Tuesday 20th August 2019

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

St. Thomas More Didn’t Die For This — Did He?

August 15, 2019 Frontpage No Comments


Our European readers who are attempting to decipher the average Catholic in the United States would do themselves well to watch the film A Man for All Seasons featuring Paul Scofield as St. Thomas More and for good reason. One might posit that More’s example is what most Catholics in America think of when they consider the links between faith and citizenship.
Allow me to rewind just a touch — a good 484 years to be precise. Thomas More was martyred in 1535 for his refusal to assent to the marriage, so goes the hagiography written by Robert Bolt in 1954 and turned into film after a successful debut on stage in London. By 1966, the story of More standing for conscience resonated strongly with many Catholics in the West, precisely for the reason that they balanced conscience between two vices: the unthinking patriotism of those loyal to the lusty King Henry VIII and the unfeeling pedantry of the bureaucratic class whose sole ambition was preferment.
Much of Bolt’s screenplay was inevitably viewed in the lens of the Cold War, yet for the Catholic world suffering under the boot of Soviet Communism the example meant something more — something that the political left could not decipher and could not attain. Much like Crassus in the film Spartacus written by the now-known Communist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in 1960, both the political left and the Catholic conscientious objector knew the evil of abasing oneself to the state.
Yet Spartacus could not martyr himself the way More did; Trumbo simply lacked the vocabulary Bolt knew by heart. It is the reason why the Soviets collapsed and Catholic Poland perseveres despite new ideologies threatening her fidelity to the faith of old.
More’s martyrdom presages an Anglican Catholicism that never was, or at least the one that could have flourished if allowed to do so under holy men such as John Cardinal Fisher and Reginald Cardinal Pole. Catholic England remains one of the great “what ifs” of history, and while Campion’s Brag continued to offer its body to the racks of Tyburn, her sons and daughters found refuge on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Catholic Maryland.
This is not to say that Catholics in America enjoyed a bed of roses by any stretch, as you well know. The Fifth of November was celebrated well into the American War of Independence when General George Washington — taught as a young man at Ferry Farm by a Jesuit schoolmaster no less — banned the practice of burning the Holy Father in effigy so as to welcome Catholics into the ranks of the Continental Army.
Georgetown University thrived under Jesuits worthy of the moniker “God’s Marines.” Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the sole Catholic signatory to the Declaration of Independence as a sign of our new nation’s inclusiveness of all faiths — Episcopalian, Baptists, Methodists, and even a rascally papist or two.
For the time, such olive branches were unspeakable in Protestant England. Elizabeth the First attempted religious toleration during her reign, only to be pushed into executing her Catholic cousin Mary Queen of Scots while the so-called “Protestant wind” pushed the Spanish Armada back out to sea and into the fireships of Sir Walter Raleigh. For nearly 200 years, Catholicism would be treated much as French Jacobins would be treated in the wake of the American War for Independence — with hostility and contempt.
For Catholics newly found on the shores of a young republic, heroes were needed and in short supply. When Irish and then German immigrants appeared in numbers, they fanned out in the American Midwest and settled in American cities, bringing with them the very seeds of Catholicism — priests — that Elizabethan propagandists filled the heads of young men and women before sending them in barges to settle English America. Thus the hostilities of the Elizabethan era were waiting to meet these eager new immigrants who were determined to prove themselves both good Catholics and good Americans.
Given their numbers after the Great Famine, the Catholic hierarchy in America was overwhelmingly Irish, and the emphasis to present a façade of unity required a more Anglicized idea of what it meant to be a good Catholic in America. Thus the heroes of Catholic America would not be German or Slavic, but rather Irish and English. St. Patrick and St. Columba, St. John Fisher and Reginald Pole would join these ranks, but above them all? St. Thomas More.

Two Catholic Virtues

There are two reasons for this, and both of these reasons speak to the present day. More exemplified two very distinct Catholic virtues, ones that Americans instinctively embrace and totalitarians of any stripe — Elizabethan, socialist, or fascist, for example — instinctively reject.
First and foremost is the role of conscience in public life. Not the sort of gnostic conscience that embraces some abstract personal truth, nor the slavish devotion to rules. Rather, conscience properly formed that understands the subjective and objective qualities of its purpose are directed toward one end — to conform to the just and to the good.
Second and perhaps less discussed is the surrender of Christian pluralism to totalitarianism, something Bolt clearly communicates in A Man for All Seasons but is somewhat lost today. Critics of More will claim that he extended very little religious freedom to those who fought against the Catholic Church while ignoring the bloodthirsty nature of both Cromwell and the Elizabethan pogroms that followed the death of Queen Mary. Yet More’s defense regarding his silence is what touches the Catholic heart. We quote Bolt’s play in full:
“I am the King’s true subject, and I pray for him and all the realm. I do none harm. I say none harm. I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, then in good faith I long not to live.”
Considering the events of the present day, and it is becoming increasingly clear to many faithful Catholics that our silence — our willingness to live good lives, to do none harm, say none harm, and think none harm — will not be enough.
Poland’s Catholic bishops are already raising the banner of defiance against the postmodern ideologies attempting to grip their politics, and are being openly ridiculed by the so-called “enlightened” left pushing very much otherwise.
Already in Canada, the bishops have all but surrendered. Among our American bishops we see pockets of resistance, but they are pockets. In England, they turn our cathedrals into golf courses. In Germany they push for married priests.
Did St. Thomas More offer himself up as a martyr for this?
St. Thomas More — rather than accept a radical redefinition of marriage — allowed the state to cut his head off. That ought to be the spirit of any Catholicism worthy of the name. Those looking to decipher the Catholic American have no further to look than A Man for All Seasons. Conscience, religious freedom, and our silence…and if this be not enough to keep a man alive?
Well . . . you know the rest.

+ + +

No new news regarding my friend struggling with alcoholism, other than he is doing well and committing to treatment. So please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. Unlike the media, we really do believe they work (and his progress is evidence of that).
St. Louis de Montfort and Venerable Matt Talbot, pray for us!

+ + +

A new e-mail address! As always, please do not hesitate to send me your thoughts, views, opinions, and insights to the author directly, either via e-mail or by mail. Please send any correspondence to Shaun Kenney c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 or by e-mail to kenneys@cua.edu.

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Load More...

German archbishop in Auschwitz: Stand up against hubris of the politically powerful

Krakow, Poland, Aug 14, 2019 / 02:31 pm (CNA).- On the eve of the 80th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, a German archbishop has called for a stand against hubris and arrogance of those in political power. Speaking…Continue Reading

Vatican ‘struggling to put out fire’ of public scandal over JPII Institute purge

ROME, August 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The “firefighters for the new direction” being taken at the John Paul II Institute in Rome are “struggling” to put out a blaze of public scandal, as controversy sparked by a recent purge of professors threatens to reach the door of the Pope’s…Continue Reading

Survey on Catholic belief in the Eucharist prompts calls for better catechesis

Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2019 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- After a recent survey found that two-thirds of Catholics do not believe Church teaching about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Catholic commenters are stressing the importance of better…Continue Reading

Apple News bans LifeSite without warning: says it ‘shows intolerance’

July 31, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A little over one week ago, Apple approved LifeSiteNews’ application to publish our news on their Apple News platform. Today, without warning, Apple News abruptly reversed course, telling LifeSite that they had deleted our channel and all…Continue Reading

Kamala Harris’ “Medicare for All” Plan Will Force Americans to Fund Abortions

Democrat presidential candidate Kamala Harris released her own Medicare-for-all proposal today. Just like the proposal handed down by pro-abortion presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Harris’s plan would force Americans to fund abortions. Harris confirms her plan will cover abortions in an…Continue Reading

Pew report: Only half of America’s Catholics know what the Church teaches about Communion

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) ― Do only half of America’s Catholics know what their Church teaches about Holy Communion? In a recent report called “What Americans Know About Religion,” the Pew Research Center suggested that Catholics are divided…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Businessman Michael Lindell, Creator of MyPillow, May Run Against Pro-Abortion Ilhan Omar

Michael Lindell is a pro-life businessman and the creator of MyPillow, a successful invention and company in its own right. Lindell was responsible for helping to fund production of the popular movie “Unplanned,” but now he’s turning his attention to…Continue Reading

Tucker Carlson: big business is now at war against your family

July 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The first thing to note about Tucker Carlson is that when he’s on stage and riffing on his irritations, he is hilarious. He began his keynote speech at the National Conservatism conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday…Continue Reading

Teacher sues Catholic school for firing her over pro-abortion posts on social media

BERKELEY COUNTY, South Carolina, July 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A former teacher filed a wrongful termination suit against a South Carolina Catholic school that fired her for championing legal abortion on social media in violation of long-settled, well-known Catholic doctrine.…Continue Reading

Bombshell Claim: Scientists Find “Man-made Climate Change Doesn’t Exist In Practice”

A new scientific study could bust wide open deeply flawed fundamental assumptions underlying controversial climate legislation and initiatives such as the Green New Deal, namely, the degree to which ‘climate change’ is driven by natural phenomena vs. man-made issues measured as…Continue Reading

Cineplex explains decision to screen Abby Johnson’s ‘Unplanned’ in Canada

July 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The pro-life film Unplanned, which tells the true story of pro-life activist Abby Johnson’s conversion from the abortion industry, will be shown in Canada after all thanks to a decision by film distributor Cineplex. Unplanned tells the…Continue Reading

Viganò criticizes Pope Francis’ handling of abuse allegations

Vatican City, Jul 5, 2019 / 02:47 pm (CNA).- Recently published remarks from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano take aim at two situations described by the former nuncio as “allegations of offenses against minors during Pope Francis’ tenure.” In fact, in…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  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 150 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

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love


  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading


Today . . .

Trump rule to nix Obama order forcing religious contractors to hire LGBT workers

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Trump administration is proposing a rule that would permit government contractors to make employment decisions that are consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs, without fear of sanction by the federal government. If adopted, the rule would reverse an Obama-era executive order that restricted religious federal contractors’ ability to consider employees’ adherence to their faith on matters of sexuality and gender. In 2014, former President Ba

Cardinal Pell: ‘Amazon or no Amazon, the Church cannot allow any confusion’

Melbourne, Australia, Aug 9, 2019 / 08:36 am (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell has written a letter thanking supporters for their prayers and saying he is “disturbed” by the preparations for the forthcoming synod on the Amazon. The text of the two-page, handwritten letter – images of which were shared with CNA and confirmed by sources close to Pell – has been circulated amongst a group of Pell’s closest supporters in Australia. In the letter, dated from…Continue Reading

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke weighs in on 2020 Dems, calls out Biden, Harris


Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke weighed in on the field of 2020 Democratic candidates and how some who describe themselves as Roman Catholics conflict with the religion. “I’ve had non-Catholic leaders of government in this nation tell me that they were certain that the Catholic teaching on abortion and so-called same-sex marriage have changed because so many Catholics on Capitol Hill are regularly supporting this kind of legislation. And that’s a scandal,” Cardinal Burke said in an exclusive interview on Fox News’ “The…Continue Reading

Three Wisconsin lawmakers take aim at the confessional

MADISON, Wis. — Catholic priests would be required to report suspected child abuse or the sexual abuse of a minor based on information heard during the Sacrament of Penance under legislation proposed August 7th by a trio of Democrat state lawmakers. Legislation introduced by Reps. Chris Taylor and Melissa Sargent of Madison, and Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee, would eliminate protection that exists in state law for information priests hear solely “in a confessional setting”…Continue Reading

In his first public statement, Washington’s new Catholic archbishop slams Trump for ‘diminishing our national life’

Washington’s new Catholic leader — the country’s lone black archbishop — on Thursday issued his first public statement since his installation, accusing President Trump of “diminishing our national life” with his recent tweets about lawmakers of color. Wilton Gregory, who came to Washington in May, is known through his long, prominent career for being nonconfrontatio


China’s Human Rights Sham

By JOHN J. METZLER PARIS — It’s never polite to question the deteriorating human rights situation in China, but let’s do it anyway. The hidden and systematic repression of ethnic Uighur Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang province and the high-profile crackdown on pro-demonstrators in Hong Kong, many of them Christian, are both rooted in the…Continue Reading

Wisconsin Lawmaker Lies About Catholic League

By BILL DONOHUE (Editor’s Note: Catholic League President Bill Donohue commented as follows August 14 on Wisconsin state legislator Chris Taylor’s attack on the League.) + + + Having co-authored a bill that would require Catholic priests to violate the seal of the confessional, Rep. Chris Taylor distorts the Catholic League’s opposition to this bill…Continue Reading

China, Not Russia, The Greater Threat

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Ten weeks of protests, some huge, a few violent, culminated August 13 with a shutdown of the Hong Kong airport. Ominously, Beijing described the violent weekend demonstrations as “deranged” acts that are “the first signs of terrorism,” and vowed a merciless crackdown on the perpetrators. China is being pushed toward a…Continue Reading

Cicero On Old Age

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Marcus Tulius Cicero, philosopher orator, statesman completed De Senectute (On Old Age), one of many books, in July 44 B.C. Dedicated to Cato the Elder, the book addresses “the common burden of old age.” A beloved author through the ages, Cicero lived from 106 B.C. until he was murdered in 43 B.C.…Continue Reading

French Language Under Assault From English

By JOHN J. METZLER PARIS — A long linguistic battle between French and English appears to have been settled: English won. Some twenty-five years after passage of legislation to specifically defend use of the French language, and protect its patrimony throughout the land, what’s known as the Toubon law has become a quaint footnote. The…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World… Spiritual Materialism Cannot Save Your Soul

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Some call it cafeteria Catholic. It manifests itself as a demand to take one thing Christ handed down in the Church while rejecting others likewise handed down. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of the Lord and it is thus the source and summit of our faith. The sight of the faithful going forward at…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Regarding a recent discussion in this column of Communism and socialism, and the sway that these collectivist ideologies hold over many Democrat politicians today, D.M. of Virginia sent along an excerpt from Whittaker Chambers’ 1952 book Witness that accurately describes the nature of Communism and its impact on the world over the past century, when its practitioners caused…Continue Reading

Pope Benedict XVI . . . The Legacy Of John Paul II On Marriage And Family

(Editor’s Note: Below is the address of Pope Benedict XVI to members of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family on the occasion of the institute’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Pope Benedict delivered this historic address on May 11, 2006 in the Hall of Blessings. (Following the address are some quotations from John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio,…Continue Reading

Live Truth In Charity

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twentieth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Jer. 38:4-6, 8-10 Heb. 12:1-4 Luke 12:49-53 In the Gospel reading today, Jesus says something quite startling. The Prince of Peace said: “Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” The division Jesus speaks of is about…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Thou Shalt Not Kill

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Violence — whether perpetrated by means of a gun or any other weapon — and the anger and hatred which give rise to it do not have a color. The victims do: They come from a variety of backgrounds of various races, religions, and languages. This week the funerals of the slain continued. There is…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Mariam Baouardy

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the Bible, there are numerous references to Galilee with about 80 in just the New Testament. Galilee is an area in northern Israel and it includes the city of Nazareth, Mt. Tabor, and the site of the Sermon on the Mount. In John 1:46. Nathaniel responds to Philip, who told him of Jesus, “Can anything good…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Joseph Of Cupertino

By CAROLE BRESLIN Now that the school year is about to begin, students — especially Catholic students — will find recourse to their favorite patron saint of studying. Some may choose St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine of Hippo. For those students who find it difficult to retain what they read and write about it, perhaps this saint will encourage…Continue Reading