Thursday, May 19, 2011

In which I agree with Cardinal O'Brien - I wonder if he agrees with me

Cardinal Keith O'Brien has said that he considers the provisions in the Act of Settlement of 1701 which prevent Catholics from succeeding to the throne are hampering efforts to curb sectarianism.

I can't think of any rational and reasonable argument against that position. I remember being horrified as a 10 year old that Prince Michael of Kent had to give up his place in the line of succession because he married a Catholic. It just seemed so unfair. Ok,so he was never going to get anywhere near the throne,but the fact that someone is excluded from being Head of State on the basis of their or their spouse's religion is so wrong.

Now, I don't actually think that being born into a particular family should give you the right to be head of state at all, but I'm very much in the minority on that one. We're going to have the monarchy for at least my lifetime and probably well beyond.  In that case, it's vital that the discriminatory constitutional anachronisms surrounding it are binned.

I wonder, though, if Cardinal O'Brien would agree with me on the other barrier which I think needs to come down. That is that the throne passes to the firstborn male heir. I think we just need to make it the firstborn child. And we need to make that change before Kate and William start having kids. If they have a girl first, then a boy, the debate will inevitably become personal and that would be quite destructive. As it is, the system is sexist and enshrines in law that a female is somehow subordinate to a male. That's just not approrpiate in the 21st century.

I think that the Government should actively pursue this with the Commonwealth Heads of Government to make sure that they all agree, or as many as possible of them agree to make the change. Both Nick Clegg and David Cameron agree so they actually need to make it happen.


Matthew Huntbach said...

Well, I'm a Catholic, but I disagree with the cardinal on this one. To me, the whole system of the monarchy is a complete anachronism, so it seems silly to make a fuss over some anachronistic elements but not over the main one - that there is a massive discriminatory position in who gets the post, it's just one person, everyone else excluded.

I actually quite like the monarchy being there as a sort of quaint historical thing that reminds us of our past. So for that reason, I want to see all the quaint historical aspects of it kept, including this one. As a Catholic, it makes me proud, it reminds me of the time when my faith was persecuted and a few brave people kept it alive under fear of death.

I appreciate there's a separate Scottish sectarian thing here which just does not exist in the same way where I am in London, so ok I'll take it that's a point I need to consider. Down here in London, anti-Catholicism largely comes from liberal types. Being a Catholic means I have long experience of being in an organisation where I enjoy the companionship it brings, sort of agree with at least some aspects of its policy, am often exasperated with its leaders, and am really fed up with the way the media constantly paints it in as negative a way as it can and misinterprets everything it does to make it look bad. Now, as a Liberal Democrat I have the joy of being a member of TWO such organisations.

Unknown said...

You have no idea of the pain I've taken up here, as an atheist, for sending my daughter to a Catholic school. Seriously, it took me completely by surprise when people who I consider really tolerant and liberal had a go at me for it. I'm comfortable with the decision my husband and I took and I think it's been best for our daughter, but it's still quite hard to cope with the criticism.

Sectarianism up here has to be seen to be believed. It's truly horrible. We've had letter bombs sent to prominent Celtic supporters and the Celtic manager.

It's really centred in the West of Scotland so as a highlander, I was really surprised to see the intensity of it when I moved to this part of the country.

I just don't think we are going to see the end of the monarchy in mine or even my daughter's lifetime, so I think the least we can do is to clear out some of the worst aspects. A bar on one particular religious denomination is just wrong.

Unknown said...

Oh, and Matthew, I so empathised with your comment about being a member of two often frustrating organisations:-)

Kelvin Holdsworth said...

As it happens, I disagree too, but for different reasons.

The real underly problem behind the Act of Settlement is not Scottish Sectarianism. Though that is horrible, it is not the real trouble here.

The problem is the establishment of the Church of England. Whilst that exists and the sovereign is by definition head of the C of E, there is always going to be a problem about the monarch being a Roman Catholic. And the issue about marrying a Roman Catholic is caused by the RC insistance that if a Roman Catholic marries someone else, they will promise to follow the discipline of bringing up any children as Roman Catholics. Ultimately that would lead to a monarch of one branch of the church being constitutionally the head of another.

Until the C of E is disestablished, this one is not going to be easy to untangle, and though it might have connections to sectarianism, its not quite so direct a link that it might at first appear to be.

It is disestablishment which should be our starting point and good liberal values might suggest that it would be good to make that a campaiging issue and not be squeamish about it.

(Oh and it would sort the Bishops in the Lords problem out whilst we are at it).

Unknown said...

Kelvin, I get what you're saying - I don't like the fact that the Church of England has an integral role in the machinery of the state.

Having said that, it's not going to change any time soon, unfortunately. And surely to have just one denomination out of all the religions in the world singled out is particularly unfair.

I just wonder as well if Cardinal O'Brien will ever see the anomaly between him wanting the Catholic rule changed but not the first born female one. I won't be holding my breath.

Matthew Huntbach said...

Kelvin, I get what you're saying - I don't like the fact that the Church of England has an integral role in the machinery of the state.

It's actually more the other way round - the Church of England is controlled by the state. It was set up to be like that - the state set it up so that it could dictate what people should believe in terms of religion and how they should worship. In its early years Parliament was very vigorous in passing legislation dictating these sorts of things. In theory, Parliament is still in control, so if it voted that the CofE should start worshipping the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then so it would have to do, although that might cause a few defections. Back in those days, if you didn't agree that what Parliament told you was religious truth or didn't agree to how it told you to worship, you faced being hanged and then cut down while still alive and disembowelled, which tended to reduced the number of people who didn't go along with it.

While it's often put as just about Henry VIII's annullment, a closer look at what really happens sugests he was largely kept in the dark about the radical nature of the reforms being pushed through, or at least he turned a blind eye to it due to the large amount of money and land he got from the dissolution of the monasteries.

I just wonder as well if Cardinal O'Brien will ever see the anomaly between him wanting the Catholic rule changed but not the first born female one. I won't be holding my breath.

I'm not aware that O'Brien HAS taken this position. You seem to have asked whether he would, and answered for him, and then criticised him for the answer you actually put in his mouth.

Am Firinn said...

Well, I'm a Catholic too, and the fact that the Union came about in large measure as an anti-Catholic conspiracy and still maintains that as one of its essentials is one of the many things I dislike about it. My forebears fought for James VIII in 1745-6 and my allegiance is given to his glorious majesty Francis II now! Perhaps more seriously, I'm not sure the Cardinal does disagree with you on first-born female succession. Do you have any evidence on that matter?


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