In the United Kingdom, Catholic clergy and believers have been criticized for the church wedding of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. After all, the British Catholic Church does not recognize divorce and remarriage in the Church is therefore not allowed if the first partner is still alive.
Those rules apparently did not apply to the 56-year-old prime minister, writes The Guardian, who was able to marry Carrie Symonds in the deepest secrecy in a Catholic church on Saturday after his two previous divorces. The ceremony at Westminster Cathedral with 30 friends and family was led by Father Daniel Humphreys, who also baptized their son Wilfred last year.
Catholic law usually does not permit the remarriage of people whose former spouses or husbands are still alive. Johnson divorced his first wife, Allegra Mostyn-Owen, in 1993 and finalized his divorce from his second wife, Marina Wheeler, last November.
Father Mark Drew, an assistant priest in Warrington, tweeted in response to the news: “Can anyone explain to me how “Boris” Johnson, who left the Catholic Church while at Eaton and is twice divorced, can be married at Westminster Cathedral, while I have to tell practicing Catholics in good faith who want a second marriage in Church that it’s not possible?”
The Rector of St Paul’s in Deptford, Father Paul Butler, tweeted, “Always one right for the rich and one for the poor.”
Christopher Lamb, Rome correspondent for Catholic magazine The Tablet, said he hoped the rules would now be relaxed for others as well. “I think it is time for the Church to look at the current rules and see how it can become more hospitable. It was hospitable to Boris Johnson, why not to others?”, He said on BBC Radio 5 live.
“If even Boris Johnson, who is no longer a practising Catholic, had a child with Symonds before they were married, has another child out of wedlock, and has been divorced twice, is allowed to marry in Church, then the rules could well be relaxed for gay couples, or so it sounded to Father James Martin, editor-in-chief of the Jesuit magazine America. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are married within the rules of the Catholic Church. And I wish them the best. I wish that the same mercy and compassion offered to them would extend to same-sex couples who have been Catholic all their lives.”
According to papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, the prime minister’s two previous marriages are unlikely to have been consecrated in Church, as his former husbands were not Catholic. Then a ‘simple administrative procedure’ would have been enough to invalidate the previous marriages, and that would have paved the way for the prime minister to marry in Church.
“The bride and groom are both parishioners of Westminster Cathedral parish and have been baptized Catholic,” said a brief statement on behalf of the Diocese of Westminster. “All necessary steps were taken, in both canon and civil law, and all formalities were completed before the wedding. We wish them all the luck.”