Friday, November 17, 2023

Preview: Two Second-Chance "Confessor" Bishops

I thought we'd continue with the theme of second chances at the Tudor Court because Father Henry Sebastian Bowden remembers two bishops who survived during the religious changes of the Tudor dynasty in his Mementoes of the English Martyrs and Confessors For Every Day in the Year on November 18 and 23: Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall and Bishop Richard Pate. Bowden includes them as "Confessors", not as canonized saints, but as Catholics who suffered under the religious changes of their age in England, sometimes after having gone along with the flow of change.

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at my usual time on Monday, November 20, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern, the last segment in the second national hour on EWTN Radio. Please listen live here and/or catch the podcast later here.

Just a quick reminder of these religious changes during the Tudor Dynasty:

Henry VII: Catholic with strong ties to Rome through Cardinal Protectors
Henry VIII: Started out the same; ended up divided from the universal Catholic Church; proclaimed as the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England; various changes in liturgy and devotion; Catholicism and Lutheranism mixed; religious orders destroyed
Edward VI: Reigned as a minor; strongly Calvinist doctrine; known as "The New Josiah" (the sixteenth King of Judah who restored Temple worship in Jerusalem); some Catholic prelates (including these two) realized their errors
Mary I: restored Catholic worship and doctrine; reconciled England to Rome
Elizabeth I: Re-established Royal control over the Church; compromise Thirty-Nine Articles; outlawed the Catholic Mass, etc

With the title "Lifelong Repentance", and a verse from Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 35:5 ("To depart from iniquity pleaseth the Lord, and to depart from injustice is an entreaty for sin.") Father Bowden sketches out Bishop Tunstall's career:

Erasmus described him as a man of most exquisite judgment both in Greek and Latin literature, but at the same time of incredible modesty and of sweet and joyful manner. [Saint]Thomas More, who had been educated with him, declared that "the world scarce contained any one of greater learning, prudence, or goodness." Yet he failed where More stood firm, and under Henry VIII took the oath of Supremacy, and defended himself to Pole on the ground that the Pope’s supremacy was not so certain a matter as to die for. [Reginald] Pole replied, "Your friends Fisher and More were of not so vile a mind as not to know why they died. God send you a livelier spirit in His honour."** He atoned, however, for his weakness under Edward VI by his opposition to the new Protestantism, and was sent to the Tower. Restored to his See of Durham under Mary, and strengthened and pardoned by the blessing of Christ's vicar, he ardently repaired the havoc caused by schism in his diocese. Summoned by Elizabeth to take the oath, he refused, and on his arrival in London, after a week’s journey, was deposed, and died imprisoned under Clark [sic: should be Matthew Parker, Elizabeth I's first Archbishop of Canterbury] at the age of eighty-five, November 18, 1559.

**Father Bowden is probably referencing an exchange of letters between Pole and Tunstall after Pole had written his public letter "On the Unity of the Church" to Henry VIII, deploring his actions--including the executions of More, Fisher, and the Carthusians--which the Lambeth Palace Library has in its collection (Tunstall, Cuthbert, A letter written by Cuthbert Tunstall, late bishop of Duresme, and John Stokesley, sometime byshop of London, sente unto Reginalde Pole ... (London, 1560). STC 24321 [A polemical letter against Pole by two of Henry VIII’s advisers.] (ZZ)1553.02.03)

So Tunstall, like almost everyone else, went along with Henry VIII's marital and ecclesiastical plans, then began to see their results during the reign of Edward VI and was fortified enough with the restoration of Catholicism during the brief reign of Mary I, to refuse to cooperate with Elizabeth I and her Parliament's legislation establishing the Church of England with its Thirty-Nine Articles, etc. Thus he died in Lambeth Palace under house arrest.

Father Bowden gives Bishop Pate's memento the title "Wasted Away" with verses 3 and 5 from Psalm 31: "Because I was silent my bones grew old, whilst I cried out all the day long . . . I have acknowledged my sin to Thee." He also took the required oaths during the reign of Henry VIII, but while at the Court of Charles V in Spain, seemed to advocate for the Princess (then called Lady) Mary's legitimacy, so that's why, as Father Bowden mentions, Henry VIII mistrusted him:

He was the nephew of Longland, the Courtier Bishop of Lincoln, confessor to Henry VIII, and was made by him Canon and Archdeacon of his Cathedral, even before taking his degree at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Through his uncle’s influence he was sent as Ambassador to Charles V in Spain. Recalled to England in 1537, he accepted the Royal Supremacy, and in 1540 returned as Ambassador to Charles. Though his desire to please the King led him into schism, Henry secretly mistrusted him, and recalled him to England. Pate fled to Rome, and was attaindered. In Rome he was fully reconciled to the Church, and nominated to the See of Worcester by Paul III in 1541, and assisted as one of two English bishops at the Council of Trent. On Mary’s accession he returned to England, and took possession of his See. Under Elizabeth he voted in the first Parliament against every anti-Catholic measure, and made reparation for his previous fall by refusing to take the oath. He was imprisoned in the Tower, and then for a year and a half placed under the custody of Jewel, September 1563, at Salisbury, and finally recommitted to the Tower, where he died of his sufferings after six years’ confinement, November 23, 1565.

When I read these biographies of those who lived through all the religious changes in the Tudor dynasty, I'm reminded of the title of an EWTN program hosted by Ralph Martin, The Choices We Face.

They faced tremendous and fateful choices (King or Church; safety or martyrdom?), made their choice, and then had to live with it. These two men made their choice, realized their error, repented, and made the better choice, to return to the Church and the Catholic Faith.

May they rest in the peace of Christ.

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