Friday, July 30, 2010

Catholic outrage over plans to keep the Act of Settlement

Posted by geoconge

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Catholic leaders in Scotland have denounced the coalition government’s plans to leave intact the 1701 Act of Settlement, which bans the monarch from marrying a Roman Catholic.

“When a monarch is free to marry a Scientologist, Muslim, Buddhist, Moonie or even Satanist but not a Catholic, then there’s something seriously wrong,” said Scottish Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell.

In a written answer given to the House of Commons on June 30, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Cabinet Office, Mr. Mark Harper stated “there are no current plans to amend the laws on succession”
Bishop Devine, who during the General Election had urged Catholics not to vote Labour due to their social policies, expressed outrage over the Cameron government decision.

“What trust and confidence can we have in such a leader? He is barely two months into government and is already showing alarming signs of the arrogance and disdain so often associated with power,” he said according to the Scotsman.

On July 12 the Scotsman also reported that Cardinal Keith O’Brien said that it was “quite ironic that the two parties in coalition have both branded themselves champions of equality but have commenced their ‘era of equality’ by sending a clear message to the Catholic community that they are to be the exception.”

Passed by Parliament in 1701 the Act forbids the sovereign from marrying a Roman Catholic and requires the monarch to “join in communion with the Church of England.”

On July 1, 2010 the member for Rhondda, Chris Bryant (Lab.) pressed Mr. Harper to defend the government’s decision not to act.  Mr. Bryant noted the Catholic Church in Scotland was strongly opposed to the current law.

Mr. Harper responded that this was true, however, it was not a position held by all Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom.  The previous Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, said that he thought that the Act of Settlement was “discriminatory. I think it will disappear, but I don’t want to cause a great fuss,” while the current Archbishop of Westminster has said “I wouldn’t rush to support such a change in the law. I think that the position of the Queen and the monarchy is to be handled with great sensitivity”.

Mr. Bryant responded that the “Catholic cardinals in Scotland have asserted very forcefully that they believe the law is entirely discriminatory and should be changed, and many prelates in the Church of England have also said it should be changed.”

The minister replied that Cardinal O’Brien in Scotland was “much firmer about wanting to move quickly on this. However, this merely highlights the complexity of the debate. There is not even a single clear view within the Catholic Church in these islands. Some very significant Catholics think that the law should be changed, but should not be rushed or done in a way that causes the monarchy difficulty,” he said.

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