The head of the NI body for Catholic secondary and primary schools has called on the First Minister Peter Robinson to "celebrate" the achievements of Catholic education.
Donal Flanagan, the chief executive of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said he wanted any debate to take place in an "atmosphere of respect".
Mr Robinson has hinted that while church schools are welcome to exist, the state may not be obliged to fund them.
Mr Flanagan said he was saddened at recent comments and claimed the Catholic sector had been issued with "veiled threats" about its future funding.
On the question of academic selection, Mr Flanagan said the debate was over and the Catholic sector had moved on to the next stage which was "about managing selection out of the system".
Last month, Mr Robinson was challenged by elements in the Catholic education sector over his comments about the future of education in Northern Ireland.
Mr Robinson said that while he had no objection to church schools, he objected to the state funding them.
He compared the NI education system to South Africa during apartheid where black and white children were taught separately.