Friday, August 3, 2007

British Anti-Catholicism Rears It's Ugly Head Again

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: It's been 300 years for heaven's sake! Official policies like this have got to go!
(CNA).- Peter Phillips, the Queen of England’s eldest grandson, may have to give up his place in the line of succession for the throne because his fiancĂ©e is Roman Catholic.

This past week Buckingham Palace announced the engagement between Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly, a Canadian management consultant, but no mention of a date for their marriage was made.

Even more interesting, is the fact that Autumn Kelly is Catholic. Ms. Kelly’s Catholicism brings to the light of day the 1701 Act of Settlement which bars any member of the Royal family from becoming or marrying Catholics. If Mr. Phillips has to renounce his rights to inherit the throne, it would be an embarrassment to the royal family and to the government.

Catholics have repeatedly called for a repeal of the act but thus far attempts to change the law have failed. Under the act, Mr. Phillips will be required to renounce his right to the throne -- he is 10th in line at present-- or Ms. Kelly will have to formally renounce her Catholic faith...

read full story here

Here's a little history lesson on British Anti-Catholicism from
Anti-Catholicism in England has its origins with the English Reformation under Henry VIII. The Act of Supremacy of 1534 declared the English crown to be 'the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England' in place of the Pope. Any act of allegiance to the latter was considered treason. It was under this act that saints Thomas More and John Fisher were executed.

Although the Act of Supremacy was repealed in 1554 by Henry's daughter, Queen Mary I, who was a staunch Roman Catholic, it was reenacted in 1559 under Elizabeth I.

Anyone who took public or church office was forced to take the Oath of Supremacy, and there were penalties for violating that oath. Attendance at Anglican services was also made obligatory. Those that refused were fined as recusants.

In the time of Elizabeth I, the persecution of the Protestants during the reign of her half-sister Queen Mary I was used as anti-Catholic propaganda in the hugely influential Foxe's Book of Martyrs. The Convocation of the English Church ordered in 1571 that copies of the "Book of Martyrs" should be kept for public inspection in all cathedrals and in the houses of church dignitaries. The book was also exposed in many parish churches alongside the Holy Bible. The passionate intensity of the style and the vivid and picturesque dialogues made it very popular among Puritan and Low Church families down to the nineteenth century. The fantastically partisan church history of the earlier portion of the book, with its grotesque stories of popes and monks contributed much to anti-Catholic prejudices in England as did the story of the sufferings of those Protestants burnt at the stake by Mary and the notorious Bishop Bonner.

In 1570, Pope Pius V sought to depose Elizabeth with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared her a heretic and purported to release her Roman Catholic subjects from allegiance to her. This rendered Elizabeth's subjects who persisted in allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church politically suspect.

The failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada has been cited as an attempt by Philip II of Spain to put into effect the Pope's decree, and to enforce a claim to the throne of England he held as a result of being the widower of Mary I of England.

Elizabeth's persecution of Roman Catholic Jesuit missionaries led to many executions at Tyburn. Those priests who suffered there are accounted martyrs by the Roman Catholic church; and, more recently, a convent has been established nearby to pray for their souls.

Later episodes that deepened anti-Catholicism in England include the Gunpowder Plot, in which Guy Fawkes and other Roman Catholic conspirators attempted to blow up the English Parliament while it was in session. The Great Fire of London in 1666 was blamed on the Roman Catholics and an inscription ascribing it to 'Popish frenzy' was engraved on the Monument to the Great Fire of London, which marked the location where the fire started (this inscription was only removed in 1831). Later, the "Popish Plot" involving Titus Oates further exacerbated Anglican-Roman Catholic relations.

The beliefs that underlie the sort of strong anti-Catholicism once seen in the United Kingdom were summarized by William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England:

As to papists, what has been said of the Protestant dissenters would hold equally strong for a general toleration of them; provided their separation was founded only upon difference of opinion in religion, and their principles did not also extend to a subversion of the civil government. If once they could be brought to renounce the supremacy of the pope, they might quietly enjoy their seven sacraments, their purgatory, and auricular confession; their worship of relics and images; nay even their transubstantiation. But while they acknowledge a foreign power, superior to the sovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot complain if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good subjects.

— Bl. Comm. IV, c.4 ss. iii.2, p. *54

The gravamen of this charge, then, is that Roman Catholics constitute an imperium in imperio, a sort of fifth column of persons who owe a greater allegiance to the Pope than they do to the civil government, a charge very similar to that repeatedly leveled against Jews. Accordingly, a large body of British laws, collectively known as the penal laws, imposed various civil disabilities and legal penalties on recusant Roman Catholics. These laws were gradually repealed over the course of the nineteenth century with laws such as the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.

In spite of the Emancipation Act, however, anti-Catholic feeling continued throughout the nineteenth century, primarily as a response to the influx of Irish immigrants into England during the Great Famine.

Even now, however, a member of the British Royal Family automatically gives up any chance of succeeding to the throne if he or she joins the Roman Catholic Church or marries a Roman Catholic.