Friday, April 29, 2011
Mike has a really nice post below criticizing the refusal of the Church of England to overturn the 1701 law which prohibits an heir from marrying a Catholic. I appreciate the sentiment very much -- it seems, somehow, wrong that Catholics are discriminated against in this way. It seems unfair, unequal. I don't share the view that there is something inherently wrong with established churches writ large (though of course I think there is something wrong with them in this country), but I think Mike rightly laments the regrettable anti-Catholic "vestiges" of the Anglican Church.
But whatever one may say about the 1701 law's beginnings, maybe today the law is just fine. Given the cultural history of the Anglican Church, I think it would be quite wrong for a Catholic to want to be head of the Church of England, or married to the head. To assume that position would be to ignore the history of the Anglican Church, and all that it meant for Catholicism in England, just for the sake of gaining a kind of formally equal footing with everyone else. As a Catholic, I'm delighted to be unequal, discriminated against, on this ground. I have no business there. It isn't only that this isn't the sort of discrimination that ought to be concerning. More than that, this sort of discrimination and inequality -- today -- may well be a positive good. It is a reminder and reinforcement of cultural, historical, and religious difference and separateness.
Equalization here would disturb that difference in a way that, to put the matter perhaps slightly bluntly, is a betrayal of the past. If this law prevents the Catholic who would be king from even considering it, might we not say, 'so much the better'?