CEN: Roman Catholic outrage over plans to keep the Act of Settlement

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

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35 Comments
Posted July 30, 2010 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. j.m.c. wrote:

I’m usually sympathetic to Catholics because they are so widely misunderstood.

However, on this particular issue, there is reason for maintenance of the Act of Settlement.  Dropping it would have wide implications, and it could be argued that it should only be dropped:
- if Rome gives up its teaching that Catholics may not be married to non-Catholics unless they vow to bring their children up as Catholics
- if the position of monarch is changed such that succession is no longer determined by traditional means (promogeniture, blood relation etc. - i.e., one’s offspring or family), but by appointment or election (in which case we would no longer really be speaking of a ‘monarch’).
With the combination of the two above, there is the dangerous possibility that once the monarch becomes Catholic, or marries a Catholic, all subsequent monarchs will also be Catholic unless a successor converts.

Since we one does not wish to put pressure on Rome to change its teachings regarding marriage for this reason alone, and since one does not wish to modify the position of monarch into an essentially different position, it does make sense to maintain the law as it stands.  It sounds discriminatory, but it makes an effective counter to another form of religious discrimination (and please note, “discrimination” is sometimes a virtue rather than a vice, especially in relgion; and here I make no judgment on this matter).

July 30, 7:47 am | [comment link]
2. Chris Molter wrote:

Wouldn’t the same follow re: Muslims?  Yet, no law exists for that contingency.

July 30, 8:27 am | [comment link]
3. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Precisely, Chris.  The Settlement Act is a relic of what Newman called (with typically British understatement) “an unCatholic age.”

How about revising the law, so that it merely becomes mandatory that the monarch be a Christian?  That would obviously exclude Prince Charles and then the crown could pass directly to Prince William.

David Handy+

July 30, 9:37 am | [comment link]
4. Charles wrote:

#3 - I’m glad, Fr. Handy, that you are able to discern whether Prince Charles (and Prince William for that matter) are Christians.  Since both have been baptized, what other test do you have in mind?  Signing the Anglican Covenant?

July 30, 10:07 am | [comment link]
5. justinmartyr wrote:

“How about revising the law, so that it merely becomes mandatory that the monarch be a Christian?  That would obviously exclude Prince Charles and then the crown could pass directly to Prince William.”

Touche. It’s about time we divested the church completely of its entanglements with state power.

July 30, 10:09 am | [comment link]
6. Charles wrote:

I’m a Catholic and I don’t think that it’s unfair or unjust to require that the Supreme Governor of the Church of England be a member of that church. 

Which leads to the underlying issue: disestablishment.  Either disestablish the CofE or at least take away the monarch’s church titles.

July 30, 10:10 am | [comment link]
7. Antonio wrote:

“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”.

Actually, “When a monarch is free to marry a Scientologist, Muslim, Buddhist, Moonie or even Satanist but not a Catholic, then there’s something RIGHT”.

July 30, 12:12 pm | [comment link]
8. Paula Loughlin wrote:

#7 ??????

July 30, 12:34 pm | [comment link]
9. Teatime2 wrote:

Well, there’s a ton of history and unpleasantness regarding this in Britain—remember, remember the 5th of November, gun powder treason and plot—that doesn’t encompass other religions.

Moreover, the RCC loves to declare that other Christian churches aren’t really “churches” and their sacraments aren’t valid. Practically speaking, royal duties include a lot of (Protestant) church services and patronages, which would probably continue even if there was disestablishment because it’s tradition. Having a Catholic spouse passing judgment or refusing to attend would be problematic, as would the rearing of Royal children in the faith.

Sorry, RCC, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t cry about “tolerance’ when you go out of your way to “remind” others that they’re “inferior.” And did they really think that the new Anglican invention was going to win them friends and Royals in Protestant Britain?

I guess I’m in the minority, but I like Charles. He’s a patron of the Prayer Book Society and quite traditional in regards to worship and belief. He’s quite intelligent and sensitive but not the “man’s man” that his father wanted. Charles didn’t have a warm, attentive upbringing and it had an effect.

William really is spectacular, though, isn’t he? Sigh….wink

July 30, 12:42 pm | [comment link]
10. Teatime2 wrote:

Oops, forgot to mention that Peter Phillips’ wife, Autumn, was an RC but chose to convert to Anglicanism when she married him, even though Princess Anne declined royal titles for her kids, Peter and Zara. I guess Autumn wants to keep options open for their children? Hmmm, that’s cynical, heh. OK, maybe Autumn does favor the Anglican Church.

July 30, 12:50 pm | [comment link]
11. Chris Molter wrote:

#9, this coming from the church who’s original defining doctrinal statements include such gems as:

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

and

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

So let’s not pretend that Rome is the only one playing that game here.

July 30, 1:18 pm | [comment link]
12. alcuin wrote:

A Roman Catholic monarch couldn’t be Supreme Governor of the Church of England. It didn’t work in 1685.
And quite frankly, most people in Britain couldn’t care less about this. England has finally been releived of 13 years of rule by Scots. This issue is always raised in Scotland by Catholics. So give Scotland its independence and then they argue about the rightful descendant of Catholic Mary or her Protestant son James. I don’t know how many heirs that alcoholic Polish Italian Bonnie Prince Carlo has, but there are numerosu lines to follow there.
That should keep them fighting for decades.

July 30, 1:45 pm | [comment link]
13. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Charles (#4),

I was joking.  Naturally, I have no way of really knowing much about how good a follower of Jesus Christ either Prince Charles or Prince William really is.  But FWIW, I wasn’t thinking only of the Prince of Wales’ sordid long affair with Camilla, but of his infamous statement that when crowned, he wants to be known not as the Defender of the Faith, but merely as a “Defender of Faith” in general.

I was just trying to introduce a little levity into the discussion.

But I can understand that some others might regard this as a very serious matter that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  For example, Teatime2 (#9) is quite right in reminding us all about some of the sad historical background behind the Act of Settlement.  I’m thinking of the extremely unfortunate and regrettable decision of the pope in 1570 to declare Elizabeth I not only excommunicated but an illegitimate ruler, whom English Catholics had no duty to obey, and implying that any Catholic subjects who removed her from the throne were doing Christ and his Church a service.  Then, of course, there was the Spanish Armada…

I’m sorry if my attempt at a little humour caused offense.

David Handy+

July 30, 2:26 pm | [comment link]
14. Teatime2 wrote:

#11—Doesn’t a “reformation” require reasons for separation to be spelled out? If there weren’t strong feelings about perceived errors, then there wouldn’t be a separation. However, I don’t recall Luther or Cramner offering rewards and everlasting life to anyone who would kill the pope for him.

As Rev. Handy mentioned, the pope was vicious to Elizabeth I. He put a bounty on her head, demanded the people’s rebellion against her, and probably directed the Jesuit plot to kill her. Again, there is a lot of history in this situation that the RCC may not want to remember but that Britain cannot forget.

Rome’s modern-day threats to excommunicate U.S. politicians who don’t vote according to their religious beliefs and Catholic causes are a reminder that its incursion into the political realm is still alive. I, for one, find the U.S. Catholic Bishops politicking for Obama’s healthcare measures and for open borders troubling.

July 30, 4:31 pm | [comment link]
15. Catholic Mom wrote:

Much ado about nothing.  The whole concept of a hereditary monarchy in the 21st century being an absurdity, this question cannot be other than absurd.  Let those who care about such things wrangle about it.

July 30, 5:46 pm | [comment link]
16. justinmartyr wrote:

“Let those who care about such things wrangle about it. “

That’s what we are doing.

July 30, 6:10 pm | [comment link]
17. justinmartyr wrote:

...And since we are Anglicans and the monarch heads Ecclesia Anglicana and her government apoints our Archbishop, this does impact our lives. It may mean nothing to you as you are Roman, but you would feel quite differently if the Pope was appointed by someone such as the Prime Minister of Italy.

July 30, 6:13 pm | [comment link]
18. Iohannes wrote:

The Act of Settlement is said to be deeply entrenched in the British constitution. Changing it would be a tricky operation, even if there were popular demand to do so, since Her Majesty, besides reigning in the UK, is the monarch for fifteen other realms, which would also need to modify their succession.

July 30, 8:20 pm | [comment link]
19. deaconjohn25 wrote:

Isn’t it time for some of the European Protestant Churches which are virtually government departments to demand their freedom.

July 30, 8:29 pm | [comment link]
20. Catholic Mom wrote:

but you would feel quite differently if the Pope was appointed by someone such as the Prime Minister of Italy.

True—I’d probably become an Anglican. smile  But perhaps the thing to do, rather than worrying about who the English Monarch marries, would be to STOP having her majesty appoint the head of the Church of England.

July 30, 8:44 pm | [comment link]
21. Catholic Mom wrote:

I meant her majesty’s government.  Actually, I suspect that her majesty’s actual role as the head of the Church of England is completely ceremonial.

July 30, 8:47 pm | [comment link]
22. Ad Orientem wrote:

As long as the sovereign is expected to be the head of the CofE I have no issue with the law.  I do not see how a Catholic could in good conscience agree to be in the line of succession to the throne in any event given the crowns connection to what Rome (rightly IMO) believes to be a heretical body.  I do however think that the prohibitions should be extended to any and all other persons of non-Anglican religious groups, especially those who require any issue of the marriage to be raised in their faith.

All of that said, it would probably be best if the CofE was disestablished with the only religious requirement being that the monarch be a professed and baptized Trinitarian Christian.  It would solve a lot of problems.

Re: Catholic Mom’s comment dismissive of monarchy…

Monarchy is the only biblical form of government.  It is repeatedly affirmed in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments.  There are many passages making reference to the authority of God’s anointed.  This is not to say that one can not have a Republic.  But one must remember that all authority comes from God.  It is also worth noting that in the catholic tradition the anointing of a monarch was historically considered to be a sacrament of the Church.  That view was widely held by the Roman and Anglican communions at one time, and is still generally accepted within the Orthodox Church.

In ICXC
John

July 30, 8:52 pm | [comment link]
23. Catholic Mom wrote:

Monarchy is the only biblical form of government.  It is repeatedly affirmed in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments.  There are many passages making reference to the authority of God’s anointed. 

Perhaps, but it is not clear how the British Monarch qualifies as “God’s annointed.”  Certainly the Pope, as has been pointed out on this thread, did not have that view of Elizabeth I.

It’s a totally moot point in any case since the British Monarch has no virtually no authority anyway. Perhaps the British Prime Mnister is “God’s annointed” although I personally doubt it.

July 30, 9:02 pm | [comment link]
24. Ad Orientem wrote:

Re #23
Elizabeth II is the last anointed monarch in Christendom.  She received the holy chrism at her coronation.  One can debate the “validity” of Anglican rites and sacraments.  But the fact remains she is the last one that even bothered with the ancient rite.

July 30, 9:11 pm | [comment link]
25. justinmartyr wrote:

“Monarchy is the only biblical form of government.  It is repeatedly affirmed in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments.”

You mean as described in this passage?

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead [a] us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

July 30, 10:19 pm | [comment link]
26. justinmartyr wrote:


Bold not intended, sorry.

The only annointed King should have been and is only Christ. Any other is an idol, a usurper as God made clear in 1 Samuel 8

July 30, 10:22 pm | [comment link]
27. Catholic Mom wrote:

Elizabeth II is the last anointed monarch in Christendom.  She received the holy chrism at her coronation.  One can debate the “validity” of Anglican rites and sacraments.  But the fact remains she is the last one that even bothered with the ancient rite.

Pardon my ignorance but frankly I find this blasphemous.  Anglicanism has a “rite” (surely not a sacrament?) in which a completely secular figure who occupies a totally ceremonial role is annointed with holy chrism for purposes of demonstrating that this person is “God’s annointed”?  I’m surel you’ll reply by telling me that Catholic soverigns were so annointed throughout history and my response will be to say that that was equally blaphemous and one of the many examples of the disaster of having the Church in bed with the State.

July 31, 10:30 am | [comment link]
28. Teatime2 wrote:

Well, that’s odd, CM. If you find the anointing of kings and queens who rule over secular affairs to be “blasphemous,” then how on Earth can you call the pope your leader? Not only is he also “anointed” in high ceremonial fashion but he’s called the “Vicar of Christ” on Earth, infallible, and the head of the One, True Church. All because of the Catholic understanding of a couple of sentences in the Gospel. And he’s a head of state, to boot. That’s a far cry from even a belief in the Divine Right of Kings.

Do you also take issue with the anointing in the sacramental rites of baptism and confirmation? Such anointing raises us to an incredible and largely undeserved dignity but there it is.

I did some Googling because it was never my understanding that anointing a king in any way diminishes from the stature of Christ who is the ONLY anointed priest, prophet, and king. And I found this really excellent sermon on the subject:

http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/prophet-priest-and-king-austin-mansfield-sermon-on-apologetics-jesus-108728.asp?Page=1

July 31, 3:12 pm | [comment link]
29. Catholic Mom wrote:

Well, that’s odd, CM. If you find the anointing of kings and queens who rule over secular affairs to be “blasphemous,” then how on Earth can you call the pope your leader?

Strictly speaking I don’t believe his primary functions can be called “secular.” 

Not only is he also “anointed” in high ceremonial fashion but he’s called the “Vicar of Christ” on Earth,

Well, you see , he’s called that because we believe he actually is Christ’s vicar on earth—that is, he has charge of the earthly Church. 

  Annointing, as for example in the Annointing of the Sick (last rites) or Confirmation or Baptism is intended not to demonstrate the annointee’s special chosenness or to confirm their authority,  but to strengthen them, to give them gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Presumably it is a reasonable thing for the Church to want its leader to be strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And if the Archbishop of Canterbury were to be annointed upon his accession to that office, that would seem a perfectly appropriate thing to do.  However, I know of no equivalent rite for bestowing spiritual gifts on secular leaders (not that they don’t need it) or else we’d be annointing presidents and prime ministers, who certaintly need divine strength and guidance, at least in the performance of their official functions, more than the Queen of England does. 

And he’s a head of state, to boot.

That’s unfortunate, but I believe his political authority is somewhat less than the head of Monoco.  It’s his moral authority that counts—a point that Stalin famously didn’t get.  I believe the whole point of the Vatican being an independent political entity was so that no secular state could have power over it.

July 31, 3:53 pm | [comment link]
30. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

#15—please don’t be so hasty to dismiss hereditary monarchy. I’ve lived half my adult life in a country with one, and the other half in one without.

The whole purpose of an hereditary monarchy is that you vest in the sovereign certain powers inappropriate for the political sphere. By late 1975 the Australian government had clearly lost anything resembling “consent of the governed,” to borrow a Yankee phrase. Because they had a large parliamentary majority they could not be defeated on a motion of non-confidence. Consequently the Queen quite simply declared, through her representative: my Australian government have clearly lost the confidence of the people, and it is hereby dissolved.

With 62% of the American populace now declaring (Rasmussen) that the current government no longer have the “consent of the governed” but lacking a monarch ... are stymied.

July 31, 11:41 pm | [comment link]
31. Catholic Mom wrote:

Not having a parlimentary system, having a monarch to decide that a president has lost “the consent of the governed” would be totally meaningless for us.  You get elected for a term of office and, unless you get impeached, that’s it.  Many presidents have had much lower approval ratings than Obama (Lincoln, for example) and we don’t require monarchs to pronounce that they are now out.  We let the people do that.

However, this is a little besides the point, because the whole parliamentary thing of calling new elections occurs, not because the prime minister has lost the “consent of the governed” but because he is unable to put together a ruling coalition.  In the U.S. you can have a president whose party is in the minority and that is not seen as a situtation calling for new elections.

Furthermore, obviously Queen Elizabeth did not make this decision herself (or even have the slightest say in it) so one wouldn’t need a hereditary monarch with all the trappings to perform this function.  A pet rock could do it.

August 1, 11:10 am | [comment link]
32. Catholic Mom wrote:

The whole purpose of an hereditary monarchy is that you vest in the sovereign certain powers inappropriate for the political sphere.

You mean the whole excuse for having one in the 21st century.  That was certainly not the original pupose which was to pass on to ones genetic relatives whatever power one could obtain by political alliance and force of arms.  And its supporters consised of 1) those benefiting by the system 2) those afraid to oppose the system.  The crown belonged to whoever could seize and hold it for any subsubstantial time.  Thus Shakespeare could say that “treason ne’er succeeds, for if it succeed, none dare call it treason.”

August 1, 12:19 pm | [comment link]
33. Teatime2 wrote:

CM, I didn’t say the pope’s responsibilities are secular. I simply don’t understand your problem with the historical and traditional anointing of an English monarch (I don’t know if other countries still anoint theirs, although I suspect that some do). But you can accept all of the papal trappings, including the pope’s assertion that his is the seat of all truth (despite egregious errors propagated throughout history) and those of us who don’t accept his authority aren’t really Christian and our salvation is in jeopardy. My goodness, anointing a monarch to give her God’s strength in performing her inherited duties pales greatly in comparison to all of that!

It’s also puzzling because, prior to the Reformation, the European monarchs were expected to do the pope’s bidding (as in “Christ’s bidding”) in both religious and secular matters. That’s partly why they were anointed. So, your Church promoted the practice but now that it’s simply become a matter of a different tradition, you oppose it and call it “blasphemous?”

Well, sorry, but the coronation of an English monarch no longer has anything to do with Rome, and it’s a ceremony that carries historical and traditional meaning for that country. It is theirs and it’s significant to them; I envy the antiquity of their history and the rich tapestry it provides. I enjoy studying it, not making ludicrous charges about it.

August 1, 4:16 pm | [comment link]
34. Catholic Mom wrote:

So, your Church promoted the practice but now that it’s simply become a matter of a different tradition, you oppose it and call it “blasphemous?”

I already said I thought it was blasphemous when the Catholics did it.  You don’t imagine I don’t think the Catholic Church has not on many many occasions screwed up royally, behaved cynically, abused their power and on and on do you?  The Catholics could write a whole instruction manual for other churches called “Warning:  Don’t do this.”

But you can accept all of the papal trappings, including the pope’s assertion that his is the seat of all truth (despite egregious errors propagated throughout history) and those of us who don’t accept his authority aren’t really Christian and our salvation is in jeopardy.

Umm…I actually do think that non-Catholics are Christians and their salvation is not in jeopardy.  Or rather it may very well be in jeopardy (as may be my own) but not because they don’t accept the authority of the Pope.  I just think that’s their loss because without the Pope the Church starts to fall apart.

August 1, 8:40 pm | [comment link]
35. Chris Molter wrote:

You don’t imagine I don’t think the Catholic Church has not on many many occasions screwed up royally, behaved cynically, abused their power and on and on do you?  The Catholics could write a whole instruction manual for other churches called “Warning:  Don’t do this.”

ROFL!  Brilliantly put. (and this is coming from a fellow Catholic)

August 2, 9:29 am | [comment link]
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