|photo: Swanson Media|
So in around four years the Act of Settlement (1701) will have been re-written and a Catholic will be able to marry the heir to the throne in England. Is this something worth celebrating? I asked my two daughters - 4 and 7 - what they thought, as it had a greater chance of affecting their lives than mine. My seven year old looked pensive for a moment and said "well, I suppose if the Catholic person who married the person who would be King could convert the King and he could convert the country then that might be a good thing, but otherwise I don't think that it really matters..."
She has a point. For a Catholic to marry the heir to the throne (who will henceforth be the oldest child, rather than the oldest son) s/he would almost certainly have to marry in the Church of England as s/he would be marrying the future "Defender of the Faith" and head of that sect. I'm not completely clear on this, but wouldn't that be an invalid marriage for a Catholic? And if you're a Catholic willing to participate in an invalid marriage then, surely, you're not that bound to your faith? So is today's news that a Catholic will soon be able to marry the heir to the throne, or that a lapsed / ex- / lukewarm Catholic will be able to marry the heir to the throne? Unless, of course, as my seven-year-old speculated, the Catholic may have ulterior motives and manage to convert the monarch and return England to her earlier and happier state as Mary's Dowry...
I suppose the fact that a piece of anti-Catholic discrimination dating back to the reign of William III will be removed from the statute books can only be considered a good thing. Until today's announcement takes effect, a satanist, an animist, an atheist or a Moonie can marry the heir to the throne, but a Catholic is forbidden to by law. Clearly this is no more than a symptom of the deep-seated Catholophobia from which Britain suffers. Weirdly, Catholicism is seen as the foreign interloper rather than the made-it-up-as-we-go-along strains of Protestantism that are widely considered to be more "native", even by thinking, educated people. It's as though Merrie Olde England only existed in legend before the Tudor period, as though England was simply waiting to be "liberated" from that foreign Catholicism by the hodge-podge of Luther and Calvin's ideas that formed and informed the various protestant sects that are now seen as "truly British". The only problem is that there wasn't much, er, British about either Calvin or Luther... In fact they were an awful lot less British than the native Catholic faith that had flourished for almost a thousand years and that these sects sought to supplant.
In fact here's a thought - the British Isles have been Catholic for much more of their history than they have been protestant: it isn't the Catholic faith that's the foreign upstart! Pray for the re-conversion of England and her neighbours!