Disestablishment & Discrimination

I happened to write yesterday regarding the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in England. By some happy coincidence, Archbishop Cranmer today picks up the topic of David Cameron’s proposal to reform royal succession laws. The Guardian reports:

This rule is a historical anomaly – it does not, for example, bar those who marry spouses of other faiths – and we do not think it can continue to be justified,” Cameron wrote. Cameron is also proposing that Catholics should continue to be debarred from being head of state, but that anyone who marries a Catholic should not be debarred. The family would be entitled to bring up their children as Catholics as long as heirs do not seek to take the throne as a Catholic.

Cranmer correctly notes:

How on earth does this dog’s breakfast of a proposal rectify the ‘historical anomaly’? If it be offensive to Roman Catholics that the Monarch may neither be Roman Catholic nor married to one, how does the repeal of half of the prohibition resolve the injustice? If it be bigotry to bar the Monarch from marrying a Roman Catholic, it must a fortiori be bigotry to bar them from the Throne.

 However, he goes on to comment:

Of course it is ‘unfair’ and ‘discriminatory’ that the monarch may not be or marry a Roman Catholic, but the very act of choosing a religion manifestly necessitates discrimination against all the others. It is also ‘discriminatory’ that the Pope may not be Protestant, and even more ‘unfair’ that he may not marry at all. But there are sound theological and historical justifications for the restrictions upon both the King of the Vatican and the Monarch of the United Kingdom, and none of these amount to a violation of their ‘human rights’. Prince William’s heir is perfectly free to marry a Roman Catholic should he (or she) so desire: that it is his (or her) human right. But the Heir is not then free to be King and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. But to be King or Queen is not a human right; it is the gift of Parliament.

Cranmer is right to note the inherent discrimination – as existent for the Protestant in respect to the Vatican as the Catholic regarding the British crown – and justified in linking this with the role as head of the established church. However, this rather brings us back to the issue of the established Church of England.

Surely, but for the establishment of the Anglican Church, none of this need be an issue. Neither discrimination against Romans Catholics in respect to the British crown nor the glaring conflict of interest inherent in a communicant of Rome acting as head of the Anglican Church in England would cause any problem were the Anglican Church disestablished. If the Anglican Church placed itself solely under the rule of Christ, as opposed to the Monarch, what should it care if a Catholic succeeds the Throne? For those outside the established Church, it makes little difference who wears the Crown; it will almost certainly not be a representative of their own tradition.

So, I quite agree with Archbishop Cranmer, Cameron’s proposal will do nothing to address the issue of discrimination against Roman Catholics succeeding the Throne nor should it whilst such a role incorporates position as head of the Church of England. Nevertheless, were the Anglican Church disestablished in England such discrimination need neither occur nor matter for all parties involved.