We certainly join the world in congratulating Great Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine Middleton on their recent marriage.
In fact, we offer our prayers that they live a marital life of love and happiness. Millions tuned in to watch the nuptials at Westminster Abbey before Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The world watched as Miss Middleton married Prince William, the commoner marrying the royal as the commentators reminded all who watched. While it is an interesting fact to highlight that a commoner would now join the ranks of the royals, many commentators and observers neglected one fact of importance. English law prohibits Prince William not from marrying a commoner but rather he is he forbidden from marrying a Catholic by the Act of Settlement of 1701. It may be over 300 years old but it is still in force, even though all or most other anti-Catholic legislation has been repealed in the United Kingdom. In fact, The Act of Settlement mandates that if Prince William did choose to marry a Catholic, or a “Papist” as Catholics are referred to in the Act, he could not then succeed to the British throne to become king. This is due in large part because the British monarch is also formally the head of the Church of England, a Protestant denomination.
While many like to refer the fairytale like story of the commoner Kate marrying the Prince, we mustn’t forget the anti-Catholic laws that are still a reality in Britain. It is truly wonderful that the British Royal Family is so willing to break the barriers of social status and class distinction that have long dominated British culture. However, it is no fairy tale for the millions of Catholics in the British Isles and across the British Commonwealth that they are, in the eyes of the British Royal Family and British Legal System, second-class citizens. At the advent of this twenty-first century the time has come to abolish the Act of Settlement and allow Catholics their rightful place in British society. The prejudice and bigotry against Catholics in England must end and we hope the newly married Prince William might begin to welcome not only commoners but also Catholics into his privileged world.