Thursday, April 28, 2011
Just as one should for every couple on their wedding day, I hope and pray that Prince William and Kate Middleton have many years of happy marriage ahead, and, of course, one must admire the grace and dignity with which the Queen has carried out her duties for almost 60 years. (I should add on a personal note that my wife--by coincidence of her place of birth--is a British citizen.) But the Church of England's reported veto of proposed reforms to the 1701 Act of Settlement (which prohibits an heir to the throne from marrying a Catholic) is a sad reminder that there are still vestiges of institutionalized anti-Catholicism in the United Kingdom--even if one is willing to accept that part of the reason is a merely constitutional complication of the monarch being head of an established church. Damian Thompson has a post here. Austin Ivereigh has a measured assessment of the whole controversy:
A Catholic king could hardly appoint bishops to the established Church. But look at what is assumed in the statement: that the King or Queen remains the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Established church, Protestant state: take away one thread, and the whole unravels. And that is why we cannot have a conversation, in modern Britain, about a church which is separate from the state, and a monarchy whose members are able to exercise freedom of religion.
Does this matter? On principle, yes: state-sponsored sectarianism is ugly, and as Catholics it's hard not to feel a little disenfranchised when, on days such as tomorrow, we realise the profound anti-Catholic bias on which our state is erected. But it's not just about how Catholics feel. It is surely unhealthy to have our politicians and church leaders confess they are powerless to address iniquities because of fear of what might lie beyond.