From religious instruction to Europe’s culture
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
Today I want to reflect on the theme that is especially important to pupils of elementary and secondary schools as well as to their parents – the problem of religious instruction in schools. I want to remind you that religious instruction returned to Polish schools when Poland became free. During the communist times religious instruction was not a subject taught in schools. It survived because it was taught in parishes. Where possible, classes were conducted after school in parish facilities or simply in churches. It was a big achievement of the Church in the Polish People’s Republic. Parishes tried to work out certain funds for some secular teachers of religious instruction and the altruistic priests did not expect any pay. Today religious instruction is taught in schools. Pupils need not come to these lessons separately and all religion teachers receive salaries and it seems that we should not have big problems now. Unfortunately, there are problems, including the one that religion teachers are often attacked by their pupils in schools. There are individuals that incline others to boycott the teachers; they behaved badly and even brutally, they manage to destroy the structure of the lesson. It seems that these things result from aversion towards the Church which pupils encounter in their homes, from the criticism of the Church in the mass media, etc. Another big pastoral problem is the fact that young people think that attending religious instruction they need not attend Mass on Sunday in their parish church. But religious instruction cannot replace the Eucharist and there is a clearly defined way of experiencing Sunday as a holy day.
Nobody realises that religious instruction is the most important subject in children’s upbringing because it concerns morality, not mentioning the fact that it concerns matters of our faith as a scientifically ordered philosophical system. Therefore, teachers of religious instruction do not conduct lessons according to their wills. There is a catechetical programme adjusted to pupils’ age, accepted by the Ministry of Education and the ecclesiastical authorities. The topics of religious instruction are important from the historical and cultural points of view. It is a matter of our identity as nation. Therefore, one cannot undermine this subject in any way. On the contrary, one must do everything to use it properly to educate good people and wise citizens. Teachers of religious instruction can inculcate faith in pupils and deepened their attitudes towards life, and thanks to that the state, having righteous citizens who consciously realise their system of values, can function better. That’s why one must be thankful to the Church for giving such a system of civil education so that people are good and honest and they are citizens of the world aware of their worth. We do remember the beatification of Fr Jerzy Popieluszko, our great hero, who testified about his love of the truth and freedom. He is a model for all people, not only for priests, an example of how to live, how to be faithful to principles. The history of our nation is firmly connected with faith that has actually accompanied us in all important situations. We should know that when we say ‘religion.’ When we reflect on what is really important to people who pass away from this world – and for those they leave – we can see that it is eternal life, which will be either happy with God or remain in eternal condemnation. We can forget certain formulas, dates, models but at the last moments of our lives the matters of faith remain. We can also notice that when there are various disputes and discussions on the future fate of mankind religion is something extremely important and objective because it is based on nature.
Unfortunately, the European Union – some EU leaders – opposes Christianity and does not allow writing in the European constitution about Christian values as the highest reference for Christian nations. It is big hypocrisy since Europe lives Christianity and breathes it. But atheists impose on Europe their own opinions and rights and we, Christians, feel that we are devoid of our rights. Take for example some verdicts of the Tribunal in Strasbourg.
Let us all know that until Europe’s breath is Christian, Europe will be Europe. When Christianity is gone, we will lack the power of spirit, we will lack what develops our civilisation, and we can become a continent of a different, completely alien culture – with all respect for this culture. Let us defend Christian Europe, the Europe of Jesus Christ! Only the stupid and weak get rid of, or let others take, their best things.