Princess 'observed' by the Vatican
by Christopher Howse
THE VATICAN decided that Princess Michael of Kent's marriage could be made valid only after observing the way she was bringing up the children, according to the man who blessed her marriage.
Mgr Ralph Brown, who performed a ceremony of validation of marriage for Prince and Princess Michael of Kent in strict privacy last Friday, said this week that the decision by the Holy See only days before the ceremony had been made on the basis of careful observation of the way the children were being brought up.
This would include her taking the children to Mass, for example. The Vatican would have to see a firm effort to present the Catholic faith to the children before giving its approval to the marriage. Mgr Brown is an experienced official in Westminster Archdiocese dealing with Church Law on Marriage.
It was not until this week that Cardinal Hume spoke out in public in the marriage of Prince and Princess Michael. Mgr Brown, who had performed Friday's ceremony in the Cardinal's private chapel during his absence and the sickness of the Pro-Nuncio, Archbishop Bruno Heim, said he thought the Church in England had wrongly assumed that people in the press and public were better informed on the way the Church acted on marriage.
Mgr Brown, who earlier had said how happy the Prince and Princess were, thought that the press in particular should have known more of the Church's position. It was not a question of a royal couple being given special secrecy, he said. If a couple had applied to Cardinal Hume for a dispensation and been refused, no reason would have been given.
Princess Michael was refused a dispensation in 1978 to marry Prince Michael, although she had already been granted a nullification of her first marriage to Mr Thomas Troubridge. No reason was given then, though it was assumed to be the refusal of Prince Michael to let the children be brought up Catholics.
Cardinal Hume's statement this week comes in the wake of claims that Church secrecy was giving scandal to ordinary believers. Mgr Brown said: "If you remember all the brou-ha-ha over the confidentiality of clergy or doctors at the time of the police Bill, we wouldn't have gone into all this unless we thought it important."
Even though the couple were royal, it did not mean that ordinary confidentiality could be ignored, he said. This privacy belonged to the internal forum, just like that of Confession, which had a sacramental character.
The validation of Princess Michael's marriage would have had to be after a fresh application following the form of marriage which the couple entered in 1978. But it is unlikely that the Vatican has taken five years to evaluate the new application.
The Princess's children are aged four and two. They will be debarred from their place in the succession under an Act dating from 1701, if they become Catholics. A Vatican document Matrimonia mixta regularised less stringent requirements from the non-Catholic partner in a
The attempts to play down the validation of the royal couple's marriage seem seriously to have backfired. The ceremony finally took place in Cardinal Hume's private chapel. A crowd of a few hundred gradually gathered outside Archbishop's House, though some dispersed when the Duke and Duchess of Kent left in two Ford cars, the people mistaking them for the Prince and Princess.
The couple entered Archbishop's House by a back way, but left by the front steps, and could be seen shaking hands with Mgr Brown at the door.
Both in Cardinal Hume's statement and in the official Church statement at the time of the marriage validation, the Act of Succession's bar to Catholics on the throne was blamed for its unjust effects. "Such discriminatory legislation causes particular distress and conscientious difficulties for any Roman Catholic," was the verdict of the Catholic authorities.
Norman St John-Stevas—Page 3