Henry VIII Was A Tyrant

Still, most of us have no business attending every argument we’re invited to. For the sake of peace and order, and barring particularly egregious circumstances (the determination of which forms the true heart of this controversy), every man should assume the legitimacy of his own government. That is, in fact, the actual praxis of the Catholic Church, which has such a preference for peace that it prefers to err on the side of legitimizing usurpers, even handing a crown to Napoleon himself. Which reminds me: I believe that someday, perhaps in the not too distant future, the question of political legitimacy will be made easier than any of us dreamed possible. In the meantime let us fight with all we have to make those “egregious circumstances” unthinkable.

– Jeff Culbreath from What’s Wrong with the World

Dear Mr. Culbreath,

You and your fellow bloggers have had a number of interesting discussions recently at your blog about what constitutes a legitimate government, how a government develops legitimacy, and how it loses legitimacy. I don’t have much to add at the moment except that I was listening this morning to the famous Catholic convert Steve Ray, who is in England right now at the famous National Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham. He was talking about the destruction of the Catholic monastaries under Henry and the persecution of the church in general and I can’t help but think that what Henry did made his government illegitimate and worthy of rebellion. However, at the same time, whatever Henry’s faults and those around him who created the Anglican church (e.g. Cranmer), eventually the Church of England became a Christian church full of beauty and grace and part of the fabric of English life and government. In other words, it became legitimate.

Now of course, the Anglican church is in some sense dying in England and the Catholic Church is making a comeback — so perhaps you are right — the Catholic response to government upheaval and turmoil should always be to work for justice within the framework of the government that exists (“render unto Caeser”) and keep in mind that our mission on Earth will always be limited in some sense to preaching Christ crucified and doing our best with the grace He gives us.

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3 Responses to Henry VIII Was A Tyrant

  1. William Luse says:

    Jeff,
    The overall point of this post is well-taken, but I’m sceptical of this: “eventually the Church of England became a Christian church full of beauty and grace and part of the fabric of English life and government. In other words, it became legitimate.”

    It certainly became a part of the fabric of government since its supreme authority is to be found in no archbishop, let alone a pope, but in the monarchical head of that government. But that it “became a Christian church” can’t be right since the Catholic Church doesn’t consider the Anglican sort a church at all. Considered, therefore, as a church and nothing else, it can’t be legitimate. That’s the impression I get from this: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html
    Toward the bottom, under Fifth Question, it becomes most explicit. This is not to deny the “beauty and grace” of the liturgy, but I can’t help but think that there is a beauty and sacramental grace that must attend a true church which is not to found on the surface of things.

    • Fake Herzog says:

      Bill,

      Thanks for the smart comment — sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’ve been particularly busy at work (my boss left the City and so I’m in charge of her work for the moment) and the girls always keep me busy at home.

      I checked out that document you linked, along with some of the footnotes contained within, especially Ut unum sint, John Paul II’s Encyclical on Ecumenism. What is strange is that document does use the word church to refer to our Protestant brothers and sisters institutions, for example in this passage (from Chapter II, “The Fruits of Dialogue”):

      Dialogue with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the West

      64. In its great plan for the re-establishment of unity among all Christians, the Decree on Ecumenism also speaks of relations with the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West. Wishing to create a climate of Christian fraternity and dialogue, the Council situates its guidelines in the context of two general considerations: one of an historical and psychological nature, and the other theological and doctrinal. On the one hand, this Decree affirms: “The Churches and Ecclesial Communities which were separated from the Apostolic See of Rome during the very serious crisis that began in the West at the end of the Middle Ages, or during later times, are bound to the Catholic Church by a special affinity and close relationship in view of the long span of earlier centuries when the Christian people lived in ecclesiastical communion”.109 On the other hand, with equal realism the same Document states: “At the same time one should recognize that between these Churches and Communities on the one hand, and the Catholic Church on the other, there are very weighty differences not only of a historical, sociological, psychological and cultural nature, but especially in the interpretation of revealed truth”.110

      65. Common roots and similar, if distinct, considerations have guided the development in the West of the Catholic Church and of the Churches and Communities which have their origins in the Reformation. Consequently these share the fact that they are “Western” in character. Their “diversities”, although significant as has been pointed out, do not therefore preclude mutual interaction and complementarity.

      So I’m not sure how exactly, as a Catholic, we should refer to the churches of Protestants as well as Orthodox churches. It appears to be a bit of a mystery…

  2. Rocco says:

    What about the “Pilgrimage of Grace” in Northern England?

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