Byline: WILLIAM ODDIE
ROMAN Catholics in this country have always had to work harder than anyone else to prove their loyalty to the British state. Today, nobody doubts it.
Through the centuries most English, Welsh and Scottish Catholics have been loyal, despite everything the State has thrown at them; and that loyalty - often fervently - has been particularly directed in recent years towards the present royal house.
We have been loyal for the past three centuries, despite the fact that the supposedly `glorious' revolution which swept away a Catholic monarchy for ever installed in its place one which is not only specifically Protestant but which defines itself from time to time by acts of petty anti-Catholic spite.
For instance, Prince Charles was forbidden to attend the Pope's Mass during a visit to Rome a decade ago and, more recently, a small group of Catholics was stopped from celebrating the Mass in St John Fisher's cell in the Tower of London, a holy place for Catholics. St John Fisher was the one bishop who refused to accept Henry VIII's new Church of England.
Catholics in England have swallowed such insults before, and it is no doubt a sign of good spiritual hygiene that we should be able to. But the present conduct of the House of Windsor prompts a question which needs to be given careful attention by English, Welsh and Scottish Catholics: can the exceptional level of Catholic loyalty to the crown be sustained in present conditions?
I am not talking about the immorality of certain members of the Royal Family's younger generation. Catholics have always been aware that we are all sinners. If we had demanded moral impeccability in our rulers, there would never have been a Catholic royal house anywhere.
What the House of Windsor has now embarked upon is more serious than any actual immorality. What we are witnessing is an exercise in damage limitation in which the first casualty has been certain Christian principles of which, until now, the Queen herself has been the most notable defender.
Catholics have been able to give loyalty, even to an anti-Catholic monarchy, because it has embodied certain essential ideas of social order.
But now the monarchy, in the person of the monarch herself, has become identified not with order but with instability, not with objective moral values but with secular moral relativism, not with Christian ideas of sacrifice and duty but with the quick fix and the bottom line.
I am referring to the Queen's personal role in the divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales. The fact is that she has used her position to force a divorce on a wronged wife who was anxious not to be divorced, both for the sake of her children and because she was opposed to divorce in principle, in a way we had always supposed the Queen herself to be.
In doing this, the Queen has performed a symbolic action of huge import, whose dangers to traditional family life - at a time when it has never been more in peril - we have not yet begun adequately to comprehend.
Reflect: who in her time did more …