Why Could Boris Johnson Marry in a Catholic Church?

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s marriage to his fiancée, Carrie Symonds, on Saturday caught even his closest advisers off guard. Yet, maybe essentially the most shocking factor concerning the stealth ceremony was how by-the-book it was.

The bride wore a flowing white gown and a crown of white flowers in her hair; the groom a darkish swimsuit with a boutonniere. They have been married by a Catholic priest in Westminster Cathedral in London, the seat of the English Catholic Church.

That final element has grow to be a topic of lingering intrigue as a result of, in any case, this was Boris Johnson, no altar boy, strolling to the altar. The query effervescent in Catholic circles: How did a twice-divorced man, with a minimum of one youngster born out of wedlock, handle to get married in the Roman Catholic Church?

The reply is straightforward and, to some folks, unsatisfying: Mr. Johnson, 56, and Ms. Symonds, 33, have been each baptized as Catholics. Neither of Mr. Johnson’s earlier two marriages was in the Catholic Church so the church doesn’t acknowledge them, and Ms. Symonds had by no means married.

As a matter of canon legislation, it’s minimize and dried — besides that when Mr. Johnson was a teenager at boarding college, he was confirmed as a member of the Church of England. Then, in fact, there may be the problem of double requirements: Many different practising Catholics who’re divorced are turned away by the church after they search to remarry — to say nothing of same-sex {couples} who’re Catholic.

“It’s not about whether Boris and Carrie should be allowed to get married in the church — they should — it’s about why other Catholics cannot,” mentioned Christopher Lamb, the Rome correspondent of Tablet, a weekly Catholic publication. “Laws are only worth their salt if they’re seen as fair or consistent.”

“Boris seems to have been able to do what Henry VIII couldn’t do,” Mr. Lamb identified. “To have his third marriage recognized by the church.”

The church apparently neglected Mr. Johnson’s conversion to the Anglican religion as a result of beneath church legislation, it’s now all however inconceivable — as soon as baptized — to formally defect from Catholicism (he inherited the religion from his mom). Mr. Johnson was confirmed in the Church of England along with his class at Eton College, although some college students select to decide out of the method.

“It would have been a thoroughly conventional thing to be confirmed,” mentioned Andrew Gimson, Mr. Johnson’s biographer, “and Boris Johnson is in many ways a thoroughly conventional person.”

Whatever the prime minister’s non secular affiliation, the diocese of Westminster mentioned in a assertion: “The bride and groom are both parishioners of the Westminster Cathedral parish and baptized Catholic. All necessary steps were taken, in both church and civil law, and all formalities completed before the wedding.”

Some objected that the church was invalidating Mr. Johnson’s 27-year marriage to Marina Wheeler, which produced 4 youngsters and ended in divorce solely final yr, after he and Ms. Symonds had moved into Downing Street. He was married to his first spouse, Allegra Mostyn-Owen, from 1987 to 1993. They had no youngsters.

To others, Mr. Johnson’s Catholic marriage is in protecting with a political profession and a personal life in which the traditional guidelines don’t appear to use.

He has declined, for instance, to say precisely what number of youngsters he has — past the 4 with Ms. Wheeler and his year-old son with Ms. Symonds, Wilfred, who was on the ceremony. Wilfred was baptized final yr by the identical priest, the Rev. Daniel Humphreys, who officiated on the wedding ceremony.

Mr. Johnson is believed to have a minimum of one different youngster — a daughter, Stephanie, from a relationship with an artwork advisor, Helen Macintyre. He has additionally been dogged by questions on whether or not he did inappropriate favors for an American girlfriend, Jennifer Arcuri, whereas he was mayor of London.

The prime minister’s untidy private life is extra a topic of mockery than opprobrium in 21st-century Britain. As a politician, he has hardly ever invoked faith, and the depth of his religion is a shifting goal.

“It’s a bit like trying to get Virgin Radio when you’re driving through the Chilterns,” he as soon as mentioned. “It sort of comes and goes.”

Mr. Gimson described Mr. Johnson as a “pre-Christian figure,” although he famous that the prime minister issued a strikingly non secular assertion to mark Easter this yr. Some say which will mirror the affect of Ms. Symonds.

For Britain, having a Catholic prime minister is itself a novelty. Tony Blair commonly attended Catholic Mass whereas he was prime minister, however formally transformed to Catholicism solely after he left Downing Street.

For some Catholics, the problem is much less Mr. Johnson’s picaresque path to the altar than the shortcoming of different Catholics to make the identical journey.

“Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were married within the rules of the Catholic Church. And I wish them well,” the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and the editor at giant of America journal, wrote on Twitter. “I also wish that the same mercy and compassion that was offered to them, recognizing their complex lives, could also be extended to same-sex couples who are lifelong Catholics.”

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