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Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, students who are not Catholics have sought and been accepted into Catholic schools in greater numbers than ever before. To be sure, students who are not Catholics have always been a part of the student population in Catholic schools, sometimes a significant part. The first permanent Australian Catholic school in Hunter St., Parramatta in 1820 enrolled 31 students, seven of whom were Protestants: a template for inclusion had been established from the very beginning of Australian Catholic schools (Fogarty, 1959, p. 21). Inclusion of students who are not Catholics accelerated after the Second Vatican Council which opened the Catholic community to dialogue with a world that was changing profoundly. Now, religious people from different traditions would encounter each other to an extent and in ways never before contemplated.

Along with other dimensions of Church life, Catholic schools need to reconceptualise their selfunderstanding in the light of this encounter in their schools with others who are not Catholics. The growing presence of students who are not Catholics in Catholic schools raises “questions about the changing nature and purpose of the Catholic school as a context for religious education” (Welbourne, 2003, p. 1). This article critically reviews extracts from official Church documents on religious education and catechesis concerning the inclusion in Catholic schools of students who are not Catholics. Membership Categorisation Analysis is the tool of analysis used to review these documents. The discussion of results and findings provides directions for further research as well as a brief consideration of problems and practices.


School of Education

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Open Access Conference Paper

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Open Access

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