Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Belloc on Gardiner and More

Just a reminder that Anna Mitchell--still recovering from the Sacred Heart Radio fundraiser yesterday--and I will discuss what Hilaire Belloc thinks of Stephen Gardiner and Mary I, the first Tudor Queen Regnant of England and Wales (and parts of Ireland). Listen live here a little after 6:45 a.m. Central/7:45 a.m. Eastern.

Belloc offers some comments on Gardiner's concern about the division that would take place in England because of Henry VIII's takeover of the Church in England--and compares Gardiner to St. Thomas More:

But here we may note a curious point. When it came to the danger of schism Gardiner had about him a touch of hesitation. It was only a touch, but it is significant of what was to come. He was still whole-heartedly in favour of that absolute kingly government and of that strong national feeling which went with it; he was still as much opposed as ever to the political Papal claims over temporal sovereigns, and especially over his own sovereign; and when the decision had to be taken he was ready to accept the supremacy of Henry over the Church of England, and even to defend it, as we shall see. 

I pointed out in the case of Saint Thomas More, that to be so farsighted as to discern what the schism would ultimately mean was granted to very few. The average Englishman was with the King against the Pope in that particular quarrel — hoping vaguely perhaps that it would soon be patched up as so many others had been, but not connecting it in any way with doctrine. Therefore Gardiner, in every sense the average Englishman, followed the same road. 

Yet he did show a slight hesitation when the exact formula by which the King's supremacy should be first hinted at was introduced into the debates of the clergy. It should always be remembered in this connection that the Royal Supremacy was not, in the first steps towards it, represented as schismatical; the full schism was only arrived at by degrees and after a series of steps, each of which, save the last, might be twisted or argued into orthodoxy. 

Belloc also offers some comments on Gardiner's death, including his famous last words:

That which he had never thought possible, the presence of an anti-Catholic government in England — the destruction of the Mass — the unscrupulous despoiling of Guild property — the oversetting of all Shrines — the wanton destruction of Churches — had proved to him what the fruits of disunion might be. But for the schism, which he had approved, such things could not have come to pass; and now he was determined to undo the schism and worked with all his might for the restoration of England to the unity of Christendom, which he had the great privilege to see accomplished before he died. As he died he gave the famous cry, Negavi cum Petro, exivi cum Petro, sed non flevi cum Petro: "I denied as Peter did, I went out as Peter did, but I have not wept as Peter did."

So he had never truly repented of what he had done to destroy the Catholic Church in England by cooperating with Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, and Thomas Cranmer. Nevertheless, Belloc avers that both Gardiner and Mary thought they had done all they could to restore the Catholic Faith in Catholic England:

She died as her mother had died, hearing the Mass which was being said in her death-chamber in the early hours of a dark winter's morning; and it is pathetic but pleasant to remember that as she died she said that angel children were about her bed. 

With her death the whole gang immediately seized power, using Elizabeth whom she had spared and whom she had regarded as her successor, because she had been deceived by the violent protestations of Catholic loyalty on the part of that Princess. With the death of Mary and the advent of Elizabeth began that slow and ultimately successful effort to drive the Mass out of England and destroy Catholicism in the people. 

But Mary died under the impression that the situation had been met, and that the national religion, to which the great majority of Englishmen still adhered, was no longer in grave or imminent peril. 

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