Why King Charles Should Not Claim the Title ‘Defender of the Faith’

The following is an excerpt from a lengthy article entitled On the Death of Her Majesty, by Fr Armand de Malleray

From the perspective of Christianity, we cannot fail to mention that the Queen lived and died as the Supreme Head of the Anglican religion. That Christian denomination defined itself five hundred years ago against the tenets of Catholicism, such as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the supreme authority of the Pope, Vicar of Christ, the cult of the saints, of their relics, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the intercession for the dead, priestly celibacy and more.

How brutally, how cruelly and tyrannically the shocking novelties of Anglicanism were imposed by the monarch, any objective account of the Protestant reformation in Great Britain and Ireland will tell abundantly. Ask St John Houghton, the Carthusian protomartyr in the Anglican reformation. Ask St Margaret Clitherow, a loyal housewife crushed to death for harbouring priests. Ask St Oliver Plunkett, the faithful Archbishop of Armagh hanged, drawn and quartered as late as 1681. Thus, Queen Elizabeth II stood and lived as the heir and guarantor of this institution. In that respect, Defensor Fidei (Defender of the Faith), the title awarded by Pope Leo X to Henry VIII when that monarch was still Catholic, should never have been upheld after he separated himself and his country from Holy Church.

Neither should Queen Elizabeth and King Charles claim the title of Defender of the Faith. Admittedly, compared with the loss of any Christian belief and values around us over the past 70 years, we can be glad that the Queen abided by her creed. But as Catholics, as souls in love with the Saviour and His Holy Church, eager to have all the means of salvation made available to all men, of course we can only deplore that our Sovereign held to a very shrunken version of Christianity. Furthermore, during her reign, the Anglican religion distanced itself more and more from the law of Christ and of nature: allowing female priests, allowing female bishops and, since 2002, allowing divorce. Queen Elizabeth will not see the Anglican permission expected for homosexual marriage and euthanasia. Reluctantly, one may assume, did Queen Elizabeth sign in law such changes. But she did sign them.

After her role as head of a religion, what then of her role as head of state? The British monarch has the powers to appoint a new prime minister, dissolve Parliament and
give royal assent to bills. Without royal assent, there is no law. Thus, the sovereign bears responsibility for laws passed. What then of the law facilitating divorce; the law authorising abortion and the laws widening access to abortion; the law creating so-called homosexual marriage; the law permitting a same-sex couple to adopt a child and in consequence, the outlawing of Catholic adoption agencies; or the law hindering Catholic education through the Faith Cap on school admissions?

As expressed in the beginning of this homily, all of us, her loyal subjects, knew Queen Elizabeth to be a kind and principled Christian soul. None of us thinks that she happily signed any such laws. But many who share our views on natural and religious law see no contradiction there. They hope that, provided one’s personal convictions are sound and just, one may lawfully speak and act differently in public.

One may abide by a truth in private, they think, and yet act against it in public, if deemed necessary for the common good. Well, King Baudouin of Belgium acted otherwise when he temporarily gave up his throne in 1990, saying that his conscience would not allow him to sign the law legalising abortion. St Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, chose to resign his position rather than sign a decree against his Christian conscience. St John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, an acclaimed scholar and life Chancellor of Cambridge University, preferred to lose everything rather than his Catholic faith.

Dear friends, useful considerations could be made about the conditions for lawful cooperation with evil. In the limited time afforded by this homily, what we must bear in mind is that the human person is one. There is not a private me, and a public me. After we die, when we stand before God for judgement, we shall stand there as one single self, not as two selves. That very self, each individual’s only self, will answer for whatever it will have done or condoned, both privately and publicly. How grave the consequences for public leaders!

What a huge responsibility weighs on those who govern us, both in the state and in religion. How earnestly we must pray for our leaders, temporal and spiritual: for they will answer before God for the use they will have made of His authority. God only knows what the intimate dispositions of a dying soul are. We do not. But we can pray for the dying, that they may regret their failures, negligences, and their sins before God. We can also pray for the dead, especially fellow Christians. It is a great consolation of our Catholic faith that our prayer for deceased loved ones does improve their condition — if they have died in the state of grace.

Friends, let us pray for the repose of the soul of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and for her successor King Charles III, our King. Let us pray the for canonised kings and queens in our country, King St David I of Scotland and his mother Queen St Margaret, and King St Malcolm; King St Edmund the Martyr; King St Edgard; King St Edward the Confessor; the saintly kings of Northumbria Oswald and Edwin; and King St Edward the Martyr. May they intercede for our country and lead England and Britain back to full unity with Holy Church, for the glory of God and the salvation of all souls in this realm. And may the Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary on whose Nativity Queen Elizabeth left this world, be merciful to her, and to us when our hour comes.

(Source: https://fssp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/2022-11-12-Dowry-55.pdf)

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