Monday, March 20, 2023

Saint Thomas More and Monks and Friars

Sometimes Cambridge Core grants open access to journal articles and I happened upon this article by accident, from The Historical Journal, Volume 65 , Issue 4 , September 2022 , pp. 922 - 945, on "Thomas More and the Defence of the Religious Orders in Henry VIII's England" by Martin Heale.

He poses an interesting thesis:

The purpose of this article is not to revisit debates on the place of monasticism in More's spirituality or vocation, but rather to pursue a connected and less well-explored theme: Thomas More's views towards the religious orders in early Tudor England. There are a number of potential benefits to such a study. More's attitude towards the monastic ideal can be illuminated by an analysis of his position towards the concrete manifestations of that ideal in his midst. His writings on the religious orders also provide an interesting case-study of the degree of consistency in More's religious thought over the course of his career, and (a much contested topic) between his early humanist and later controversialist writings. They can equally shed light on the extent of Erasmus's influence on More's thinking, since (it will be argued) the two writers held rather different views towards the strictly observant branches of the religious orders. This article will also explore the wider implications of Thomas More's attitude towards the monasteries of early sixteenth-century England, which was by no means wholly enthusiastic. During the later 1520s and early 1530s – a moment when the role and reputation of the realm's religious houses were coming under intense scrutiny – he was the most active and influential apologist for the English church. Yet More's defence of the monasteries of his day was decidedly guarded, and there are signs that his ambivalent attitude towards the religious orders was held by others among the conservative-minded educated elites of early Tudor England. As a result, England's monasteries would receive relatively little support from this quarter when the Henrician assault on the religious orders began in the mid-1530s.

Please read the rest there.

My first thought as I began reading the article was that Thomas More's apologetic projects were more targeted at protecting Catholic doctrines and practices like prayer for the dead, the Seven Sacraments, the priesthood in general, intercession to and veneration of the saints, etc.

I don't know how long the article will be available, so access it as soon as you can if you are interested.

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