King henry viii and his role in the history of the catholic church and the church of england If there are words that would best fit to describe King Henry VIII, one would agree that he was a man of dual powers: religious and political powers he exercised or shall we say employed in order to keep his throne and his famous name. He has the religious powers because he had been once an advocate of the Roman Catholic Church and a prominent name during the Church’ war against the Lutherans or the Reformists. He has political powers, which he used to enable England the most powerful in Europe.
As a king, Henry VIII was able to develop those exemplary political skills by building, strengthening and keeping his political interests and good relationships with other countries like Italy and later with France. Henry VIII was undoubtedly politically witty as he was able to handle political pressures and even won over threats of his throne.King Henry VIII also dubbed by Pope Leo X, as the “Defender of Faith” was famous for his then close relationship with the Catholic Church. He was in fact the one who had helped the church in the war against the Reformists who demanded for the reformation of the Catholic Church during the early 1500s.
One historian tagged Henry VIII as a “Serial Monogamist” and an “egotistical man” (Green, Robert 1998, p.263). It could have been because of the fact that the king was willing to compromise his religious orientation and the doctrine of the Catholic Church for just one thing: his desire to have a son as his heir. What was notable of Henry VIII in the world’s history was his ability to merge religious and political powers in order to keep his name clean in the eyes of ally countries and his people which especially manifested during his quest for a wife whom he can have a son to be an heir of his throne.
All these facts and observations merged together will somehow justify other observations of historians and biographers, which regard King Henry VIII as significant although with much criticisms, personalities in the histories of both the Catholic Church and the Church of England (Erickson, Carolly 1980, p.112).In this paper, we will look briefly into the family background of the king in order to have a better cue on the latter events of his political and religious life. We will focus on his role in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England.
This paper also finds it important to examine the sequence of events, which covered the king’s quest for a wife who can bore him a son.Born on June 28, 1491, Henry VIII was the second son of King Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York (Scarisbrick, J.J. 1968, p.
17). He was one of the most remembered and famous descendants belonging to the line of the Tudor Monarchs (Loades, David 1996, p.22). He had two brothers, Arthur and Edmund, Duke of Somerset and two sisters whose names were not mentioned in most history books and articles.
Died early of a disease in 1502, Henry VIII had to face the early responsibilities of getting into the political affairs of his kingdom (Erickson, Carolly, p.89). This is quite opposite to Henry’s earlier life spent with his father’s preparation of him to be in charge of the church.There were speculations and probably just conclusions drawn from the series of his life events that, Henry VIII was indeed theologically inclined.
Being trained early in the for the church and with known scholars in the kingdom, Henry VIII was believed to have been the well-educated, of good academic performance and one who has the innate cognitive skills (Pirenne, Henri 1958, p.201). We can probably say that the king was well rounded in the sense that he had excelled in the fields of arts and music, linguistics and sports aside from his accomplishments in the military and political arenas. It is not however the likely interest of young Henry to engage in the political realm since his early years in throne has been largely managed by his advisors Richard Foxe and the famous Cardinal Wolsey (Fry, Somerset 1990, p.
58). It is however contemplated that Henry has the gift of wit and the innate personality of handling political issues. This might have the very reason why he was able to re-establish his good political relations with France even if it was his top enemy in the previous wars. Despite his love for sports and his early devotion to enhancing his other skills, young Henry VIII have been proven to have equal excellence in the fields of literature and sports, including his academic skills (Ridley, Jasper 1985, p.
122).One of the two reasons Henry VIII was made famous was his relationship with the Roman Catholic Church before and after his split due to divorce issue. It is important that one should note that Henry VIII was one of the most prominent personalities in the history of the Roman Catholic Church especially during the period of reformation wherein Martin Luther was demanding the church for reformation. It is important to note that Luther was then a “Monk who was moved to indignation by the sale of indulgences and other abuses of the ecclesiastical system nailed his famous theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg and thus began a religious revolution in Germany” (Pinto, De Sola V.
1950, p.37).Luther was an enemy to Henry VIII so to speak that he literally had helped the Catholic Church against the Protestants. To prove his commitment and dedication to the Catholic Church, Henry VIII even wrote a book called Assertio Septem Sacramento rum (Defense of the Seven Sacraments).
It is to be stressed that the seven sacraments were just one aspect of the Catholic traditions and doctrines that Luther opposed. In the book, the King literally defended his faith in the Catholic Church of his belief of the power of the Seven Sacraments and that the book indeed became a bestseller (Green, Robert 1998, p.199).The King was indeed so attached with the Catholic Church.
Aside from defending the Seven Sacraments, Henry VIII stood to his religious belief of the doctrine of transubstantiation, a doctrine of the Church, which believed in the symbolic transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during the offering, as part of the Holy Mass or the Eucharist. Even during the course of the King’s negotiation relative to his request for the Pope’s grant of divorce to his marriage with Catherine, Henry’s dedication with the Church continued by appointing Thomas More to do the job against Luther. Meanwhile, Catherine of Aragon was the wife of his deceased brother Arthur, who was five years older than Henry VIII. Catherine was known to people as a loving and dedicated wife to Henry and commended for her service to the people (Roll, Winifred 1970, p.
65). Well-known to Luther as a devoted Catholic, the King was actually considered by Luther as a “damnable rottenness and worm”(Fraser, Antonia 1994, p.51). There was a notable evidence of the King’s good relationship with the Catholic Church before he split with it.
Henry VIII conferred by the Pope the title “Defender of Faith” (Murphy, Virginia 1995, p.145). The title was a reward for the King’s well-written and well-published book “Defense of the Seven Sacraments.” The title was so precious for Henry VIII that he has kept the title even after he split with the Catholic Church and established his own Church, which he called “The Church of England.
”It was not until the Pope refused to grant Henry VIII his desired divorce for his marriage with Catherine Aragon that the King was displeased with the Catholic Church (Sowerby, Tracey Amanda 1979, p.178). It could have been just a matter of disagreement or displeasure with the Pope so to speak that the matter should not amount to splitting with the Catholic Church. To the surprise of many, the King regarded the disagreement too personal not just with the Pope but also with the Church as a whole.
This action by the King could have been brought about by the fact that his ego was so hurt that his important request was declined. It was another thing that he King was expecting the Pope to side with him but the contrary happened.If we are to look closely into the matter, Henry wanted the Pope to grant him divorce not just for wanting to marry Anne Bolyen but also of wanting a son to be an heir to his throne. He had only a daughter with Catherine, Elizabeth and that fact dissatisfied the King with his marriage (Starkey, David 2003, p.
64). It is also important to note that Catherine was formerly married to Henry’s older brother Arthur but was asked by his father to be remarried to Henry after the former died of a disease. The King wanted the divorce so much that he even tried to ask Thomas Moore to sign a letter asking the Pope to grant him divorce which the latter refused. The King devised several reasons in defense for his plea for divorce but the still failed to get the approval of the people around him.
But in 1533, Henry got an ally in the person of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who was personally appointed by the King. Cranmer sided with the King stating in defense that Henry’s marriage to Catherine contradicted the laws of God” (Green, Robert 1998, p.272). Cutting it short, Bolyen and Henry secretly married with Cranmer’s power even before the annulment (Murphy, Virginia p.
184). The Church response was to excommunicate Cranmer, his loyal supporters including bishops and then the King.Henry VIII, although religious in his own rights, was willing to sacrifice the life of others and even his religion, for the sake of having what wanted. In this case for example, he did everything in his power, even to sacrifice Thomas Moore and his relationship with the Catholic Church in the name of Anne Bolyen and his dream of having a son.
In another case, Henry was willing to have peace with Rome in order to limit and eventually remove the power of the Pope over England. This plan Henry knew will not be consented by the Pope. So before Pope Clement VII gave his decision to Henry, the King had already devised a plan to ensure that he will get what he wanted.Henry was a man who wanted to keep his name clean and appealing to people.
He always wanted to keep his throne and whatever it takes to keep him in place, he will do everything to the extent of his powers as a King. If he was able to save his face from humiliation and criticism for divorcing Catherine Aragon, there was only one thing Henry utilized: his political powers. In the course of his reign, and for keeping his throne until his death, Henry probably has utilized his powers well enough for his own sake. For his plan of making Rome his political ally, there was just one thing, which made him think so: he wanted to ensure protection from his enemy, Charles V.
Charles V opposed to the divorce proposed by Henry VIII but for the sake of having Anne Bolyen, Henry VIII managed to breach with Charles V in 1527.Meanwhile, Henry’s strategy was to secure support from the parliament with which he succeeded. One step at a time, Henry VIII managed to send representatives to Wales and Calais for the purpose of defending the privileges of the Parliament. In this case, the King has the assurance that he has little by little strengthening and widening the scope of his political power through his representatives.
With his political wit and the unwavering support from those whom he had appointed, Henry VIII was successful in securing the Acts of Annates and Appeals and the Supremacy he had long been waiting for.At the completion of separation from Rome, Henry VIII had the complete assurance that he was completely out of the jurisdiction of the Pope. In his own powers and the supremacy he conferred unto his throne, Henry VIII was able to transfer enormous wealth from the church to the royal crown including the dissolution of the monasteries in his jurisdiction. Finally, the King had his marriage with Catherine Aragon legalized in 1533.
The supremacy Henry got have caused him a lot and maybe it was not as easy as we think it was on the part of Henry who have already established his personal relationships with these people. It was just sad to recall that Henry was able to have all these sacrificed for the sake of marrying a woman whom he expected to give him a son but was unable to do so.For the Catholic Church, Henry VIII could have been a hero and a defender of faith for a time. But with the sacrifices of Sir Thomas Moore, Bishop Fisher, the monks and the Carthusians, they might have the real heroes of faith.
They have shown that their faith with the Catholic Church was more important than political power that Henry VIII could have given them should they chose to side with him.The establishment of his supremacy, the execution of the people around him and the execution of Anne Bolyen for a charge of adultery did little to move Henry and feel a little insecurity in his throne. Accounts of Anne said that the King indeed falsely accused her in order that he gets a valid reason for granting him another divorce and of marrying another woman (Warnicke, Retha 1989, p.187).
With his political powers, he was able to manage the matter. However, the dissolution of the monasteries encouraged the people to protest in the north through the Pilgrimage of Grace. Henry VIII was however proven to be a man of great diplomacy and a man of political skills that he was able to suppress the protest. What Henry VIII was to renew his long been abandoned war with Charles V and Francis I so to avoid intervention of foreign countries.
Those who wanted to take Henry VIII out of the throne did not even succeed because of the absence of somebody to replace him. In the end, Henry VIII gained his victory.Being excommunicated from the Catholic Church and of having Anne Bolyen as his wife, the King established his own church, the Church of England. The said church was a duplicate of the Catholic Church only that he had made himself the head and the supreme ruler in place of the Pope.
Even if Henry was angry with the Catholic Church, he never had any of its doctrines replace nor revived. It is also important for everyone to know that remained an enemy of Luther although for political purposes, embraced Protestantism for a time even after he had established his own defined church.True enough to their views and opinions, Henry VIII was such a political figure that was likened to a puppet for siding to which he knows would protect his interests. Being the head of the Church of England, Henry VIII had all the power to execute three Catholics for affirming the primacy of the pope and three Protestants for affirming justification by faith alone, sending them to the same shambles in three pairs (Ridley, Jasper p.
151). Because it is the supremacy of the Pope which Henry hated so much of the Catholicism, he hated those to expressly affirm to the supremacy of the former.Henry’s established Church of England has almost similar doctrines with that of the Catholic Church aside of course from having a different head. Few differences exist but for the Catholics, these doctrines were significant and unique to their religion.
For example, the Church of England rejects the idea of monasticism, the cult of relics and the presence of the images inside the church. Henry’s Church rejects the idea of a purgatory although the church conducts prayers for the dead. However, as he had written in his book, “In Defense of the Seven Sacraments”, Henry retained his faith on the power of the Holy Eucharist and that he still carried to his church the belief on the real presence and sacrifice of the mass. More importantly, Henry VIII upheld the importance of freewill.
Henry, for his love of power and prestige always wanted that he have his own views and opinions be made supreme of all. Relative to his church, Henry was said to have that strategy of soliciting reviews of theological views from different sets of scholars. From here, he would listen to their rival views, their critiques of the matter including the aspects, which they appreciated. Henry would not choose to side to anyone.
What he usually did was to review the accumulated opinions and then would come to his own version by combining the rival thoughts, which would then result to him being at the middle.As to Henry’s supremacy in his church, one would probably agree that he was indeed a man of wit because he actually justified his reign as the head of the church biblically. To make this clear, Henry compared himself with the kingship of King David over Israel during the Old Testament. In Henry’s argument, Kind David in his reign has his power over the priests and the prophets.
Henry employed the same concept in defending his throne as a king and at the same time the head of the church. In Henry’s time, the Catholic Church denies the supremacy of the King over Church in the concept of “ecclesiastical liberty”. Henry’s refusal to recognize the supremacy of the Pope in the church was the main reason why the Catholic Church decided to excommunicate the King.Henry strongly believed that his kingship and his supremacy in the church were well justified by the models of kingship in the Biblical times.
He firmly believes that he has his “God-given authority” over the church. To justify his kingship and church supremacy, he looked forward to publishing an English version of the Bible in order that the people would be able to have hands on reading on the kingship model he had patterned in the Old Testament. However, to be fair with Henry, he wanted to have a vernacular version of the Bible so he could teach his people about their obligations to God, to the King and their neighbors. What Henry wanted to emphasize was that the Bible should ensure that the people would learn complete obedience with their rulers.
The publication of the Bible in the English version however has a hidden agendum: of instilling to the people their obedience to the King. Later in after Henry introduced the Bible as the “word of God” the King then have his hidden agendum be inculcated in the minds of the faithful. In the Ten Commandments for example, one of the commandments, which said, “Honor thy mother and thy father” Henry’s preachers somehow twisted the real meaning of the commandment. The commandment, in the view of the Church of England would mean obedience to the king, being the father of the whole nation.
Henry was successful enough in making the faithful in his church believe that the obedience that the Bible teaches is actually obedience to the king rather than the pope.Backed up by his political and religious interests, Henry also devised a doctrine of the Church of England, which eliminated idolatry, or the veneration of the graven images, as was a tradition in the Catholic Church. Later in the Church, a mere presence of a painting or any graven image in the church was considered an abuse. In the church view, the presence of the images inside the church could trigger anyone to abuse the goodness therein and be encouraged to have his adoration be converted to idolatry.
This doctrine was based on the Biblical event when king Hezekiah destroyed the image of the serpent made by Moses with God’s command because the people have abused its presence and regarded the image as an idol. The church later developed that doctrine, which prohibits the presence of decorative angels in altars, saints in stained glass, crucifixes and even the representation of Biblical stories. Henry remained faithful to these teachings and all these he pleased to b taught to his people.In 1534, Henry VIII as the head of the church summoned to his parliament to pass a law, which forbids the act of sodomy and warned the people that the offense will be penalized with death.
Again, Henry VIII found as basis of the law in the Bible and told his people that the law being passed was a revelation of God’s words. The concept of sodomy forbids marrying the wife of a brother which he believed was his offense when he married Catherine Aragon. This was also the same concept that the King blamed his inability to have a son with Catherine. With his unlimited power, being the king and the head of the church, Henry could undoubtedly have all these commandments be enforced to his people.
It is his dual supremacy that enabled him to begin with the church reformation.Let us remember that the King first ensured that the people would believe that his supremacy in the church was justified by the Old Testament accounts. He then taught the people that the laws or ordinances he passed were revelations of the word of God and so the people have to obey them. Henry also was able to correct religious errors he committed with the least obvious acceptance of his fault.
For example, he has once asked Richard Morrison to issue statement which said: “Where before he was called king, and yet had against all right and equity a ruler above him, which ever enforced himself to keep his highness and all the rest of his subjects in servitude, error, and idolatry; God has made him, as all his noble progenitors of right ought to have been, a full king, that is, a ruler, and not ruled in his own kingdom as others were” (D MacCulloch, 1995 p.69).The Church of England also holds the doctrine of Divine Providence, which Henry also had made church legacy. Henry believed that his inability to have a son with Catherine was his punishment for taking his brother’s wife.
Thus had assured his that his church fully implement the rule against sodomy. In this regard, Henry has this event connected to obedience and the Divine Providence. In his view, and of course by the advise of the people around him, the people should ensure their obedience to God’ laws in order that they be provided with the blessings. On the other hand, disobedience will eventually result to one’s punishment.
In comparison with the doctrines of the Catholic Church and Protestantism, this same doctrine is parallel to the two churches.It is true in the view of the Catholic Church and the Protestant tradition that it is the sole responsibility of man to obey God and that the payment for that obedience will be blessings and consequently disobedience will result to punishment. The difference however lies on the credibility of the laws being enforced. Let us remember that Henry VIII made his people believe that obedience of the people should be on the king rather than the Pope as the head of the Church.
It might be fair enough to say that the credibility of the doctrines in the Church of England was tainted since it was in fact devised out of political interests and hidden agenda of protecting the interest of the King. For example, the church doctrine of prohibiting sodomy is questionable not to its Biblical credibility but to the intent of the king of its implementation.Let us not forget that it was one of the few justifications Henry VIII made for divorcing Catherine Aragon and then consequently would have justified his marriage to Anne Bolyen. This just means that with the law, he had implied that his marriage with Catherine was indeed null and void in the eyes of God.
I believe that there is no question as to the validity of the doctrines of the Church of England on sodomy and of graven images relative to Biblical doctrines. The question lies on the intent of the King in imposing obedience to such laws. If not for the uncovered hidden agenda of the King, one would have to believe that the reformation of the Church is a religious one. However with several political and personal motives, the doctrines of Henry’s church were put into doubt.
The legacy of king Henry as with his view of matrimony had become the basis of matrimonial law in England even up to these days.Henry VIII was undoubtedly a man of dual powers: religious and political powers, which he successfully utilized to keep his throne during his reign. It was his wit in political matters that saved Henry VIII from wide criticism of having six wives and of justifying his divorce and marriages with these women. Henry was one of man who was willing to sacrifice his friends and trusted servants for the sake of serving his personal desires.
HE even had his religious life sacrificed for the sake of securing divorce and of having a son.For the Catholic Church, Henry VIII will remain an important figure in its history for Henry VIII once defended the faith against the Lutherans. For the Church of England, Henry VIII will remain recognized as the founder of their faith and their church. For England, Henry VIII will remain her once great king whose political powers truly formidable that no one during the course of his reign even until his death was able to threaten nor shook his throne.
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