Who do they think they are?
St Thomas of Canterbury assesses Dr Rowan Williams
Another troublesome cleric?
Although he should be wary of where it leads him, Dr Rowan Williams need not be ashamed of his compulsion to rail against his rulers. It comes with the hat.
I would urge every man to beware what he wears on his head. It changes you. Take me, as an instance. When the Archbishop's mitre was placed on me, I left behind Thomas Becket, Chancellor of England, friend and confidante of the King. I left behind a life of luxury, wine and hunting and felt compelled to become a hairshirted, water-sipping ascetic. I felt His guidance driving me to speak out against how the realm was being run. Sainthood this way, seemed to be the clear direction.
I wouldn't wish to imply that everything Dr Williams says and does is coloured by his hope of a halo. All I'm saying is that the hat can loosen a tongue quite as well as wine and you never know where that will take you. I didn't envisage that my journey would involve having my brains hacked from my skull by four Norman knights and then kicked around my own cathedral by a clerk, but I accept that immortality has its price. Not that I was seeking it anymore than Dr Williams is.
The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams
It needn’t be like this
Made any connections?
If you can link the past to the present, we’d love to hear from you.
Photo: Rowan Williams, dailymail.co.uk
Photo: Thomas Becket, bbc
Photo: David Cameron, Guardian
Photo: Stained glass window, Wikipedia Commons
“Will no one rid me of this argumentative priest?”
It's refreshing that he's still venting his political views as well his clerical ones. It's the Welsh coming through in him. Wales hasn't got an established church so there are fewer constraints on the utterances of its bishops. Dr Williams has been translated from Wales to Canterbury as head of the established church of England but, happily, has taken his Welsh habits with him.
It is not for me to support what he says. The context of the world, even the size of the world, has changed so much that my pre-Copernican outlook makes my views irrelevant. It's the willingness to get up above the nose hairs of British and French Prime Ministers and American Presidents that I can justifiably applaud.
All I tried to do was rein in the excesses of the King and allow any member of my church to be tried in church not royal courts. Dr Williams is openly questioning the right of the present government to rule. In my day, that was indisputable treason.
He's also bringing the language of poesy to political debate, which was way beyond my powers. If I am to be accused of being a "founder of gesture politics" and "master of the soundbite" - as I have been in the BBC's History Magazine - then I think I have every right to point out that Dr Williams has me trumped in that suit.
This is not a man afraid of being in the cross hairs, literally or metaphorically. He has only to sort out women and homosexuals in his church then bring ecumenism to all the churches of the world and beatification could well be around the corner.
It wouldn't even require a nasty death like mine. The precedents are there, although very dusty. Dr Williams' post has a history of success in the saintly stakes. Of the first fifteen Archbishops of Canterbury who made it to their consecrations, only Cuthber, Wulfred and Feologild were denied canonisation. Of the total of eighteen canonised Archbishops of Canterbury, I was the only to die unnaturally.
Of course, that total was severely affected by the break with Rome caused by Henry VIII's marital adventures but now that the Pope and Archbishops of Canterbury are at least on speaking terms the chances of my countrymen getting a new national holiday on St Rowan's day are brighter.
St Thomas’s opinion was interpreted by John Wilkinson, Jun 2011
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