Ireland’s future sets before us a series of questions about constitutional and Church-State relationships. The vast majority of current Church members (around 84 percent worldwide and considerably higher in Ireland) were baptized as babies. For the Catholic majority in Ireland this has resulted in the imposition of onerous obligations on children long before they are equipped to evaluate them or agree to them. However, a more fundamental issue still lies unresolved and that is always allowing the right of parents to present their child for Baptism and raise the child in their faith, whether the child can, in international human rights law, be held to denominational membership and obligations entered when he or she was non sui compos. This has special significance for Ireland given the dominant position of the Catholic Church particularly in education and healthcare in Ireland but the general issues addressed have transferable implications for other denominations and faith systems.
In this lecture, Professor Mary McAleese will explore how we define and vindicate a child’s right to religious freedom, conscience, opinion and belief as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) to which Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Holy See are all State Parties.
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