A good day for Catholics and an even better day for women. And now for the final trick: Disestablishment.
This follows on from my earlier post here.
As a lawyer I am an eternal pessimist so I am pleasantly surprised that this has happened, and so quickly (although there is still a raft of legislation required to give effect to it all).
For those of you who find confusing and illogical rules of succession confusing and illogical, this means two things.
Firstly, male offspring will no longer leapfrog their older female siblings in the order of succession. So if Wills and Kate were to produce a daughter and then a son, the daughter would now become our head of state, as opposed to the current position where the son would become our head of state.
The current position gives rise to the ultimate case of a wronged sibling arguing that something is unfair, the irony here being that this is genuinely very unfair, unlike the many alleged inequalities enthusiastically pleaded by siblings since the year dot which often aren’t unfair or anything more than trivial. But the change won’t have retrospective effect, so Air Miles Randy and Edward The Really Useful are still ahead of their older sister, The Princess Equine.
And secondly, it means future monarchs will be allowed to marry a Roman Catholic.
There’s room for improvement, though. The ban on our head of state being a Roman Catholic, or of any other faith or of no faith, remains in place. David Cameron said:
Let me be clear, the monarch must be in communion with the Church of England because he or she is the head of that Church.
As a statement of fact, I have no objection to this because the monarch is the head of the Church of England. But in my secular reincarnation as an optimist, whilst still retaining a lawyer’s keenness to read between the lines or the lies, it occurs to me that Cameron isn’t specifically saying the dual role of head of state and head of the Church of England is a good thing, or that it can’t be changed in the future. I reckon the cheeky fellow is dropping a large hint that the door is open and that it might be worth waiting a few years and then giving it a push. Perhaps he has developed a taste for hearty, constitutional overhauls and wants another slice when he has had the chance to digest this one. Or perhaps I’ve become too optimistic.
In any case, it would take disestablishment of the Church of England to satiate that appetite because only when our monarch is relieved of the tiresome duty of presiding over that institution does the requirement to be in communion with it vanish (as quickly as a deity after a heinous act of god). And at that point the monarch would be totally, blissfully free to do what any human should be entitled to do: to believe in any god or gods, or no god.
Cameron also said:
The idea that….a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic – this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we have become.
I agree, Dave. But once a tiny aperture has been ripped through which the cleansing light of reason can fall onto this issue, it’s hard or impossible for you or anyone else to try and stitch it up. So once you acknowledge the farce of Roman Catholics being spousal constitutional outlaws, the only possible justification for their continued treatment as constitutional outlaws must be by reference to an absurd mediaeval concept: Establishment.
So we inch forward, one step at a time. It’s hard in life to get exactly what you want but for some people these changes will be exactly what they don’t want. At least I can console myself on the basis that it’s merely not exactly what I want.
Well done to all the leaders for having the intellectual and moral courage to engage the first gear of their brains, not just quickly but also in perfect unison.
It’s truly amazing what humans, including politicians, can achieve when they really think.