Peter Phillips to renounce succession to the Throne
Needless to say, this has raised again those voices calling for the repeal or amendment of the Act of Settlement 1701, because it is ‘bigoted’, ‘scandalous’, ‘archaic’ or ‘outdated’. Cranmer has no intention of repeating the constitutional necessity for and significance of the Act: they have been amply set out here, here, and here.
But The Times is mumbling something about not knowing if Miss Kelly ‘is still a practising Catholic’. This is a new one, and the mere raising of this question is evidence of their complete ignorance of the meaning and significance of the Roman Catholic Sacrament of Baptism.
In Scripture, the ordinance of baptism is a sign of new birth. There are numerous references in the New Testament to those who had been wrought upon by the Holy Spirit and believed on Jesus Christ, and were baptised. Baptism is never set forth as a cause of new birth, but a sign of death to the things of this life and a spiritual resurrection in Jesus Christ.
For Rome, baptism is efficacious; it cleanses the baptised from original sin, and makes them Christians, children of God, and (most importantly) members of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI articulates this even more specifically. The religio-political doctrine has been incorporated into the teachings of the Church of England. Baptism therefore has political as well as spiritual significance, and for Rome it involves becoming a member of the Catholic Church, which ‘emphasises the unity of the universal Church in a Catholic way’. The Pope’s centralising tendencies are consistent with the papal Magisterium throughout the ages.
And the Act of Settlement 1701 is clear: there is no quibbling about ‘non-practising’ Roman Catholics; ‘practising’ has got nothing to do with anything. In fact, Cranmer knows quite a few Roman Catholics who have been practising for so long they must be approaching utter perfection. The Sacrament of Baptism has made Autumn Kelly a life-long Roman Catholic, and thus she must either renounce her faith and convert, or Mr Phillips must renounce the Throne.
And there is no point Cardinal Keith O’Brien harping on again about human rights. He states: ‘Whether a person be fortieth or second in line to the throne, it is wrong that they be deprived of that right because they have fallen in love and chosen to marry a Roman Catholic. It doesn’t matter if the Catholic is not practising the faith or the person in line doesn’t want the throne, it is wrong that he or she is deprived of their birthright by this scandalous Act which should not be on our statute book.’
No, Cardinal, you are wrong. Peter Phillips is free to marry whomsoever he wishes. That is his human right. But he is not then free to be King and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. But to be King and Supreme Governor of the Church of England is not a human right.
John Gummer MP has also contributed his tuppence worth. He said, “I know for a fact that up until a day or two before Mr Brown delivered his statement (on constitutional reform) he had been willing to put my bill (to overturn the Act) into law. The effect of this ridiculous law is now going to be felt. The best thing would have been to change the law when it did not apply to anybody rather than changing it when it applies to an individual. It is unacceptable that the part of the Christian church that has more active adherents than any other should be discriminated against in this way.”
Cranmer likes that. Discrimination. This from a member of a church whose leader just a few years ago called Cranmer’s church ‘defective’, and a few weeks ago declared that it was ‘not a church at all’. Discrimination is naturally a part of the human condition, and a theological imperative. Mr Gummer is a Conservative and a Roman Catholic, and discrimination has led him to membership of both these groups. And he really ought to check the beam in his own church before criticising the splinter in others.
But Cranmer’s advice is that you all get on with your lives. Mr Phillips, like his sister Zara, has no royal title, and fulfils no royal duties. Renouncing his succession to the Throne will therefore be of no inconvenience to him, or of any significance whatsoever to anyone else. Unless you happen to have an agenda, like the meddlesome cardinal and the agitating MP...