Tuesday 1st December 2015

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

A Book Review… Henry VIII’s Catholic Polemic Revisited

July 5, 2014 Featured Today No Comments


Henry VIII: Defence of the Seven Sacraments. Edited and supplemented by Raymond de Souza; St. Gabriel Communications International. $33.00, including postage and handling; order from Sacred Heart Institute, Inc., P.O. Box 41, Winona, MN 55987.

Raymond de Souza, founder of St. Gabriel Communications, has set himself a high-minded goal in publishing this book: to help to restore the Catholic faith in England, tragically lost at the Reformation 450 years ago. For this purpose he has issued a handsome new millennium edition of this historic work to make it more available to a new readership, lay as well as academic.
De Souza rightly sees the Reformation as the first major blow in the weakening of Christianity in Europe. Describing himself in his precise formula as “Brazilian by birth, Catholic by grace, Australian by choice,” he has dedicated this labor of love to Queen Elizabeth II as a respectful reminder to a Protestant Queen of the part played by the Catholic faith in the long history of her country.
It is certainly a very worthwhile goal. Those who have studied the Tudor period might know of Henry VIII’s learning, his command of Latin, and his keen interest in theological matters, but it is unlikely that they will have read the work he produced with the assistance of his friend, Sir Thomas More, when at the height of his powers and popularity.
For his pains he was given the title “Fidei Defensor” by Pope Leo X, a title that has passed down to every English monarch since that time. Since Henry’s break with the authority of Rome the phrase has acquired a melancholy and ironic ring.
The “Faith” Henry was defending in 1521 was the Catholic faith; any other school of faith in the Western Church would then have been unthinkable; yet by 1536, when the court painter Hans Holbein painted his celebrated portrait of the King, a portrait reproduced by de Souza on the front cover of this edition, the ancient communion between Rome and England, begun at the time of Pope Gregory the Great, had been violently broken, a tragic circumstance that has had enormous repercussions for the later history of England.
Thus it is impossible to read Henry’s powerful polemic against Martin Luther, instigator of the Reformation, without a retrospective understanding of its context: why it was written, what its significance was in its time, and why the “Defence” fell into obscurity in subsequent centuries.
The work has rightly been described by the eminent Catholic Tudor historian, Professor J.J. Scarisbrick, as: “One of the most successful pieces of Catholic polemics produced by the first generation of anti-Protestant writers.” To make it more accessible, de Souza has simplified the syntax of the original and has added over 100 quotations from the Catechism to illustrate the orthodoxy of Henry’s theological arguments.
He has also included the King’s Letter of May 21, 1521 to Leo X in which Henry had stated: “No duty is more incumbent on a Catholic sovereign than to preserve and increase the Christian faith and religion…and to transmit them preserved thus inviolate to posterity, by his example in preventing them from being destroyed by an assailant of the Faith.”
The “assailant” was Luther who had just issued his own attack on the sacraments, and in his address to the reader Henry issues his own challenge in response: “In this little book I hope I have clearly demonstrated how absurdly and impiously Luther has handled the Holy Sacraments.”
It is clear to anyone who reads the polemic that it is this “impiety” that has scandalized the Catholic King: how shocking that anyone would try to change the truths of faith handed down by God Himself to His Church.
In an age of religious relativism that we inhabit today it is hard to understand the very real horror of heresy that Henry in 1521 would have experienced as a matter of course. Highly educated as a Renaissance prince, with a depth of classical and theological understanding that today is almost unknown in a layman let alone a monarch, he was determined to demonstrate to Pope Leo X his loyalty, knowledge of, and love for his faith. Henry demolished his opponent by his appeals to Scripture, Tradition, the Church fathers, and the “sensus fidelium” of his countrymen.
He constantly shows his loyalty to the Magisterium, as for instance when he observes over the question of indulgences, “I do not doubt that we may agree with the Pope’s judgement and the custom observed by the Saints….”
On papal supremacy — the reason for Henry’s later break with Rome — the King writes, “It is certain that by the unanimous consent of all nations, it is forbidden to change or move the things which have been immovable for a long time.” On Transubstantiation he writes, “It is certain that the faithful, for over a thousand years past, believed the substance of bread and wine to be truly changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus.”
The King continues, examining each sacrament in turn, showing how Luther has broken with the constant tradition and unchanging teaching of the Church from earliest times. He is clear that Luther and his followers “erect to themselves a new Church, compacted of vicious and impious persons.” He asks the question, “Why does he raise himself against the Bishop of Rome?” and confesses that he is “much amazed at the way Luther dares to cry out that…the Mass is no sacrifice or offering.”

Scornful Epithets

In support of his argument Henry shows his erudition, citing Saints Cyril, Jerome, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, and Augustine among other sources. This raises the question, not easily answered, of how much research in support of his arguments did he receive from Sir Thomas More? More, whom the King loved and admired, was the foremost scholar of his day, as well as a public servant, devout Catholic, devoted family man, and secret ascetic.
Also, according to the strenuous language employed in polemics at the time, More was not afraid to use scornful epithets in his own published writings combating heresy. Possibly his influence is behind Henry’s invective and his various descriptions of Luther as “this hideous monster,” this “infernal wolf,” “this worse than sacrilegious caitiff,” and “this most impertinent babbler.”
Such phrases show the King’s recognition that attacks on the magisterial teaching of the Church could not be tolerated, in case they caused unrest among the populace and thus faction and rebellion — the permanent nightmare of all historical monarchs.
Henry’s words on marriage make particularly ironic reading in the light of his own later adultery: “Marriage makes wedlock honourable, and by grace does not only keep the bed undefiled from adultery but also washes away the stains of lust.”
As he states in his Postface against Luther, neither reason, Scripture, custom or laws, as well as divine authority give credence to the heretical opinions of “this sooty wicket of hell.”
More was to be executed in 1535 for opposing the King’s challenge to papal authority; he was canonized in 1935. The famous Holbein portraits of the two men, reproduced here, show their differences: Henry, who in 1521 embodied “all the gifts of grace and nature,” faces the viewer in 1536 with a small, cruel mouth and cold eyes; More, shown in half-profile, has sensitive, intelligent features and a deeply reflective gaze.
De Souza includes several appendices which throw light on the Church’s place in human history, such as the words of Pope Leo XIII, St. John Bosco, and the influential Brazilian layman Plinio Correa de Oliveira. His book is a worthwhile and thought-provoking project.

+    +    +

(Francis Phillips is a book reviewer for the Catholic Herald in the United Kingdom.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Police officer killed at Planned Parenthood was pro-life, Christian pastor

Nov. 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Officer Garrett Swasey, the police officer killed during a standoff with a lone gunman at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs Friday, was reportedly a leading figure in his church who was also pro-life.…Continue Reading

In Australia, bishops face legal complaint for defending marriage

Sydney, Australia (CNA/EWTN News) — The Sydney archbishop has strongly defended the freedom of the Catholic Church in response to a legal complaint claiming the Australian bishops’ pastoral letter on marriage violated Tasmania’s strict anti-discrimination law. “Australia is party to…Continue Reading

Obama Just Sent MAJOR Threat To Every US State That Won’t Take Syrian Refugees

The Obama Administration is issuing a showdown with states that are refusing to accept Syrian refugees. The administration sent a letter telling states they would be subject to enforcement action if they do not comply with federal plans to import…Continue Reading

Pope at UN in Africa: We Have a Choice: Either Improve or Destroy the Environment

Says It Will Be ‘Catastrophic’ If Individual Interests Prevail Over the Common Good in Paris Meeting, and Information Is Manipulated to Protect ‘Plans and Projects’ Kenya, November 26, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Staff Reporter Here is a Vatican translation of the address…Continue Reading

Cardinal Pell bets against the odds: insists Pope Francis will strongly reaffirm Catholic tradition

ROME, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — Contradicting the statements of some of the pope’s closest advisors, the Vatican’s financial chief Cardinal George Pell has declared that Pope Francis will re-assert and “clarify” longstanding Church teaching and discipline that prohibits Communion…Continue Reading

‘Bleeding host’ under investigation by SL Catholic diocese

(KUTV) The Salt Lake Catholic Diocese has started an investigation into what is being described as a ‘bleeding host’ at a local parish, St. Francis Xavier in Kearns. Images of the host, given to 2News, showed circles of deep red,…Continue Reading

How did heterodox prelates try to change doctrine at synod?

In this address delivered at the Catholic Voice conference Faith of Our Fathers, Matthew McCusker of Voice of the Family discusses three key elements of the “progressive” strategy deployed at the Ordinary Synod: arguing for changes in the Church’s language,…Continue Reading

Bishop Defends ChurchMilitant.com Against ‘Vicious’ Bill Donohue Attack

by Church Militant • ChurchMilitant.com • November 24, 2015 65 Comments Bishop Rene Henry Gracida is criticizing the Catholic League The bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas is defending ChurchMilitant.com against what he calls the “vicious attack” by Catholic League’s…Continue Reading

Pope Francis to German Bishops: Your Church is a mess! Fix it and … GO TO CONFESSION!

The German bishops are making their ad limina visit. Every few years diocesan bishops have to go to Rome to meet with offices of the Roman Curia and, usually, the Pope. Pope Francis gave an address to the German bishops…Continue Reading

Germany’s bishops discuss decentralizing the Church in meeting with Pope Francis

ROME, November 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — The German bishops, sixty-seven of them, recently visited Rome together for their obligatory Ad Limina visit with the pope from November 16-20. This Ad Limina visit, which is obligatory for all bishops of the…Continue Reading

In Australia, Catholic Bishops Face Court Action, Huge Fines Over Traditional Views on Marriage

Australians have always viewed America’s litigious culture with suspicion. Our “no worries mate” approach to life means we tend not to rush off to court at the drop of a hat. So last week when a state government commissioner ruled…Continue Reading

Cardinal Wuerl’s Embassy Row Penthouse

Walking through the posh neighborhood of Embassy Row in October, I stumbled across a scoop: that Washington, D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl lives in a penthouse atop a mansion priced north of $40 million. That Embassy Row mansion is the Our…Continue Reading


Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope celebrates closing Mass of African Journey

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday celebrated Mass at Bangui’s Barthélémy Boganda Stadium for thousands of the faithful from the Central African Republic. Speaking of Paul’s missionary zeal in the Letter to the Romans, Pope Francis in his final Mass in the Central African Republic reflected on the great missionary effort which first brought the Gospel to the people of Central Africa. Times of difficulty, trial and suffering remind all of the Lord’s call to…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Arrives in Central African Republic

Francis Will Open Holy Door in Bangui Before Inauguration of Jubilee of Mercy in Vatican Bangui, November 29, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Deborah Castellano Lubov Pope Francis has arrived in the Central African Republic, the final leg of his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, after having visited Kenya and Uganda. The Pontiff arrived at the M’poko International Airport in the war-torn nation’s capital of Bangui around 10 a.m. local time, after a nearly three-hour flight from Uganda,…Continue Reading

Pope to young: Jesus can transform walls into a path


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged young people in Uganda to turn negative experiences into positive ones with the help of Jesus and his grace. In an address where the Pope ditched his prepared remarks and spoke off-the-cuff in Spanish, he urged the young people to open the door of their hearts to Jesus. More than 150,000 cheering and dancing young people had gathered at an airstrip near Kampala to hear the Pope and…Continue Reading

Pope Gives Youth Choice: Do You Want to Overcome Challenges or Be Overcome by Them?

Throwing Aside Script, Pope Francis Asks Kenya’s Young People If They’ll Allow Difficulties Destroy or Use Them As Opportunities Nairobi, November 27, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Deborah Castellano Lubov Pope Francis has asked Kenya’s young people how they will respond to the challenges they face, including those of bad tribalism, corruption, and desperation, and challenged them to get out of vicious cycles. Speaking to tens of thousands gathered in Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium, this morning, the Pope listened…Continue Reading

The Catholic Origins of Thanksgiving

Did you know that Thanksgiving is a Catholic holiday? True, it’s not on the Church calendar. And it is celebrated only in America, whereas Church holidays are universal. Our national holiday is certainly an event that has taken on a life of its own, with an established tradition involving turkey and mashed potatoes, football, shopping, and a four-day weekend—which is fascinating since none of those things have anything to do with the original event that…Continue Reading

Notre Dame Professor . . . Forced To Leave Project Aimed At Faithful Catholic Education

By JUSTIN PETRISEK (Editor’s Note: Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of the Cardinal Newman Society, published this report on November 24. All rights reserved.) + + + In an unexpected turn of events, University of Notre Dame professor Fr. Bill Miscamble, CSC, has been forced to disassociate himself with a new project recommending Notre…Continue Reading

Conversion To Pro-Life

By DONALD DeMARCO Before Roe v. Wade, but when the abortion issue was being hotly contested, certain pro-life leaders in Canada, as well as in the United States, told me that once people realized what abortion entails, the controversy would be settled solidly in favor of life. The plausible assumption in the minds of these…Continue Reading

How An Americanist/Modernist Continued To Undermine Catholic Teaching

By JAMES LIKOUDIS The author of Pilgrim Church: A Popular History of Catholic Christianity (Revised & Expanded; Twenty-Third Publications, 1989) that continues to circulate in Catholic parishes is Fr. William J. Bausch, who may be remembered by veterans of the sex education battles of the 1970s for his book A Boy’s Sex Life when he…Continue Reading

The End Of Obamaworld

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN In denouncing Republicans as “scared of widows and orphans,” and castigating those who prefer Christian refugees to Muslims coming to America, Barack Obama has come off as petulant and unpresidential. Clearly, he is upset. And with good reason. He grossly, transparently underestimated the ability of ISIS, the “JV” team, to strike…Continue Reading

The Fictional Islamic State

By JUDE DOUGHERTY There is reason to believe that the so-called “Islamic State” is a fictional being rather than a reality. A state has borders, a central government, and a bureaucratic structure. None of this has been claimed for ISIS, although some have spoken of ISIS as a proto-state. What we have in fact is…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . Critique Of Church Art Is Not Comment On Sponsors’ Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK I recently received a phone call in which I was informed that a tweeted comment of mine on the Twitter social network about the interaction between some chapel visitors and sacred art recently installed therein had, in effect, called into question the faith of that chapel’s proprietors in the Real Presence. Although I did not…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course . . . The Rule Of Faith Is The Church’s Teaching Authority

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 30 In order to finish the discussion on the revolution caused by Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago, let us consider his first major dogma, namely, sola Scriptura. Any Catholic — especially The Wanderer readers — who want to take their faith seriously and apply the criteria laid down by John Paul II in…Continue Reading

The Communion Of Saints

By DON FIER For the past six weeks, we have examined and elaborated upon the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) on a state of life embraced by many loyal followers of Christ who have freely responded to a special call to follow with radical fidelity the way of life that the Lord Himself led. These generous…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I know the word “friend” appears many times in the Bible, but sometimes it is capitalized. For example, at daily Mass today there was a reading from 1st Maccabees which said that King Antiochus, who was about to die, “called in all his Friends” to tell them of his tribulations, and he chose Philip, “one of his Friends,” to…Continue Reading

The New Jerusalem

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday Of Advent (YR C) Readings: Baruch 5:1-9 Phil. 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6 In the Gospel reading today we hear about the preaching of St. John the Baptist. However, unlike what we read in the other Gospels, St. Luke does not record the Baptist as saying that he is the voice in the desert calling…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Maria Virgo

By CAROLE BRESLIN When I visited my aunt in St. Louis, Mo., we would visit the basilicas, the museums, and other places of interest. She had many sites near her that were particularly special to her, such as her parish, The Little Flower, in Richmond Heights. In addition, she described a place where she frequently went for eucharistic adoration at…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Raphael Kalinowski

By CAROLE BRESLIN There are many terms we use in our language which are clichés. We hear people say that somebody “kicked the bucket,” meaning that he has died, or “I’ll send you to outer Mongolia,” meaning that they will ship you so far away no one will find you. Fr. Kalinowski not only went to a place just north…Continue Reading