Monday, 9 July 2012

Opposing both State and Church

There are those today, who claim that it is 'disobedient' to attend the Tridentine Latin Mass; that the Bishop must be obeyed in all things, even when he claims that the origins of paedophilia within the Church stem from adherence to lacy vestments and the like and refuses to admit traditionally minded young men to train for the priesthood.

The great mass of Catholics, certainly in England and Wales, would not know the meaning of obedience if it leapt up and savaged their nether regions.

Less than five hundred years ago, England and Wales were in a similar episcopal state as they are today.

Bishops caved in to the cunning and conniving State and many, many, priests, monks and nuns followed in their footsteps.

One man who did not yield to either the
State or the Church, when all
others apostatized - St John Fisher
They gave up all they believed in to embrace the new religion that dispensed with chantry prayers for the dead, the care and nursing of the old and infirm of society, the education of the young and the employment of thousands.

Statues were dragged out of the churches, pulled by horses and altar slabs ripped out and placed across church doorways so that all who entered had to walk over the sacred stone and defile it in so doing.

Religious books were piled in heaps and set on fire, up went the work of thousands of monk hours as the illuminated manuscripts were consumed by flames.

Few men or women stood in the path of such crushing opposition; but among the few, St Thomas More (representing the laity) and St John Fisher (representing the hierarchy) were, arguably, the most outstanding of our Reformation martyrs.

More had witnessed St John Fisher being taken off for execution, just a few days before he was to make the same journey and the Catholic world must have appeared most bleak and hopeless to him.

Nonetheless, he was constant to the very end and in no way a coward as some modern Catholics argue (because he did not submit to his trial but attempted to challenge the King's authority to gain freedom).

Here is a prayer composed by St Thomas More that has a certain resonance today:

"His truth shall compass thee as a shield"
Gracious God, give me Thy grace so to consider the punishment of that false great council that gathered together against Thee, that I be never, to Thy displeasure, partner nor give mine assent to follow the sinful advice of any wicked counsel.

St John Fisher suffered for his faith on 22nd June 1535 and St Thomas More on July 6th

We celebrate their feastday today - 9th July - Ss John Fisher and more - Ora pro nobis


  1. Thank you Richard! This is a very fine post, and I am linking, tweeting, and also copying the prayer for my own blog.

    God bless!

  2. Richard,
    Excellent post; I agree with your sentiments! How many of the Hierarchy Of England and Wales I wonder would be willing to die for their faith, once again possibly one-please God they will not be put to the test! Happy feast-day to you and All your readers.



  3. I dispute...
    "Few men or women stood in the path of such crushing opposition."
    Not enough, maybe, scandalously few bishops certainly,but "few" is a lie I had shoved down my throat over my school years - even wellmeaning stateside catholic bloggers repeat the idea that 100 odd catholics at Tyburn alone, of London alone, on one day alone , is the sum total for the whole Tudor period.
    We should exclude, as for canonization process were excluded , anyone who might be considered to so much as lift a finger or mutter the merits of the queen? Every last Northerner on the pilgimage of grace?
    75 to a hundred thousand- maybe one adult in every thirty of forty -is more like it who suffered death, however unsaintlily, for the faith, when they could have kept quiet and lived, the many unnumbered more who suffered injury and/or material loss if not of their lives, when they could have joined every scumbag in the kingdom on the spoils of church property, of denunciation of neighbours, who knows how much private blackmail....
    And yes , indeed,for myself since childhood Ive been haunted by the idea that I might break the moment they came for me...

  4. Thank you so much Chris and thank you Michael (both of you).

  5. Kinda puts the inconvenience that we who love the Old Mass endure into perspective. The lengthy journeys to obscure places at odd times of the day. The peculiar glances and occasional vitriolic comments are naught compared to what our glorious ancestors suffered for the Faith. I for one could not have endured the rack and the rope.

  6. BTW : regarding penal times and their start: from pure curiosity, can any erudite catholic with a good memory come to the rescue, masses of my memory have gone with illness and operations, point to any truth in the following:
    Many parish priests did stand up , but were not "martyred".
    viz and to wit:
    I have the idea that Henry's men ( the process was piecemeal, over quite a few years, after all) had at some stage and in some places at least, orders something along the Lines of "teach them who's boss, rough em up and humiliate them, but don't kill or arrest them publicly"
    After all, it was all so sneaky in some ways, so in-your-face in others.Remember, an inital move against St Fisher was poisoning the best stew in the bishop's palace kitchens, which was in fact for paupers, so was deadly but missed the target, our Saint limiting himself to leftovers and dry bread.The authorities had the hypocrisy to make a public show of horror and outrage and railroad a special bill thru parliament making Bishoppoisonoing a special crime. Sickmaking!
    Samelikey what has been even put on film but I understand is historical in Poland under nazi occupation:Whilst many thousands of Polish priests WERE
    imprisoned and killed , many more were say beaten up and thier presbiteries trashed, whilst their parishoners were arrested and/or killed/both.

    I am certain that I have read that many catholics, starting with priests, squoze through the oaths taking them in latin or greek and adding words or provisos which changed the meaning somewhat, until the authorities got wise to it.(All mixed up with"insofar as the law of God doth allow")It helped if your local oathtaking team were bored , ignorant, thuggish, or lazy time-servers with"little latin and less greek" no doubt.

  7. Mike - the vast majority of Catholics did cave in to the new religion. Henry/Edward/Elizabeth did not pick out the few outstanding Catholics of the day, they picked out those who opposed them. The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Crediton Revolt were actions largely taken by laity and were soon snuffed out. Within very few years Protestantism was rife and Catholicism rare and covert. Those priests who "muffed"their oath of allegiance were just as guilty of apostasy as any of the remainder.

  8. Richard:
    I hae me doots about your picture, but like all things I expect the situation was territorially variable.In whole towns and dioceses even, where folk sat lightly to the faith, it may have been as you say. Wales was really complacent till Elizabeth, and then finally reacted ? This I have read, but never seen properly settled. I have nothing at my finger tips to refute you, thirty years ago I could have told what I picked up where. I can no longer check with my deceased mentors such as Fr Maurice Couve de Murville, or Sister Marion Hope Parker, both sound scholars, neither specifically historians. Fr Maurice always said he was an amatuer as regards recusant history, but had a large section of the library on the subject, and had made his own excursions into the history of the shakespeare family, for example and formed his own judgement.(In general, his words would follow yours, from an ideal of every last bishop to every last one of the laity standing in line with chest bared for the sword.)
    I have neither read Duffy's recent article nor his book, but reviews go along somewhat with what I have long understood.
    If you take one in forty killed, one in forty injured,which I suppose you could call few, I suppose you could say that leaves 38 in every forty.
    Cowed, apathetic, going along with, or enthusiastic, about the "new" religion?
    I would suspect mostly plain scared shitless.
    I cannot neccessarily go along with you about being asked to give an oath under duress and swearing something different in Greek or Latin.It is not necessarily cowardly.Ok, undoubtedly the Vicar of Bray got going 6 generations before pudding-time and the song about him.
    Whether there is any overlap with the putative priests I mentioned in my comment, I now know not.It is a personal irraitation that I cannot even remember forgetting that that once had a confirmed source or not.
    One thing is absolutely for certain: the Bishops caved.If some had but gone into exile, the hierarcical link would have remained to Rome and orthodoxy, for priests and laiet to follow.
    Another : the new religion was no more freely chosen and accepted by the vast majority than a dog's hind leg.
    God bless!

  9. "There are those today, who claim that it is 'disobedient' to attend the Tridentine Latin Mass;"


  10. An insightful article.

    There are three books on the subject at hand that are in my humble opinion necessary reading, if one wishes to have a good understanding of the situation. All three were written by Englishmen. They are CHARLES V by D.B. Wyndham-Lewis, HOW THE REFORMATION HAPPENED by the great Belloc and THE MONSTROUS REGIMENT by Christopher Hollis.

    Again, my compliments on the post.

  11. Many thanks AP - much appreciated. Have you read Cobbett's History of the Protestant Reformation? Also a good insight.

  12. Shadowlands - yes, it's true. The bulk of Catholics know very little about faith matters.
    Often, as we go to Mass, the OF folk are leaving and we run a gauntlet of such muttered comments.