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of the Church, as a thing that was not necessary; for if he be the necessary head, he is included in the name of the whole body, and whether he be or not is a matter to be treated and disputed of besides” (p. 615). As to Tyn. dale's railing against the authority of the Pope because there have been “ Popes that have evil played their parts,” he should remember, says More, that “there have been Popes again right holy men, saints and martyrs too,” and that, moreover, the personal question of goodness or badness has nothing to say to the office.
In like manner, More, when arguing against Friar Barnes, says that like the Donatists “these heretics call the Catholic Christian people papists,” and in this they are right, since “ Saint Austin called the successor of Saint Peter the chief head on earth of the whole Catholic Church, as well as any man does now.” He here plainly states his view of the supremacy of the See of Rome. He accepted it not only as an antiquarian fact, but as a thing necessary for the preservation of the unity of the Faith. Into the further question whether the office of supreme pastor was established by Christ Himself, or, as theologians would say, de jure divino, or whether it had grown with the growth and needs of the Church, More did not then enter. The fact was sufficient for him that the only Christian Church he recognised had for long ages regarded the Pope as the Pastor pastorum, the supreme spiritual head of the Church of Christ. His own words, almost at the end of his life, are the best indication of his mature conclusion on this matter. "I have,” he says, “ by the grace of God, been always a Catholic, never out of communion with the Roman Pontiff; but I have heard it said at times that the authority of the Roman Pontiff was certainly lawful and to be respected, but still an authority derived from human law, and not standing upon a divine prescription. Then,
Ibid., p. 616.
2 Ibid., p. 798.
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when I observed that public affairs were so ordered that the sources of the power of the Roman Pontiff would necessarily be examined, I gave myself up to a diligent examination of that question for the space of seven years, and found that the authority of the Roman Pontiff, which you rashly-I will not use stronger language-have set aside, is not only lawful to be respected and necessary, but also grounded on the divine law and prescription. That is my opinion, that is the belief in which, by the grace of God, I shall die."
Looking at More's position in regard to this question in the light of all that he has written, it would seem to be certain that he never for a moment doubted that the Papacy was necessary for the Church. He accepted this without regard to the reasons of the faith that was in him, and in this he was not different from the body of Englishmen at large. When, in 1522, the book by Henry VIII. appeared against Luther, it drew the attention of Sir Thomas specially to a consideration of the grounds upon which the supremacy of the Pope was held by Catholics. As the result of his examination he became so convinced that it was of divine institution that “my conscience would be in right great peril," he says, “if I should follow the other side and deny the primacy to be provided of God.” Even before examination More evidently held implicitly the same ideas, since in his Latin book against Luther, published in 1523, he declared his entire agreement with Bishop Fisher on the subject. That the latter was fully acquainted with the reasons which went to prove that the Papacy was of divine institution, and that he fully accepted it as such, is certain.”
1 Henry VIII. and the English Monasteries (popular edition), p. 367.
2 In his work against Luther, Bishop Fisher teaches the supremacy of the Pope without any ambiguity. In the Sermon had at Paulis against Luther and his followers, he also put his position perfectly clearly. The Church that has a right to the name Catholic has derived the right from its communion with the See of Peter. Our Lord calls Cephas, Peter, or 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.).
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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.”
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! 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
To the 8 of the faith thgland.
Simon Matthew, Sermon made in the Cathedrall Church of SayntPaule, 27 June 1535 (Berthelet, 1535).