My initial post re disestablishment of the Church of England was never supposed to become an ongoing theme. Alas, the national press, other bloggers, the Anglican Church and even the Prime Minister appear to conspire in keeping the issue rolling. Yesterday, it was the Prime Minister’s interference in the matter which prompted disestablishment: part II. Today, it is the turn of the Anglican Church itself to inadvertently forward the case for disestablishment via this morning’s offering from Archbishop Cranmer. It was reported some time ago in The Telegraph:
…the plan to abolish the Act of Settlement was quietly shelved after the Church raised significant objections centring on the British sovereign’s dual role as Supreme Governor.
Church leaders expressed concern that if a future heir to the throne married a Roman Catholic, their children would be required by canon law to be brought up in that faith. This would result in the constitutionally problematic situation whereby the Supreme Governor of the Church of England was a Roman Catholic, and so ultimately answerable to a separate sovereign leader, the Pope, and the Vatican.
…A spokesman for the Anglican Church said that although the Act of Succession appeared “anomalous” in the modern world, while the Church of England remained the established religion, the monarch and Supreme Governor could not owe a higher loyalty elsewhere.
He went on: “The prohibition on those in the line of succession marrying Roman Catholics derives from an earlier age and inevitably looks anomalous, not least when there is no prohibition on marriage to those of other faiths or none. But if the prohibition were removed the difficulty would still remain that establishment requires the monarch to join in communion with the Church of England as its Supreme Governor and that is not something that a Roman Catholic would be able to do consistently with the current rules of that church.”
It was reported that the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, ‘is said to have been persuaded that the difficulties raised by the Anglican Church were insurmountable’.
Indeed, all the above arguments advanced by the Anglican Church are correct and do truly represent a constitutional problem. However, buried within their own statement is the simple answer to the issue. The spokesman for the Anglican Church stated (emphasis mine) ‘while the Church of England remained the established religion, the monarch and Supreme Governor could not owe a higher loyalty elsewhere’. From this, the argument is put forth that it would be constitutionally untenable for the Monarch to owe a ‘higher loyalty elsewhere’ – and indeed it would be!
Yet, as the Anglican Church spokesman helpfully highlights, this state of affairs only exists so long as ‘the Church of England remained the established religion’. If the Monarch were not the Supreme Governor of the Church of England the possibility that the head of the Anglican Church could be answerable to a separate sovereign leader could not exist. Therefore, the answer to this constitutional conundrum appears to be simply disestablishing the Church of England. This would mean the Monarch could hold whatever religion they cared for, and marry anyone of whatever religion they cared for, without having a higher loyalty to some other. Indeed, the Monarch would no longer be the head of the established Church for no such Church would exist.
It strikes me that royalists and Anglicans alike are rather missing the obvious answer.