Tory MP Edward Leigh will today introduce a ten-minute rule bill to end the 300-year old ban on the Monarch marrying a Catholic, The Guardian reports.
He said yesterday: "Surely in this day and age it is intolerable for the constitution to pick out any minority on grounds of religion. The language of our constitution is itself derogatory. A member of the head of state’s family can marry anybody apart from a Papist."
Scotland’s Cardinal O’Brien wants to go further:
"It is right that Edward Leigh MP should raise the issue of the religious discrimination at the heart of the British Constitution. The prohibition on Catholics marrying the Heir to the throne or becoming Head of State is discriminatory and offensive. Apart from anything else, the existing legislation is a gross infringement of the human rights of members of the Royal family.
The Catholic Church still expects that children, where one parent is a Catholic, should be brought up as Catholics.
While the measures proposed are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, a situation could ultimately arise where a future spouse of the Head of State has their religious liberties infringed through a prohibition on passing on their faith to their children.
Accordingly, it will be measures which abolish all religious restrictions on members of the Royal Family which will alone remedy this unsatisfactory situation."
Personally, I do think this provision of the Act of Settlement is an insult to Catholics, and the Ruth Kelly saga makes me wonder whether sectarianism is as alien to England as we like to think.
However, I think by far the best way to resolve the situation would be to replace the monarchy by an elected head of state, and let the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas and Battenburgs marry who they like.