The Church of England has joined forces with Prince Charles in expressing their concern over plans to remove barriers that currently prevent members of the royal family from marrying a Catholic.
I would venture that most Catholics really don’t care, no matter how worthy the proposal may appear. In theory either we or our offspring will not be prevented from marrying a member of the Royal family due to our faith. Is this really important in the grand scheme of things? It’s designed as a sop and cosmetic gesture to appease David Cameron’s uneasy conscience with regards to how he is continuing the relentless process of undermining freedoms of religion, began by the Labour government under the guise of equality.
As opposed to being concerned as to whether or not their offspring may now be able to snaffle Harry, the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Catholics are made far more anxious by the threats to the family posed by this government, not least with the forthcoming imposition of the new definition of marriage – a process which has to be amongst the most undemocratic in history, with the state seizing control of something that is not theirs to define. I’d also wager that Catholics are far more concerned that a judge possessing all the religious literacy of Thomas the Tank Engine has arbitrarily decided that the fourth commandment is not considered part of the Christian faith, thereby compelling Christians to work on a Sunday. A measure that is as detrimental to family life, as it is illiberal.
Let’s face it, the average Catholic is hardly in a position to be able to be afford to send their offspring to the same schools as any royal personnages and how likely is it really that if, as in the case of Prince William and the former Kate Middleton, our offspring will mix in the same social circle as those who form part of the royal entourage even if they do attend the same university. Though the Duchess of Cambridge was technically a commoner, even in our supposedly classless society, are we really going to see members of the royal family admit those who attended a large Catholic state comprehensive (no matter how excellent) and emanate from a socially deprived area, into their social set? Catholic congregations are typically far more eclectic than the ‘Tory party at prayer’ – are the young Polish, Nigerian or Mexican couple really bothered by whether or not their child can marry into Royalty, or are they more concerned as to whether or not they will be forced to work weekend shifts or if in healthcare, whether or not they will be forced to go against their conscience. Far more pressing is how work, particularly in the public sector is becoming more and more impossible and fraught with difficulty if you have any sort of religious faith.
In any event, discussions upon the potential constitutional repercussions would appear to be fairly academic and I’ll explain why. As a Catholic who married a vicar, i.e. a serious Anglican, it’s fair to say that the faith of any of our children could be something of a potential flash point. At NO point did my husband ever have to promise that his children would be brought up in the Catholic faith, despite the fact that the Bishop was gracious enough to grant us a dispensation in order that we could have a full Nuptial Mass and to allow Robin to receive communion. The priest who married us was explicitly clear about this. As the Catholic party in the marriage, I had to sign to say that I would make all reasonable undertakings to ensure that any children were brought up in the Catholic faith. That is a subtle, but important difference from compelling one’s children to be brought up Catholic.
Furthermore it was made clear to me that potentially it could be the source of scandal and/or difficulty in our marriage, if our children were raised Catholic against my husband’s will and that the sacrament and covenant of marriage was every bit as important as the faith of our children. Therefore if my husband was unwilling (which he wasn’t in principle) to raise the children Catholic, it would not be an issue that one should compromise the marriage for. Understanding that Catholics recognise one sacrament of Baptism, provided a child is baptised in a Trinitarian church the sacrament is valid, Robin had the privilege of being able to baptise his own child, in his own church with the support of my Catholic priest. My plan was that she would be fully received into the Catholic Church and supplied with the additional rites at the time she was presented for First Holy Communion, (although Robin was still mulling over her religious upbringing) but obviously things moved more swiftly and she was received at the same time as our third daughter was baptised.
My point is really that there are ways around these things and it is likely that in the case of a serious Catholic (one who wanted to raise their child in the faith) marrying a case of a serious Anglican (i.e. the heir to the throne) then these matters would be discussed and smoothed out in advance. It would not be the Catholic faith itself that would prevent a union, more the intransigence of either party with regards to their children. Would a practicing Catholic with the expectation of wanting to raise children in the faith, really want to marry into a family where this would cause serious rupture and vice versa?
It’s not impossible of course, love conquers all but it seems that no-one has really advised the Bishops as to the practical realities as to what happens in the case of children in inter-demoniational marriages – the idea of the element of compulsion is a myth.
Perhaps more interesting is the underlying convergence of strands which are all coming together to push the idea of disestablishment to the top of the agenda. A constitutional crisis potentially looms in terms of gay marriage, women bishops in the C of E and now the plans to allow Catholics to become heirs to the throne, all of which requires Parliament to interfere with laws of the English Church.
Maybe that’s why as Catholics, we ought to give these plans a lukewarm reception – particularly when the Queen in her capacity as head of church and state, is compelled to give her assent to laws which undermine the Christian fabric of her nation.