FaithWorld

from John Lloyd:

In Britain, a summer of quiet revolution

The British Isles are sentries in a turning world. The monarchy, pageantry, the mediaeval House of Lords, titles, accents, the established Church of England with the Queen at its head -- they all give the adroit illusion of continuity and the primacy of tradition over change.

But this summer there are diverse changes modernizing the Isles. These revolutions, small and large, will not be reversed, and will contribute significantly to a redefinition of what it is to be British (and Irish). The illusions of tradition will remain, as diligently served as ever. The core is hollowing out.

These changes are not unique to these wet and windy islands. But it’s more remarkable because for many centuries Britain and its offshoots punched above their weight, making history and creating (or inventing) traditions. The French are famed for having a beautiful and mostly efficient country and for grumbling furiously about it. The British change everything all the time, and worship the old customs whose essence they have long since destroyed, or are destroying.

Ireland, the smaller and much younger of the two sovereign states on the Isles, found its independence in the 1920s. That independence was fought for so hard in part because its majority religion, Catholicism, had been treated as an inferior, even a treacherous, affiliation for centuries. The Republic came into independent statehood with its religion militantly at the forefront of national, social and cultural life.

But the Church’s role in Irish life has been diminishing for some time; it has been dealt another blow. Last week, Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s government passed a law allowing abortion when a woman’s life was in danger. The measure provoked princes of the church to threaten Kenny (who’s a devout Catholic) with excommunication and saw him lose his Europe Minister in a resignation of principle. The law dilutes, but does not reverse, a ban that has seen some dozen women leave for the UK every day for abortions. Some reformers have protested it did not go far enough, but it’s a breach in a so far adamantine wall. Kenny has twice faced down the Catholic Church. Ireland is no longer what it was in its post-revolutionary years, and remained for decades after -- a quasi-theocracy. It’s fully secular.

Archbishop of Canterbury praises “unpretentious” Kate and William

(Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton watch a demonstration by students, during their visit to the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA), in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011. A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding. REUTERS/Adrian Dennis)

(Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011/Adrian Dennis)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who will marry Prince William and Kate Middleton next week, said on Thursday he had been struck by their wedding preparations, describing the couple as courageous and unpretentious. Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the Church of England, praised the couple’s “simplicity” and the way they had dealt with the build-up to next Friday’s wedding, which is set to be watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide.

“I’ve been very struck by the way in which William and Catherine have approached this great event,” Williams said in a short film released by his Lambeth Palace office, adding it had been a “real pleasure” to get to know the couple. “They’ve thought through what they want for themselves, but also what they want to say. They’ve had a very simple, very direct picture of what really matters about this event.”

Kate Middleton confirmed ahead of royal wedding

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, reacts to the crowd during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011. A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding. REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Poo)

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011/Alastair Grant)

Royal bride-to-be Kate Middleton has been confirmed into the Church of England ahead of her wedding to Prince William this month, his office said on Wednesday. The ceremony, carried out by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres who will give the address at the April 29th wedding, took place on March 10 with Middleton, 29, accompanied by her future husband, a spokeswoman for St James’s Palace said.

“Catherine Middleton was confirmed by the Bishop of London at a private service at St James’s Palace attended by her family and Prince William,” the spokeswoman said. “Miss Middleton, who was already baptised, decided to be confirmed as part of her marriage preparations.”