Why Might 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. But, maybe essentially the most shocking factor concerning the stealth ceremony was how by-the-book it was.

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

That final element has change into a topic of lingering intrigue as a result of, in spite of everything, 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 within the Roman Catholic Church?

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

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

“It’s not about whether or not Boris and Carrie must be allowed to get married within the church — they need to — it’s about why different Catholics can’t,” stated Christopher Lamb, the Rome correspondent of Pill, a weekly Catholic publication. “Legal guidelines are solely price their salt in the event that they’re seen as honest or constant.”

“Boris appears to have been capable of do what Henry VIII couldn’t do,” Mr. Lamb identified. “To have his third marriage acknowledged by the church.”

The church apparently neglected Mr. Johnson’s conversion to the Anglican religion as a result of beneath church regulation, 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 within the Church of England together with his class at Eton School, although some college students select to choose out of the method.

“It might have been a totally typical factor to be confirmed,” stated Andrew Gimson, Mr. Johnson’s biographer, “and Boris Johnson is in some ways a totally typical individual.”

Regardless of the prime minister’s spiritual affiliation, the diocese of Westminster stated in a press release: “The bride and groom are each parishioners of the Westminster Cathedral parish and baptized Catholic. All vital steps had been taken, in each church and civil regulation, and all formalities accomplished earlier than the marriage.”

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

To others, Mr. Johnson’s Catholic marriage is in line with a political profession and a non-public life wherein the conventional guidelines don’t appear to use.

He has declined, for instance, to say precisely what number of kids 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 marriage ceremony.

Mr. Johnson is believed to have a minimum of one different youngster — a daughter, Stephanie, from a relationship with an artwork marketing consultant, 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 Twenty first-century Britain. As a politician, he has not often invoked faith, and the depth of his religion is a shifting goal.

“It’s a bit like making an attempt to get Virgin Radio if you’re driving by the Chilterns,” he as soon as stated. “It type of comes and goes.”

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

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

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

“Mr. and Mrs. Johnson had been married inside the guidelines of the Catholic Church. And I want them effectively,” the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and the editor at giant of America journal, wrote on Twitter. “I additionally want that the identical mercy and compassion that was provided to them, recognizing their complicated lives, is also prolonged to same-sex {couples} who’re lifelong Catholics.”

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