CATHOLICS ALONE DEBARRED FROM PRESENTING LOYAL ADDRESS TO KING
M.P.s Puzzled By This Unsatisfactory Position
BY A STAFF REPORTER
Deputies from the 21 " privileged bodies" go to Buckingham Palace on November 5 and 6 to present their addresses of loyalty direct to the King on the occasion of Princess Elizabeth's wedding.
THE CATHOLICS OF BRITAIN WILL NOT BE REPRESENTED.
This fact, first drawn to the public notice in The Catholic Herald a fortnight ago, was the subject of an outspoken complaint last week by Vatican Radio.
Vatican Radio reiterated this paper's view that in consequence "millions of Catholics, faithful subjects of the King, will be discriminated against."
Vatican Radio declared that preparations for the wedding "showed again the unsatisfactory position of the English Catholics."
All religious bodies, except Catholics, share the privilege : that is to say, not only the Established Church, but the Free Churches, the Church of Scotland, the Quakers and two Jewish bodies.
1 have found it very difficult to track down the real reason for this unsatisfactory position, The Press Officer of the Home Office gave me a sharp and rather wounding answer : '. The Bodies who have the privilege of presenting an address to the King in person do not receive it under the Ecclesiastical Titles Act. The privilege has been conferred at various times by various Sovereigns and some of the privileges go bark to 1660. The Roman Catholic Church is not one of the privileged bodini."
ECCLESIASTICAL TITLES ACT—DEAD LETTER Many think the Position is connected with the Ecclesiastical Titles Act which was passed in 1851 and imposed heavy penalties on Catholic Bishops who assumed territorial titles. This Act which was passed under the influence of an outburst of national annoyance at the restoretin of the Catholic Hierarchy was from the first a dead 'letter and it W35 in fact repealed a few years later.
The repeal is not presumably tantamount to a positive sanction for the official use of the territorial titles on which the Hierarchy was always insisted in any civic communication such as a loyal address to the Sovereign on his accession or oun, iBt lazucnit it get:pit-lei the elnaly layman why the use should not be allowed T found a good deal of genuine puzelement among Catholics and non-Catholics alike on the whole subject. Among the round dozen lawyers and Members of Parliament whom I spoke to, I found also an unusual degree of unanimity that "steps should be taken to remove any anomaly from the Statute Book." Few seemed aware that so apparently discriminatory a measure could have survived into the middle of the 20th-century.
Here are samples of the views expressed to me:
" IT'S OUTRAGEOUS" LORD HOLDEN (Labour Peer, and a Catholic): " I think it's outrageous, and I'm glad it's been brought to public attention. It seems to me that the principle behind it is altogether wrong. If Nonconformists are privileged to present their addresses of loyalty direct to the King on an occasion of universal rejoicing like the Princess' marriage. I cannot for the life of me see w hy Catholics also should not be included."
MR. SKEFFINGTON LODGE (Labour M.P. for Bedford): "The
situation is nonsensical. 1 suggest that a few supplementary questions in the House might serve to stress that such a disability exists." MR. RICHARD EWART, Catholic M.P. for Sunderland, supported this opinion, adding that it was a pity how little was known about the matter by the public at large. " think it impugns the patriotism of Catholics."
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS, a nonCatholic Peer. said: " Like certain other • disability ' statutes stilt in existence. and capable of being invoked at stated times, this ought to be abolished. It looks distinctly freyed and outmoded. Drawing public attention to it would demonstrate what an oddity it really is." SIR PATRICK HANNON, Catholic Conservative M.P.: " It is quite clear that in these days of religious liberty and equality the time has arrived when Parliament should amend existing ecclesiastical legislation so that access to the King at the instance of the Catholic Hierarchy should occupy similar status to that of other religious bodies." MR. CHARLES CHALLEN, a