Boris can no longer pick bishops

If he does, he loses his job

The prime minister has married Carrie Symonds in Westminster Cathedral. They deserve our congratulations and best wishes for the future.

In a statement reported in today’s newspapers, a spokesman for the cathedral confirms that the bride and groom are parishioners and baptised Catholics.

That has led to interest in section 18 of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, as amended, which says:

It shall not be lawful for any person professing the Roman Catholic religion directly or indirectly to advise his Majesty, or any person or persons holding or exercising the office of guardians of the United Kingdom, or of regent of the United Kingdom, under whatever name, style, or title such office may be constituted, or the lord lieutenant of Ireland, touching or concerning the appointment to or disposal of any office or preferment in the Church of England, or in the Church of Scotland; and if any such person shall offend in the premises he shall, being thereof convicted by due course of law, be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and disabled for ever from holding any office, civil or military, under the Crown.

It is not only unlawful for Boris Johnson to advise the Queen on senior appointments to the Church of England. It has been unlawful from whenever the prime minister began to profess the Roman Catholic religion.

Updates

Some interesting responses on Twitter this morning. The last two quoted below — from Austen Ivereigh and Adrian Hilton — strike me as pretty authoritative.

In view of Jon Baldwin’s comment, I have changed this:

It has been unlawful from whenever the prime minister was baptised.

to this:

It has been unlawful from whenever the prime minister began to profess the Roman Catholic religion.

I fully accept what Ivereigh says about the status of confirmation. But I find it hard to understand how a baptised Catholic who marries in a Roman Catholic church is not professing the Roman Catholic religion.

Even though it’s the practice of the prime minister to ask the Crown Nominations Commission to put forward only one name — which is then forwarded to the Queen — I stand by the headline to this piece. In my view, the prime minister is still indirectly advising Her Majesty by forwarding that name.

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