CHAPTER IX. HENRY VIII (v), 1533-40 - MALLEUS MONACHORUM

[1533 Ecclesiastical Parties]

WE have noted that a proportion of the higher clergy were at least not unwilling to be freed from the domination and the financial exactions of Rome; this attitude being either the cause or the effect of the line they took as to the divorce. When, however, it was borne in upon them that the price of escaping the yoke of the Popedom was to be the subjection of the Church, in form to the lay monarch, and in fact to the State, the bulk of them endeavoured to protest against the newly imposed subordination. With the "Submission of the Clergy" and the appointment of Cranmer as Warham's successor, it became entirely clear that to protest or resist would be worse than useless. Accordingly we shall now find this section of the clerical body, including such prelates as Gardiner of Winchester, Stokesley of London, and Tunstal of Durham, devoting themselves to evading or rendering nugatory the directions of the Temporal power and its instrument Cranmer, under colour of obedience, while dissociating themselves from the more rigid of the Old Catholics such as Fisher of Rochester, More, the London Carthusians and others. On the other hand, the newer school, who were much more antagonistic to the papacy, such as Cranmer, Latimer and Barlow, found more personal favour with the King and with Cromwell, though their leanings towards the doctrinal tenets of Continental reformers were checked from time to time with sufficient rudeness.

[Pope or King?]

A very peculiar situation however soon resulted from the Royal rejection of the Papal supremacy. To hold the opinion that the Pope was head of the Church implied the recognition of a divided allegiance, casting a doubt on the holder's loyalty to the Secular Sovereign, and easily translated into treason; since the papal party were bound to maintain in theory the validity of the marriage with Katharine, and the rights of her daughter Mary. Henry never lacked a plausible theory to justify his most tyrannous actions. Modern historians however who carry their support of Henry to the extreme point ignore the two facts, that to hold an opinion which if acted on would lead to treason is not in itself treason; and that it was quite logical to maintain the supreme authority of the Pope in matters spiritual, without admitting his power to depose a recalcitrant monarch or to determine the line of succession - which was in fact the position adopted by Sir Thomas More.

[1534 Confirmatory Acts]

The Spring session of Parliament in 1534 was devoted mainly to the passing of Acts in confirmation and extension of what already been done. The Submission of the Clergy and the Restraint of Appeals were re-affirmed in one Act; but with the important difference that the whole of the Canon law was to be subjected to the Commission when appointed, [Footnote: See p. 128, ante]. till which time the clergy would be acting at their peril in enforcing any rules which might subsequently be condemned as against the Royal Prerogative. This was accompanied by an Act in confirmation of the Annates Act, coupled with thecongé d'élire, assuring to the King the right of nomination to ecclesiastical appointments under the form of permitting the Chapters to elect his nominee. A third, the "Peter Pence" Act, abolished the remaining contributions to the Papal Treasury. At the same time the "exempt" monasteries - those, that is, which had not been subject to the supervision of the bishops - were conveyed to the King's control, still without episcopal intervention. A fourth Act, not prima facie ecclesiastical in character, was the Act of Succession, declaring the offspring of Anne Boleyn (the princess Elizabeth had been born in the previous September) heirs to the throne.

[The Pope's last word]

While these proceedings were in progress, the last attempt to subdue the Pope by diplomacy was failing. At the end of March, Clement gave the long deferred judgment on the divorce, pronouncing the marriage with Katharine valid, and that with Anne Boleyn void. Clement survived but a short time. His successor Paul III. had at one time been in Henry's favour; but reconciliation was now outside the range of practical politics, and the new Pope soon found himself more definitely antagonistic to the English monarch than his predecessor had been.

[The Nun of Kent]