Questions have swirled around UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s religious affiliation in the wake of his marriage to long-time partner in a private ceremony in the Catholic cathedral at Westminster at the end of last month. He was the first prime minister to marry in office since Robert Banks Jenkinson in 1822, and only the second prime minister ever to have divorced and remarried while in office.
Although Mr Johnson had been married twice before, his previous unions were not recognised by the Catholic Church, which requires Catholics to observe canonical regulations in order to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. Although Mr Johnson was baptised a Catholic, he converted to Anglicanism when he was in school; nonetheless, the Catholic Church considers him canonically still Catholic. His wife, Carrie Symonds is a baptised Catholic who has never married.
During the G7 summit in Cornwall this past week, ITV political editor Robert Preston asked Mr Johnson if he was “now a practicing Catholic.” Mr Johnson answered, “I don’t discuss these deep issues. Certainly not with you.”
Following the exchange, Mr Preston wrote on the ITV website that he was “struggling to make sense of the prime minister’s answer” to the question.
Mr Johnson, he said, “is aware that – for better or worse (worse for a long time) – this has been a pertinent question for chief and prime ministers since Henry VIII. More broadly, the professed faith or none of a leader matters to many voters.”
Since the so-called Reformation, Catholics in England have faced severe legal liabilities, which have been gradually removed over the course of the past two hundred years. However, Boris Johnson is the first person baptised a Catholic to serve as prime minister – although former PM Tony Blair converted to Catholicism after he left office.