Thursday, January 19, 2006

Book Notes: English Reformations

Everyone will want to skip this post which consists of my notes on the book "English Reformations: Religion Politics and Society under the Tudors" by Christopher Haigh, and is here simply because it will be easy for me to find it here when I need my notes. I am trying to learn English history this term, which has alyways been, for me, a blur of Richards and Henrys.

The Church in 15th c. England was an all-embracing institution and its clergy were everywhere. The King's interest in national security and order made the matters of the clergy part of his concern, but their exemption from secular punishment limited his power over them. There were always problems, but not ones that demanded a reformation. The Church was what each community made it. The three legal reformations, in 1530-8, 1547-53, and 1559, and the Protestant Reformation changed an entire world.
This book studies various reformations in 16th c. England and why they often changed little. In England, Luther's ideas came in with King Henry, and in a piecemeal way. Between the absolute Catholics and absolute Protestants were the pragmatists. The Political Reformations gave England Protestant laws, but the Evangelical Reformation made it truly Protestant. This is not a whiggish, teleological version of "progress". Instead, we will study administrative records to see what the Church was really doing at this time. Again, the English Protestant Reformations began in the inner workings of the Tudor government.
1530- "A Work for Householders" by: Richard Whitford. Traditional rules on how to live. Christianity was to be taught at home every day. The break with Rome would bring the decline of Catholicism, but not yet. Most wills left something to religion. Parish life was vigorous. Members made many bequests to their Church. There was extensive church building everywhere. Fraternities and guilds were still quite popular in the 1520s. The ordinary religion of English parishes was in a healthy state in 1530, the eve of the Reformation.
However, people could be quite dissatisfied with their clergy. Reports suggest that they were only dissatisfied however when the clergy neglected its liturgical and pastoral responsibilities. Often, clergy members were little trained and their examiners hardly tested new candidates for ordination. Parish clergy were often caught between the dem ands of their people and their Bishop. (Like TAs!) Most did not abuse tithes or their people. Tithe conflict was not endemic; it was occasional. Arguments also arose over mortuaries, or the 'dead corpse present'. Most people did cooperate with ecclesiastical courts. It was also hard for heretics because support was so widespread. Most Tudor heretics were descendants of John Wycliffe's Lollard movement. There were few heretics though.
1521: Luther's books confiscated in Cambridge and London. Some accepted Luther's idea of justification by faith. 1525: Cambridge reading group condemns images. 1526: Prelates burn Luther's works. Other heretical books included "Wicked Manon" by William Tyndale, and John Frith's "Disputation of Purgatory". The Lutheran call was still a lonely cry in a hostile wilderness.
There was also an increasing interest in bringing church law under common law. Henry VII's state supported the Church however. For a time anyway. But, common lawyers did not.
June 1530: Henry charges the entire clergy of England with praemunire (The offense under English law of appealing to or obeying a foreign court or authority, thus challenging the supremacy of the Crown) for dealing with Cardinal Wolsey. Henry had the hots for Anne Boleyn at this time and wanted to check the Church. But, Katherine could appeal to Pope Clement. What was Wolsey supposed to do? He took the charge of praemunire. Charges against other church members were brought up in the House of Commons. Henry asked Cambridge for an opinion on his marriage. Their Convocation said the marriage was condemned.
Henry got very little by his praemunire gesture. The King had his case for divorce made public in the House of Lords. He wanted to cut off the aneates payments to the Pope for new bulls, but this was resisted in parliament. But, he would simply not back down on the 'Submission of the Clergy', which was finally delivered. But, he was not yet willing to take his realm into schism. But, the Pope disagreed with the new marriage and Henry declared the Treason Act.
Henry liked his new authority as supreme head of the realm, but was getting sick of Anne. There was a plot to get Henry together with one Jane Seymour. Anne was charged with adultery and beheaded. He accepted the Ten Wittenberg Articles, which brought some reform. 1536 'Pilgrimage of Grace'- 40,000 subjects take arms against Cromwell and the heretics. September 1538: Cromwell's second set of royal Injunctions.
8-11: Read elsewhere.
1553: Edward VI dies, and Catholic Mary is swept to power by popular support. The mass came back. Parishes restored Catholicism on their own- not by official decree.
About 80 members of the House of Commons opposed the repeal of Edward's Protestant legislation. Sir Thomas Wyatt led a brief rebellion against Mary's plan to marry Philip of Spain. But, Papal jurisdiction was easily reestablished in 1554. Mary had serious problems trying to re-endow the clergy and force them to leave their wives. She had little problem restoring the heretic laws, and 280 were burned.
Historians have seen Mary's reign as an aberration. But, the Marian reconstruction of Catholicism was a success. But, she died too early, in 1558. Elizabeth Tudor became the Protestant Queen. Her reception was lukewarm. She had to establish supremacy over the bishops. There were long tussels between officials and wardens over rood-lofts in churches. Parishes held onto mass equiptment as long as they could. Protestantism made little progress.
Rood: the cross or crucifix, particularly one placed in churches over the entrance to the chancel.
This Reformation didn't fail; it just succeeded very slowly. The Catholic parish priests had to die out. 'Under Henry and Edward, changes had been more piecemeal and more acceptable; in 1559 there was a wholesale political Reformation and the senior Catholic clergy rejected it.' Opposing Catholics went into exile, stayed and kept quiet, formed alternative churches, etc. 1569: Revolt of the northern earls- they tear up Protestant books, gathered supporters, mounted a rebellion, but it didn't spread and they fled to Scottland. Many become resucants and stop attending church. An underground church grew, as did executions of Catholic priests. By the end of Elizabeth's reign, Catholicism was the faith of a small sect.
In the first half of Elizabeth's reign the shortage of Protestant preachers was acute. Protestants took control of the universities. They held public evangelical exercises. The Church of England was becoming missionary. Common themes in Protestant teaching: sinfulness, faith through preaching, justification by Christ, assurance of salvation, glorification in Heaven, and a goodly life as the fruit of faith. England was becoming a Protestant nation. Finally, in the 1580s, we can speak of a Protestant Reformation in England.
The Sixteenth c. was an age of religion; hardly anyone deliberatedly ignored the authority of God or the ceremonies of his priesthood. Religion mattered. Before the Reformations, there were modes of Christian living to accomodate all levels of intensity. All reformers wanted to make unthinking Christians more thoughtful. The Protestant form was an excluside model of religious life. 'The new model Christians were to know they were saved and were to show it in their lives.' Only the Word could lead to God; all else was a distraction. The religious reform was much less successful than the political reform had been. The churchgoers were now de-Catholicized, but not yet Protestantized. Catholic life became private meanwhile. After the Reformation, then, there were four kinds of Christians: godly Protestants, recusant papists, parish anglicans, and 'Old Catholics'. So the Tudor Reformations had not replaced a Catholic England with a Protestant England. Much had been destroyed. There had been much drama and excitement. But, for the average parish layperson, not much had changed.


The Pagan Temple said...

Wasn't the major difference the relationship between the state and the clergy, in addition to the break from Rome? I was never an expert on this, but I had always assumed that the adoption of this particular branch of Protestantism was aimed as much at making the English monarch the titular head of the Church (of England) where previously they ruled-at least in theory-at the pleasure of the Pope.

Rufus said...

I think that was a big part of it. I get the impression that the King wanted the parish priests to obey his authority over that of the Pope. So, yeah, I think the state is asserting itself here more than anything.