by MICHAEL OTTO
The new royal baby born to William and Catherine will be able to eventually marry a Catholic and remain in line to the throne, following law changes that came into effect in late March.
But the question arises as to whether the baptised children of a Church of England royal in line for the throne and a Catholic would have to be raised as Catholic.
Canon law sources consulted by NZ Catholic say that, by the letter of the Church’s law, the
answer is yes.
But practically, the Catholic Church probably wouldn’t force the issue.
Canon 1125 obliges the Catholic party of a mixed marriage to “make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church”. The other party to the marriage is to be informed of this promise and of the Catholic party’s obligation.
Under the old 1917 Code of Canon Law, both parties to a mixed marriage had to promise, in writing, that any children of the marriage would be baptised and raised in the Catholic faith.
But Pope Paul VI’s apostolic letter Matrimonia Mixta was a key driver in the change in the
According to a 2009 article on the “Canon Law Made Easy” website, an old legal principle
— nemo ad impossible obligari potest (nobody can be obliged to do the impossible) — applies to
“If the non-Catholic is so insistent that there is, practically speaking, no way for the Catholic to ‘win’ such an argument, then the Catholic party may ultimately be forced to concede
for the sake of peace in the family,” the article continued.
The question could well be moot anyway for the new royal baby.
Even under the recent law changes, the first six people in line for the throne require the
permission of the monarch to marry.
So if the faith of one of the parties and the resultant obligations was an issue, it is within
the powers of the monarch not to allow the marriage.
The chairman of Monarch New Zealand, Dr Sean Palmer, praised the ending of the centuries-
old prohibition on heirs to the throne marrying Catholics.
“This requirement came out of the 17th century European conflicts and is completely unnecessary
today. The religious divisions of the old world have no place in New Zealand. Anything that can be done to remove this discrimination is a positive step,” Dr Palmer said.
The change to the law means some reshuffling in the lower echelons of royal succession, with some people married to Catholics now being restored to the line of succession.
For instance, the Earl of St Andrews, the son of the Duke of Kent, became the 33rd in line
to the throne, but was bumped down a place with the new royal baby.
But even with the law changes, a Catholic royal cannot become the monarch.
This is because, under the current system, the king or queen is the head of the Church of England and must swear to uphold the Protestant religion.