Sunday, July 2, 2017

Of Martyrs and the state


I am writing this on the feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher. Thomas More was an ambitious lawyer and John Fisher a bishop. King Henry VIII of England had numerous mistresses, but one, Anne Boleyn, would not give way without the promise of marriage and coronation as queen of England, so Henry asked for an annulment of his marriage to the Spanish princess and reigning queen, Catherine of Aragon. Pope Clement refused the annulment.

In 1534, by the Acts of Supremacy, Henry declared himself head of the Church in England and gave himself the annulment. All were expected to sign the Acts. Henry had what he wanted. Thomas More, chancellor of England and servant of Henry’s government, could not agree that the king was head of the Church in England. For this he was eventually killed by beheading. All of England went along with the king, save for Thomas his chancellor and Bishop Fisher.

His friends said, “Thomas, will you not go along for the sake of fellowship?” Thomas replied, saying, “If you have signed the Acts of Supremacy in good conscience and you stand before God at the judgment, and you are sent to heaven for your good conscience, and I am sent to hell for violating my conscience, will you come along with me for the sake of fellowship?” There were 26 bishops in England at the time. Twenty-five signed the acts of supremacy. One, John Fisher, did not. He, like Thomas, was beheaded.

Christian religion is mostly dead in England. The Church that Henry founded is very progressive. They have women bishops, lesbian bishops, same sex marriage etc. etc. etc. etc. A few years ago, the Spectator published an article titled, “2067: the end of British Christianity.”  In the article, we read that “Every ten years the census spells out the situation in detail: between 2001 and 2011 the number of Christians born in Britain fell by 5.3 million — about 10,000 a week. If that rate of decline continues, the mission of St Augustine to the English, together with that of the Irish saints to the Scots, will come to an end in 2067.”  By providing a church that will allow you the relationship you desire, Henry killed the church in England. Still he got what he wanted.

There is a wonderful movie “A Man for All Seasons” (1966). It tells the story of St. Thomas More and references St. Bishop John Fisher. It leaves out St. Thomas’ faults, which like for all saints were many, but by in large, it is good history. Watch it. Please, watch it. Thomas did not say what he thought about the King’s new marriage, even to his wife. He relied on the English common law principle that a man may not be executed or punished for what he does not do, only for what he does. The king was determined to execute his old friend Thomas regardless. When he had been falsely tried, he decided to unburden his conscience by speaking plainly. He said that he had come to this place because he would not bend to the marriage!!

Here we are. Catholic, bishops and laity, increasingly hemmed in by an unjust government and a sleeping populace. Will we bend to the marriage?

Yours sadly and sincerely,

The Rev. Know-it-all

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