Catholicism under Henry VIII
During and throughout the reign of Henry Tudor there were numerous changes that took place in regards of religion itself and as a result of this, religious divisions (which still resonate today) inevitably took hold in England. Initially and arguably so Henry was staunchly Catholic from the get go and on the outside certainly portrayed this in the beginning of his reign, however he also repeatedly made decisions which more than hinted at a lean towards Protestantism. At a time when radical religious ideas were spreading, England was displaying an eager aura for change but the changes that followed were not in fact the result of Henrys shifting beliefs. More so, they were a result of his seemingly growing obsession with power and the quickly dwindling resources left to him by his more careful and humble father Henry VII, his desperate attempts to produce a male heir also must have attributed to this. Whether Henry VIII indeed was a true catholic hiding behind a disguise aimed at being seen favorably among an England rearing for change, or a protestant manipulating the Catholic Church to his own ends is a question that may never be fully answered. Whether the Henrican reformation was indeed, Catholicism without a pope is also a tenuous and difficult question to resolve. At face value, Henry showed protestant sympathies in various legislations and in his behavior through, for example, the act of supremacy in 1534 and additionally the dissolution of the monasteries respectively. However, Henry did not only act similarly towards Catholicism, through for example the six articles in 1539 but also appears to have had alternative motives for these seeming moves towards Protestantism. During the English reformation, the official religion of England was actually decided as Protestantism; however it is important to reiterate that, although a subjective topic, this was not actually recognized until 1603 during the reign of Elizabeth I. Certainly England under Henry VIII witnessed religious change, hence the term Henrican Reformation, yet all that was achieved was the initiation of a long period of reforms. Henry VIII did not set out to alter the religion of England, yet his self-benefiting actions made this almost inevitable. At this time the monarchy led the people and therefore it must be argued that England throughout the Henrican Reformation was neither catholic nor protestant. First and foremost one must understand the reasons why Henry actually decided to separate with Rome. It was not his personal discontent with the nature of Catholicism and the role of the Pope, nor was it and acute desire to reform the religion of England. It was much more to do with the failure of Henry and Wolsey’s attempts to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. An annulment was needed as Catherine and Henry had only one child, a daughter, Mary, and it was becoming increasingly apparent that the ageing queen was not likely to conceive again. Henry desperately needed a legitimate male heir to save the Tudor dynasty. To justify his position, Henry gave various reasons why an annulment was required, yes was not very wise in doing so. His man explanation (aside from the threat to the dynasty) was that his marriage was invalid: Catherine of aragon was initially married to prince Aurthur (Henry’s brother) and, after his premature death, she was remarried to Henry through Pope Julius II. However, Leviticus 18:16 states directly against this – “do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife.” Henry concluded then that his marriage to Catherine opposed divine law and that the reason they had been so unsuccessful in conception and pregnancy was because, Henry believed, “sexual intercourse with a brothers widow was an unnatural act”. This move was unwise as, not only did it directly dispute and humiliate papal authority, but Catherine of Aragon was the Catholic Emperor Charles V’s aunt. The...
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