CHAPTER VIII. HENRY VIII (iv) 1529-33 - THE BREACH WITH ROME
[Double campaign opens]
By the appeal to the Universities, Henry gave warning of a possible anti-papal campaign: in which he could look for a considerable degree of clerical support up to a certain point, more particularly because the clergy generally were ready to be released from the financial exactions of the Holy See, as well as from its practical exercise of patronage. Parliament opened an anti-clerical campaign, but its measures at first were confined to dealing with almost indefensible and obvious abuses. Bishop Fisher recognised the familiar thin end of the wedge, and charged the Commons with desiring "the goods, not the good" of the Church; but the opposition was slender. In the six weeks of the first session, there were passed, the Probate and Mortuaries Acts, abolishing, reducing, or regulating fees, and the Pluralities Act, forbidding the clergy in general to hold more than one benefice, and requiring Residence - a very inconvenient arrangement for papal nominees. The general value of the Act however was impaired by a schedule of exemptions. Fisher's protest had its counterpart in the protest of Convocation, not against the avowed objects of this legislation but against Parliament as its source: the position being that Convocation was itself preparing legislation with the same ends in view, and was the proper body to do so.
[1530 Answers of the Universities]
During 1530, Parliament remained inactive. The Earl of Wiltshire's embassy to Bologna, of which the object was to induce Charles to withdraw his opposition to the divorce, naturally proved abortive. The consultation of the Universities however went on apace. The theory propounded for their acceptance was that Katharine had been in actual fact the wife of Henry's brother; that this being so her marriage with Henry was contrary to the Law of God; and that by consequence the second contract was actually not only voidable but void, the dispensation being under those circumstances a dead letter. On the other side it was maintained that whatever validity there might be in this argument, it fell to the ground if - as was asserted on the Queen's behalf - her first marriage had been ceremonial only. The answers of the Universities were inconclusive, some declaring the marriage valid, others declaring it void, and others, including Oxford and Cambridge, declaring that it was against the Law of God without pronouncing the dispensation of Julius ipso facto invalid. Moreover, had the opinions given been decisive in themselves, the method by which they were obtained would have destroyed their moral value. Francis, finding that England's friendship was in the balance, dictated a favourable reply to the French Universities. Those in England knew they were not free agents. Clement professed to give those in Italy a free hand, but in that country Charles was the dominant power. In Germany the Lutherans were hostile to Henry personally on account of his own anti-Lutheran pronouncements. Nowhere was a judgment on the simple merits of the case procurable.
[Preoccupation of the Clergy]
In the meantime, the clergy in England had been mainly occupied with a campaign against heresy, and with the suppression of dangerous literature; [Footnote: According to Mr. Froude, Henry only assented with reluctance to the suppression of Tindal's Testament on condition of the preparation of an authorised version being agreed to. But even Hall, whom he cites, only says that both proposals were adopted after long debate. - Froude, i., p. 298 (Ed. 1862).] but willingly or not found themselves committed to approving the preparation of an authorised translation of the Scriptures - the one movement under Henry which tended definitely, in effect though not of set purpose, to a revision of Doctrine.
[Sidenote 1: Menace of Praemunire] [Sidenote 2: 1531 "Only Supreme Head"] [Sidenote 3: Proceedings in Parliament]