U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, twice-divorced, married Carrie Symonds in a private ceremony at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, which drew the ire of well-known progressive Jesuit Father James Martin, an advocate for same-sex marriage.
Johnson, the first prime minister in nearly 200 years to be married while in office, wed in a “secret” ceremony with 30 close friends and family members, adhering to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings. Some of Johnson’s top aides were unaware of the plans, but Downing Street confirmed the wedding on Sunday, the day after the ceremony, Edinburgh News reported.
A staff member said they were reportedly “shocked” as plans for the nuptials were kept “very quiet,” The Telegraph reported.
Days earlier, the couple reportedly sent “save the date” cards to friends and family to celebrate their marriage on July 30, 2022.
A spokesperson said the prime minister has already returned to work and their honeymoon will be delayed until next summer.
Symonds, 33, is the third wife of Johnson, 56. Johnson and Symonds share a son, Wilfred, who was born in April 2020.
The secretive ceremony was officiated by a Catholic priest, Father Daniel Humphreys, who baptized the couple’s son last year, Newsweek reported.
Johnson’s multiple marriages and having children out of wedlock sparked controversy due to the Catholic Church’s stance on such issues and its opposition to divorce.
Martin, a progressive Catholic who in 2017 was disinvited from a speaking engagement at the Theological College in Washington, D.C., due to controversy sparked by his book, Building a Bridge, spoke out on Twitter about the couple’s union, arguing that the Catholic Church has a double standard.
“#BorisJohnson, a twice-divorced man, whose girlfriend recently had a baby with him out of wedlock (and who also has another child out of wedlock) was married in a Catholic ceremony in Westminster Cathedral, the seat of English Catholicism,” Martin, who serves as an editor at large for the Jesuit publication America magazine, tweeted on Saturday.
“At the same time, a same-sex couple who are both Catholics (unlike Mr. Johnson, who was confirmed as an Anglican) cannot have their civil union blessed even in private by a priest because ‘God does not and cannot bless sin…’”
“Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were married within the rules of the Catholic Church,” the priest continued. “And I wish them well. I also wish that the same mercy and compassion that was offered to them, recognizing their complex lives, could also be extended to same-sex couples who are lifelong Catholics.”
Martin referenced the Vatican’s recent statement in March announcing that churches have no power to bless same-sex marriage since God “cannot bless sin,” which solidified Pope Francis’ stance on homosexuality.
"It looks to them — rightly or wrongly — as if the Church is applying double standards and I do fear that this decision does make the Church look bad,” Father Mark Drew, assistant priest at St. Joseph's Church in Penketh, Warrington, said, according to BBC.
Drew said he has had had to tell Catholic couples going through a divorce that they cannot remarry in the church.
“There will be a feeling that, why are some people who are divorced allowed to be married in the church and others not?,” Christopher Lamb, a correspondent for the Catholic magazine The Tablet, told BBC Radio 5 live about how this reflects that there is one law for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else.
“And I think that’s where the church can look at its current roles and see how it can become more welcoming. It has been welcoming to Boris Johnson, why not to others?” he asked.
The Roman Catholic Church does allow divorcees to remarry if the previous marriages were outside the Roman Catholic Church.
The Telegraph reported that Johnson’s former marriages to Allegra Mostyn-Owen and Marina Wheeler were not Catholic ceremonies and thus not recognized by the Catholic Church.
Some have suggested the wedding was a way to “bury this week’s bad news” or “deflect from negative press” after a difficult week as prime minister where he was dubbed unfit for office, according to Edinburgh News.
Johnson announced his divorce from his wife of 25 years, Marina Wheeler, in 2018. The couple share four children.
Symonds previously worked on Johnson’s reelection campaign for mayor and served as the Conservative Party’s head of communications. She now works in public relations for Oceana, a marine conservation organization.
The couple celebrated the wedding with a festival-style celebration.
Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org