The Illustrious House of Hannover,
And Protestant succession,
To these I lustily will swear,
Whilst they can keep possession:
For in my Faith, and Loyalty,
I never once will faulter,
But George, my lawful king shall be,
Except the Times shou’d alter.
Well, perhaps the times they are a’altering. Or perhaps not.
News is just in that the CHOGM meeting yesterday decided to support changes to the rules of succession of the English (and therefore the Australian) Monarchy. The changes are:
1. Male offspring of the royal couple no longer to have precedence over older femail offspring in the order of succession to the throne; and
2. The ban on spouses of Catholics ascending to the throne is to be abolished.
Neither decision is yet, in fact, law. That change requires an act of the British Parliament; but I think it is a fair bet that both changes will be made now that the Commonwealth Heads of Government all support the change.
However, perhaps the Vicar of Bray doesn’t yet have to “turn the Cat in Pan again”, because this doesn’t mean the end to the Protestant succession. As the Archbishop of Canterbury was saying in his interview on Vatican Radio yesterday,
“My immediate reaction is that the possibility for the monarch to marry a Catholic is not something I lose any sleep over, but the constitutional question, of course the tough one, is the upbringing of any heir to the throne in an Anglican environment, given that the heir to the throne will be the supreme governor, under law, of the Church of England. So I very much welcome the statement made by Archbishop Vincent (Nichols) in response today to this announcement in which he has recognised exactly that problem and made some supportive comments about the establishment of the Church of England. I think if we’re quite clear that, so long as the monarch is supreme governor of Church of England, there needs to be a clear understanding that the heir is brought up in that environment, all well and good, and I think Archbishop Vincent has affirmed some important things about the common ground we already share as Anglicans and Roman Catholics.
“I don’t sense there’s a great head of steam about that as an issue in itself. I think the question of royal marriage is one which understandably has aroused a certain amount of popular feeling because it looks like a simple question of human rights and it also looks like a bit of an anachronistic discrimination against Roman Catholics dating back to the time when people saw them as the Taliban of their day. So I can see the popular feeling behind that – I don’t sense much popular feeling or even political feeling around disestablishment as an agenda.
I do see a problem here, one that Archbishop Nichols might like to consider. When Catholics marry Protestants, they have to agree to do all in their power to raise their offspring as Catholics, and the prospective Protestant spouse has to be made aware of (although not actually promise to support) this obligation on the part of the spouse. This is the usual requirement for a dispensation, without which the marriage could not be recognised by the Church. That is something that would need to be worked through.
The actual canons are as follows:
Canon 1124 Without the express permission of the competent authority, marriage is prohibited between two baptised persons, one of whom was baptised in the catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act, the other of whom belongs to a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the catholic Church.
Canon 1125 The local Ordinary can grant this permission if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions are fulfilled:
1° the catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptised and brought up in the catholic Church;
2° the other party is to be informed in good time of these promises to be made by the catholic party, so that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and of the obligation of the catholic party
3° both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage, which are not to be excluded by either contractant.