The understanding and acceptance of children’s rights amongst those in formation (or recently ordained) to become Catholic priests in Ireland:
: An exploratory study

  • Niall Moore

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The commitments made when States ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child includes educating adults who work with children about its content and implications in their professional lives. The Holy See, a State which has ratified the UNCRC, is unique in terms of its status as both a State and the administration of a global religion. This study seeks to understand how this dual relationship affects the understanding and acceptance of children’s rights of those training to be Catholic priests.

Given the concurrent focus on the individual seminarian or ordained priest and the influence of the wider contexts in which they are situated, two theoretical frameworks have been chosen to reflect this dual nature of the Holy See. The first, ‘Sociological Institutionalism’, examines the impact of institutions on ideas and perceptions and the second, ‘Models of the Church’, is theological and constructs the Catholic Church as a series of coexisting models, each influencing the individual members. These combined frameworks will be used as a lens to explore the data from thirty qualitative interviews with fifteen seminarians (or those recently ordained).

This study demonstrates that there are clear inconsistencies between rhetoric and reality in relation to seminarians’ understanding and implementation of children’s rights. Those interviewed demonstrated clear knowledge of the hierarchical structure of the Church and obedience to its teaching, yet the absence of clear theology on children and rights leads to mixed understandings about their rights. These understandings are in turn influenced by each seminarian’s perception of their role, understanding of Church and understanding of children and children’s rights.

More work is needed in developing, within the Catholic Church in Ireland, a clear teaching on children, childhood and children’s rights, to provide clarity on the many inconsistencies discussed by the participants of this study.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorKaren Winter (Supervisor) & Laura Lundy (Supervisor)

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