The Royal Separation: Church would not stand in way of Prince remarrying

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THE CHURCH of England would raise no serious difficulty should the Prince of Wales wish to divorce and remarry, but it is worried about the effects that a damaged monarchy might have on its position as an established church.

The Church's position on divorce and remarriage is confused and inconsistent, after prolonged synodical warfare in the Eighties over a measure that would have allowed the remarriage of divorced people in church. A compromise left the choice up to the priest involved. A side-effect of this was to remove the formal ban on divorced people taking Holy Communion.

A later measure permitted the ordination of men who had been divorced and remarried. A priest already ordained could safely divorce and remarry with the approval of his bishop.

Professor David McClean, a professor of law who is chairman of the General Synod's House of Laity, said: 'I see no reason why, if they divorced, and if he remarried, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England should not hold that office. But that's a legal view. It could all be made to work.'

A senior prelate, who would rather remain anonymous, spoke more plainly: 'If it came to the crunch the Synod wouldn't dare to criticise Charles. We would all be out waving Union Jacks in the streets.'

Royal marriages require permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the heir to the throne may not legally marry a Roman Catholic or become a Catholic. But there is nothing to stop an archbishop from approving a second marriage to someone suitable.

Among evangelicals, who generally demand stricter standards of public sexual morality than the rest of the Church of England, there seems to be no enthusiasm to condemn the partners in the broken marriage.

John Martin, the editor of the evangelical Church of England Newspaper, himself a remarried divorced man, said: 'All the evangelical diocesan bishops are very pro-Establishment. They feel it gives them a platform, and do not want anything that might suggest this is not a Christian country. They would be able to stretch to a remarriage.'

John Gladwyn, the provost of Sheffield cathedral, said: 'On one level, the actual objective constitutional position is unchanged. But on another level, of public expectation, things are difficult. We've been through a very bad year with regard to the Royal Family and the Establishment is tied very much to the Crown. I would be very worried if we can't get our act together fairly soon.'