Rowan Williams | Creating an Ideal: Solidarity and Catholic Social Thought

This year the Bampton Lectures will be given by the Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams PC, FBA, FRSL, FLSW. A former Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams has written extensively on faith in the public square. In these lectures, Dr Williams will return to the theme of solidarity, exploring its roots in Catholic Social Thought and exploring how a solidarity-shaped ethic might serve to address some of the issues at the heart of our public life.
The lectures will take place on Tuesday 27 February and Tuesday 5 March 2024. For graduate students, there will be an additional seminar to discuss the themes of the lectures. Further details are available from the Faculty of Theology and Religion.

The Bampton Lectures, founded by the will of the Revd John Bampton (1690-1751), first took place at the University Church in 1780. Over the centuries, these prestigious lectures – sometimes courting controversy, always intellectually stimulating – have covered a range of theological subjects. It is a condition of the Bampton Bequest that the lectures are published by the Lecturer. These lectures are delivered in the Trinity Term every year.
These lectures are livestreamed on the University Church YouTube channel.

Creating an Ideal: Solidarity and Catholic Social Thought
Tuesday 27 February at 10.00am at the University Church
Solidarity emerges as a distinctive theme in twentieth century Catholic social thought, absorbing a number of earlier formulations. The prominence of the term in Polish politics of the 1980’s helped to reinforce its significance and it continues to be a focal idea. This lecture traces some of the developments in its use and the definitions it has received in official teaching.

An Ambivalent Ideal: Challenges to an Ethic of Solidarity
Tuesday 27 February at 11.30am at the University Church
Does the ideal presuppose too smoothly convergent an idea of social interests? How is actual conflict of interest negotiated in this framework? The lecture will examine critiques of some aspects of a solidarity-shaped ethic from various writers, including Kenneth Leech and Gillian Rose, and will look at ways of clarifying the discourse around the subject to allow for a more critical and nuanced model.

Solidarity Against Tribalism: the Contemporary Challenge
Tuesday 5 March at 10.00am at the University Church

A ‘solidarity’ model necessarily stands in opposition to political ‘tribalism’ and the fragmentation of the human good into diverse and competing programmes. Is it possible to pursue an ideal of solidarity that takes seriously the facts of ‘intersectional’ injustice and suffering without being trapped in an ‘identity politics’ that divides or paralyses the work of building a genuinely shared public space? The lecture argues the need for a radical theological foundation for any such aspiration by way of the exploration of understandings of human ‘dignity’.

Solidarity, Rights and the Image of God: Ethics and Christian Anthropology
Tuesday 5 March at 11.30am at the University Church
If the idea of human dignity rests, theologically speaking, on the divine image, the idea of human rights rests on the consideration of what is justly or properly due to that divine image. Ultimately, human solidarity is grounded in a shared and equal dependence, and a shared and equal claim to be seen in the light of God’s reflection in the created world. This final lecture outlines a theology of human rights based on this model of responding ‘fitly’ or ‘justly’ to the claim of divine presence, and a theology of solidarity that interprets this in terms of the mutual assurance of goods or well-being or life-giving, so that a theological ethic of solidarity becomes ultimately an ethic shaped by the reality of the Body of Christ.