[This is the second chapter of the booklet Pope Benedict XVI and the United Kingdom published in 2010 in protest against the Pope’s visit to the UK that year. It demonstrates the truth that the UK’s constitution is assuredly Protestant.]
It is frequently asserted that the Constitution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is unwritten. While the Constitution is not codified in one document, much of the Constitution does exist in written form. It is to be feared that attempts to produce a written, codified Constitutional Document will be made the occasion of ignoring, or either explicitly or implicitly repealing, those aspects of the current Constitution which are no longer acceptable to authorities and pressure groups who have lost the concept of the United Kingdom as a Christian, Protestant nation. That this concept has been largely lost in practice is illustrated, for example, by an incidental remark in the negative response of Downing Street to a Petition requesting that the Prime Minister take steps to protect Christians from having to work on the Lord’s Day. Noting that “the Employment Rights Act 1996 does not give an automatic entitlement for Christian employees not to work on Sunday”, the Government response comments: “However, neither do members of other religions have an automatic right not to work on holy days.” The warmth of the welcome given to news of the Pope’s proposed visit by the leaders of the two main UK political parties and by the Archbishop of Canterbury only demonstrates how ignorant of, or indifferent to, the constitutional position of our nation and the contradictory nature of papal pretensions these prominent persons are.
We are aware that “Defender of the Faith” was originally a title given by the Pope of the day to Henry VIII as a reward for a pamphlet published in his name defending Rome’s seven “sacraments” against Luther. After Henry’s rejection of the Pope’s authority the title was withdrawn by the Pope but restored to him by Parliament. These may be regarded as merely matters of history which are irrelevant now. But it is present reality that, in accordance with (a) the Establishment Principle (which regards Church and State as distinct and independent but mutually helpful), (b) the terms of the Union between Scotland and England, and (c) the constitutional basis upon which the monarch occupies the throne of this United Kingdom, the Faith to be upheld by the state, as represented by the monarch in Parliament, is that of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Thirty-Nine Articles – that is, Calvinistic Protestant Christianity.
These constitutional documents denounce as error the distinctive dogmas of Romanism and specifically repudiate the claims of the Pope to universal spiritual and temporal supremacy. The Roman religion in its official dogmas has moved even further from Scripture and truth than it was at the Reformation, the claims dogmatically made for the Pope and his infallibility when speaking ex cathedra being one evidence of this. These claims are still asserted and should be sufficient reason for refusing him official recognition. Giving honour to the Pope, such as is proposed in his official visit to this nation, is incompatible with the Protestant constitution of this nation which renounces his religion and denies his claim to supremacy in Church and State.
The purpose of this chapter is briefly to review those documents which throw light upon the constitutional attitude of the United Kingdom to the papacy, its religion and its claims, and to note some of the historical events which made this attitude fundamental to our national identity. This should demonstrate the fact that, in entertaining a Pope on a state visit for the very first time, the authorities, who owe their position to the Constitution of the United Kingdom and should be foremost in maintaining that Constitution, are betraying their trust and undermining the foundation of our national stability and moral and spiritual prosperity under God’s blessing.
1. The Thirty-Nine Articles
“The Articles were passed, recorded and ratified in the year 1562 (1563) in Latin only; but these Latin Articles were revised and translated by the Convocation of 1571, and both the Latin and English texts, adjusted as nearly as possible, were published in the same year by the royal authority. Subscription was hereafter required to the English Articles, called the Articles of 1562, by the famous Act of the XIII of Elizabeth” (Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, III, p. 486). Article XXXVII, “Of the Civil Magistrate”, after having asserted that the chief government in the Realm of England belongs to the Crown, specifically provides that “the bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England”. Throughout the Articles there is specific repudiation of the distinctive doctrines and practices of Romanism as “vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture”, but rather repugnant to the “Word of God” (e.g. Article XXII). “The sacrifices of Masses,” so central to Romanism, are described as “blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits” (Article XXXI). It is to these Articles that the Established Church of England, and the State which has established it, are committed.
2. The Second Scots Confession of Faith, or National Covenant, 1580
This document, subscribed by the King, the Council and Court, at Holyrood House in 1580, and by persons of all ranks in subsequent years, asserts: “But in special, we detest and refuse the usurped authority of that Roman Antichrist upon the Scriptures of God, upon the Kirk, the civil Magistrate, and consciences of men.” It goes on in great detail to enumerate and abominate the many doctrinal and practical ways in which this usurped authority manifests itself, all springing from “his erroneous doctrine against the sufficiency of the written word, the perfection of the law, the office of Christ, and His blessed Evangel”.
The 1638 form of this Covenant adds a list of the various Acts of Parliament which, while establishing the Protestant religion, “do abolish and condemn the Pope’s authority and jurisdiction out of this land” and “do condemn the Pope’s erroneous doctrine, or any other erroneous doctrine repugnant to any of the articles of the true and Christian religion, publicly preached, and by law established, in this realm”. One of the aims of The Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 between the Parliaments of England and Scotland was “the extirpation of Popery”. Although these Covenants did not formally constitute part of the Revolution Settlement or the Treaty of Union they do indicate the view of the claims of the Pope which provided the context of these agreements.
3. The Irish Articles of Religion, 1615
These Articles, while practically superseded in Ireland by the Thirty-Nine Articles, were a connecting link between the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Westminster Confession of Faith, which depended to some extent on them. They state: “The Pope, neither of himself, nor by any authority of the Church or See of Rome, or by any other means with any other, hath any power or authority to depose the King, or dispose any of his kingdoms or dominions; or to authorize any other prince to invade or annoy him or his countries; or to discharge any of his subjects of their allegiance and obedience to his Majesty; or to give license or leave to any of them to bear arms, raise tumult, or to offer any violence or hurt to his royal person, state or government, or to any of his subjects within his Majesty’s dominions.”
They go on to say: “The power which the Bishop of Rome now challengeth to be supreme head of the universal Church of Christ, and to be above all emperors, kings, and princes, is a usurped power, contrary to the Scriptures and Word of God, and contrary to the example of the Primitive Church; and therefore is for most just causes taken away and abolished within the King’s Majesty’s realms and dominions.” Their view of the true character of the Bishop of Rome is clearly stated: “The bishop of Rome is so far from being the supreme head of the universal Church of Christ, that his works and doctrine do plainly discover him to be that man of sin, foretold in the holy Scriptures, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and abolish with the brightness of his coming.”
4. The Westminster Confession of Faith
The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647, is clear in its view of the character of the papacy. Chapter XXV, “Of the Church”, affirms that “there is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God”. Affirming the “just and legal authority” of civil magistrates, the Confession, Chapter XXIII iv, “Of the Civil Magistrate”, states: “Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to him: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted; much less hath the Pope any power of jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and least of all to deprive them of their dominions or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.” It is to this Confession that the Established Church of Scotland, and the State which has established it, are committed.
5. The Revolution Settlement
The best known elements of what became known as the Revolution Settlement are the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Act of Settlement of 1701. The background to this Settlement, and the explanation of such aspects of it as the exclusion from the throne of a Roman Catholic and of a monarch with a Roman Catholic spouse, was the centuries long struggle against the claim of the Pope to the allegiance and subservience of the civil magistrate. It was rightly considered that a Roman Catholic monarch is subject to the Pope who claims his allegiance not only as a man but also as a monarch. The point is well made that a monarch who wishes to become a Roman Catholic is free to do so, but not as monarch.
The Declaration of the Estates of the Kingdom of Scotland, containing the Claim of Right, and the offer of the Crown to their Majesties King William and Queen Mary (11th April 1689) affirmed that King James the Seventh had forfeited the right to the Crown as not only had he failed on his accession to take the Oath “to maintain the Protestant Religion, and to rule the people according to the laudable laws” but “did, by the advice of wicked and evil Counsellors, invade the fundamental constitution of this kingdom and altered it from a legal limited monarchy to an arbitrary despotic power”. A prominent demonstration of this fact was that he used his assumed power of public proclamation to disable the laws establishing the Protestant Religion and to subvert that Religion.
6. The Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, 1707
The Union which became effective on 1st May 1707 did not spring from nowhere in the years immediately preceding it, though events during these years brought it about at that particular time. It was the culmination of a process which probably originated in the eleventh century and received its first great impulse after the Scottish defeat by the English at Flodden (1513) from the Protestant Reformation (1560) and close relations with Reformers in England; its second from the Union of the Crowns (1603); its third from the Covenant into which these nations entered with one another and with God (1643); and its fourth from the Revolution and the accession of King William III (1689). Undoubtedly, questions of politics, national security, finance, language and an increasingly common culture entered substantially into the movement for union. Many Presbyterians as well as Jacobites strongly opposed the movement initially, some because they considered it wrong to enter into an incorporating union with a nation which they perceived had broken Covenant and maintained a prelatic Church which they feared would threaten the presbyterian constitution of the Church of Scotland. Acts of Security written into the union treaties safeguarded the independence and presbyterian government of the Scottish Church and muted much of the ecclesiastical opposition.
The Union was made possible in the providence of God because of the common Protestantism of England and Scotland. In spite of the tensions accounted for by the Presbyterian/Anglican antipathy, it was a bulwark against the threat of resurgent Roman Catholicism and of coming again under Jacobite and French dominion. Before long this was publicly acknowledged even by church courts which had formerly been hostile or lukewarm towards union. As Professor Christopher Whatley (The Scots and the Union, 2006) puts it: “Almost by default, the union and the defence of the ‘true’ Protestant interest against the Catholic enemy without and the episcopalians within were becoming inextricably linked in the minds of the mass of Scottish presbyterians.” The single most contributory factor in the unity of this Island has been the common commitment of the constituent nations to the Protestant Constitution and Throne. While the present legislatures of the United Kingdom and of Scotland practically ignore the Christian and Protestant Constitution of the Kingdom it still exists as the basis of the Union.
7. Union with Ireland Act, 1800
As a matter of interest it may be noted that the Second Article of the Union with Ireland Act stated that “the succession to the imperial crown of the said United Kingdom, and of the dominions thereunto belonging, shall continue limited and settled in the same manner as the succession to the imperial crown of the said kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland now stands limited and settled, according to the existing laws and to the terms of union between England and Scotland”. Article Five states that “The doctrine, worship, discipline and government of the Church of Scotland shall remain and be preserved as the same are now established by law and by the Acts for the union of the two kingdoms of England and Scotland”.
8. The relevance of these matters today
When the Act of Settlement was being discussed in the House of Lords in 2002 the then Lord Chancellor was asked if the Act’s provisions had been extended to Scotland. His reply was: “Yes. The provisions of the Act of Settlement 1701 relating to the succession to the monarchy of the United Kingdom were extended to Scotland by Article II of the Treaty of Union with Scotland, incorporated in the Union with Scotland Act 1706” (Hansard). The Scottish Act Ratifying and Approving Treaty of Union of the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, 16th January 1707, endorsed these provisions and required that the Monarch should be a Protestant. The Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Act 1707 (see Appendix at the end of this chapter) was adopted as “a fundamental and essential condition of any Treaty or Union to be concluded betwixt the two Kingdoms without any alteration thereof or derogation thereto in any sort for ever . . . in all time coming”.
Francis Lyall, formerly Professor of Public Law, Aberdeen University (“The Westminster Confession: The Legal Position”, in The Westminster Confession in the Church Today, editor Alasdair I. C. Heron), says that in the light of earlier post-Reformation practice it is not surprising “that Parliament approved the Westminster Confession in 1649, two years after the Assembly had approved it. Following the problems of the next forty years, the Confession was carefully secured on the accession of the new monarchs, by the Confession of Faith Ratification Act 1690 c. 7, and its position along with other essential church matters, including Presbyterian government, was secured by Scottish and English Statutes as part of the Union of 1707” (p. 56). He goes on to say that “there are on the statute books Acts of a basic constitutional nature giving the Confession legal status both within the Church and within the state”.
Professor Lyall outlines the argument that “the Confession of Faith and the Presbyterian government of the Church were secured by the Confession of Faith Ratification Act 1690 c. 7. They were further protected by being excluded from the Union negotiations by the Act 1705 c. 50 and by their incorporation in an Act of Security, the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Act 1707 (1706 c. 6). In the actual Union, the position of the Church was therefore secured, and the 1706 Act was inserted, as had been required, in both the Union with England Act 1707 c. 7, and its English equivalent, the Union with Scotland Act 1706 (6 Anne c. 11). The religious provisions of the Union were stated to be among the fundamental and essential provisions of the Union, only some of which were alterable by the Union Parliament.”
Professor Lyall points out that certain provisions built into the Union have been repealed and that there is a theory regarded as orthodox in England that “our current Parliament is sovereign and unfettered in its powers”. However, Scottish law cases have assumed that “the union Parliament may have limitations built into its constitution by virtue of the Treaty of Union and relevant legislation”.
Professor David Walker, Regius Professor of Law in Glasgow University (1958-1990), in The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland, 2007, puts forward the position that the Treaty of Union is a Treaty in International Law and that, except where it makes provision for changes in specific articles in the light of changed circumstances, its articles are permanent and Parliament does not have legal power to amend or repeal them. The articles relating to the Protestantism of the Throne are framed in a way which makes clear that they are intended to be perpetual. The independent bodies consenting to the Treaty have ceased to exist and these articles are fundamental to the existence of the resultant united entity. This puts a question mark against the common view that the United Kingdom Parliament has an absolute power to pass Acts changing the constitution.
By the Accession Declaration Act 1910 the monarch is required to affirm: “I [Name] do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of my Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.”
Some who recognise the Protestant nature of the Constitution of the United Kingdom may yet query why this should prevent the Pope from receiving a state welcome, similar to that accorded other heads of state. The reason is found in the incompatibility of the claims of the Pope with regard to Church and State in the United Kingdom with the Constitution of our nation. This point is captured by the Declaration of Right agreed upon by the English Convention of Estates, January, 1689, “that no foreign Prince, Person, Prelate, State or Potentate has or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, preeminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm”. The Pope is the head of the Church from which the nations of these Islands were delivered by the sixteenth century Reformation. He is acclaimed at his inauguration as “the Father of Princes and Kings, Ruler of the World, the Vicar of our Saviour Jesus Christ”. It is only since the Vatican Council of 1870 that the infallibility of the Pope when he speaks ex cathedra has been an official Romanist dogma – so that the claims of the Pope are even more opposed to the present Constitutional position of the United Kingdom than when this position was affirmed in the Documents and Acts establishing and illustrating it.
9. “Papal visit with the status of a state visit”
This is the description of Pope Benedict’s proposed visit given by Roman Catholic Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy. “It is a unique constitutional arrangement as the Pope is head of a faith and of a state.” The “faith”, or religious institution, of which the Pope is head claims universal allegiance. The State of the Vatican City, of which the Pope is absolute Monarch, extends to little more than 100 acres and has a population of less than a thousand. As Bishop of Rome he claims supremacy over the whole visible Church on earth. Mr. Murphy’s explanation of why the Pope would not stay at Buckingham Palace, ride in an open-carriage procession or have a palace banquet, is that the Vatican did not want the trappings that accompany state visits. Given the pomp and ceremony characteristic of papal events, the Pope’s declining of these aspects of a state visit is more likely to have something to do with the order of precedence which etiquette would prescribe on such occasions. It would be outrageous if the Queen were to give first place to the Pope – and the Pope will not give first place to any other. In the absence of the Queen from London, the Pope seems ready to address the Houses of Parliament. That the Houses of Parliament would be prepared to have him address them is indicative of their ignorance of, or indifference to, the Constitutional basis of their freedom from the oppressive papal power against which generations of our forebears struggled.
John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy and Consultant to the Pontifical Council for Culture, suggests that “half a millennium on from the Reformation, there appears the prospect of the restoration of the supremacy of Roman Christianity in these islands and beyond. . . . In the past few decades, interesting things have been happening which offer prospects of some reintegration of Christianity” (The Scotsman, 16th January 2008). The “supremacy” of Romanism and the “reintegration of Christianity” go together in the mindset of political Roman Catholics. No doubt those who cherish the hope of such a future welcome the visit of the Pope as a contribution to the accomplishment of that vision in a day when Romanism in these Islands is losing its hold over its people. We can only deplore it as an evidence of how far from our Constitutional, Protestant, Biblical moorings we have drifted as a nation.
Rev Hugh M Cartwright
“Act for Securing the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government 1707 c. 6”
Our Sovereign Lady and the Estates of Parliament considering that by the late Act of Parliament for a Treaty with England for an Union of both Kingdoms It is provided that the Commissioners for that Treaty should not treat of or concerning any alteration of the Worship Discipline and Government of the Church of this Kingdom as now by Law established, Which Treaty being now reported to the Parliament and it being reasonable and necessary that the true Protestant Religion as presently professed within this Kingdom with the Worship Discipline and Government of this Church should be effectually and unalterably secured; Therefore Her Majesty with advice and consent of the said Estates of Parliament Doth hereby Establish and Confirm the said true Protestant Religion and the Worship Discipline and Government of this Church to continue without any alteration to the people of this land in all succeeding generations. And more especially Her Majesty with advice and consent foresaid Ratifies Approves and forever Confirms the fifth Act of the first Parliament of King William and Queen Mary Entituled Act Ratifying the Confession of Faith and settling Presbyterian Church Government, with the haill other Acts of Parliament relating thereto in prosecution of the Declaration of the Estates of this Kingdom containing the Claim of Right bearing date the eleventh of April One thousand six hundred and eighty nine And Her Majesty with advice and consent foresaid expressly Provides and Declares that the foresaid true Protestant Religion contained in the above mentioned Confession of Faith with the form and purity of worship presently in use within this Church and its Presbyterian Church Government and Discipline, that is to say, the Government of the Church by Kirk Sessions, Presbytries, Provincial Synods and General Assemblies all established by the foresaid Acts of Parliament pursuant to the Claim of Right shall remain and continue unalterable And that the said Presbyterian Government shall be the only Government of the Church within the Kingdom of Scotland. And further for the greater security of the foresaid Protestant Religion and of the Worship Discipline and Government of this Church as above established Her Majesty with advice and consent foresaid Statutes and Ordains That the Universities and Colleges of Saint Andrews Glasgow Aberdeen and Edinburgh as now established by Law shall Continue with this Kingdom forever [. . . material repealed by Churches (Scotland) Act 1905]. And further Her Majesty with advice foresaid expressly Declares and Statutes That none of the Subjects of this Kingdom shall be liable to, but all and every one of them forever free of any Oath Test or Subscription within this Kingdom contrary to or inconsistent with the foresaid true Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government Worship and Discipline as above established: And that the same within the bounds of this Church and Kingdom shall never be imposed upon or required of them in any sort. And Lastly That after the decease of her present Majesty (whom God long preserve) the Sovereign succeeding to her in the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Great Britain shall in all time coming at his or her accession to the Crown Swear and Subscribe that they shall inviolably maintain and preserve the foresaid Settlement of the true Protestant Religion with the Government Worship Discipline Right and Privileges of this Church as above established by the Laws of this Kingdom in prosecution of the Claim of Right And it is hereby Statute and Ordained That this Act of Parliament with the Establishment therein contained shall be held and observed in all time coming as a fundamental and essential condition of any Treaty or Union to be concluded betwixt the two Kingdoms without any alteration thereof or derogation thereto in any sort for ever As also that this Act of Parliament and settlement therein contained shall be insert and repeated in any Act of Parliament that shall pass for agreeing and concluding the foresaid Treaty or Union betwixt the two Kingdoms And that the same shall be therein expressly Declared to be a fundamental and essential Condition of the said Treaty or Union in all time coming.