Charles, Camilla, Edward, Wallis and the Church of England

A Church of England offical, David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury, has stated that Charles, Prince of Wales, 'must atone' for his conduct, i.e. committing adultery with Camilla Parker-Bowles and apologize to Camilla's ex-husband.

Later, it seems that at least this will partially happen. During the ceremony, Charles and Camilla will 'admit sins and wickedness' . A confession saying: "Weacknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, fromtime to time, most grievously have committed, by thought, word anddeed." will be read. Charles and Camilla will then say: “We do earnestlyrepent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings. Have mercy uponus .... Forgive us all that is past.”

Church of England Changes Stance of Divorce

One of the reasons the Church of England and the Anglican branch of reform Christianity was formed, is divorce. Specifically, when Henry VIII wanted to divorce his Queen Cathrine, the Pope, head of the Catholic Church, did not approve. The result was that England broke ties with Catholicism so that Henry can divorce.

It should be noted that the Church of England, for which Charles will become the Supreme Governor his ascendancy to the throne, as recently as 2002, did not approve of marriage for people whose ex-spouse is still alive. The synod of 2002 has a note, updated in 2003 on Marriage in Church after Divorce.

On 9 July 2002, the General Synod in an historic vote agreed a wayforward on the vexed question of further marriage in church afterdivorce by supporting the following motion by 269 votes to 83:

"That this Synod

  1. affirm, in accordance with the doctrine of theChurch of England as set out in Canon B30, that marriage should alwaysbe undertaken as a "solemn, public and life-long covenant between a manand a woman";
  2. recognise (i) that some marriagesregrettably do fail and that the Church's care for couples in thatsituation should be of paramount importance; and (ii) that there areexceptional circumstances in which a divorced person may be married inchurch during the lifetime of a former spouse;
  3. recognisethat the decision as to whether or not to solemnise such a marriage inchurch after divorce rests with the minister (or officiating cleric ifthe minister is prepared to allow his/her church or chapel to be usedfor this marriage); and
  4. invite the House of Bishops to issue the advice contained in Annex 1 of GS 1449."

Synod then followed this up in November 2002 by formally rescindingthe marriage resolutions of the Canterbury and York Convocations (whichhad exhorted clergy not to use the marriage service in the case ofanyone who had a former partner still living). The decision to rescindthe resolutions was carried in all three Houses of the General Synod asfollows: bishops 27-1; clergy 143-44; laity 138-65.

Also elsewhere on their web site they state:

The Church accepts that, in exceptional circumstances, a divorcedperson may marry again in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.Some ministers may be willing to conduct such a marriage in churchand it is wise to make an appointment to speak to your parish priestbefore setting a date. The minister will want to talk to you franklyabout the past, your hopes for the future and your understanding ofmarriage

Origin of Christianity's Prohibition on Divorce

It is obvious that the Church is trying to hold on to the concept of "divorce is evil", interpreting Jesus's words in Matthew 5:31-32 that way.

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ ButI tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for maritalunfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone whomarries the divorced woman commits adultery.

While much of the New Testament and the Bible in general is interpreted symbolically, this is one case where literalism has taken hold early on. Over much of history, divorce was just unacceptable for Christians.

Of course the realities of modern Western societies, specially those with Reform roots have changed this ban to make it acceptable, at first grudgingly, and then something that is common place.

Catholic countries are not yet at the same footing, mainly because of the centralized nature of authority within that church.

It should be noted that divorce is more prevalent in Christian societies than in societies where divorce is permitted by secular and religious laws (e.g. Muslim societies).

Two Royals, Different Times, Different Outcomes

Back to the royals of Windsor. When I read how Charles upcoming wedding is being accepted by British society, and how the church has reacted, I could not help but compare this to how less than a century ago Edward VIII was forced to chose between the throne of Britain, and marrying a divorcee, Wallis Simpson. He chose to abdicate from the throne for the woman he loves.

Many Britons don't care or against the wedding

 The attitude of many Britons towards this wedding is either a "don't care" one, or outright hostility. Many don't like the extra security necessary for all the high profile guests, and the added cost of it. Others are outright hostile, from Camilla being called 'horseface' by tabloids, to Londoners snubbing her for being an 'adultress and a Catholic'.

The Canadian Press reports that it's not just the media villifyingCamilla. Everyday folks have taken a distinct dislike to her basedlargely on the fact that she's considered the "other woman" in thedivorce of Charles and Diana. Those over 60 seem harsher than theyounger generations, with some even suggesting Charles should renouncethe throne for marrying his longtime girlfriend. "I think so little of her, I'd rather notsay. It would be impolite," one elderly man said.

Times Have Changed

This incident is proof to how social and religious attitudes change over time, and what was not acceptable some decades ago, is now perfectly fine for most. Not only had an hier to the throne admitted to having an affair, but his future queen did so as well. As well, both being divorced does not sound like a big issue anymore. Moreover, some bigoted attitudes never seem to die, as with the Catholic comment above. Also, double standards may be at play as well, c.f. the 'adultress' comment (Charles was part of it too, but did not get snubbed).