Allowing the heir to the throne to marry a Roman Catholic may lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England – and make Britain officially secular, according to commentators.
Changes to the rules of royal succession were announced by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, attended by the Queen, in Perth, Australia.
Under Roman Catholic teaching, any children from such a marriage must be raised as Roman Catholics.
The changes announced today mean this will be allowed, but it is not currently proposed to allow a Roman Catholic to become monarch.
It 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.
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 marginalise Christians.
Some prominent Roman Catholics, like Ann Widdecombe, are against changing the Act of Succession.
In 2009 she said: “If we get rid of the provision that the heir to the throne and the monarch can’t marry a Catholic, we will undermine the link between the monarchy and the Church of England which will threaten the establishment of the Church taking with it our last figleaf that we are a Christian country.”
The religio-political blogger, Cranmer, said politicians “appear to believe that the British Constitution is of no greater significance than Hello magazine, and theirs to do with as they wish.”
He added: “The Protestant Christian faith is woven into the fabric of this nation’s life; it secured its liberties and forged its identity.
“The Constitution is a fragile work of many delicate threads, and the tampering with one – and the Act of Settlement is a very crucial one – risks producing many loose ends and the eventual unravelling of the entire work.”