Page 10, 3rd October 2008

3rd October 2008
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Page 10, 3rd October 2008 — Catholics are no threat to the throne
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Catholics are no threat to the throne

Mary Kenny

Ithink many commentators got it wrong about the proposal to alter the constitutional tradition whereby Catholics are barred from marrying an heir to the throne.

Such commentators as A N Wilson, Anthony Howard and Melanie Phillips wrote that to undo this thread in the monarchical tradition would be to undo the entire edifice of the Crown.

To be sure, some of those voices advocating these changes — which would also include allowing daughters equal access to the throne — are anti-monarchist. The Labour MP Chris Bryant and the Australian lawyer Geoffrey Robertson are both, essentially, republicans.

But a case should never be judged by the voices of some of those who advocate it. There is a strong objective argument for removing this prohibition against Catholics.

It's a bit daft to suggest the reform on grounds of "equality", since a monarchical system is hierarchical, not egalitarian. I would argue that it is ' a natural part of a general modernisation and evolution of

the monarchy, always in process. Edmund Burke laid it down that in order to be a true conservative — to conserve tradition — you also have to change and progress.

And there is a fine historical precedent for such evolution. In 1901. Edward VII tried to alter the Hanoverian "Coronation declaration" which British monarchs were obliged to make, anathemising in particular the "idolatry" and "superstitions" of Rome. He thought the formula bigoted, and he especially disliked the insult to Marian devotions: Edward spent time every year with the monks at Marienbad (Mary's Spring) and found them benign and admirable.

The Prime Minister Lord Salisbury would not permit the King to change the Coronation oath: he said it would diminish the monarchy and there would be Protestant riots in the streets. Edward VII was thus forced to recite it, but his biog-rapher noted. he did so in such a low and miserable voice that it was plain to all present that he loathed the task.

He taught his son. George V. to press for change: it was sufficient for the Monarch to say "I alit a faithful Protestant", and leave it at that. When George came to the throne in 1910 the declaration was altered — Asquith was now PM — and the bloodcurdling denunciations of Rome dropped. There was no rioting in the streets. It didn't harm the monarchy. People generally thought it was timely.

By the same token. it is now time to alter this bar against Catholics marrying into the Royal family. Yes, it would have to be done tactfully, and in a way that continues to respect the monarchical tradition. Any well-qualified constitutionalist could devise a way to craft such a change.

British Catholics are. on the whole, strong supporters of the monarchy. Such a step would enhance. not undermine, their sense of allegiance to the Crown.

The saddest part of Paul Newman's obituary were the passages about his late son. Scott.

Scott died aged 28 of a drugs and alcohol overdose — despite all that his father had done to help him overcome his addictions.

Maybe that should be not "despite", but "because". No parent. nor anyone else, can cure an addict of his addictions.

The addict has to choose to do so himself. He has to actively seek help. This usually includes spiritual help. But only the addict can make that moral choice.

In his anxiety to help his son, it seems that Paul Newman bailed him out time and time again. It's what parents do. But it doesn't work — indeed, it enables the addict to continue repeating his behaviour. Newman's sense of guilt about having possibly neglected his only son propelled him into doing many good deeds, including giving many millions to charity.

Newman, who described himself as a "Jewish / Catholic boy" did his best. What more can a man do?

The controversy over giving young girls an injection against cervical cancer has tended to imply that this cancer is exclusively associated with early promiscuous sexual activity. But respectably married women who have led blameless lives have also contracted cervical cancer simply because their husband happened to be a carrier.

Prevention of disease is a morally correct use of medical care, at any age. But for minors, parents are the people who should be responsible for health — not schools acting as a government agency for mass medication. There is a word for when the state takes over all personal responsibility: it's called Fascism.




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