BY DAVID MCLAURIN
RTECENT REPORTS IN he Daily Telegraph suggest that Prince harles may have to make the difficult choice between being King and marrying Camilla ParkerBowles, and all because the Church of England would be unable to stomach a divorced and remarried monarch, who would also be Supreme Governor of the Church.
That our Anglican brethren should take such a hard line on this matter is somewhat surprising the unacceptability of second unions is a theme more associated with the Catholic Church. So what exactly is going on? You may well ask.
There seem to be two points here, and they are in some opposition to each other. Firstly, a divorced and remarried Supreme Governor would be a bit rich, and would bring the Royal Supremacy into disrepute, and the establishment of the Anglican Church with it. But at the same time and this must give us pause the Anglican Church does its best to accommodate those who have divorced and remarried; they are not barred from Holy Communion; and a substantial number of Anglican clergy will officiate at second marriages in church. There is even a small but growing number of divorced and remarried clergy. Princess Anne herself herself is divorced and remarried (albeit outside the Church of England) and no one has suggested that she is unworthy to be Princess Royal.
The inescapable conclusion is that there is one rule for the Prince of Wales and another for his sister and the rest of humanity. This seems dangerously incoherent. If moral laws are to have any force at all, they must surely be binding in all circumstances. Marriage vows must bind anyone who rakes them, be they future King or dustman. Morality isn't a matter of private circumstances determining public action. (The same, incidentally applies to the ruling if it can be called that by the Anglican Church that "same-sex relationships" are acceptable in laypeople but not in clergy. The injunction to he chaste binds everyone, whatever their state in life.) Similarly, to say that Prince Charles cannot do what others can is unfairly discriminatory, to say the least. And to reply that the Prince has special obligations because he is our future King is bogus. He is bound, no more and no less, by the same laws of morality that bind all mortals, whatever their state in life.
ICALL TII1S incoherence dangerous because the all-embracing nature of the moral law is its essential foundation; for those who care about these things, this was the discovery of Immanuel Kant: unless a law hold good in all circumstances, it does not hold at all, Once we abandon this foundation, we are left with a
broken jigsaw and many missing pieces.
Having said all this, one must quickly say something else: the Anglican clergy who object to Prince Charles remarrying are right to do so if for the wrong reasons. No one who has made public vows should go back on them, ever. There can he no exceptions to this. If the Prince does in fact want to remarry (and he says he does not) then he will have to break the very
public word he gave some 15 years ago when he married in St Paul's.
It is at this point that we meet another school of thought, and one that has yet to make the headlines. For some time now, various Catholics have been spinning an agreeable fantasy. They picture salvation for the Prince in having his marriage annulled by the Pope and being allowed to marry again in a Catholic ceremony, after
which he would presumably
live happily ever after.
But this involves certain massive problems not least the Anglican rage at any attempt at Papal interference in a marriage solemnised by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Apart from this, there are difficulties from the Catholic point of view. For a start, only a Catholic or someone wishing to marry a Catholic can petition for an annulment: as an Anglican, the Prince is outside the jurisdiction of Canon Law.
Moreover, only the parties involved can call the validity of
a marriage into question. No Catholic, or anyone else, has the right to speculate over the possibility of a royal annulment, until the couple themselves have initiated the process. The idea of any royal annulment lies in the same Never-Never Land as that other Catholic daydream: "If only he had married some nice foreign Catholic princess, who had spent all her time at Farm Street or the Oratory and not the Chelsea Harbour Club..."
But at the same time, one must admit that it is an agreeable fantasy. What if the seemingly impossible
happened, and the Prince did become a Catholic, get an annulment and marry again? Wouldn't it be the ideal solution, not just for him, but for everyone else as well, provided that the Act of Succession that bars Catholics from the throne could he changed at the same time?
TO MY MIND, the idea of a Catholic Prince Charles is not so very fantastical. The Catholic Faith has ; European dimension that ht would value. It is not, in this country, a state religion, which is an advantage. Conversion would represent a personal renewal and commitment to God, as well as to a moral-ethical system that combines the rigours of Kant
and Artistotle with the compassion and humanity of Jesus Christ.
And if the Prince really did at some future date want to marry Camilla ParkerBowles, provided she were free to marry him, I. for one would wish them both well, and would be more than happy to see her, when the time came, as our Queen.
Queen Anne Boleyn took the monarchy away from Rome; will Queen Camilla
bring it back again?