Category: Archive

Inside File: Final end to an unsettling act?

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The separation of a state from one church, however, has only resulted in spiritual and temporal ties with another established religion. Still, it’s not easy to forget your old friends.
The powers just across the narrow channel still owe homage and fealty to the pope and his attendant princes and there is, too, the rather urgent matter of King James 11, a Papist no less.
It’s enough to make any self-respecting citizen of merry England more than a trifle nervous.
Complacency, as always, is an enemy to be reckoned with. But it is being faced by ever busier printing presses such as the one that churns out the weekly
“Anti-Roman Pacquet,” a hand-sized pamphlet that’s just the thing to fire up
a concerned soul before the Sunday sermon.
The packet is the tabloid treat of its day, a sort of National Enquirer
meets, well, the New York Post. There’s a wealth of information on its
tightly-worded pages and reminders galore that the reader is lucky, oh so
lucky, not to be under the rotten thumb of “the Grand Lucifer at Rome.”
This issue of the Pacquet is dated Friday, August 13, 1680. An
inauspicious day perhaps, but there is n’er a day of rest in the battle between
light and darkness.
Essentially, the Pacquet is a propaganda sheet for those who can read. Presumably, the bad tidings and dark warnings are then passed on by preachers to those who can’t, doubtless with a little embellishment.
On this day, and please note that some spellings are contemporary, the Pacquet takes up its ongoing and damning account of the papacy’s history thus: “We left off at Rome With Pope Paschal 11 who died Anno 1118. Next one John, that had formerly been Pope Urban’s Secretary, was (without the Emperour Henry V, his knowledge) elected Pope, Calling himself Galasius 11.”
The Packet goes on to describe how some citizens didn’t like
the new man on the throne of Peter, so much so that “he was immediately
seized and clapt up in prison, though by the aid of the Rabble set at
liberty soon after and crown’d.”
The paragraphs that follow are jam-packed with all kinds of lascivious detail about the dreaded and detested papacy.
The Pacquet, and others of its ilk, were merely stage setters, however.
Just a few years later, England’s parliament passed the Act of Settlement. The Act was made possible by the revolution of 1688 which was confirmed in its triumph by a battle two years later on the banks of an Irish river. James was out and Billy was in.
Just to make sure that a Catholic did not take the throne back by means
Of some wicked subterfuge, the act forbade accession to the throne of England by anyone who was not an heir to the German Princess Sophia, granddaughter of
James 1, the former James V1 of Scotland who had landed the top job after Elizabeth 1 had taken to that great plantation in the sky.
The act also stated that simply marrying a Catholic would also scrub the chances of a potential heir to the English throne. It additionally confirmed the primacy of males having first rights to it.
The act copper-fastened the Protestant ascendancy in Britain and remains in force until this day. To put it in words that David Trimble would find familiar, the act is a seriously “mono” piece of work.
It also looks like it’s going to hang around for a while yet despite a campaign in parliament and certain British media outlets to have it consigned to the dustbin of history.
According to a recent report in the Glasgow Sunday Herald newspaper, Tony Blair has “slammed the door” on change to an anti-Catholic law he admits is plainly discriminatory.
The Sunday Herald was nonplussed. “But bizarrely,” the report continued, “he (Blair) has done so on the grounds that there is no need to allow Catholics into the royal family because there are currently no Catholics in it.”
Blair, the Herald pointed out, “regularly attends Catholic Mass with his children and wife, Cherie, who is a Catholic. He said on the campaign trail last year that the law is ‘plainly discriminatory.'”
Blair’s balk has infuriated a number of his own party’s backbenchers, not least Kevin McNamara, an MP who has been one of the most outspoken at Westminster on the North over the years and who has been the leading parliamentary figure in the campaign to have the Act of Settlement scrapped.
McNamara, according to the Herald, “dismissed claims by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, that amending the Act would be complex, requiring the repeal of other acts and extensive consultation with other Commonwealth countries.
“He told the prime minister two simple clauses would suffice, and take minimal parliamentary time.”
Somewhat ironically, the lord chancellor’s job – once held by the Catholic martyr Thomas More – was only opened to Catholics as recently as 1974.
The Herald got hold of Blair’s reply to McNamara. Blair indicated to McNamara that the problem with repeal of the Act of Settlement was that it would strike at the established status of the Church of England, of which the monarch (Elizabeth 11) was supreme governor.
Blair, according to the report, “talked of ‘difficulties and complexities in making changes which could not be considered in isolation.'”
Blair’s reluctance has been a cause of grave disappointment, not just to Catholics in Britain, but also people of other faiths and indeed many in the Church of England.
Some, of course, might argue that you have to be Catholic to be pope just as you have to be Anglican to be head of the Church of England.
The counter argument runs that the British monarch can be guardian of the constitution and leave the running of the church entirely to a religious figure such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Either way, McNamara, is not giving up and has promised to continue his campaign for repeal of the Act of Settlement during the present session of the House of Commons.
One wonders if he can expect support from fellow MP David Trimble, that champion of all things multi.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese