Posts Tagged ‘Thomas More’

The Real Henry VIII

In 13 History on 2016/06/10 at 12:00 AM

The Reformation in Europe was the work of the princes, but in England, of one lustful prince, so aid the Seventh Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. How was this possible?  In order to understand the power of this one prince we need to go back to the days of his father, Henry Tudor.

In the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, England lost many from the ranks of the nobility.  The Wars of the Roses between the House of York and the House of Lancaster were precisely over the right to the throne, and it likewise cost many a noble his life.

Henry Tudor was not a member of the nobility but he was married to Margaret of York who had a distant claim to the throne.  However, the enterprising Henry Tudor was an ambitious man driven by a will to power and possessed of a practical organizational mind.  He promised the war weary nation: law and order, peace and prosperity.  They accepted him and he delivered.  But, how did he manage it?

First, the now Henry VII,  married off his heir, Arthur to the richest princess in Christendom: Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, whose galleons creaked under the weight of the treasures the New World brought Spain.  Catherine’s dowry provided Henry Tudor with the funds to create kings’ men out of townsmen to whom he gave the lands of fallen lords; men loyal to him; men he made and could break.

Second, he gave his daughter, Margaret as wife to the King of Scotland and thus neutralized the wild Scots who had been plaguing England for centuries.  With the King of Scotland now his son-in-law, he thus had achieved much needed tranquility in the northern border.

Last but not least, he sent his second son, Henry, off to a monastery.  If Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence could have a son a pope (Pope Leo X), he Henry Tudor would have his son, Henry be a future pope also.

Now for the fly in the ointment:  Little Arthur upped and died.  Catherine and her dowry need be return to her parents who would find her a new husband, particularly since the marriage had not been consummated. Henry VII could not returned the dowry, having used the funds for his purposes, so he approached the Pope to get his approval for the validity of the proposed marriage of his son Henry to his brother’s widow.  The Pope said their was no impediment.

While all the negotiations were proceeding, the multi-gifted Henry left the monastery and discovered the world of women.  His first of the many sired in the interim before his marriage to Catherine, was Geoffrey, later known as the Duke of Monmouth.

The age of discovery included an unhappy exchange between the New World and the Old World: syphilis and smallpox.  Each lacking the immunity, the consequences were devastating for both.  Before his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry was already syphilitic.  The numerous children Catherine bore Henry were either still-born or died shortly after birth; the one exception being a daughter, Mary, later to be Mary Tudor, Queen of England.

Sing a Song of Six Pence…the King, Henry; the Queen, Catherine; the Maid, Anne Boleyn; the Blackbird, the executioner.  (See a lengthier treatment of this in Political Nursery Rhymes in the Category: Tib-bits)

After seventeen years of marriage which includes many lust filled daillances with ladies-in-waiting, Henry claimed scruples about his marriage to Catherine being wrong on the grounds of consanguinity…that it was wrong to have married his brother’s widow, and God was punishing him by not giving him a male heir.  The reason for this late-arriving scruple?  Henry was asked to pay a price by Anne Boleyn and that price was Queen.  Anne’s sister Mary had been left pregnant and indigent by Henry (now how’s that the consanguinity issue?)

Making a long matter short: the Pope could not grant Henry the desired divorce because the Pope does not have the power to dissolve a lawful marriage.  So, Henry declared himself the head of the Catholic Church in England, appointed an Archbishop who granted him a divorce and Henry married Anne who got what she wanted: to be queen, and what she did not want: to be beheaded for giving birth to a daughter (Elizabeth). Reason for her execution: (trumped up charge of) adultery!

Some of the casualties of friendly fire:

Cardinal Wolsey, the butcher’s son and king’s man, failed in his annulment mission to Rome.  When Wolsey heard that the King had ordered his death, he sent for a coffin, stripped himself naked and lay in it declaring: “If I had served my God as well as I had served my King, I would not now like naked to my enemies.”  An ensuing heart attack deprived his executioners.  Henry gave Anne a gift: Wolsey’s Palace, Hampton Court.

Thomas More, Chancellor of England and friend of Henry, refused to take the Oath of Supremacy acknowledging the Act of Supremacy of 1634 by which Henry made himself the head of the Catholic Church in England.  (Recommendation: film MAN FOR ALL SEASONS)

“Six wives did Henry wed: two died, two divorced, one beheaded, one survived.”  So went the ditty.  Died: Catherine with a penitent Henry at her bedside asking forgiveness and truthfully claiming he always loved her.  Catherine had long forgiven him; she knew him well.  Jane Seymour, his child-bride, died in childbirth. Divorced: Anne of Cleves and another Catherine.  Beheaded: Anne Boleyn; Survived by her wits: the last of three Catherines.

Cardinal Pole’s mother and Henry’s great-aunt, executed along with her sons. Cardinal Reginald escaped to the Continent but was hounded by would-be assassins sent by Henry.

Countless archbishops, bishops, abbots and monks; the “four-and=twenty blackbirds”.  Henry needed to get the lead out of the roofs of the monasteries for war material.  His dissolution of the monasteries and their enriched his coffers beyond imagination, but also left the sick, the poor and the homeless without the services rendered by the monks to them for the love of God.  This destruction of the charitable services of the church centuries later gave birth to welfare from the state.

Incongruous notes: Henry’s will left all his personal wealth for masses to be said for the repose of his soul. Henry always remained a Roman Catholic in belief.  The Pope had awarded him the title of Defender of the Catholic Faith for his book THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS written as a defense of the Church against Luther.  All monarchs of England thereafter have used the title as Defender of the Faith, having edited out the “Catholic”.

England remained Catholic in the days of Henry VIII.  The people were appalled by the atrocities committed by the syphilitic king whose disease was eating up his brain and they termed him “Bluebeard”. The change to Anglican or Church of England came during the reign of the boy-king, Edward VI and was the work of his uncle Seymour and Archbishop Cramner.  It was at this time that Calvinist ideas were incorporated and priest were specifically not ordained to offer sacrifice.

After the premature death of Edward, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon became Queen and with her husband, Philip II, great grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, they restored Catholicism to England.

With the premature death of Mary, the throne was vacant.  It should have automatically gone to Henry VII’s surviving descendant from the marriage of his daughter Margaret to the King of Scotland.  Mary Queen of Scots, Queen of France, Queen of England would meet her death at the hands of her cousin, Elizabeth, who would behead her in the first regicide.

By accepted international law, illegitimate children could not inherit.  If they could have inherited, the throne would rightly belong to Geoffrey, Duke of Monmouth.  Vested interests which had profited from confiscations of properties of Catholics feared he would continue Mary’s restoration.  So, the throne was offered to the discarded child of Henry, whose mother he had beheaded!  Needless to say, she accepted the condition: to make Anglicanism the official religion of the state.  As a female incarnation of Henry, she outdid him in destructiveness while her syncopates wove the legend of Good Queen Bess, not sustainable by historical facts.


A Man for This Season, and All Seasons

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2015/02/20 at 12:00 AM

 by  Charles J. Chaput

within Religion and the Public Square

December 19th, 2012 http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/12/7440/

There is only one Thomas More: A man of tender nobility, subtle intellect, and forceful conviction, all rooted in profound fidelity to the larger commonwealth of Christendom outside and above Tudor England.

A day after the 2012 Summer Olympics closed in London, Joseph Pearce wrote that he felt like his “body had been covered in slime. I also felt a great sense of gratitude that I had shaken the smut and dirt from my sandals and had left the sordid culture of which I was once a part.”

Given the grand sweep of British history, those are harsh words from a former Londoner. An English Catholic convert and author, Pearce is now a resident Fellow at Thomas More College in New Hampshire. But he merely said what many people thought: that the Olympic closing ceremony they watched on global television was one long liturgy of overripe vulgarity, a jamboree of cheesy and offensive pop culture. In effect, it showcased a nation grasping to reinvent itself by escaping back to adolescence while ignoring its own real past.

This shouldn’t surprise us. Europe’s work of reinvention, or self-delusion, has been going on for decades, not only in Britain but across the continent. One of the key obstacles to the process is the depth of Europe’s Christian roots. As recent popes and many others have pointed out, there really is no “Europe” without its historic Christian grounding. Anyone wanting a new Britain, or a new Europe, needs to get rid of the old one first. So diminishing Christianity and its influence becomes a priority. And that includes rewriting the narrative on many of Christianity’s achievements and heroes.

By way of evidence: Consider the case of Thomas More, lawyer, humanist, statesman and saint; martyred by England’s King Henry VIII in 1535; canonized in 1935; celebrated in Robert Bolt’s brilliant 1960 play A Man for All Seasons; and more recently trashed as proud, intolerant, and devious in Hilary Mantel’s best-selling 2009 novel, Wolf Hall, now set for release as a 2013 BBC2 miniseries.

Critics of More are not new. His detractors had a voice well before his beheading. As Henry VIII’s chancellor, he earned a reputation as a hammer of heretics and a fierce opponent of Martin Luther and William Tyndale. Yet Erasmus of Rotterdam revered More as a scholar and friend. Jonathan Swift, the great Anglo-Irish writer, described him as “a person of the greatest virtue this kingdom [of England] ever produced.” When Pope John Paul II named Thomas More as patron saint of statesmen in 2000, he cited More’s witness to the “primacy of truth over power” at the cost of his life. He noted  that even outside the Church, More “is acknowledged as a source of inspiration for a political system which has as its supreme goal the service of the human person.”

Ten years later, speaking to leaders of British society in Westminster Hall, Pope Benedict XVI returned to the same theme. Benedict noted that More “is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose ‘good servant’ he was, because he chose to serve God first.”

So which is it: More the saint or More the sinner? Was he the ruthless, sexually repressed rage addict suggested by historians like G.R. Elton, fearful of change and driven by helpless fury? Or was he the humble and generous “man for all seasons” praised by his friend Robert Whittinton and so many others among his contemporaries? Were there really twoThomas Mores: the young, open-minded humanist, and the older royal courtier, gripped by religious fanaticism?

The moral integrity of More’s life has been argued with persuasive skill in the various works of Gerard Wegemer, among many others. And Peter Ackroyd’s fine biography, The Life of Thomas More, vividly captures the whole extraordinary man–his virtues, his flaws, and the decisive nature of his moment in history. Travis Curtright has now added to the luster of the real More’s legacy with his excellent new book The One Thomas More

As the title suggests,Curtright sees Thomas More’s life as a consistent, organic record of Christian witness, start to finish; a thoroughly logical integration of humanism, piety, politics and polemical theology. There is only “one” Thomas More–a man of tender nobility, subtle intellect, and forceful conviction, all rooted in profound fidelity to the larger commonwealth of Christendom outside and above Tudor England. For Curtright, More embodied “the Erasmian ideal of wedding learning with virtue,” lived through a vigorous engagement with temporal affairs. He treats More’s scholarly critics with proper respect while methodically dismantling their arguments; and he does it by carefully unpacking and applying three of More’s most important written works: The Life of Pico Mirandola, The History of Richard III, and Utopia.

Curtright correctly sees that More’s real source of annoyance for many modern revisionist critics is his faith. If revisionists like Elton implicitly define “humanism” as excluding religious faith, then a man like Thomas More and the whole vast Christian tradition of integrating faith and reason become serious irritants. As Curtright observes:

The entire structures of the two Mores and real More theories congeal around [critics’] notions of a “true” humanism that excludes the possibility of faith and reason working together, a position transparently stated by [G.R.] Elton and one that influences contemporary condemnations of More as a “fanatic.”

Bickering over the “real” Thomas More has importance beyond the scholarly community. Why? Because just as the nutty premises of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code confused millions by reinventing the backstory of Christian belief, so too the novel Wolf Hall offers a revisionist Thomas More wrapped in popular melodrama. The author, Hilary Mantel, a lapsed Catholic whose disgust for the Church is a matter of public record, drew her portrait of More in part from the work of Elton. The “hero” of her novel is Thomas Cromwell–More’s tormentor, and in reality, a man widely loathed by his contemporaries as an administratively gifted but scheming and vindictive bully. Unlike the widespread European shock that greeted More’s judicial murder, few wept for Cromwell when he finally followed More to the scaffold.

The One Thomas More is not a book for beachside browsing. While it’s well-written, modest in size and rich in content, it is a scholarly effort. Some casual readers may find it heavier than they bargained for. But as a resource on Thomas More, it’s invaluable. Curtright’s final chapter, “Iconic Mores on Trial,” has special importance. It directly challenges Mantel’s loose treatment of facts, for which it deserves wide circulation.

Having said all this, Thomas More has been dead nearly 500 years. Why should his legacy matter today?

Barring relief from the courts, Christian entities, employers, and ministers in the coming year will face a range of unhappy choices. As the Affordable Care Act takes force and the HHS contraceptive mandate imposes itself on Christian life, Catholic and other Christian leaders can refuse to comply, either declining to pay the consequent fines in outright civil disobedience, or trying to pay them; they can divest themselves of their impacted Christian institutions; they can seek some unexplored compromise or way of circumventing the law; or they can simply give in and comply with the government coercion under protest.

Good people can obviously disagree on the strategy to deal with such serious matters. But the cost of choosing the last course–simply cooperating with the HHS mandate and its evil effects under protest–would be bitterly high and heavily damaging to the witness of the Church in the United States. Having fought loudly and hard for religious liberty over the past year, in part because of the HHS mandate, America’s Catholic bishops cannot simply grumble and shrug, and go along with the mandate now, without implicating themselves in cowardice. Their current resolve risks unraveling unless they reaffirm their opposition to the mandate forcefully and as a united body.  The past can be a useful teacher. One of its lessons is this: The passage of time can invite confusion and doubt–and both work against courage.

Again: Why does Thomas More still matter? Why does he matter right now? 

More’s final work, scribbled in the Tower of London and smuggled out before his death, was The Sadness of Christ. In it, he contrasts the focus and energy of Judas with the sleepiness of the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane. He then applies the parable to his own day and the abject surrender of England’s bishops to the will of Henry VIII: “Does not this contrast between the traitors and the Apostles present to us a clear and sharp mirror image . . . a sad and terrible view of what has happened through the ages from those times to our own? Why do not bishops contemplate in this scene their own somnolence?”

More urges the bishops not to fall asleep “while virtue and the faith are placed in jeopardy.” In the face of Tudor bullying, he begs them, “Do not be afraid”–this from a layman on the brink of his own execution.

Of course, that was then. This is now. America 2012 is a very long way, in so many different ways, from England 1535.

But readers might nonetheless profit in the coming months from some reflection on the life of Sir Thomas. We might also take a moment to remember More’s friend and fellow martyr, John Fisher, the only bishop who refused to bend to the king’s will; the man who shortly before his own arrest told his brother bishops: “. . . the fort has been betrayed even [by] them that should have defended it.”

Charles J. Chaput, a Capuchin Franciscan, is the archbishop of Philadelphia and the author of Render Unto Caesar.

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Copyright 2012 the Witherspoon Institute. All rights reserved.


In 14 Book Corner on 2014/01/30 at 12:00 AM


Defenders of the faith have been raised up in every era of the Church to proclaim fidelity to the truth by their words and deeds. Some have fought heresy and overcome confusion like Athanasius against the Arians and Ignatius Loyola in response to the Protestant reformers. Others have shed their blood for the faith, like the early Christian martyrs of Rome, or Thomas More, John Fisher and Edmund Campion in Reformation England.

Still others have endured a “dry” martyrdom like St. Philip Howard, Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty and Jesuit Walter Ciszek. Intellectuals have been no less conspicuous in their zealous defense of the faith, like Bonaventure, Albert, Thomas Aquinas, or Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The stories of all these, and more, are told here in this book.

“The holiness, heroism, and perseverance of the men and woman described by Fr. O’Connor will inspire and instruct readers defending the Catholic Faith in every sort of situation. Each chapter is a well-crafted portrait filled with historical detail, theological insight, and lessons about living and spreading the Gospel in trying times. A seamless combination of history, biography, apologetics, and evangelization.”
—Carl Olson Author, Will Catholics Be “Left Behind”?

Fr. Charles Connor, a Church historian, is the host of several 13-part series on EWTN, and is the author of the best-selling Classic Catholic Converts.


In the wake of Pope John Paul II’s death, many are asking: What is the future of the Catholic Church? Given its recent scandals, students of theology might discount its influence on Western civilization and simply cast it off as a corrupt religion. That would be a big mistake; as New York Times bestselling author Thomas Woods chronicles in his book, the Church has had a pivotal role in shaping Western civilization for the last two thousand years.

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization uncovers the lost truth of the Church’s contributions to our history, including:

  • How the father of atomic theory, the father of aviation, and the father of Egyptology were all Catholic priests
  • How Catholic priests developed the idea of free-market economics five hundred years before Adam Smith
  • How the Catholic Church was the great defender of the sanctity of human life and the individual against the state
  • How the Church invented charitable work—and the charitable spirit—as we know it in the Western world
  • How the Church bestowed the most unique gift to the World—what we now know as the university

In this magnificent volume, students and faithful alike will come to comprehend the Catholic Church’s monumental impact on society and western civilization as a whole.

“Prof. Woods has put the Catholic Church squarely back where it should be: at the center of the development of the values, ideas, science, laws, and institutions which constitute what we call Western civilization.”

—Dr. Paul Legutko


Stanford University



Ray, a former Evangelical Protestant and Bible teacher, goes through the Scriptures and the first five centuries of the Church to demonstrate that the early Christians had a clear understanding of the primacy of Peter in the see of Rome. He tackles the tough issues in an attempt to expose how the opposition is misunderstanding the Scriptures and history. He uses many Protestant scholars and historians to support the Catholic position. This book contains the most complete compilation of Scriptural and Patristic quotations on the primacy of Peter and the Papal office of any book available. It has over 500 footnotes with supporting evidence from Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, and non-Christian authorities.

“This book defends Catholic teaching against the opposition, using current Church teaching on the Old Testament foundation for the primacy and succession of Peter. A rich documentation, a fine study.”
-Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

“A veritable tour de force on behalf of the Petrine ministry, bringing together exegetes, the Fathers of the Church, the witness of history, and even Protestant scholars. The work is scholarly, objective, and accessible to all readers. Recommended wholeheartedly and unequivocally.”
– Fr. Peter Stravinskas

Stephen K. Ray was raised in a devout and loving Baptist family. His father was a deacon and Bible teacher, and Stephen was very involved in the Baptist Church as a teacher of Biblical studies. After an in-depth study of the writings of the Church Fathers, both Steve and his wife Janet converted to the Catholic Church. He is the host of the popular, award-winning film series on salvation history, The Footprints of God. Steve is also the author of the best-selling books Crossing the Tiber, and St. John’s Gospel.

 All these books are available from Ignatius Press

Fr. George Rutler- Christ in the City I

In 15 Audio on 2012/07/12 at 9:11 AM

Christ in the City

Host – Fr. George Rutler

Fr. George Rutler talks about finding Christ the Redeemer in the midst of the cares of life as represented by the city, in the heart of the Church he founded. Filmed at The Church of Our Saviour in New York.

Please click on this link to access these programshttp://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/seriessearchprog.asp?seriesID=6754&T1=Rutler

Christ in the City 

1.Godʼs House…Fr. Rutler declares the rightness in church architecture reflecting Godʼs glory: “on earth as it is in heaven”

2. Healing the Paralytic…Fr. Rutler declares that, though Christ gives signs of his mercy in the gift of healing, the chief work of the Redeemer is the forgiveness of sins.

3. Wisemen…In terms of spiritual light and darkness, Fr. Rutler describes the search for God through religion, and in particular, the Wisemenʼs search for Christ.

4.The Voice of Christ…Fr. Rutler describes how the revelation of Christ turns the world on its head, causing humanity to either accept or reject him as the definitive way of Redemption.

5. The Parable of the Wedding…Fr. Rutler describes Christʼs call to discipleship as an invitation to an eternal wedding banquet.

6. Abide With Me…Fr. Rutler relates that human fulfillment depends on our turning to Christ and abiding with Him, fully living the Christian life.

7. Presentation in the Temple…Fr. Rutler describes how the encounter of Simeon and Anna with Christ in the Temple revealed more of Jesusʼ nature as the Messiah.

8. The Better Angels of Our Nature…Fr. Rutler relates that we can either choose to follow the better or the bad angels of our nature, therefore affecting the person we become.

9. Padre Pio…Fr. Rutler shares how Padre Pio is a shining example of what we can become if we respond to the graces God gives us daily.

10. Thomas  More….Fr. Rutler relates how Thomas More is a reminder to the universal call to holiness amidst family and political life to remain true to God by following the dictates of conscience.

Please click on this link to access these programshttp://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/seriessearchprog.asp?seriesID=6754&T1=Rutler

Two Converts

In 11 Joanna Bogle on 2011/07/04 at 6:34 AM

A while back, Joanna Bogle wrote about two now famous converts.

“Dr Scott Hahn has been among the speakers this weekend, talking about Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, and particularly emphasising the scholarship of each of these remarkable men, and the contribution they made to culture and learning even apart from their martyrdoms…..I had not really thought of this before, never having read any of Fisher’s works, and only knowing some of More’s letters. Fisher was something of a Ratzinger figure in his day, a brilliant mind given to the service of the Church, deep in theological knowledge which he communicated well.

Dwight Longenecker, soon to be ordained a priest, is an old friend and we have worked together on various projects over the years. He trained at a very anti-Catholic Evangelical college here in the USA, but went on to think things through for himself and, loving all things English, was ordained as an Anglican and eventually became vicar of a parish on the Isle of Wight, with an English wife and the care of an enchanting old church rich in history……but the pull of truth was strong and he and his family eventually became Catholics……after an odyssey which saw him writing a number of excellent books, and becoming well known as a speaker and writer, he is now back in the USA – and becoming a Catholic priest and a school chaplain near the College where he was initially trained! He has given a excellent lecture here this weekend, explaining the history of Christianity in Britain, going back to Roman times – with illustrations from his former parish on the Isle of Wight, showing features from the different eras of our history…”

Fr. Longenecker is now a pastor in South Carolina.  He speaks often at Belmont Abbey in North Carolina.