Monarchy changes do ‘raise questions’ about C of E head

Mon, 12 Dec 2011

A proposal that would allow future heirs to the throne to marry Roman Catholics raises questions about the monarch’s position as the head of the Church of England, MPs have said.

MPs in a House of Commons Committee were looking into the implications of the change announced in October by David Cameron.

There are worries that the change could lead to pressure to disestablish the Church of England – something which critics are concerned would further marginalise Christians.

Future

The Committee welcomed the change in its report, but added: “The proposal does, however, raise questions about the future role of the Crown in the Church of England, which the House may wish to consider in due course.”

In their discussions over the issue, MPs took evidence from two university experts on constitutional issues.

Dr Robert Morris, from the Constitution Unit at University College London, claimed the establishment of the church “is not an inseparable package” and that the monarch’s role as supreme governor is essentially ceremonial.

Children

The report noted that Roman Catholics are “normally obliged under canon law” to bring up any children from an “inter-faith marriage” as Roman Catholics.

But the report also noted that it was possible to waive the requirement with an order from the Pope – something which happened for the children of Prince Michael of Kent.

The change announced earlier this year could mean that within two generations there may be a constitutional crisis triggered by a Roman Catholic heir who has to choose between following Rome or becoming monarch.

Pressure

In that situation there would be considerable pressure to disestablish the Church of England, leaving the nation without an established Church.

The move would be warmly welcomed by secularists but it would further sideline Christians.

Some prominent Roman Catholics, like Ann Widdecombe, are against changing the rules which govern royal succession.

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