Parents, clergy, school teachers and principals have told the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin that they want schools to play a smaller role in preparing Catholic children for sacraments such as communion and confirmation.

In a survey carried out by the archdiocese, 1,800 people asked "for more movement in the direction of parent and parish responsibility".

The survey was set up by a sacraments review group established by the archdiocese. The archdiocese says the findings will "form the raw material for a further stage of reflection".

In a statement it says "a strong pattern in the responses was a desire for change being expressed across the board".  

It says all of the participants said that passing on the faith was "primarily the responsibility of the home, with the support of the parish as well as the school".

Those involved with schools told the archdiocese they felt they were "working in a vacuum". 

The sacraments review group was set up last September.

Ireland is unique in its dependence on schools in preparing for and celebrating the sacraments.

The archdiocese says that while parishes are becoming more involved and there are some efforts to involve parents more, there is strong dissatisfaction that it is still largely a school event.

The archdiocese says the "big challenge" now is to figure how to introduce changes, "from the current set-up where schools engage with children to a new set-up where parishes engage with parents".

The archdiocese says the survey highlights the contrasts between parents who are churchgoers, others who are not churchgoers but profess to have faith, and others again who see the sacraments as family milestones with no faith dimension.

The archdiocese says it must now figure out how to relate to parents in all three of these groups. 

The Archbishop of Dublin told RTE news that it is time for people to "face the facts" on the issue of preparation for the sacraments. 

Quoting from the last census Dr Diarmuid Martin said 48% of 24 to 29-year-olds living in the Diocese of Dublin had registered as having no religion. He said they should not be forced to have their children receive the sacraments either for social or other reasons. 

He said the survey carried out by the archdiocese confirmed the need for change.

He said while some people regarded a child's first communion as a social event, fundamentally it was a faith event. 

He said "as time goes on we will have to change".

Asked if he would favour the removal of preparation for the sacraments entirely from schools Dr Martin said "I wouldn't want to rule out any option". 

He said he expected resistance to any attempt to change the current position, but he said people had to "face the facts".

Dr Martin also acknowledged that the removal of sacramental preparation from schools would lead to a reduction in the number of children taking the sacraments. 

Expressing concern that attempts to bring about change could get "blocked". Dr Martin said the issue was similar to divestment; "Everybody says they are in favour", but everybody says 'not in my school' ". 

Meanwhile, an Augustinian priest has called on parents and the church community to take a far greater role in preparing Catholic children for sacraments such as communion and confirmation.

Fr Iggy O'Donovan told RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke that he is not against teaching religion in schools, but that parents who wish to pass on the faith themselves simply have to get more involved.

He said it should not be left up to young teachers, many of whom do not want to teach the subject in their classes.

He cited Italy as an example, saying young people there often prepare for the sacraments outside of school hours, and he believes they are much better informed.

He added that he feels the Catholic Church in Ireland is a "barren landscape" compared to the church in Italy.

"There's very little take up in religion in this country after so many years of catechism in schools. More input from parents, and from the worshipping community, is absolutely necessary."

Director of the Catholic advocacy group Iona Institute David Quinn said that he believes many parents might not regularly attend mass, but they are not against their children being taught religion during school hours.

"A lot of people are secular, but not overly secular. They might not go to mass much, but they don't mind their children being exposed to a little bit of religion in schools."

Mr Quinn agreed that parents should have a more involved role, but added that parents also should be able to send their children to Catholic schools if that is what they want.

"If there was a greater variety of schools, then the teachers who don't want to teach religious education might be able to teach in other schools.

"Then the parents who really want their children to make the sacraments, and don't regard it simply as a day out, could send their children to a Catholic school."