Dr Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Church, caused uproar last week with his suggestion that the incorporation of aspects of sharia into UK law might be "unavoidable", and could aid social cohesion. Cardinal [Cormac] Murphy-O'Connor, leader of the 4.5? million Catholics in England and Wales, begs to differ. He is adamant that such a move would only make segregation even more entrenched.
"I don't believe in a multicultural society," he says firmly. "When people come into this country they have to obey the laws of the land. […] It seems to me a government and a country has a right to make sure that those laws are kept. […] Of course you can keep the variety of traditions, but when you enter this country there are common values which are part of its heritage, which should be embraced by everybody." […]
Sitting in his armchair, his understated presence belies the fact that Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has been a thorn in the Government's side, as he has fought to defend Christianity and its traditional values. He has, for example, campaigned for the Catholic Church to be exempt from new homosexual rights laws, and called for a lowering of the time-limit for abortions.
The main targets of his displeasure are the "aggressive secularists", who he claims are trying to "privatise religion and prohibit any expression of faith beliefs in the public forum. […] Christianity doesn't demand special privileges, but we demand the right to express our conscientious views on what we believe to be the common good. […] Many people in this country are very fearful of the breakdown of the family, the violence, the kind of society that their children are being educated in and the kind of society that is emerging. It's deeply concerning."
He is critical of the Government for not doing enough to tackle the growing divide between rich and poor, and also for failing to do enough to support the family. "The prime teachers of children are the parents, which is why I regret the breakdown of so many families," he says, and warns that this has created a generation of children who lack respect and "a moral vision". […]
The Sunday Telegraph revealed figures recently showing more Catholics attend church services in Britain on Sundays than do Anglicans. "The Catholic community until quite recently was on the periphery, whereas now we're a bit more mainstream," he says. He is hopeful that the same can happen for the Muslim community.
"Piano, piano, it will happen for them. Muslim families need to contribute beyond their own families to the common good, and then gradually it will happen to their children, their grandchildren, that they will become a normal part of this country and, indeed, cherish those values that should be common to everyone."