Fortnight for Freedom: Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher

Thursday, June 22, AD 2017

 

A spot of blood and grease on the pages of English history.

Charles Dickens, referring to King Henry VIII

For English speaking Catholics, June 22 is a bright day on the calendar of the Saints.  It is appropriate that in the northern hemisphere it is also one of the longest days, when it is not the longest day, of the year, since no amount of sunshine is too much to celebrate the merits of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher.  On this day we remember the two saints who stood against King Henry VIII, for the great principle that the State must never be allowed to control the Church.  Much that we Americans celebrate as freedom was born out of Church-State struggles down through the ages.  Sometimes those who stood against the State fell in the struggle, but the concept that the State is not absolute, that there are limits to its authority, is one of the great gifts of the Catholic Middle Ages to all of mankind.  It is only in modern times, since 1500, that the heresy that the State may exercise absolute authority has been a constant source of misery and strife in the history of the West.

When he ascended to the throne of England Henry VIII was popularly known as the Golden Hope of England.  His father Henry VII had never been loved by the people of England:  a miser and a distinctly unheroic figure no matter what Shakespeare would write in Richard III.  He had brought the end of the War of the Roses and peace to England, but that was about as much credit as his subjects would give the grasping, unlovable Henry Tudor.  His son by contrast looked like an Adonis when young, strong and athletic.  He had a sharp mind and had been well-educated, intended, ironically, for a career in the Church before the death of his elder brother Arthur.  He was reputed, correctly, to be pious.  He had considerable charisma in his youth and knew how to make himself loved with a well timed laugh or smile, and loved he was, by the nobles, commons, his wife Katherine, and the Church.  Few reigns started more auspiciously than that of Henry, eighth of that name.

By the end of his reign he was widely despised by most of his subjects.  Called a crowned monster behind his back, his reign had brought religious turmoil to England and domestic strife.  The best known symbols of his reign were the headman’s axe, the stake and the boiling pot in which he had some of the luckless individuals who roused his fury boiled to death.

It of course is small wonder for a Catholic to have little love for Henry VIII and his reign, but the distaste for Henry extends well beyond members of the Church.  Winston Churchill, the great English statesman and historian, in his magisterial History of the English Speaking Peoples, has this to say about the executions of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher:

“The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand.  They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom.  They saw that the break with Rome carried with it the risk of a despotism freed from every fetter.  More stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook.  He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values, and its instinctive sense of otherworldliness.  Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counselor, but a system which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams.”

 

Churchill himself was not noted for being a churchgoer.  When asked if he was a pillar of the Church of England, he quipped that perhaps he could be considered to be a flying buttress of the Church, supporting it from outside.  Perhaps this helped give him a certain objectivity regarding Henry VIII.  Here is part of his summing up of Henry’s reign:

“Henry’s rule saw many advances in the growth and the character of the English state, but it is a hideous blot upon his record that the reign should be widely remembered for its executions.  Two Queens, two of the King’s chief Ministers, a saintly bishop, numerous abbots, monks and many ordinary folk who dared to resist the royal will were put to death.  Almost every member of the nobility in whom royal blood ran perished on the scaffold at Henry’s command.  Roman Catholic and Calvinist alike were burnt for heresy and religious treason.  These persecutions, inflicted in solemn manner by officers of the law, perhaps in the presence of the Council or even the King himself, form a brutal sequel to the bright promise of the Renaissance.  The sufferings of devout men and women among the faggots, the use of torture, and the savage penalties imposed for even paltry crimes, stand in repellent contrast to the enlightened principles of humanism.” 

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Saints of Lent: Cardinal John Fisher

Sunday, March 12, AD 2017

 

Where are now the kings and princes that once reigned over all the world, whose glory and triumph were lifted up above the earth? Where are now the innumerable company and power of Xerxes and Caesar? Where are the great victories of Alexander and Pompey? Where are now the great riches of Croesus and Crassus? But what shall we say of those who once were kings and governors of this realm?  Where are they now whom we have known and seen in our days in such great wealth and glory that it was thought by many they would never have died, never have been forgotten? They had all their pleasures at the full, both of delicious and good fare, of hawking, hunting, also of excellent horses and stallions, greyhounds and hounds for their entertainment, their palaces well and richly furnished, strongholds and towns without number. They had a great plenty of gold and silver, many servants, fine apparel for themselves and their lodgings. They had the power of the law to proscribe, to punish, to exalt and set forward their friends and loved ones, to put down and make low their enemies, and also to punish by temporal death rebels and traitors. Every man held with them, all were at their command. Every man was obedient to them, feared them, also honored and praised them, everywhere now? Are they not gone and wasted like smoke? Of them it is written in another place, mox ut honorificati fuerint et exaltati, dificientes quemadmodum fumus deficient (when they were in their utmost prosperity and fame, they soon failed and came to nothing, even as smoke does) (Ps. 36:2). St. James compares the vanity of this life to a vapor, and he says it shall perish and wither away as a flower in the hay season. (James 4:15).

Saint John Fisher

 

Lent is a grand time to confront evil, both that evil which stains our souls, and the evil external to us.  Throughout the history of the Church there have been saints who risked all to bravely confront the popular evils of their time.  This Lent on each Sunday we will be looking at some of those saints.  We began with Saint Athanasius.  Go here to read about him.  This week we will look at Saint John Fisher.

When he ascended to the throne of England Henry VIII was popularly known as the Golden Hope of England.  His father Henry VII had never been loved by the people of England:  a miser and a distinctly unheroic figure no matter what Shakespeare would write in Richard III.  He had brought the end of the War of the Roses and peace to England, but that was about as much credit as his subjects would give the grasping, unlovable Henry Tudor.  His son by contrast looked like an Adonis when young, strong and athletic.  He had a sharp mind and had been well-educated, intended, ironically, for a career in the Church before the death of his elder brother Arthur.  He was reputed, correctly, to be pious.  He had considerable charisma in his youth and knew how to make himself loved with a well timed laugh or smile, and loved he was, by the nobles, commons, his wife Katherine, and the Church.  Few reigns started more auspiciously than that of Henry, eighth of that name.

By the end of his reign he was widely despised by most his subjects.  Called a crowned monster behind his back, his reign had brought religious turmoil to England and domestic strife.  The best known symbols of his reign were the headman’s axe, the stake and the boiling pot in which he had some of the luckless individuals who roused his fury boiled to death.

It of course is small wonder for a Catholic to have little love for Henry VIII and his reign, but the distaste for Henry extends well beyond members of the Church.  Winston Churchill, the great English statesman and historian, in his magisterial History of the English Speaking Peoples, has this to say about the executions of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher:

“The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand.  They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom.  They saw that the break with Rome carried with it the risk of a despotism freed from every fetter.  More stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook.  He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values, and its instinctive sense of otherworldliness.  Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counselor, but a system which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams.”

Churchill himself was not noted for being a churchgoer.  When asked if he was a pillar of the Church of England, he quipped that perhaps he could be considered to be a flying butress of the Church, supporting it from outside.  Perhaps this helped give him a certain objectivity regarding Henry VIII.  Here is part of his summing up of Henry’s reign:

“Henry’s rule saw many advances in the growth and the character of the English state, but it is a hideous blot upon his record that the reign should be widely remembered for its executions.  Two Queens, two of the King’s chief Ministers, a saintly bishop, numerous abbots, monks and many ordinary folk who dared to resist the royal will were put to death.  Almost every member of the nobility in whom royal blood ran perished on the scaffold at Henry’s command.  Roman Catholic and Calvinist alike were burnt for heresy and religious treason.  These persecutions, inflicted in solemn manner by officers of the law, perhaps in the presence of the Council or even the King himself, form a brutal seqeul to the bright promise of the Renaissance.  The sufferings of devout men and women among the faggots, the use of torture, and the savage penalties imposed for even paltry crimes, stand in repellant contrast to the enlightened principles of humanism.” 

 

Born in 1469, John Fisher was noted for his great learning, the austerity of his life and his piety.  He was made Bishop of Rochester, the poorest diocese in England, at the personal insistence of Henry VIII in 1504.  Usually this was a stepping stone to ecclesiastical preferment, but Fisher stayed there for 31 years, doubtless because he had the courage to oppose the King whenever he was wrong, and so he did when Henry attempted to divorce Queen Katherine and when he broke with Rome.  Fisher made a strange champion to stand against a King.  He was noted as a scholar throughout Europe, a man of exceeding mildness and friendliness and someone clearly made for peace and contemplation and not for turmoil and strife in public life.  However for truth and the Faith Fisher was willing to stand virtually alone with a handful of others, including Saint Thomas More, against his terrifying Sovereign.

 

John Cardinal Fisher was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul III in May of 1535, King Henry stopped the cardinal’s hat from being brought into England, bellowing that he would send Fisher’s head to the Pope.  Tried by a kangaroo court and convicted, the only testimony brought against him was by Richard Rich, a specialist in lying men to the headman’s block.  Fisher was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn.

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  • The king took John Cardinal Fisher’s life, but not his soul. The comment from Winston Churchill: “The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand. They realized the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom. Very little has changed, from then until now.

One Response to Quotes Suitable for Framing: Robert Bolt

  • Watching this video made me think of Abraham Lincoln’s stand against President James K. Polk in the winter of 1847-48.

    Unlike St. Thomas More, Lincoln did not suffer martyrdom for his stand against an immoral “king,” though of course some would say that Lincoln did indeed became a martyr for the truth 17 years later.

    The St. Thomas More quote given under the video was:
    “Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King’s command make it round? And if it is round, will the King’s command flatten it? No, I WILL NOT SIGN.”

    How similar that is to what Abraham Lincoln said in his debate with Stephen Douglas regarding his characterizing as “sheerest deception” President Polk’s justification for the 1846 invasion of Mexico:
    “whenever the Democratic party tried to get me to vote that the war had been righteously begun by the President, I WOULD NOT DO IT. ”

    St. Thomas More died to live as a witness to the principle that whenever Divine Law comes into conflict with the Law of Men, Divine Law must be obeyed.

    Abraham Lincoln, during both the Mexican War and during the War Againt the Southern States Rebellion, took a strong stand as a witness to the principle that the law of the U.S. Constitution, read in light of the common law inherited from England, must be obeyed as the only basis for civilization, peace, democracy, republicanism, human dignity, progress and prosperity.

    Where are the St. Thomas More’s and Abraham Lincoln’s of today?

    Is there a anyone of the caliber of a St. Thomas More or Abraham Lincoln in the White House? In the U.S. House of Representatives? In the U.S. Senate? In the Vatican? Rome? Moscow? Berlin? London? New York City? Paris? Madrid? Anywhere?

Patron Saint of Politicians

Tuesday, November 8, AD 2016

You’re a constant regret to me, Thomas. If you could just see facts flat-on, without that horrible moral squint… With a little common sense you could have made a statesman.

Cardinal Wosely to Sir Thomas More, A Man for all Seasons

 

 

 

(A repost from 2010.  It seemed very appropriate today.)

In this political season I was curious as to which saint was the patron saint of politicians.  Much to my shock I learned that on October 26, 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Saint Thomas More as patron saint of politicians and statesman.  It was an inspired choice, but I think the average politician might find Saint Thomas More difficult to emulate.

1.  As far as I can tell, Saint Thomas More always told the truth.  Most politicians seem to regard lying as a job requirement or a job perk.

2.  Saint Thomas More was noted by contemporaries for not taking bribes.  Such honesty was just as rare among politicians then as it is now.

3.  As Cardinal Wolsey, unforgettably portrayed by Orson Welles,  noted in A Man for All Seasons, Saint Thomas always viewed issues of public policy with a “moral squint”.  Most politicians would view this as a severe handicap.

4.  Saint Thomas gave up the highest office in England over a matter of principle.  I am afraid the average politician’s reaction to this would be, “You have got to be kidding”.

5.  Most politicians when viewing the movie “A Man for All Seasons” would probably think that Richard Rich is the hero of the film.

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12 Responses to Patron Saint of Politicians

  • “5. Most politicians when viewing the movie “A Man for All Seasons” would probably think that Richard Rich is the hero of the film.”

    That would be funny if it weren’t true.

  • This list is correct, and has been since ancient Athens to today.

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  • I often pray, “St. Thomas More, pray for us.”
    .
    I suppose politicians need a patron saint.
    .
    I regard St. Thomas More as a government official/public servant rather than a politician.
    .
    Herewith I apologize in advance. I agree with Orwell. Politics are essentially “coercion and deceit.” That being established and considering the Church (shortly to be outlawed by Big Sister’s Supreme Court) provided a patron saint for politicians. Who is the patroness of prostitutes?
    .
    Lock her up.

  • I love More, and I’d have to consider him a politician. But maybe St. Pietro Orseolo is more your cup of tea. A Venetian from a noble family, he was wealthy and a naval hero before he was elected Doge. He served for two years, restoring peace to the city, building hospitals and rebuilding the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s. Then he snuck out of the city one night and become a Benedictine monk.

  • “As far as I can tell, Saint Thomas More always told the truth. Most politicians seem to regard lying as a job requirement or a job perk.”
    .
    Some thirty years ago my state of Michigan–the only one I’ve ever lived in and I plan to die here–was not doing well. I don’t remember who the Republican was who was running, but I well remember the Democratic candidate. I was a teenager at the time and could not vote. But my parents never missed an election.
    .
    But after one ad on the TV, I was ready to cast my vote for the Democrat. He was going to fix our state. He said all the things my GOP-leaning parents were saying. I ran into the kitchen where Mom was making dinner and said excitedly: “Mr. Smith* just ran an ad on TV and he said XYZ. You should vote for him!”
    .
    My mother didn’t even bother to look up from her pot on the stove. “He’s lying,” she said.
    .
    Every time I hear that some politician is going to do XYZ and it is going to be great, I can hear my mother’s words: “He’s lying.”
    .
    *not his real name

  • If my memory may be supplemented by poetic license, my father may he Rest in Peace, used to say, Politicians never lie when the truth will serve”. May Truth prevail. ~Amen

  • In 1529 Wolsey was stripped of his government office and property, including his magnificently expanded residence of Hampton Court, which Henry took to replace the Palace of Westminster as his own main London residence. However, Wolsey was permitted to remain Archbishop of York. He travelled to Yorkshire for the first time in his career, but at Cawood in North Yorkshire, he was accused of treason and ordered to London by Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland. In great distress, he set out for the capital with his personal chaplain, Edmund Bonner. He fell ill on the journey, and died at Leicester on 29 November 1530, around the age of 57. Just before his death he reputedly spoke these words,

    “I see the matter against me how it is framed. But if I had served God as diligently as I have done the King, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs.” – Downfall and death | Thomas Wolsey – Wikipedia

  • Your contrast between today’s politician and the nature of a ” true politician” as envisioned by St. John Paul is funny. His selection of St. Thomas More as their patron saint is humorous because you provide an accurate juxtaposition of the incongruity of the two. But, St. John Paul was not only alerting us to the current “rigghed” political system as you do, but, also, how to correct it, as well as the price. Comety may be a flawed example.
    Bill P

  • St Thomas More was an inspiration for politicians both left, right and center leanings. Most of all St Thomas More was an man of honesty and stood by his principles

Fortnight For Freedom: Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher

Wednesday, June 22, AD 2016

 

A spot of blood and grease on the pages of English history.

Charles Dickens, referring to King Henry VIII

For English speaking Catholics, June 22 is a bright day on the calendar of the Saints.  It is appropriate that in the northern hemisphere it is also one of the longest days, when it is not the longest day, of the year, since no amount of sunshine is too much to celebrate the merits of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher.  On this day we remember the two saints who stood against King Henry VIII, for the great principal that the State must never be allowed to control the Church.  Much that we Americans celebrate as freedom was born out of Church-State struggles down through the ages.  Sometimes those who stood against the State fell in the struggle, but the concept that the State is not absolute, that there are limits to its authority, is one of the great gifts of the Catholic Middle Ages to all of mankind.  It is only in modern times, since 1500, that the heresy that the State may exercise absolute authority has been a constant source of misery and strife in the history of the West.

When he ascended to the throne of England Henry VIII was popularly known as the Golden Hope of England.  His father Henry VII had never been loved by the people of England:  a miser and a distinctly unheroic figure no matter what Shakespeare would write in Richard III.  He had brought the end of the War of the Roses and peace to England, but that was about as much credit as his subjects would give the grasping, unlovable Henry Tudor.  His son by contrast looked like an Adonis when young, strong and athletic.  He had a sharp mind and had been well-educated, intended, ironically, for a career in the Church before the death of his elder brother Arthur.  He was reputed, correctly, to be pious.  He had considerable charisma in his youth and knew how to make himself loved with a well timed laugh or smile, and loved he was, by the nobles, commons, his wife Katherine, and the Church.  Few reigns started more auspiciously than that of Henry, eighth of that name.

By the end of his reign he was widely despised by most his subjects.  Called a crowned monster behind his back, his reign had brought religious turmoil to England and domestic strife.  The best known symbols of his reign were the headman’s axe, the stake and the boiling pot in which he had some of the luckless individuals who roused his fury boiled to death.

It of course is small wonder for a Catholic to have little love for Henry VIII and his reign, but the distaste for Henry extends well beyond members of the Church.  Winston Churchill, the great English statesman and historian, in his magisterial History of the English Speaking Peoples, has this to say about the executions of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher:

The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand.  They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom.  They saw that the break with Rome carried with it the risk of a despotism freed from every fetter.  More stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook.  He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values, and its instinctive sense of otherworldliness.  Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counselor, but a system which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams.”

 

Churchill himself was not noted for being a churchgoer.  When asked if he was a pillar of the Church of England, he quipped that perhaps he could be considered to be a flying butress of the Church, supporting it from outside.  Perhaps this helped give him a certain objectivity regarding Henry VIII.  Here is part of his summing up of Henry’s reign:

“Henry’s rule saw many advances in the growth and the character of the English state, but it is a hideous blot upon his record that the reign should be widely remembered for its executions.  Two Queens, two of the King’s chief Ministers, a saintly bishop, numerous abbots, monks and many ordinary folk who dared to resist the royal will were put to death.  Almost every member of the nobility in whom royal blood ran perished on the scaffold at Henry’s command.  Roman Catholic and Calvinist alike were burnt for heresy and religious treason.  These persecutions, inflicted in solemn manner by officers of the law, perhaps in the presence of the Council or even the King himself, form a brutal seqeul to the bright promise of the Renaissance.  The sufferings of devout men and women among the faggots, the use of torture, and the savage penalties imposed for even paltry crimes, stand in repellant contrast to the enlightened principles of humanism.” 

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4 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom: Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher

  • Wonderful thoughts from Churchill. The goodness of Christianity and the respect for human dignity- Image of God- made a moral unity between nations and within nations possible.
    ISIS claims to be both a state and a religion.
    That Christian goodness and respect for persons and consciences is not in Islam.
    People are mad at Donald Trump for wanting to limit immigration from Muslim states temporarily. They claim he is anti – Muslim and say that you can’t be against a religion. They don’t want to connect violent terror to the religion – but this religion is not just a religion.
    It has “state” as part of its identity.
    That didn’t work well for England either.
    The various theocracies of Islam around the Middle East do not have a possibility of the moral unity that was Christendom because Islam is a power based system that controls rather than loves.

  • Henry Tudor’s bastard daughter crusched Catholicism in England and led to its suppression in Ireland. The Black Legend began under her and is accepted as fact even today. The Spanish Inquistion was NOTHING compared to what England did to Catholics under Bad Queen Bess. I throw this in the face of every radtrad who holds out for a monarchy and sings the praises of the Hapsburgs.

    St. Margaret Clitherow was crusched to death by being tied to stakes in the ground with a heavy oak door dropped on her. The oak door then had heavy rocks dumped on it until the victim was dead. This is Protestantism. England exported its novelty to the New World, who thought nothing of asking Catholic France for help when ridding itself of England.

    Interesting point – in 1500, England asked the Polish-Lituanian Commonwealth for an alliance. The rulers of the Commonwealth, a bigger and more powerful nation than England at the time, laughed in the faces of the English. Had Queen Isabel tied her family to the ruling Polish family in addition to the Hapsburgs or instead of Portugal, the combined forces of Spain, the Hapsburgs and the Commonwealth could have obliterated 16th century England.

  • Sir Thomas More and Cardinal Fisher were ardent supporters of Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s only legitimate queen and wife. Katherine was beloved by the English people and was extremely well educated and devout. Before her marriage to Henry she was the first woman ambassador to England representing her native country. Queen Mary (Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother) in the early 20th century had Katherine’s tomb enhanced in Peterborough Cathedral with “Katharine Queen of England” noticeably added.
    Mary 1 was hardly Bloody Mary, compared to her father Henry’s execution of 72,000 of his subjects, and those victims of her half siblings, Elizabeth I and Edward (under regents).
    Dame Augustina More, (1807) is St. Thomas More’s last direct descendant according to the Thomas More Society. She was O.S.A., Order of St. Augustine.

  • I must thank you for posting about this particular film so frequently and with such praise. I managed to catch it the other day (appropriately June 22nd on TCM) and though I missed the first half-hour, found the film fascinating. I will have to re-watch it someday. I don’t think that I would have been interested enough to give a chance if it hadn’t been for your recommendation. I can add little save my gratitude.

America the Beautiful

Saturday, July 4, AD 2015

 

A stirring rendition of America the Beautiful by the Hillsdale College choir.  Added bonus, a lecture by Professor Gerard Wegemer given by Hillsdale College on Thomas More on Liberty, Law and Statesmanship.

 

Thought for the day.  As my family and I were out and about on this 239th Birthday of the Nation, I saw this on an electronic billboard of a business:  Home of the Free, Because of the Brave.  I very much suspect that if we wish to retain our freedom, it will require a great deal of bravery from a great many of us in the years to come.

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2 Responses to America the Beautiful

  • … confirm thy soul in self-control …
    ’til selfish gain no longer stain ,,,
    Above verse stand out this year more than ever, rather than old days of spacious skies, sea to shining sea, and amber waves of grain.
    Anyway, thank you for posting the beautiful video music.
    Lecture next to do.

  • Patricia: YES YES YES. This is precisely what sovereign personhood does and is. Sovereignty begins with the self. The sovereign personhood constitutes the government, without which sovereignty, government is nothing more than subjugation to tyranny. Sovereignty is fundamental to freedom. That government countermands sovereignty at every turn is a good indication where this government is taking the people. Hillary will change our belief in God. The gay agenda with the power of our Humpty Dumpty Court will dispense chaos and injustice and Obamacare will lead us into temptation. Lecture next to do.

Fortnight For Freedom: Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher v. Henry VIII

Monday, June 22, AD 2015

 Fortnight For Freedom 2015

A spot of blood and grease on the pages of English history.

Charles Dickens, referring to King Henry VIII

For English speaking Catholics, June 22 is a bright day on the calendar of the Saints.  On this day we remember the two saints who stood against King Henry VIII, for the great principal that the State must never be allowed to control the Church.  Much that we Americans celebrate as freedom was born out of Church-State struggles down through the ages.  Sometimes those who stood against the State fell in the struggle, but the concept that the State is not absolute, that there are limits to its authority, is one of the great gifts of the Catholic Middle Ages to all of mankind.  It is only in modern times, since 1500, that the heresy that the State may exercise absolute authority has been a constant source of misery and strife in the history of the West.

When he ascended to the throne of England Henry VIII was popularly known as the Golden Hope of England.  His father Henry VII had never been loved by the people of England:  a miser and a distinctly unheroic figure no matter what Shakespeare would write in Richard III.  He had brought the end of the War of the Roses and peace to England, but that was about as much credit as his subjects would give the grasping, unlovable Henry Tudor.  His son by contrast looked like an Adonis when young, strong and athletic.  He had a sharp mind and had been well-educated, intended, ironically, for a career in the Church before the death of his elder brother Arthur.  He was reputed, correctly, to be pious.  He had considerable charism in his youth and knew how to make himself loved with a well timed laugh or smile, and loved he was, by the nobles, commons, his wife Katherine, and the Church.  Few reigns started more auspiciously than that of Henry, eighth of that name.

By the end of his reign he was widely despised by most his subjects.  Called a crowned monster behind his back, his reign had brought religious turmoil to England and domestic strife.  The best known symbols of his reign were the headman’s axe, the stake and the boiling pot in which he had some of the luckless individuals who roused his fury boiled to death.

It of course is small wonder for a Catholic to have little love for Henry VIII and his reign, but the distaste for Henry extends well beyond members of the Church.  Winston Churchill, the great English statesman and historian, in his magisterial History of the English Speaking Peoples has this to say about the executions of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher:

The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand.  They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom.  They saw that the break with Rome carried with it the risk of a despotism freed from every fetter.  More stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook.  He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values, and its instinctive sense of otherworldliness.  Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counselor, but a system which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams.”

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6 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom: Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher v. Henry VIII

  • Henry Tudor was one of the most despotic, evil men to wield political power from the time of Caligula to the 20th century. In that time period, few men , one of them being Ivan the Terrible could rival him.

  • Henry VII, ably seconded by Cardinal Morton, had laid the foundations of the Tudor despotism. He was able to do so because the old nobility had effectively exterminated each other in the Wars of the Roses.
    Henry VIII could send More & Fisher to the scaffold; the Emperor Charles V could not send John of Saxony or the Margrave of Hesse to the scaffold. Similarly, in Scotland, the royal power, even when wielded by the redoubtable Mary of Guise as Regent, proved no match for Argyll (Chief of the Clan Campbell), Glencairn, Morton, Ruthven and the other Lords of the Congregation, backed as they were by the unswerving loyalty of their vassals or their clansmen. George Buchanan remarked that in England rent was paid with silver; in Scotland it was paid with steel.

  • Henry VIII was to blame for not producing a male heir. Catherine of Arragone was one of Henry VIII’s victims. In his rapaciousness, Henry VIII never permitted his seed to mature, a prerequisite for producing a male heir. Henry VIII died of syphilis contracted from a lack of celibacy.

  • a minor but noteworthy attention to fact- Donald, the text says in a line ” the stake and the boiling pot in which he had some of the luckless individuals who roused his fury boiled to death.” note the plural. boiling pots were provided for blanching the quartered body parts maintained near view by the victim at Tyburn etc.etc.

    Boiling to death was reserved for poisoners attempting their craft on peers of the Realm. history tells us a special law permitting boiling as a death sentence was passed by parliament in 1531 to kill Richard Roose was the only ‘tudorite’ [singular] to end his days in 1532 via that seemingly horrible punishment. The starvation of the Carthusians and Margaret Clement is a magnificent story of courage and compassion – https://www.tudorsociety.com/henry-viii-and-the-carthusian-monks/ to see being DRAWN, HUNG AND QUARTERED …..

    Love all your postings donald and the comments .et al. ….they always makes me think !!

  • Thank you for your kind words Paul. I believe that Margaret Davy was boiled to death in 1542.

  • you are correct and I am better for it! thanks Donald.

800 Years of Magna Carta

Monday, June 8, AD 2015

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
What say the reeds at Runnymede?
The lissom reeds that give and take,
That bend so far, but never break,
They keep the sleepy Thames awake
With tales of John at Runnymede.

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Oh, hear the reeds at Runnymede:
‘You musn’t sell, delay, deny,
A freeman’s right or liberty.
It wakes the stubborn Englishry,
We saw ’em roused at Runnymede!

When through our ranks the Barons came,
With little thought of praise or blame,
But resolute to play the game,
They lumbered up to Runnymede;
And there they launched in solid line
The first attack on Right Divine,
The curt uncompromising “Sign!’
They settled John at Runnymede.

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Your rights were won at Runnymede!
No freeman shall be fined or bound,
Or dispossessed of freehold ground,
Except by lawful judgment found
And passed upon him by his peers.
Forget not, after all these years,
The Charter signed at Runnymede.’

And still when mob or Monarch lays
Too rude a hand on English ways,
The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,
Across the reeds at Runnymede.
And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,
And crowds and priests and suchlike things,
Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings
Their warning down from Runnymede!

Rudyard Kipling

 

 

We in America are the heirs of a very old English political tradition which established many of the concepts of civil liberty that we treasure.  At the heart of this tradition is Magna Carta, the great charter of rights that King John’s rebellious barons compelled him to sign at Runnymede on June 15, 1215, almost 800 years ago.

Documents like Magna Carta were commonplace in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, when the authority of kings was strictly restricted by nobles, commons and the Church.  However, what is unusual about Magna Carta is its vitality.  The English never forgot it, and whenever there was political upheaval in ages to come after 1215, the cry of Magna Carta was ever heard.

Much of Magna Carta contains provisions of little relevance to our time, although its general theme of  restrictions on governmental power is timeless.  Three provisions are just as important today as they were on that long ago June 15th:

(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

 These provisions remind us that the study of history is not a mere antiquarian’s amusement, but rather an examination of the building blocks on which our world rests.  The text of the Great Charter:

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3 Responses to 800 Years of Magna Carta

  • help with # 47 – what is ‘ disafforested ” ….. thanks for this one and all your posts!

  • “disafforested” means no longer subject to the Forest laws, a body of laws enforced by special officers and adjudicated on by a hierarchy of courts distinct from the ordinary common law courts. Their primary object was to protect the “vert and venison” – the game and their cover and they imposed pretty onerous restrictions on villages situated within the forest boundaries and on the ownersof the soil

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Time For Catholics to Stand Up

Monday, April 27, AD 2015

 

Bravo to Professor Stephen Bainbridge:

I agree with Kingsfield that secular elites at high end universities and colleges are an annoyingly self-satisfied:

To elites in his circles, Kingsfield continued, “at best religion is something consenting adult should do behind closed doors. They don’t really understand that there’s a link between Sister Helen Prejean’s faith and the workd she does on the death penalty. There’s a lot of looking down on flyover country, one middle America.

“The sad thing,” he said, “is that the old ways of aspiring to truth, seeing all knowledge as part of learning about the nature of reality, they don’t hold. It’s all about power. They’ve got cultural power, and think they should use it for good, but their idea of good is not anchored in anything. They’ve got a lot of power in courts and in politics and in education. Their job is to challenge people to think critically, but thinking critically means thinking like them. They really do think that they know so much more than anybody did before, and there is no point in listening to anybody else, because they have all the answers, and believe that they are good.”

Which is precisely why Kingsfield needs to come out of the closet. Sadly, however, he is going deeper into the closet:

The emerging climate on campus of microaggressions, trigger warnings, and the construal of discourse as a form of violence is driving Christian professors further into the closet, the professor said.

“If I said something that was construed as attacking a gay student, I could have my life made miserable with a year or two of litigation — and if I didn’t have tenure, there could be a chance that my career would be ruined,” he said. “Even if you have tenure, a few people who make allegations of someone being hateful can make a tenured professor’s life miserable.” 

He’s right. I’ve been there (albeit for saying something obnoxious unrelated to my faith). But so what? 

Polycarp wasn’t threatened with people making his life miserable. He was threatened with being burnt at the stake. And he refused to deny Christ. And he went to his death thanking God for allowing him to be counted among the Church’s martyrs.

The Christians beheaded by ISIS faced a fate far worse than a smear campaign by academic lefties and they refused to deny Christ.

Put simply, being a Christian is supposed to be hard. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

It is true that Christ tells us that we are sheep among wolves and so must be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. But going into a religious closet is not shrewd.

“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”

I am a sinner who is far from perfect. But I refuse to be a closeted sinner. So I am going to continue teaching and writing about Catholic Social Thought. And I’m going to go on having a picture of St Thomas More in my office. And I’m going to go on having many books on religion in my office. And I’m going to go on wearing my ashes to class on Ash Wednesday. And I’m going to go on pushing back when people infringe on freedom of speech and religion, especially on campuses.

And if my colleagues don’t like that, all I can say is “Come and Have a Go If You Think You’re Hard Enough.” After all, if I may be forgiven quoting the great reformer, “Here I stand; I can do no other.”

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4 Responses to Time For Catholics to Stand Up

  • Will the Catholics who will hear arguments on so-called Same sex Marriage stand up today? Will they consider Natures Law?
    Will they defend the family, or redefine the family and scoff at the idea that a mother and father are the best forms of raising children? Or, are these beliefs to be outdated and held in contempt?
    Stand Up?
    God help us!

  • Philip: The SCOTUS must consider not only natural law by that our founding fathers intended that our founding principles be handed down to our constitutional posterity as an heritage.
    Consider too, that the taxpaying citizen must be free to be a sovereign person who requires the vote to participate in the culture, in the public square, in the democratic process…no matter what the democrats say.

  • Our public Rosary starts in an hour.
    We will include SCOTUS justices to be guided by The Holy Spirit as they ponder the arguments in the next several Weeks leading to a decision.

    As you so beautifully request from time to time, we will add “one Hail Mary.”

  • ….to Mary De Voe.

Wolf Hall and Anti-Catholicism

Thursday, April 23, AD 2015

 

George Weigel takes on the BBC’s paean to anti-Catholicism and bad history:

 

Wolf Hall, the BBC adaptation of Hillary Mantel’s novel about early Tudor England, began airing on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater” Easter Sunday night. It’s brilliant television. It’s also a serious distortion of history. And it proves, yet again, that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable bigotry in elite circles in the Anglosphere.

The distortions and bias are not surprising, considering the source. Hillary Mantel is a very talented, very bitter ex-Catholic who’s said that the Church today is “not an institution for respectable people” (so much for the English hierarchy’s decades-long wheedling for social acceptance). As she freely concedes, Mantel’s aim in her novel was to take down the Thomas More of A Man for All Seasons—the Thomas More the Catholic Church canonized—and her instrument for doing so is More’s rival in the court of Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell.

Hillary Mantel does not lack for chutzpah, for Cromwell has long been considered a loathsome character and More a man of singular nobility. In the novel Wolf Hall, however, the More of Robert Bolt’s play is transformed into a heresy-hunting, scrupulous prig, while Cromwell is the sensible, pragmatic man of affairs who gets things done, even if a few heads get cracked (or detached) in the process. All of which is rubbish, as historians with no Catholic interests at stake have made clear. Thus the president of the U.K.’s National Secular Society, historian David Starkey, finds “not a scrap of evidence” for Mantel’s retelling of the More-Cromwell tale; Mantel’s plot, he claimed, was “total fiction.” And as Gregory Wolfe pointed out in a fine essay on Wolf Hall in the Washington Post, historian Simon Schama has written that the documentary evidence he examined “shouted to high heaven that Thomas Cromwell was, in fact, a detestably self-serving, bullying monster who perfected state terror in England, cooked the evidence, and extracted confessions by torture.”

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10 Responses to Wolf Hall and Anti-Catholicism

  • It may well be rubbish and more fantasy than history, but so was Rolf
    Hochhuth’s smear of Pius XII in his play The Deputy. I imagine
    there are many, many people who will be all too willing to take Wolf
    Hall
    for accurate history, just as many were eager to believe that
    The Deputy was a truthful portrayal of Pius XII during WWII.

  • Hochhuth’s fiction was assisted by the KGB. The damage has been done. The Soviet Union was Hitler’s ally for almost two years, but this is conveniently forgotten, along with the crimes of the Soviet Union against humanity.

    Mantel is another in a long line of anti-Catholic English, since anti-Catholicism has never quite gone out of favor in the United Kingdom. Of course, the BBC snaps it up and shows it. Typical. Henry Tudor was one of the worst men who became a king in the history of the world, but, hey, let’s blame Thomas More instead.

  • I watched the first episode. At the first negative description of Sir Thomas More I turned it off knowing that it was going to be sympathetic to the dissolution of the Catholic Church.

  • What a member of the British chatterati trafficking in malicious historical fiction and condescending to everyone left and right in the process? Say it ain’t so…

  • My cure for insomnia is the “2013-2014 Accounting Standards Codification – Volume 1”, page 1.
    .

    Does everyone named “Hillary” need to be a congenital liar???

  • Hillary Mantel…the very first writer for Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Extraordinary!

  • ” … And it proves, yet again, that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable bigotry in elite circles in the Anglosphere. … ” Yup. Public television serving a reality without virtues, truth, and goodness.

  • Thanks for posting this. I love this period of history, and am an ardent devotee of More. I also like BBC period pieces and their Shakespeare productions. So I’ve been watching Wolf Hall with anticipation.

    What a disappointment. Even from a secular viewpoint, I find it boring, slow, plodding. How they could take such an exciting period of history and make it a snooze-fest, I can’t imagine. The lead playing Cromwell, apparently a noted stage actor in Britain, sleep walks through this production, showing little emotion or reaction to events around him, including the death of his wife and children from sudden illness.

    Last night took the cake, when the dispute with More was showcased and resolved. It seemed as if the producers churlishly wanted to debunk “Man for All Seasons,” taking notable incidents from that play and film, and having Cromwell pointedly contradict them. E.g., they have More begin the “I think none harm” monologue, but Cromwell angrily interrupts More to rebuke him for racking a heretic.

    The whole thing is undoubtedly part of the modern mania for deconstructing heroes, of which More was acknowledged to be one even by the mainstream Englishman.

    I want to keep watching now, if only to see Cromwell get his head cut off.

  • They’re playing Cromwell as an anti-hero. Think of him as The Lawyer with No Name.

  • I didn’t watch last Sunday’s Wolf Hall, but did see a short program after midnight on Wolf Hall the play which may have been on MD public tv. Included in that was a short docudrama or maybe excerpts from the stage version (I was sleepy) about Henry VIII’s reign which summed it up as one of the worst in British history. In a quest for his legacy he bankrupted his country’s treasury waging a futile war against the French and so appropriated wealth and lands held by the Church to pay for it and the expense of his lavish court. The man who earlier had been awarded by Pope Leo X the title of Defender of the Faith for his “Defense of the Seven Sacraments” in opposition to Luther’s Protestantism on the continent ended up furthering the Protestant cause in England. He later regretted the latter since he did not consider himself Protestant, but Catholic, head of the Catholic Church in England. (Queen Elizabeth II has DF after her name.) It was stated that on his death bed he held a rosary in his hand and remorsefully asked God for mercy. This last sentence maybe an a apocryphal story. Henry’s increasingly erractic behavior was attributed to a painful, festering leg wound from jousting in his athletic youth. Unmentioned was his syphillis. Henry had a classsical education and should have remembered the tale of Pandora’s box. Anyway the show was not pro Cromwell and had positive mention of More.

July 6, 1535: Martyrdom of Saint Thomas More

Sunday, July 6, AD 2014

Imagine facing death and being able to escape it by signing your name to a bit of parchment.  By your signature you would also be released from jail, the fortune of your family restored and you restored to your family.  Now imagine that all your friends and family are begging your to sign your name.  Such was the dilemma confronting Saint Thomas More.  It took clearly superhuman courage for him to go to his death in spite of all of this, and in spite of all evidence that his act was simply an act of futility that would not stop Henry from building his new church.

I have always thought that martyrdom, never easy, is simpler when it comes suddenly and one’s blood is hot with adrenaline pounding through your veins.  Then heroism can stand out as the sudden culmination of one’s life, with one passing swiftly to eternal reward.  How much harder is the type of cold martyrdom suffered by Saint Thomas More, a gradual thing spanning over a year, with every second Saint Thomas More having to fight off the temptation to simply sign his name and save his life.

In his Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, written while in the Tower, Saint Thomas explains the source from which he drew his strength:

When we feel us too bold, remember our own feebleness. When we feel us too faint, remember Christ’s strength. In our fear, let us remember Christ’s painful agony that himself would for our comfort suffer before his passion to the intent that no fear should make us despair. And ever call for his help such as himself wills to send us. And then need we never to doubt but that either he shall keep us from the painful death, or shall not fail so to strengthen us in it that he shall joyously bring us to heaven by it. And then doeth he much more for us than if he kept us from it. For as God did more for poor Lazarus in helping him patiently to die of hunger at the rich man’s door than if he had brought to him at the door all the rich glutton’s dinner, so, though he be gracious to a man whom he delivereth out of painful trouble, yet doeth he much more for a man if through right painful death he deliver him from this wretched world into eternal bliss.

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8 Responses to July 6, 1535: Martyrdom of Saint Thomas More

  • I believe Saint Thomas More possessed more courage than I would ever have. I believe I would have signed the paper and then taken my family and fled for France, Spain or Portugal and subsequently renounced the document I signed.

    I found a documentary on YouTube this morning about the foreigners who escaped to London at the onset of WWII and fought for the Allies in the Battle of Britain. The 303rd Squadron was made up of mostly Polish fighter pilots who wanted to destroy the Germans. They fought hard and well.

    I would have taken their approach if faced with a situation such as Thomas More. I would have done almost anything to escape Henry Tudor, take my family out of England and live where I could be Catholic.

  • The Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation is excellent reading.
    It is, perhaps, worth noting that, in the 16th century and long afterwards, “comfort” was used in its Latin sense of con-fortare, literally to strengthen together or to fortify. The prefix con- can also have a generally intensive force; rumpere=to break, corrumpere=to destroy; tristare=to crush, contristare (whence contrition)=to pulverise.
    We find the old sense in the phrase, “giving aid and comfort.”

  • Thank you, Don.

  • Penguins Fan: It was a polish repatriot who cracked Hitler’s code.
    .
    Thomas More now Saint Thomas More sent his daughter, her husband and his wife, Alice, to another country each by a separate route before he was martyred, all without signing the Act of Supremacy. More exemplified “To thy own self be true.”

  • And More was a political man. I don’t mean that in any negative sense; he was simply the kind of man who in any society would rise to the top. He was, in every sense, a natural. It’s hard for naturally great men to be supernatural. For More to be willing to become Lazarus, when he was seemingly born to be the rich man, is miraculous.

  • Who said ehhem one cannot be a good Catholic and a good politician? Of course, there is indeed (always is) a cost. The Catholic-any one of us-needs to be ready and willing for for the cost factor [major point of Saint John Paul’s Encyclical Veritatis Splendor]

  • Thomas More might have been very pleased when Benedict 16 stood in Westminster Abbey which had been previously dedicated to the first pope, Saint Peter ( by
    Edward the Confessor) and spoke to the question of authority that Thomas died for. that same questions, as b16 said, is of primary importance again, in this generation.

    “Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved?”

  • St. Thomas Moore is the name of the saint under which I came into the Catholic Church. For those who don’t know me, let me state simply that I have accessed the strength that Sir Thomas Moore called upon on many, many occasions. I am currently calling upon it. Praise be to God and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ who gives us the strength and character of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit!

Fortnight For Freedom: More and Fisher, Martyrs For the Catholic Church and Freedom

Sunday, June 22, AD 2014

 

Fortnight For Freedom 2014

 

Forasmuch, my lord, as this indictment is grounded upon an act of Parliament directly oppugnant to the laws of God and his holy church, the supreme government of which, or of any part thereof, may no temporal prince presume by any law to take upon him, as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual preeminence by the mouth of our Savior himself, personally present upon the earth, to Saint Peter and his successors, bishops of the same see, by special prerogative granted; it is therefore in law amongst Christian men, insufficient to charge any Christian man….

Saint Thomas More, 1535

It is glorious that two men who were friends in life, who died within weeks of each other, executed by the State for upholding the freedom of the Catholic Church, share the feast day of June 22.  More and Fisher were martyrs for the freedom of the Catholic Church and also for the great truth that there are aspects of our lives that Caesar must no be allowed to control.

Saint Thomas More was considered an unworldly fool by many of the Machiavellian operators in the England of his time. They were right to a large extent. With ruthlessness and supple consciences they prevailed and Saint Thomas died a traitor’s death. And yet, almost five centuries later, the memory and example of Saint Thomas is honored the world over, and his foes are largely forgotten except by history nerds like me. Their creation, the Anglican Church, is on its way to the dustbin of history while the Catholic faith for which Saint Thomas went to the axe waxes ever greater on the global stage. Saint Thomas was superbly eloquent in life, and he has proven even more eloquent in death.

John Cardinal Fisher was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul III in May of 1535, King Henry stopped the cardinal’s hat from being brought into England, bellowing that he would send Fisher’s head to the Pope.  Tried by a kangaroo court and convicted, the only testimony brought against him was by Richard Rich, a specialist in lying men to the headman’s block.  Fisher was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn.

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2 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom: More and Fisher, Martyrs For the Catholic Church and Freedom

  • In this Fortnight of Religious Freedom which Catholics in America have begun [June 22, (memorial of Sts John Cardinal Fisher and Sir Thomas More) to July 4th, Independence Day] we need to remember the encroachments that have taken place over the last fifty years or so on religious freedom in America: transforming the First Amendment Clause into the protection of American society from “the Church” and relegating freedom of religion to a ‘mere’ ‘freedom of speech. This then gives rise to the translating of religious freedom into ‘merely’ ‘freedom of worship’

    However, as central as worship: leiturgia [Eucharistia] is for the Church, our religion has two other equally important aspects that are fundamental to our existence: kerygma-didache [proclamation-teaching] and diakonia (service). Our very nature as Church cannot be reduced to a ‘mere’ ‘freedom of worship’ nor can we separate love of God (worship) from love of neighbor (teaching and service). We, the Church are not a result of people choosing to be Catholic, but are the result of the love of God revealed in His sending of Jesus Christ into the world, the Word made flesh, the Sacrament of God, Who gave His life for His Bride the Church, washed her in the saving tide of His Blood in Baptism, and constantly gives Himself to her “This is My Body”, “This is My Blood”. We are ‘called out’ [ekklesia] of the world to be His Church which in turn is the primordial Sacrament of Salvation for the world. We therefore are a ‘community of response’, not choice. How can ‘freedom of religion’ then be reduced to ‘freedom of worship’?

    As in the time of Sts John Fisher and Thomas More, we are witnessing in our own country and throughout the Western World a vast politico-socio-cultural ‘revolution’ with vast religious ‘overtones’. New orthodoxies set up by new ruling elites are confronting Catholics daily at every level of society. New rulings have been made by the Chief Executive without Congress’ approval which are attempting to force the Church (which is more than her church buildings) to comply with funding activity which we do and have always considered to be immoral, from the beginning of the Church. Our sacramental practice is under threat in several areas [reducing baptism to nothing more than a naming ceremony with no faith or moral dimension; comments by a former President concerning our sacrament of Holy Orders, and the raising of the question by White House reps during Supreme Court hearings; finally of course the continued pressure to comply with the irrational (reason tells us marriage is between man and woman) redefinition of marriage]. Even in the aspects of teaching (education) and service, our religion has been under pressure and even attack. How many dioceses have been forced to end all adoptions (our very pro-life message) because we will not place orphans within same sex households? Our Catholic schools from Pre-K thru the Universities are under assault precisely if they dare to identify as Catholic rather than comply to the socio-political orthodoxies of the day.

    Most troubling however, is the vast political-social revolution in our country which has taken up a “New Reformation”: no longer the dissenting “Protestant” against the Catholic Church’s power, but instead, purposefully attempting to transform this country and its heritage from one based on Judaeo-Christian values etc to one which is totally secularist-thinking, acting, living ‘as if God does not exist’. Since ‘man’ is created in ‘the image of God’ what WILL become of ‘man’ when God is so eclipsed?

    During this Fortnight of Freedom we also remember the countless Christians who are experiencing even worse condition in their countries of origins, experiencing great alienation, oppression and even persecution and martyrdom. Here we are witnessing the ecumenism of the martyrs. Those who are persecuting Christians do not discriminate whether one is a Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant-they are being persecuted as Christians. And their blood cries out from the sands of the Middle East and the rain forests and savannahs of Africa and Asia. Nor can we forget the Christians in China. Attempting to control every aspect of Chinese life from the moment of conception until death, the government there even seeks to control the Catholic Church through its puppet, the Patriotic Catholic Church. China has and will fail. China will become the most Christian country by 2030

    The guards are still watching over an empty tomb. They just don’t get it!

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4 Responses to Saint Thomas More As the Most Interesting Man Not in the World

Saint Thomas More on the Zimmerman Case

Wednesday, July 17, AD 2013

Sir Thomas More: You threaten like a dockside bully.

Cromwell: How should I threaten?

Sir Thomas More: Like a minister of state. With justice.

Cromwell: Oh, justice is what you’re threatened with.

Sir Thomas More: Then I am not threatened.

Robert Bolt, A Man for all Seasons

 

 

Roger Kimball has a good piece of commentary at Pajamas Media citing Saint Thomas More in reference to the Zimmerman case:

That’s not stopping the race mongers, of course. For them, the death of Trayvon Martin is an allegory of how America is a racist society. If only they could take a break from their race baiting histrionics to watch an improving film, The Man for All Seasons (1966), for example.  A friend, pondering the spectacle of race hatred on view in the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial, sent me these exchanges from the movie:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

And this:

Margaret More: Father, that man’s bad.

Sir Thomas More: There’s no law against that.

William Roper: There is: God’s law.

Sir Thomas More: Then God can arrest him.

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3 Responses to Saint Thomas More on the Zimmerman Case

Fortnight For Freedom 2013: Saint Thomas More

Monday, June 24, AD 2013

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

It almost seems trite to cite Saint Thomas More as standing for the liberty of the Catholic Church.  The tale of his brave stand against Henry VIII is so familiar that we forget how remarkable it was.  57 years old at the time of his death, an old man by the standards of his time, Saint Thomas More was not a cleric or a soldier.  He had no special reserves of training to call him to steel him to the sacrifice of his life over a matter of principle.  He was a lawyer, a scholar and a writer.  A former judge and government official he never sought such positions, preferring a quiet life. He was a man of the study rather than someone who was called upon by his profession to risk his life for what he believed in.  He loved life and the family that was so dear to him.

He lived in a time of cowardice and betrayal when almost all his contemporaries in England bowed to Henry and acclaimed him Supreme Head of the Church in England.  Fear was the main motive, followed by ambition, and indifference or hatred of Catholicism.    Almost everyone was submitting except a few hardy souls like Bishop Fisher.  More did not want to die and he was quite willing to be quiet, but he would not swear allegiance to what he knew to be false, and for this stance he died, and his beloved family reduced to poverty.  One of the most important attributes of freedom is that it allows us to be true to our consciences,  and not to be forced by violence to say what we know to be lies.  Saint Thomas More was unwilling to surrender his freedom to follow the dictates of his conscience, even at the cost of his life.

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One Response to Fortnight For Freedom 2013: Saint Thomas More

  • I despair of freedom now that it has become disconnected from truth to such an extent as to attack the freedom of others.

    I see very little worthwhile in saving freedom, while freedom is used to do more evil than good.

Quotes Suitable for Framing: Saint Thomas More

Wednesday, April 3, AD 2013

I Die the King’s Good Servant, but God’s First.

Saint Thomas More

 

Perhaps the finest lawyer, certainly the holiest, that England ever produced.  After his trial, knowing he was a dead man, Saint Thomas More made an eloquent speech and uttered words that have a renewed meaning for us today in a time and place that is becoming ever more hostile to the Truth of Christ:

Forasmuch, my lord, as this indictment is grounded upon an act of Parliament directly oppugnant to the laws of God and his holy church, the supreme government of which, or of any part thereof, may no temporal prince presume by any law to take upon him, as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual preeminence by the mouth of our Savior himself, personally present upon the earth, to Saint Peter and his successors, bishops of the same see, by special prerogative granted; it is therefore in law amongst Christian men, insufficient to charge any Christian man.

Evil frequently gains power in this Fallen World, but it never becomes right no matter how much power it gains.

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7 Responses to Quotes Suitable for Framing: Saint Thomas More

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  • But just think of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, their testimonies and martyrdoms. We cannot write them off. They clearly stood upon principles of the Gospel and witnessed a good confession.

  • I just deleted a comment from an individual who decided to blast Cardinal Dolan in this thread. This charming individual had previously sent me an e-mail at my law office calling me and Paul Zummo “Dolanites” which is a term coined I believe by Michael Voris. For sending me the e-mail and for fighting his own little jihad instead of sticking to the subject of this post I have banned him. A reminder: this blog exists to serve as a platform for what contributors wish to write about. I may write about Dolan and Voris’ crusade against him in future, but insults and attempted thread hi-jackings are defintely not useful means of persuading me to do so.

  • I have the prayer from St, Thomas (for lawyers) above my desk and read it every day before I start. Best part …..”so that today I shall not, in order to win a point, lose my soul”.

  • calling me and Paul Zummo “Dolanites”

    Do I have to go around wearing a cheesehead now?

  • “I have the prayer from St. Thomas (for lawyers) above my desk and read it every day before I start.”

    It is hanging on my office wall Maggie.

  • “Do I have to go around wearing a cheesehead now?”

    Only if it is edible.

Runnymede

Tuesday, November 13, AD 2012

The sixteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here and here.

One of the great passions in the life of Kipling was English history.  Runnymede was one of several poems on English history he wrote for A School History of England (1911).  Another great passion of his was liberty, and in the poem Runnymede, Kipling combined both of these passions.  Whenever in English history some great struggle has arisen since 1215 the cry of Magna Carta has usually been raised.  The basis of English liberty, the Great Charter has an honored place both in English and American history.  To look at Magna Carta with a modern eye is initially to be disappointed, since much of it deals with disputes between his barons and King John  which, at first glance, lack any contemporary relevance.  However, the binding of the power of the government, and the restriction of the scope and power of the State, is of crucial importance today, as it is in all times and places.  There are passages additionally that do have a contemporary resonance:

(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

It is no accident that Saint Thomas More referred to the passage in Magna Carta that guarantees the liberty of the Church  in his speech after his trial:

That Law was even contrary to the Laws and Statutes of the Kingdom yet unrepealed, as might evidently be seen by Magna Charta, wherein are these Words; Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit, & habet omnia jura integra, & libertates suas illcesas: And it is contrary also to that sacred Oath which the King’s Majesty himself, and every other Christian Prince, always take with great Solemnity, at their Coronations.

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