The bitter and protracted row between the Diocese of Westminster and Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School started two years ago as a disagreement over admissions.
In January 2009, the diocese told the school – which, as the top Catholic comprehensive in the country, is massively over-subscribed – that it could only give preference to pupils on two grounds: 1) baptism 2) regular Mass-going. The school, therefore, could no longer select pupils on the basis of parish involvement – giving preference, say, to altar servers, or children who sang in the church choir.
The diocese insisted that the school was not allowed to make judgments about “who is a better Catholic”, and that it should be open to all Catholics. The school, meanwhile, protested that a watered down admissions code would wreck its strong Catholic character and lead it to becoming a school only for wealthy families who could afford to live in the area.
So, should schools be allowed to give preference to more devout families? Or should they be open to all baptised Catholics, whether they are committed to their faith or lapsed?