Pupils at Catholic schools in New South Wales will be required to prove they attend church regularly under an edict intended to reverse the influence of secular values.
A diocesan bishop, Patrick Murphy, said the Catholic school system was not intended to be an alternative to the state system but to provide an education with Christian values. He said the new policy did not necessarily mean that non-Catholics would be excluded. (If they were, some Catholic schools would lose up to half their pupils.) "What we are concerned about is that all students . . . be committed to the ideals for which the school was established," he said.
Under the new rule pupils must provide a reference from their parish priest. Whenever they change school or move from kindergarten into primary and then into secondary school, another reference is required. Of Australia's 2, 200 non-government schools, eight out of 10 are run by the Catholic Church and more than 75 per cent of children attending private schools are in Catholic ones.
Although most Catholic schools were founded by religious orders, few of their teachers today belong to orders. Also surveys continue to show that few senior students in Catholic secondary schools attend Mass or have any involvement in church affairs.