Francis.
Educating to Intercultural Dialogue
in Catholic Schools Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love
As for the question of whether or not a child should learn about other religions before Confirmation is an open question, of which I personally have the opinion that it would be better to wait until the child has been validly Confirmed in his faith.
Should A Child Learn About Other Religions Before Confirmation? The question is valid one, however, in a sense this is an opinion based question, even amongst Catholics. I know of no scholars that have opinionated a stance on this issue. This would be more relevant in countries where Catholicism is a very small minority. The Sacrament of Confirmation is foremost to confirm an individual in his or her faith after sufficient educational instruction about the Catholic Faith. One can study other religions after one is sufficiently versed in the true faith!