The Addled Mind of Rowan Williams: Catholic Schools in the UK

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, once first among equals in the ecclesial communion I left for Rome, is no fool. Having read scholarship by Williams, I can confidently say he has a brilliant mind, yet recent news might leave one wondering.

Currently in the United Kingdom, the Catholic Church is effectively forbidden by law from opening any new Catholic Schools. This is because current UK law has “an admissions cap that prevents new faith schools from selecting more than half of their intake from their own religion.” Any Catholic school that reached 50% saturation of Catholic students would have to turn away new “students because of their Catholic faith – something that would violate canon law.” Thus, the law places the Catholic Church in a bind in which it cannot operate schools without violating its faith commitments and so no new schools can be opened as long as the current law is in place.

The current UK government has promised that this cap will be overturned. Williams has signed onto a letter to the Daily Telegraph opposing the ending of the enrollment cap because lifting the cap would be “deleterious to social cohesion.”

That this is an unjust law based on a tyrannical secularism should be obvious. That the former leader of a church that considers itself “catholic” should support it is heinous, but not necessarily foolish. The English Church has a long history of persecuting Catholics in pursuit of “social cohesion,” so in that respect at least Williams is being faithful to the tradition to which he belongs.

Yet, the trained philosopher in me cannot get past the insane illogic of the position advocated by the letter Williams signed. According to the letter, “removing the cap would allow schools to ‘label children at the start of their lives with certain beliefs and then divide them up on that basis.’” Apparently, children do not have religion and therefore we should put a cap on children of a certain religion. This makes no sense. Either children can be legitimately divided according to religious affiliation, allowing quotas to be set for their enrollment or they cannot be so divided and quotas make no rational sense.

Yet, with the support of one so intelligent as Williams, one might be tempted to say that this feat of illogic is not irrational, but Orwellian…

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