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Civil religion in the UK, Canada, Australia and the Commonwealth

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Manchester University Press, October 2013

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Friday, 20 September 2013

Why the UK monarch swears to disavow the Roman Catholic religion

This Saturday 21 September sees the consecration ceremony in Edinburgh for the new Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews. This, of course, will be of significance to substantial elements of the local population, many of whom identify with the Roman Catholic Church even if they do not all closely follow some of its advice on personal life and morality. 

However, it is important to appreciate that bishops and Archbishops of that Church are appointed by the Vatican which is a foreign state with official standing at the United Nations. Unlike most Catholic citizens the hierarchy of the Church owes fundamental loyalty to Rome - indeed as the case of the former incumbent of the position, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who is now exiled and in seclusion following recent publicity even though he would prefer to live in Dunbar, demonstrates. Their future careers and the perquisites of personal life depend on them being in the favour of their superiors in Rome. The control exercised by the Pope and his advisers over the bishops of the Church is one reason why, at various times and in various countries, governments have, in order to protect their independence from foreign control, demanded control over the appointment of the bishops. 

And it is fear over the potential control exercised over a UK monarch by that Church that the monarch cannot be a Roman Catholic and that the monarch is required to swear, as the Queen did on 4 November 1952 before the UK Parliament, to reject the authority and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. The Accession Declaration Act of 1910 still binds the likely next monarch, Prince Charles, to do the same and no major political party is currently proposing at present to change the laws in this respect whatever the outcome of the referendum in a year's time.

Letter in the Edinburgh Evening News 20 September 2013