Saturday, August 4, 2012

The English Reformation Today, Episode One

Today on my radio program on Radio Maria (from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Central Time) I am going to discuss the relevance of the English Reformation today--and this article I wrote for the Catholic Exchange would be useful background:

Commentators have been noticing the parallels between the HHS Contraceptive Mandate handed down on January 20, 2012, and the Tudor religious mandates of the sixteenth century. In 1534, Henry VIII had himself declared the Supreme Head and Governor of the Ecclesiae Anglicanae (the Church of England) and separated Catholics in England from the ecclesiastical authority of the Pope, taking that power to himself by an Act of Parliament, the Act of Supremacy. In 1588, his younger daughter Elizabeth I’s first Parliament passed laws requiring her subjects to acknowledge both her Supremacy, modeled on her father’s, and the Uniformity of the Church of England, based upon the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles developed by Thomas Cranmer. Thomas Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury for both Henry VIII and Edward VI, burned at the stake as a heretic during the reign of Mary I.

Henry VIII’s actions gave him control over the Catholic Church in England, as he regarded himself as a good Catholic (perhaps a little more Catholic than the Pope) who continued to believe for instance in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and who left a will providing for prayers and Masses said for his soul after death. He required his subjects to accept this change, demanding loyalty through the Oath of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy, both of which denied the Pope’s authority over the Catholic Church in England. St. Thomas More, as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews recalled, was found guilty of treason and beheaded because he refused to accept this Tudor mandate that violated his Catholic conscience:

“I guess I grew up watching movies like Becket and A Man for All Seasons and seeing the church and state go to war with each other and being told stories from the Old Testament about the Maccabees, about people, families being told you got to eat pork,” he said. Matthews added that it is “frightening” to him “when the state tells the church what to do.”

Elizabeth I’s actions meant that Catholicism, even as her father had defined it after 1534 (sans monasteries, for example), was outlawed in England. When Catholics resisted, refusing to attend Church of England services, mounting a rebellion in the North of England—and when Pope St. Pius V issued a Papal Bull excommunicating Elizabeth and proclaiming her Catholic subjects free to disobey her—Parliament passed a series of recusancy laws. In an editorial in the Catholic World Report, “Twenty-first century Recusants” Matthew Cullinan Hoffman saw some parallels between those laws and the Obama administration’s HHS Mandate against Catholic consciences:

“Intentionally or not, the administration’s policy smacks of the methods established by England’s Queen Elizabeth against Catholic “recusants,” who refused to participate in the worship services of the Anglican Church during the late 16th century. Although Elizabeth’s regime, and those that followed for the next two hundred years, did not provide a penalty for Catholic belief as such, they found a simple and devastating way to coerce Catholics to violate their consciences: the recusancy fine, which was levied against those who absented themselves from Sunday Anglican worship or failed to receive communion once a year.”

Chris Matthews and Matthew Cullinan Hoffman are making reasonable connections. Even an anonymous poster to my local newspaper’s “Opinion Line” saw the point. The Wichita Eagle allows readers to post brief statements which appear both in print and in an on-line extra. This astute student of history commented, “Like Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy, the Obama administration’s HHS mandate is an attempt to seize control of all Catholic institutions. But Catholics are only the beginning. If this decision stands, freedom of religion is dead in this country.” . . .

This link to the USSCB Fortnight for Freedom might also be helpful (especially as we'll begin with the prayer from that event as illustrated above), as would this one about the Anglican Ordinariate as Pope Benedict XVI describes it in Anglicanorum Coetibus.

I welcome all listeners of Radio Maria US to my blog, whether you're listening on one of their radio stations or on line or through one of their apps. Next week on The English Reformation Today we'll discuss some aspects of how the history of the English Reformation has been written and look at the state of the Catholic Church in England before the Reformation. I invite you to call in with questions and comments toll-free at 866-333-MARY(6279).

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