Ecumenical children (honey I married a Catholic)

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.

Time to polish those tiaras?
Time to polish those tiaras?

He’s alright is our Dave

You know, just as I was beginning to lose patience with that Mr Cameron, he goes ahead and restores all my faith in him. I know I was narked over the whole gay marriage thing and his redefinition not only of marriage, but also conservatism, but I’ve had a bit of a change of heart, as obviously all our Prime Minister wants to do is to make things fairer. Equality is clearly a cause very close to his heart. As a Roman Catholic who cares whether or not he undermines society’s notions of marriage and family? He’s making it all alright again with some very exciting and marvellous news. He’s making the monarchy fair is our Dave! Seriously!

Listen, if Wills and Kate’s first child is a boy and say he mixes in the same social circles as either of my three daughters and fancies an older woman with no family name, trust-fund or indeed any money at all, then the fact of my daughters’ Catholicism will no longer prove an obstacle.

I could be the Queen Mother!!! Just call me Carole, after all, we do have a former occupation in common! Doors to manual is positively de rigour these days and there can be absolutely no denying that any of my children are more than beautiful enough to qualify as a princess. Look, I’m already grooming Felicity at the tender age of 6 months.

Treat me like the Princess that I am

I had been harbouring secret plans to make Felicity a fifth columnist and subvert the British monarchy into a local branch of the Vatican until Will Heaven happened to point out an inconvenient truth, one that I had overlooked in my passion. Catholicism does not force a parent to bring up their children Catholic, it only requires that they do all that is in their power, which is exactly what I promised when I married an Anglican vicar, one who had the privilege of baptising his own daughter, before he converted. Ah well, it’s the thought that counts and, Caroline Farrow, Queen Mother, still has that certain ring to it.

No longer may I feel marginalised or excluded from our British monarchy by virtue of my faith, or my gender. Dave’s gone and made it all alright again.He’s made the monarchy fair and accessible to all. He’s alright is our Dave.

As for the fact that Catholics who refuse to endorse a homosexual lifestyle are not considered suitable as foster carers or adoptive parents, due to their unacceptable views, well that’s just a mere irrelevance, a trivial matter. We can marry the monarch, what more can we ask for?

And the knock on effect to the Church of England, that brings the UK a step closer to disestablishment, which loosens still further our foundations as a Christian country? We’ll try not to worry our little heads about that either. Tis but a minor detail, Dave’s a Christian, I’m sure he’s thought of that and has it covered somehow. He’s alright is our Dave.

I’m off to start planning my outfit. I hear there’s some good designer bargains to be had in Greece. Dave says that the success of the EU is crucial, so in order to ensure that it all stays together, Greek citizens are struggling to survive and all their stuff is dirt cheap. So it makes sense to start stocking up on the Ouzo now so we can all drink a toast to the groom’s great-grandfather on the big day!

He’s alright is our Dave.

Kate’s confirmation

According to a press report that has just popped up on my Twitter feed, Kate Middleton was confirmed in a private service conducted by the Bishop of London last month as part of the preparations for her wedding service.

Apparently her decision had nothing to do with her wedding, but was part of a private journey of faith. Whilst it is heartening to learn that the couple have been in receipt of formal marriage preparation, which is a pre-requisite before couples may be allowed to marry in the Catholic Church, I can’t help but be slightly disappointed that this seems to have been kept something of a secret.

I can perhaps understand Kate’s reluctance to admit that the future wife of the Head of the Church of England was not in fact a practicing Christian, but it is a shame that she felt unable to make her news public. Confirmation signifies that one has a proper understanding of what it is to live as a disciple of Christ, part of this entails demonstrating faith in the community and bearing witness to the truth of Christ, thus her decision to keep this private, demonstrates a worrying conformity by those nominally in charge of the Church of England, to conform to the secular agenda of keeping faith behind closed doors, instead of actually living it.

Her confirmation should be a cause of celebration, a public bearing of witness, otherwise it risks being seen as a procedural exercise for the sake of form alone , a devaluation of an important sacrament and is yet another step towards undermining the established Church in this country, ironically by the very people who are sworn to defend it.


An ecumenical matter


As Royal Wedding fever begins to mount, there seems to be a surprising amount of apathy towards the couple from various Catholics on the blogosphere.

Whilst I admit that I was somewhat under-whelmed by the both wording and the timing of the prayer for the couple that was released last week by the Catholic Church in England and Wales, I struggle to see why many Catholic commentators are expressing indifference towards William and Kate’s nuptials.

Whether one likes or loathes the Royal Family, whether one is a fervent monarchist or committed republican, the monarchy is here to stay for the foreseeable future and thus as Christians we should celebrate that they are choosing to endorse the institution of marriage, which forms an important part of Catholic social teaching.

Though scoffed at by the liberal intelligentsia there are many who do still look to the royals to set an example, and I for one, was both dismayed and concerned that the royal couple seemed to be endorsing the practice of cohabitation, not least because it put Kate Middleton in a seemingly impossible position, unable to lead any sort of normal life, unable to carve out a career for herself and stuck in limbo until such time that William felt able to commit one way or the other. Of course it was desirable that he should not act hastily, but eight years seemed to be more than ample to decide whether or not this was the woman with whom he wished to spend the rest of his life.

William and Kate reflected today’s society in which cohabitation is a fact of life, a try-before-you-buy policy and certainly in their case the balance of power seemed to be one way, with Kate potentially having a lot more to lose had things not worked out. I am able to speak from the fairly unusual position of having cohabited before a marriage, as in the case of my annulled marriage, and also of having remained chaste before marriage and I can testify to the effectiveness of the latter in optimising one’s chances of a successful union. Though the blame for the breakdown of my first marriage cannot be solely attributed to cohabitation, it doubtless did not help us to make the transition from simply living together and sharing a house, to the permanency of marriage. Marriage entailed a lavish and expensive day, but the day after, neither of us felt any different, nothing had really changed, and as we both languished on the sofa the day after the wedding, nursing our hangovers, we even debated whether or not it would be worthwhile to cancel the honeymoon, given neither of us had any energy. Once the excitement of the wedding was over, there was nothing different, nothing new to look forward to.

When I properly entered into the sacrament of marriage, things could not have been more different. Everything was a novelty to the pair of us and highlighted the new status of our relationship. Even doing things like sharing the washing-up together, and sorting out various household tasks, reinforced the new intimacy between us. It was no longer his vicarage, but our family home, and even now, a few years later, having spent a few years dating before marriage, just the act of sharing the same bed to sleep in, still hasn’t quite lost that sparkle. There was a definite demarcation between simply going out and actually being married, there was a positive decision on behalf of the pair of both of us, a saying “yes”, a leap of faith, “this isn’t going to be easy, we won’t always feel as we do now, but I love you, I trust you and I am going to do my best to be the husband/wife that God is calling me to be”. It’s decidedly different from “well I’ve lived with you for x years, we share everything, why not, I think I can risk it and if it doesn’t work out there’s always a get-out clause”. The problem with cohabitation is, as far as I can discern it, is that there is always that get-out clause and its easy to carry that forward into a marriage as well as slide almost unthinkingly into matrimony. This sentiment is borne out by a recent study. Whereas in our case we had to make a positive decision with regards to whether or not to take our relationship to the next stage. It wasn’t without difficulty, chastity did not come without struggle for either of us, logistically had we lived together then we would not have encountered the difficulty with regards to my daughter’s school, she missed out on places at both the excellent C of E school that my husband was the governor of in his capacity of vicar, and indeed the equally good Catholic school, but it was certainly the right thing to do in terms of setting her a living example. Shortly after we got married, she exhibited signs of jealousy given that all of a sudden mummy was sharing a bedroom with dad and she felt excluded from the sleeping arrangements, although this was made up for by letting her choose the décor of her brand new bedroom, the painting of pink walls and the addition of lots of fairies, cupcakes and butterflies!

As Catholics we should not just shrug our shoulders at the forthcoming nuptials but actively wish the couple well, as we would with any other couple, regardless of status or privilege. Though it is tempting to be disdainful of the costs involved and the necessary pomp and pageantry, befitting the representatives of our country and solemnity of the occasion, given the prevailing economic gloom, it seems more than a little churlish to deny Kate Middleton her moment of glory. Though one doesn’t need to buy into the Royal Wedding fever currently being whipped up by the press, the idea of a street party being something of an anachronism from a by-gone age, if the Royal Wedding engenders a sense of community and enables friends and family to spend time reinforcing their bonds whilst celebrating the forging of a new one, then perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea after all. It might well be bread and circuses, but I’m sure most of us are, if nothing else, appreciating the extra day off and extension of the May bank holiday.

To note that as Catholics we should not be concerned by the behaviour of the Anglican monarchy from which we are disallowed, excluded, and which has no spiritual jurisdiction over us is misguided; actually the royal wedding is, in the words of Fr Ted Crilly, an ecumenical matter. In his book The Realm, Fr Aiden Nichols argues that Catholics need to reclaim Englishness and the institutions that stem from Catholic heritage, in order to build for the future. Though we may have doctrinal differences with Anglicanism, we need to recognise that the throne and the Church of England, are to quote Newman “breakwaters against infidelity”. They guard important elements of our Christian past and will slow down the process of secularisation, until such time, that the Catholic Church may genuinely renew its spiritual force.

Instead of defining ourselves by our political leanings, and  our  feelings towards the monarchy as a whole, we need to remember that we are first and foremost Christians, disciples of Christ and not forget the symbolism of marriage and the vital role it has to play within our faith and the building of a stable society.

Christians of all denominations should therefore unite in prayer and thanksgiving that the future King and Head of the Church of England is, albeit belatedly, embracing and endorsing the institution of marriage, before writing off the nuptials as irrelevant.