A Call for Catholic Religion Teachers in 2021, 17 years after the first one

The Minister of Education, Lucia Azzolina, and the president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Gualtiero Bassetti, signed the agreement on the call for the recruitment of Catholic religion teachers. Among the requirements the "diocesan suitability" issued by the bishop. A comment by the lawyer Ilaria Valenzi, legal referent of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, for years committed to religious pluralism.

Foto dal sito MIUR

Rome (NEV),  December 20, 2020 – The call for the recruitment of Catholic religion teachers will be held within next year, seventeen years after the first one. The news was released on December 14, by the website of the Ministry of Education. “The Minister of Education, Lucia Azzolina, and the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), bishop Gualtiero Bassetti, have signed the agreement on the call for the recruitment of Catholic Religion teachers, necessary to proceed with the actual tender. The competition procedure aims to fill the posts that will be vacant and available in the next three years. The call is foreseen by law 159 of 2019 and will be issued in the coming weeks. In signing the agreement, Bassetti recalled that ‘the next competition is an important step not only for the professional stabilization of many teachers but also for the dignity of the teaching itself, still attended today – thirty-four years after the start of the new choice system – by a very large majority of students'”.

“I thank the CEI for the collaboration that allowed us to reach this agreement – commented the Minister of Education – which goes in the direction of protecting the aspirations of the Catholic religion teachers who, even in this complex period, have worked hard, in synergy and harmony with the whole school staff, to ensure the effectiveness of the right to study of our students. Teachers who, asserting skills and merit in the competition, will be able to enter the role and continue their professional path with greater stability”.

A decision that comes seventeen years after the first call in 2004,  and which is part of the revision agreement of the Lateran Concordat stipulated between the Holy See and the Italian Republic on February 18, 1984. The requirements for participation in the competition procedure “include the certification of diocesan suitability issued by the person in charge of the competent diocesan office in the ninety days prior to the date of presentation of the application for competition”.

According to the lawyer Ilaria Valenzi, legal representative of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), “…in a moment of great difficulty and uncertainties in the school, a – legitimate – agreement is signed to announce a call for the stabilization and then for the inclusion in the teaching staff of the Catholic religion teachers, who do not have at present a permanent place in school, notwithstanding the general need for stabilization of the many teachers of other subjects largely employed as temporary workers”. A legitimate request, therefore, that of a competition as for “the other” teachers, but “it is important to underline that, in a phase like the present one, the signing of such an agreement  marks a priority of interest”, adds Valenzi.

The controversy raised by this news (also reported by several newspapers) is due to the fact that some of the interested parties stand for the participation to a competition “without a barrier threshold”, or without initial requirements.  The new announcement is an opportunity to reflect on the topic of the teaching of religions and specifically of the Catholic religion hour, much discussed also in the Protestant world. “We do not have definite data, but we know that there is a continuous erosion of students and families who make this choice – declares the lawyer Valenzi, who has been working for years in favor of religious pluralism -, certainly it is the majority but it is decreasing. This phenomenon could be interpreted with two readings. Through the lens of the secularization in progress, first of all. And secondly with the fact that a religious pluralism is manifesting in Italy and it should be managed by teachears of the different religions and not by a single confession linked to the Concordat”.

As it was to be expected, the atheists were very controversial with respect to the news of the 2021 call. The object of discord, in particular, is the public funding of the places banned. In short, who pays and will pay the wages of the Catholic religion teachers –  whose faith will be certified by the competent authority (CEI)  – is and will be the Italian State. A post on the fb page of the Union of atheists and rationalist agnostics (UAAR) reads: “To receive the salary from the State for life – for an optional and doctrinal subject! – candidates must be in possession of “diocesan suitability” issued by the bishop in the 90 days prior to the date of submission of the application. Public jobs decided by the bishop, who selects Italian citizens on the basis of their behavior in private life and their fidelity to the doctrine of the Church. It is easy to imagine that the selected ones will be indebted to him for this “miracle” at the expenses of the community”.

A job, confirms Valenzi, “that weighs on the State coffers, therefore, like that of the rest of the teaching staff, but without the “normal” teachers cursus, namely following its own procedure and requiring the bishop’s approval”.  And which clearly establishes, in some way, a difference between the Catholic religion teachers and those of other subjects.