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When, with the failure of the divorce proceedings, came the rejection of Papal supremacy in England, there were plenty of people ready to take the winning side, urging that the rejection was just, and not contrary to the true conception of the Christian Church. It is interesting to note that in all the pulpit tirades against the Pope and what was called his "usurped supremacy," there is no suggestion that this supremacy had not hitherto been fully and freely recognised by all in the country. On the contrary, the change was regarded as a happy emancipation from an authority which had been hitherto submitted to without question or doubt. A sermon preached at St. Paul's the Sunday after the execution of the Venerable Bishop Fisher, and a few days before Sir Thomas More was called to lay down his life for the same cause, is of interest, as specially making mention of these two great men, and of the reasons which had forced them to lay down their lives in the Pope's quarrel. The preacher was one Simon Matthew, and his object was to instruct the people in the new theory of the Christian Church necessary on the rejection of the headship of the Pope. "The diversity of regions and countries," he says, "does not make any diversity of churches, but a unity of faith makes all regions one Church." "There was," he continued, "no necessity to know Peter, as many have reckoned, in the Bishop of Rome, (teaching) that except we knew him and his holy college, we could not be of Christ's Church. Many have thought it necessary that if a man would be a member of the Church of Christ, he must belong to the holy church of Rome and take the Holy Father thereof for the supreme Head and for the Vicar of Christ, yea for Christ Himself, (since) to be divided from him was even to be divided from Christ." This, the preacher informs his audience, is "damnable teaching," and that "the Bishop of Rome has no more power by the laws of God in this realm than any foreign bishop."
rock, to signify that upon him as a rock He would build His church. Unto Peter He committed His flock, and "the true Christian people which we have at this day was derived by a continual succession from the See of Peter" (foL e. 4 d.).
He then goes on to speak of what was, no doubt, in everybody's mind at the time, the condemnation of the two eminent Englishmen for upholding the ancient teachings as to the Pope's spiritual headship. "Of late," he says, "you have had experience of some, whom neither friends nor kinsfolk, nor the judgment of both universities, Cambridge and Oxford, nor the universal consent of all the clergy of this realm, nor the laws of the Parliament, nor their most natural and loving prince, could by any gentle ways revoke from their disobedience, but would needs persist therein, giving pernicious occasion to the multitude to murmur and grudge at the king's laws, seeing that they were men of estimation and would be seen wiser than all the realm and of better conscience than others, justifying themselves and condemning all the realm besides. These being condemned and the king's prisoners, yet did not cease to conceive ill of our sovereign, refusing his laws, but even in prison wrote to their mutual comfort in their damnable opinions. I mean Doctor Fisher and Sir Thomas More, whom I am as sorry to name as any man here is to hear named: sorry for that they, being sometime men of worship and honour, men of famous learning and many excellent graces and so tenderly sometime beloved by their prince, should thus unkindly, unnaturally, and traitorously use themselves. Our Lord give them grace to be repentant 1 Let neither their fame, learning, nor honour move you loving subjects from your prince; but regard ye the truth."
The preacher then goes on to condemn the coarse style of preaching against the Pope in which some indulged at that time. "I would exhort," he says, "such as are of my sort and use preaching, so to temper their words that they be not noted to speak of stomach and rather to prate than preach. Nor would I have the defenders of the king's matters rage and rail, or scold, as many are thought to do, calling the Bishop of Rome the 'harlot of Babylon' or 'the beast of Rome,' with many such other, as I have heard some say; these be meeter to preach at Paul's Wharf than at Paul's Cross."1
The care that was taken at this time in sermons to the people to decry the Pope's authority, as well as the abuse which was hurled at his office, is in reality ample proof of the popular belief in his supremacy, which it was necessary to eradicate from the hearts of the English people. Few, probably, would have been able to state the reason for their belief; but that the spiritual headship was fully and generally accepted as a fact is, in view of the works of the period, not open to question. Had there been disbelief, or even doubt, as to the matter, some evidence of this would be forthcoming in the years that preceded the final overthrow of Papal jurisdiction in England.
Nor are direct declarations of the faith of the English Church wanting. To the evidence already adduced, a sermon preached by Bishop Longland in 1527, before the archbishops and bishops of England in synod at Westminster, may be added. The discourse is directed against the errors of Luther and the social evils to which his teaching had led in [Germany. The English bishops, Bishop Longland declares, are determined to do all in their power to preserve the English Church from this evil teaching, and he exhorts all to pray that God will not allow the universal and chief Church—the Roman Church—to be further afflicted, that He will restore liberty to the most Holy Father and high-priest now impiously imprisoned, and in a lamentable state; that He Himself will protect the Church's freedom threatened by a multitude of evil men, and through the pious prayers of His
1 Simon Matthew, Sermon made in the Cathedral! Church of SayntPaule, V] June 1535 (Berthelet, 1535).
" people will free it and restore its most Holy Father. Just as the early Christians prayed when Peter was in prison, so ought all to pray in these days of affliction. "Shall we not," he cries, "mourn for the evil life of the chief Church (of Christendom)? Shall we not beseech God for the liberation of the primate and chief ruler of the Church? Let us pray then; let us pray that through our prayers we maybe heard. Let us implore freedom for our mother, the Catholic Church, and the liberty, so necessary for the Christian religion, of our chief Father on earth—the Pope."1
Again, Dr. John Clark, the English ambassador in Rome, when presenting Henry's book against Luther to Leo X. in public consistory, said that the English king had taken up the defence of the Church because in attacking the Pope the German reformer had tried to subvert the order established by God Himself. In the Babylonian Captivity of the Church he had given to the world a book "most pernicious to mankind," and before presenting Henry's reply, he begged to be allowed to protest "the devotion and veneration of the king towards the Pope and his most Holy See." Luther had declared war " not only against your Holiness but also against your office; against the ecclesiastical hierarchy, against this See, and against that Rock established by God Himself." England, the speaker continued, "has never been behind other nations in the worship of God and the Christian faith, and in obedience to the Roman Church." Hence "no nation" detests more cordially "this monster (Luther) and the heresies broached by him." For he has declared war "not only against your Holiness but against your office; against the ecclesiastical hierarchy, against this See, that Rock established by God Himself."'
1 Joannis Longlondi Tres condones (R. Pynson), f. 45. 'Assertion of the Seven Sacraments against Luther (translation by J. W., 1687), f. a. i.
Whilst the evidence goes to show the full acceptance by the English people of the Pope's spiritual headship of the Church, it is also true that the system elaborated by the ecclesiastical lawyers in the later Middle Ages, dealing, as it did, so largely with temporal matters, property, and the rights attaching thereto, opened the door to causes of disagreement between Rome and England, and at times open complaints and criticism of the exercise of Roman authority in England made themselves heard. This is true of all periods of English history. Since these disagreements are obviously altogether connected with the question, not of spirituals, but of temporals, they would not require any more special notice but for the misunderstandings they have given rise to in regard to the general attitude of men's minds to Rome and Papal authority on the eve of the Reformation. It is easy to find evidence of this. As early as 1517, a work bearing on this question appeared in England. It was a translation of several tracts that had been published abroad on the debated matter of Constantine's donation to the Pope, and it was issued from the press of Thomas Godfray in a well-printed folio. After a translation of the Latin version of a Greek manuscript of Constantine's gift, which had been found in the Papal library by Bartolomeo Pincern, and published by order of Pope Julius II., there is given in this volume the critical examination of this gift by Laurence Valla, the opinion of Nicholas of Cusa, written for the Council of Basle, and that of St. Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence. The interest of the volume for the present purpose chiefly consists in the fact of the publication in England at this date of the views expressed by Laurence Valla. Valla had been a canon of the Lateran and an eminent scholar, who was employed by Pope Nicholas V. to translate Thucydides and Herodotus. His outspoken words got him into difficulties with the Roman curia, and obliged him to retire to Naples, where he died in 1457. The tract was edited with a preface by the leader of the