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The Church of England could have a Catholic governor

Despite the Prince’s fears, the Church of England has been led by Catholics, Presbyterians and Lutherans before

By on Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Royal visit to Cambridgeshire

There may not be much news around in early January, so this story has surfaced again, about the possible unintended consequences of changing the laws of succession.  Prince Charles and several leading members of the Church of England are supposed to be worried that the removal of the ban on members of the Royal Family marrying Catholics may lead to a Catholic inheriting the throne and becoming Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

It would indeed be odd if the Supreme Governor of the Church of England were a Catholic, leaving aside, of course, the huge oddity of the Church of England needing a lay Supreme Governor in the first place. But it has happened before now. James II was Supreme Governor and a Catholic for all of his reign. True, his reign was brief, from 6th February 1685 to 11th December 1688, but what led to his overthrow was the birth of a Catholic heir, rather than James’s Catholicism itself, which his Protestant subjects might have put up with for some time yet, hopping that the elderly James would soon be succeeded by his Protestant daughter Mary. And let is not forget that Charles II, James’s predecessor, was also a Catholic, at least on his deathbed, and Supreme Governor too. So it is not impossible for a Catholic to be Supreme Governor, at least not in practice, though it might be difficult in theory. As for Supreme Governors being married to Catholics, both James I and Charles I were married to Catholics, and both were, in their different ways, devoted to the Church of England, taking their duties as Supreme Governor extremely seriously.

It is also worth pointing out that James VI and I was not an Anglican on his accession to the throne, but a Scots Presbyterian; and that George I was a Lutheran. The current sovereign’s husband is supposed by some to be Greek Orthodox. None of these faiths ought to be confused with Anglicanism.

Moreover, just to add to the confusion, there is no law whatever that bans members of the Royal Family from marrying Muslims, Hindus or member of any other religion – or even atheists.

The present law, one could be forgiven for surmising, is quite a mess.

One thing is certain: the Duchess of Cambridge’s child will be brought up an Anglican, and may well reign until, at a guess, the end of this century. So, the Anglican monarchy is safe till then at least – by which time everyone reading this, and the person writing it, will be long dead. In fact the Duchess’s baby may well outlive not just all of us, but the Church of England itself.

  • Alba

    How long until the debate moves on to whether or not the Supreme Governor can be in a same-sex “marriage”… but not with a Catholic, obviously.

  • cliftonensis

    How long before we grow up and trust ourselves enough to elect our own Head of State instead of allowing a wealthy family to retain control?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Who cares? 

  • rjt1

    If a Muslim, Hindu, Methodist or atheist can be Supreme Governor, it makes no sense to debar Catholics.

  • Edmund Burke

    The relationship of the Crown to the established (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland might provide an example for an alternative relationship. In Scotland, the Monarch is a member – but is not head or Governor – of the Church of Scotland. She is represented in the CofS Synod by a Lord High Commissioner (a genderless term – John Buchan was one, but so recently was Princess Anne). She may preside at the Synod, but can neither summon nor prorogue it. The Moderator of the CofS attends Coronations in a prominent position, to indicate that Church’s equally critical approval. When the Queen is in Scotland she always worships as a Presbyterian – for example in Craithie Church. It is a “sideways” rather than “top-down” relationship and might provide a way forward for Catholic heirs to the Throne who could appoint a Lord High Commissioner to the CofE representing the Crown, without having to attend services him/herself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Barbieri/100000155997369 John Barbieri

    This whole silly state of affairs reflects on the state of organized religions which have a group of “elites” which try to control their followers. These system virtually build in abuse.

  • Cestius

    The first thing that strikes me about the new rules concerning the monarchy is that they still do not allow for the possibility of the monarch or his/her immediate successor converting to Catholicism.  This is clearly a nonsense, so the job is only half done.  As for the position of the Church of England, I think it should be allowed to decide for itself whether it is willing to have a Catholic supreme governor, or whether it wants to be disestablished. Personally I think disestablishment would do it a power of good and free it from political interference, but it’s up to the members of that Church to decide.

  • Penny

    What a rather pointless comment.

  • liquafruta

    You never know one of them might join the Ordinariate and the coronation could be at Warwick Street (minus the pesky gays of course)……….

  • scary goat

     LOL. That was exactly the same comment I was going to put but you beat me to it.

  • http://twitter.com/MrCravat MrCravat

     I would like to see how the successor to the throne can have the nerve to ask that he be seen as “Defender of ALL faiths”….setting  aside his Catholic wife was his mistress prior to marriage.

    It’s not a problem really as the Church of the Establishment is imploding and will be Disestablished within a decade..

  • Alba

    The point is that the antics of the CofE keep me – and many others – greatly entertained.

  • Edmund Burke

    Indeed so. In defending `all faiths’, would he defend the right of Muslims to stone adulterers, including himself, to death? I doubt it!

  • Edmund Burke

    Disestablishement would be the end of the CofE, which in itself would not particularly worry me, but I do think that the embers of a Christian society, however opaque, should be defended as much and for as long as possible. It appalls me that the CofE is effectively doing its best to destroy itself in battles over women and “gay” clergy; it doesn’t need any external aid from the likes of Dawkins.. The Queen is the last connection with a basic, dutiful State Protestantism. When she goes, so I suspect will the CofE shortly follow, which church, given its origins, should expect no less, even if the English people ought to expect more.. Time, of course, will tell in the end.

  • Bisquit

    Good God what a statement,never never never, how sick a thought

  • Parasum

     “It would indeed be odd if the Supreme Governor of the Church of
    England were a Catholic, leaving aside, of course, the huge oddity of
    the Church of England needing a lay Supreme Governor in the first place.”

    ## There is no oddity for a Church in having a lay Supreme Governor, whether as a “nursing father” (see the “Dedication” in the A.V.), or even in Catholic Tradition. A Papacy is no odder.

    “Prince Charles and several leading members of the Church of England are
    supposed to be worried that the removal of the ban on members of the
    Royal Family marrying Catholics may lead to a Catholic inheriting the
    throne and becoming Supreme Governor of the Church of England.”

    ## So they should be. Though Prince Charles would ruin things if he went ahead with his “defender of faiths” daftness. A heathen cannot rule a Christian kingdom, any more  than a horse can be Pope.

    “James II was Supreme Governor and a
    Catholic for all of his reign. True, his reign was brief, from 6th
    February 1685 to 11th December 1688, but what led to his overthrow was
    the birth of a Catholic heir, rather than James’s Catholicism itself,
    which his Protestant subjects might have put up with for some time yet,
    hopping that the elderly James would soon be succeeded by his Protestant
    daughter Mary. And let is not forget that Charles II, James’s
    predecessor, was also a Catholic, at least on his deathbed, and Supreme
    Governor too. So it is not impossible for a Catholic to be Supreme
    Governor, at least not in practice, though it might be difficult in
    theory. As for Supreme Governors being married to Catholics, both James I
    and Charles I were married to Catholics, and both were, in their
    different ways, devoted to the Church of England, taking their duties as
    Supreme Governor extremely seriously.

    ## That says a lot for them both. But it is not a reason against having & keeping the Protestant succession

    “It is also worth pointing
    out that James VI and I was not an Anglican on his accession to the
    throne, but a Scots Presbyterian; and that George I was a Lutheran. The
    current sovereign’s husband is supposed by some to be Greek Orthodox.
    None of these faiths ought to be confused with Anglicanism.”

    1. Prince Philip is not King, but the consort of a Queen regnant – she has an authority by virtue of her coronation as Queen, & her office as Queen, that no mere consort can have. A consort is not a monarch regnant. 

    2. For a monarch to be married to someone of the wrong religion alters neither the monarch’s royal office nor his coronation. Anne of Denmark could have been a Raelian for the all the effect that her Catholicism had on the office of her husband as King Regnant. If she had been a Martian, that would still not be an argument for confusing a mere consort with a consecrated monarch. What consorts are by religion, is relevant to the human laws concerning the Succession – it is of no conceivable relevance to the sanctity (*ex officio* – though Saintly monarchs would not go amiss) of the person of the monarchs to whom they are spliced.

    3. Charles II may have been a Catholic by the time of the Treaty of Dover in 1674. If he was Catholic only when *in articulo mortis*, his case does not support the argument for having a Catholic lay governor of the C of E. Even if he was Catholic earlier, he was not one openly; he is useful for the argument only if he was known to be Catholic when crowned King: whether in 1651, or at the other coronation down South after his Restoration.  

    4. The Act of Succession in 1701 was a measure to exclude “Papists”, not Protestants.  Given the attempts of Louis XIV to invade England after the “glorious” revolution, this is entirely reasonable. It might be modified, but even that would be perilous.

    5. Accession to the throne is not coronation. Coronation makes the King fully so – accession asserts the legitimacy of his title to the throne, but does not confer the royal office upon him. Edward VIII was king-in-waiting during 1936, but not fully king in the way that George VI became when crowned in 1937.

    6. Catholicism has historically been hostile to the Protestant Church of England & the Protestant  succession. The CC cannot, without living a lie & making hay of its claims, free a Catholic parent from the obligation of seeking to do his utmost to educate any offspring to be Catholics. So a Catholic marrying the heir to the throne would be obliged to do as much as poss. to leave a Catholic successor. And so on *ad infinitum*. There might be no Protestant succession ever again. This is not tolerable. It is indefensible that Protestant Englishmen should be deprived of Protestant rulers by the will of a  foreign prince.

  • Alba

    Very sorry that I seem to have upset you, Bisquit, with my bit of satire. But unfortunately, with men in civil partnerships now able to be CofE bishops, it may not be so long before we get same-sex married bishops in this country – the Episcopal church in the USA already has them. I was looking one step higher. I hope it never happens.

  • Parasum

    What is wrong with excluding Catholics ? AFAICS, nothing at all. Catholicism and power are a very unstable mixture. Besides, how many people lose any sleep over the devastating news that being Catholic means they can’t marry into the Royal Family – one ? two ? any ? Purifying tainted water in backward countries is a worthwhile humanitarian cause – this, is not.

  • scary goat

     Even “defender of the faith” is a nonsense.  Where did the royal family get that title from and in what context?  It’s already long since obsolete.  They can defend what ever they like for all the relevance it has to what the title originally meant.

  • Edmund Burke

    “Foreign Prince” indeed. Would that be the Duke of Edinburgh, or any number of “foreign” princes back through the Hanoverians to William of Orange? I don’t think the cause of monarchy is helped in any way by reference to these bigoted epithets, which are an insult to Catholic subjects who have served this state in peace and war with a loyalty second to none, despite such insults and slurs.

  • Stephen

    Even if the heir to the throne were raised as a Catholic, what would there be to prevent him/her joining the Church of England in adulthood?

  • scary goat

    Ummmm…….the truth?

  • Richardlionheart

    Anglican monarchy is safe till then at least – by which time everyone reading this, and the person writing it, will be long dead. In fact the Duchess’s baby may well outlive not just all of us, but the Church of England itself including the ROMAN Catholic Churches reign especially with the 3rd Order of Pius X being the size it is with all the faithful followers. Is this not a New ROMAN Catholic Church following the true teachings of the CATHOLIC Church.
    Patriarch Fellay. Pope of Switzerland.

  • JRMartyn

    I understand it was given to Henry VIII by the Pope, because of an anti-Lutheran tract of his (I believe ghosted by Thomas More)

  • Joe Zammit

    How right Jesus was when he set up One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church!
     
    He told his Apostles and their Successors, the Bishops, to go and preach to the whole world, i.e. katholikos = universal. No one had thought of the Anglican church at that time except, of course, the devil who sows divisions.
     

  • Joe Zammit

    One day the church of England or Anglican church will come to an end.

    Christ guaranteed he would remain with his One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church up to the end of time. He did not guarantee anything for or to the Anglican church. The Anglican church cropped up in the 16th century. The Catholic Church was set up by Christ himself.

    St Peter is the first Pope. St Linus is the second Pope, etc, etc, etc. We have a continuous string of Popes from St Peter to the present one, Our Dear Pope Benedict XVI. This string will continue up to the end of time.

  • Patrick Mulvey

    What does the next Supreme Governor of the COE think of gay marriage and other abominations?  Has he no voice in its affairs?  Or is it just a title similar to ‘Defender of the Faith’?  If it is just a  honorific title, why not a Hindu or…..Richard Dawkins? 

  • Guest

    The good Bishop Fellay has never laid claim to such titles. You are clearly no true member of the SSPX but simply a rabble-rouser and anarchist. Begone! The Holy Magisterium does not lie in lay “experts” like you that characterise the decay of the post-V2 church. Bishop Fellay has the authority. Respect it.

  • Guest

    That is the wrong question. The proper question is: what is right about excluding them to begin with? This is discrimination against the heritage and faith that gave rise to the Anglican tradition.

  • Breff

    I love pieces like this which bring knowledge and clarity. Thank you Father!. In a similar vein an old Benedictine friend never tired of writing to The Times to point out that Mrs Simpson’s marriage to King Edward was entirely valid in the eyes of the Cof E and they had nothing to complain about. Her marriage to Earl Warfield, her first husband, was her only marriage the Church recognized as valid and Warfield had died by the time she hooked up with Edward. Up to his clarification I had gone along with the accepted version of the story.

  • Rich

    Is his wife still married to her first husband btw, or has that all been sorted?

  • OldJim

    Oh dear.

    It wasn’t chiefly the birth of a Catholic heir that gave William the internal support he required to launch an invasion, that’s a popular misconception and a gross simplification – rather, arguably the greatest factor was general alarm at James’ campaign to pack parliament, which was beginning to look as though it would bear fruit. Had James created a compliant parliament, this would have led to his signature policy – religious toleration – being placed on a statutory footing; which would have been much more difficult to undo for his Protestant successors than the effects of James’ exempting particular Catholics from the Test Act and Penal Laws through the use of the Royal Prerogative.