The classroom 'is a fine place for evangelism'
The Catholic church is fighting to defend its education policy in its opposition to the Education (Amendment) Bill, and what this involves is spelt out in a book of synod documents published between March 2000 and December 2001.
The vision of Catholic education should be 'to foster a community which cherishes and promotes Christ's teachings of love and service, as well as the social values and love of life in its own culture,' the section titled Education and Culture says. Although it spells out its commitment to Chinese culture and to improving the quality of education, the document emphasises the evangelical role of a Catholic school. 'A school is a fine place for envangelisation; a suitable milieu for the formation of faith,' it states.
The document sets out the nature of the formal and informal religious curriculum to introduce children to the spirit of the Gospel. 'There is a need for all the teaching and non-teaching staff of the school to join in to create a religious atmosphere,' it says. Catholic schools should 'clearly require all staff to identify themselves with and carry out the Catholic educational mission and respect the church's position.'
Catholic teachers should live their faith and undergo training to enable them to conduct evangelical activities. Schools should encourage and subsidise Catholic teachers to continually pursue theological programmes, including religious studies, Biblical studies, moral education, catechism and pastoral care. Bishop Zen said: 'That document may give the wrong impression. The purpose of our education is evangelism, not necessarily to make Christians, but transmit evangelical values and principals that guide life. That makes the difference between today and yesterday. Many years ago there were a lot of conversions and baptisms. There are only a very small number today.'
Although most Catholic schools confined religious education to Christianity, Zen insisted there was 'full respect for religious freedom'. 'Evangelical values are very close to moral principals. Parents realise in a Catholic school we teach a more serious concept of life,' he said.
The Catholic church is particularly sensitive about sex education. A Catholic school would fight abortion but not contraception, but would not teach artificial contraception, Zen said.