Act of Settlement – Foundation of Orange Sectarianism

Posted By: October 29, 2005

The Act of Settlement 1701

Foundation of Orange Sectarianism

Fr. Sean Mc Manus

CAN you imagine how abhorrent it would be if
there were a provision in the US Constitution
forbidding an African-American being president,
or marrying a Black person? How that would
inflame the fires of white racism and bigotry?
How it would provide spurious affirmation that
Blacks were not equal to Whites? And presumably
you would agree that only the whacko racist
would defend such a provision.

Yet, all sorts of people defend a similar
sectarian provision in the very top law in
England, the Queen’s own law, the one that
governs who succeeds to the British throne (And
remember, here, sectarianism and racism are but
two sides of the same ugly coin, representing
the twin evils of this world).

Sectarian and anti-Catholic

The sectarian and anti-Catholic section Act of
Settlement 1701, which is operative today, has
a provision that mandates only a Protestant can
succeed to the British throne and that if the
Monarch becomes a Catholic, or marries a
Catholic, he/she forfeits the Throne and — I
kid you not — “the people are absolved from
their allegiance”.

While this law may mean little to the average
Englishman in the street, it has always been of
deep importance to Protestant/Unionist/Orange
extremists in Northern Ireland. It provides the
ideological and philosophical underpinnings for
their bigotry and sectarianism. For you see,
the spurious but deadly logic goes, if a
Catholic by law can’t get the top job, then
Catholics are not equal to Protestants,
therefore it’s okay to discriminate against
Campaign to Repeal
That is why the Irish National Caucus is
reviving its campaign first launched in 1980 to
force the Queen of England and the British
Government to repeal the anti-Catholic section
of the Act of Settlement.

Our campaign has evoked interesting responses.

Some try to counter by asserting that the
reason the anti-Catholic law is needed is
because the Queen is head of the Anglican
Church. Well, that only points up further
discrimination. Church and State should be
separate, as in America.
Still others have argued that the law is
necessary because of Ne Temere, the Papal
Decree of 1908 that insisted all children in a
mixed marriage had to be raised Catholic (So,
they argue, if the Monarch married a Catholic,
then the heir to the throne would be
Catholic). To them we have pointed out —
while stressing that State law is far more all
encompassing than mere Church law — that there
has been a change in Catholic teaching, which I
greatly welcome: “Although Catholics in a mixed
or interfaith marriage must still promise to do
all they can to raise the children Catholic,
non-Catholics are no longer required to make
such a promise”(Marriage. Encyclopedia of
Catholicism, Harper Collins, New York. 1995,
page 828).

But a common reaction — and presumably the
reactors would imagine themselves ” liberal” —
is to poo-pooh the whole issue as irrelevant,
that it doesn’t mean anything, that it is only
quaint and silly. How can a top law, fully
operative today, be irrelevant? And,
furthermore, if it is irrelevant why oppose
changing it?

Dear to Orangeism

Anyway, it is certainly not irrelevant to extreme

The Reverend Paisley, for instance, is on record of
stressing that his allegiance is not just to the
British monarch but also to “Protestant succession
to the British throne”.

Furthermore, as recent 1980 – before Prince
Charles married Princess Diana -there was
speculation that he might marry a Catholic. So
a Protestant/Unionist/ Orange delegation was
promptly dispatched from Northern Ireland to
London to ward off this calamitous possibility.
The Washington Star reported:

” The Protestants said Š that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher promised them that Charles will have to renounce his right to the throne if he marries Marie-Astrid or any other Catholic”.

The tragedy of all this is that true
Protestantism is supposed to stand for freedom
of religion and freedom of conscience. Just as
I believe all good Catholics need a good dose
of Protestantism, I believe all good
Protestants should support our campaign. And I
write this, appropriately enough, as we
approach Reformation Sunday (the Sunday
nearest October 31).

Father Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus
P.O. Box 15128
Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C. 20003-0849