The Catholic School as
a Courtyard of the Gentiles
Leonardo Franchi -
University of Glasgow
The Courtyard of the Gentiles, an initiative moved forward by Pope Benedict XVI, has provided the Catholic Church with an official forum for dialogue with atheists. The intellectual energy surrounding this initiative can be harnessed to focus on how the contemporary Catholic school addressed its responsibilities to the Catholic community while offering a good education to people of other religious traditions. The Courtyard initiative is an opportunity for the Catholic educational community to re-consider its purpose as an ecclesial agent in a plural society. This article argues that the distinctive content and pedagogy it employs in this endeavor is a bold manifestation of contemporary radicalism in education.
Two key challenges facing the Catholic school today are its uneasy relationship with aspects of contemporary educational thought and the pressing issues arising from the changing demographic of the contemporary Catholic school population (Baumfield, Conroy, Davis, & Lundie, 2012). The Church’s ongoing reflection on the aims and purposes of Catholic education in a plural society is an expression of contemporary radicalism that often runs counter to the progressive norms which drive education policymakers (cf. Rymarz, 2012; McDonough, 2009). Additionally, the substantial number of non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools—15.9% of total student enrollment in 2012-2013 (National Catholic Education Association, 2013)—challenges those within the Catholic community who assume that the Catholic school should be reserved for students from Catholic families.
Given these crucial socio-cultural factors, it is incumbent upon advocates of Catholic education to find fresh conceptual frameworks to express how the Catholic worldview and its associated educational vision can continue to contribute towards building a good society.
Two projects, both emerging from the pontificate of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, provide resources for maintaining the distinctiveness of …..