The Reformation In England (Vol. 0, by Philip Hughes, (Hollis and Carter. 42s.) IT may seem a bold venture to write another book on the Reformation in England but if anyone was equipped for the task, it was certainly Fr. Philip Hughes.
He has already shown us in his History of the Church of which three volumes have now appeared that he can absorb vast stores of learning and handle these tremendous themes with ease and clarity; the same gifts he brings to his portrayal of what happened to England in the reign of Henry VIII; the gravest issue, indeed the tuming-point in all our history.
The first object of our author is to describe the Englieh scene in 1517 and to show that not only the New Learning but the New Greed and the new money played their part in the revolution.
• He then considers the state of the Church in England in the early 16th century: the monasteries: the Bishops of that epoch: and the question how far the layman was really instructed in his Faith.
Thus we come to the influence of Wolsey, the Lutheran victories abroad, and to a consideration of heresy in England, due to the presence of Lollards or the importing of foreign propaganda.
Then the " Divorce" of Henry looms on the horizon and at last by 1529 the stage is set for the "King s Proceedings' that will end in the Royal Supremacy, threatened. achieved and in operation.
The volume ends with the fall of
K. G. MORTIMERE=
Cromwell in 1540 but a second volume (now in the press) will carry on the story to the Hampton Court Conference, at the beginning of the reign of James I.
THE central feature of this book is the Royal Supremacy of Henry VIII — the " Supremum Caput."
If this theory merely meant that a King had a right to rule his own country and to see that his people were not unduly taxed by a foreigner it could of course be &fended. But it was soon seen that the Supremacy boded ill for religious liberty or for adherence to the ancient Faiih.
The "Supremacy " developed a fatal and immediate flaw; it became clear that the State was to settle— and that meant the personal will of the Monarch—what was true, what was de fide—or at least what could be legally held as true in the Church of England.
Thus at the end of the reign an Englishman could be done to death for denying on the one hand the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist. or on the other the Supremacy of the King.
Thus it was that great prelates like Gardiner or Tunstall came to sec the error of their ways; and when Elizabeth revived the Supremacy in 1559—in rather more benign language — the Bishops in general had learnt their lesson. Moreover, the future history of the Church of England has amply illustrated the same text, for it has often groaned under this same Supremacy. striven to escape its fetters. suffered from all manner of adverse " judgments " and lost all ellective spiritual authority to define doctrine or expel heresy. And here again the National Church is true to type for its founder, Henry VIII, after all his profession of Catholic principles and his " Assertion of the Seven Sacraments" against Luther, was found making overtures to the Lutherans at a later stage of his reign, in view of his political position and dangers in Europe.
WHAT then was this " Angli canism " advocated by Stephen Gardiner himself and the other Apologists for the Supremacy?
Fr. Hughes calls it a more radical religious revolution than any form of continental Protestantism. These all retained a certain autonomy of religion, at least as an ideal; some notion of the supremacy of revelation, of truth, of private judgment, of conscience.
But Anglicanism made an ideal of something else—it transferred to a man all the authority which according to Catholic tradition was divinely given not to any man but to the one divinely-founded, divinely-guided Church that is, mystically, one body with God Himself incarnate.
All are to be passive instruments under the hand of the king. Whatever the king, as king. ordains. that
God ll ratify and confirm.
And so our author asks : " Did any one ever really believe this blasphemous rubbish ? Did Gardiner or Crannrier—or Henry himself ? What fate could have been worse than the degradation of survival by proclaiming this as one's Faith ?"
RUT here again the inevitable question turns up—why and how could all this happen? " Nemo repente fuit turpissimus " —no one goes down hill quite so quickly, quite so inevitably, as il scents, as Henry and his supporters after 1530 and the crisis of the Divorce.
Why was this ? Why did this
dreadful fate befall this province of the Church Universal, once called '' the Dowry of Mary ?"
This is a large and important question and the present book is particularly strong in its line of reply: sluiced I know of no other work on this period that sets forth so ably and convincingly the inner hietorv of the revolt.
The main reply is twofold: first, one must go back in history to past ages if one wants to diagnose the milady, to understand the gradual sapping and weakening of the structure that collapsed with the submission of the clergy and the outrageous claims of the Supremacy, one must look back a le see that it Was not so sudden as it appears.
And secondly one trust observe the uncanny force of the overwhelming propaganda that Henry (in truly modern style) invented to secure his aims.
AS to the former task, it is not beyond the reach of the ordinary student of today. It is an essential task if one would learn these matters aright.
It is a grievous pity that the English have abandoned for so long any serious study of the Middle Ages especially those later stages of Catholicism itself, just before the great explosion of the 16th century. This is. I fear. and has been for many years, the fatal gap in our education.
Fr. Philip Hegbes has given us in his third volume of the History of the Church just such a chance as we need for filling in the missing
chapters of our knowledge. For here we shall find those Subterraneous forces at work, that shock and surprise us when we read of the climax of Henry's great revolt.
But secondly. in this book itself under review, can be studied the actual text and cunning technique of the propaganda by which poor England was fooled and conned into submission.
The lesson will come home to us, for today we know only too well how a group of determined men with their apologists and agents cart turn the current of events.
A new instrument lay ready in the 16th century—comparable to what can be done today by radio — the printed book: a means at last of circulating knowledge, or such knowlege as it was desired to impart, among that tiny public that was yet sufficient to sway our destiny.
THE first of these issues was the
" Glasse of the Truthe " to prepare the mind of the public for that flouting of the Pope that was entailed in Henry's marriage with Ann. Herein we learn that the Pope's authority was usurped" for the first time.
Seine of its arguments reappear in the later work of Foxe. Sampson and Gardiner. It was followed by the " articles " of 1533, the first essay in official history." Ill January, 1534. the work was carried on by the reassemblage of Parliament and by that date Henry had ranged on his side the one political genius of his day. Thomas Cromwell.
The war of nerves was succeeded by a reign of terror: a new system of personal oaths from all subjects, and of new, even bloody penalties for disobedience against which neither rank nor any prestige of honour and holy living would be a protection," Then came Henry's Succession Acts—and here for the first time we have that spirit of savugery introduced that was to stain political life for the next two centuries.
With the fall of Cromwell (July, 1540) this volume ends.
The second volume—now in the press—will embrace the next 63 years.
What Henry had done was to jettison the foundation principle of historical Christianity. But already the English martyrs had given their testimony.
And as we lay down the first volume of this Most tragic but ever enthralline story, there is only one question we Can ask ourselves : On which side should we hare been found in those debates and trials of long ago?