THE DIVORCE OF HENRY VIII
The Protestant Episcopal church ministers of Wollaston and Bridgewater, Mass., protested in the Quincy Ledger and the Brockton Enterprise, against the editorial declaration that the church of England is the outgrowth of refusal on the part of the Pope to grant a divorce to Henry VIII. Objection was also made by the Wollaston Minister to the statement in this PILOT column, that the "first church of England" was instituted by the Bluebeard King of England. That PILOT statement could have been more definite, by designating that church as the first Anti-Papal church of England, though no doubt the readers of the statement, save the P. E. C. Minister, understood what was meant.
The Wollaston Minister claimed, and rightly so, that the Catholic Church was designated "the Church of England" (Ecclesia Anglicana) before the days of Henry. So was the Catholic Church in Gaul called "Ecclesia Gallica"; and the Catholic Church in Spain, the "Ecclesia Hispanica." But since the schismatic action of Henry VIII, the designation "church of England," the "Anglican church" has been considered the world over to refer to "the church by law established"; the Henry VIII-Edward VI-Queen Elizabeth church, of which the Protestant Episcopal church is a "branch."
The protest of those two Protestant Episcopal church Ministers centered against the newspaper declaration that it was "refusal of the Pope to sanction a divorce of Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon" that caused him to take control of the Church in his Kingdom. The statement of those newspapers is entirely in accord with the recent declaration of Rev. W. Norman Pittinger, professor of Christian Apologetics at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, whose status in the P.E.C. far exceeds the status of the two P. E. C. objectors combined. He said, in his LOOK magazine explanation of "What is An Episcopalian?", that "Henry's desire for a divorce provided the occasion ... of the independence of the church of England."
Henry VIII was considered to be the most learned theological temporal ruler of his time. His book, "Assertio Sacramentoria," upholding belief in the Seven Sacraments, written in defense of the Catholic Church against Luther (whom Henry designated a heretic for denying Papal Supremacy before he himself became a heretic), evidenced that he was Catholic in his belief. For this defense of Catholic teachings, Henry was honored by the Pope with the title "Defender of the Faith." Succeeding Protestant Kings and Queens of England have been designated "Defenders of the Faith," though without any legitimate warrant, as they are upholders of many beliefs contrary to those Henry VIII defended, as are the P .E.C. Ministers.
Henry VIII was too well informed to apply to the Pope for a divorce. He knew what too many P.E.C. Ministers do not appreciate, that the Catholic Church does not grant divorces. Hence Henry endeavored to break his union with Catherine, who had borne him several children during fifteen years of marriage life, by applying for an annulment, as "his conscience crept too near another lady," his mistress Anne Boleyn, as Shakespeare said.
Henry's application for an annulment was on the grounds of the impediment of affinity; on the grounds that Catherine had been married to his brother. However, a dispensation had been granted to permit the marriage of Henry with Catherine because her prior marriage had never been consummated; that is, it had never been completed by physical action. In such a case, the Pope had the power to grant a dispensation. It is an assumption of superior knowledge of Canon Law for the Wollaston Protestant Minister to assert that the dispensation was "contrary to the law of God as the Church understands it." Which Church, my dear P.E.C. clergyman, save the Catholic Church, has any Christ-bestowed authority to interpret the law of Christian marriage? Surely not the Henry VII-Edward VI-"Good Queen Bess" church, or any of its offshoots.
There is good reason to believe that if the Pope had annulled Henry's marriage, the schism that led to the Protestantizing of The Anglican church, and its P.E.C. offshoot, would very likely never have taken place; hence Parliament would not have been forced to pass the "Act of Supremacy" which made the King the exerciser of powers such as Christ conferred upon Peter and the successor of Peter, and them only.
The notorious Cranmer declared the marriage with Catherine to be null and void, and married Henry to Anne Boleyn, who was his mistress. Henry sent this new wife to the block for infidelity, who had given him "Good Queen Bess"; the creature who played the foremost part in Protestantizing England. Henry had two wives whom he sent to the block; two whom he divorced; and one, Jane Seymore, who died a natural death; the woman who gave Henry the sickly boy, who became King Edward VI.
Amazing is it that Ministers of the sects that stemmed from the Henry VIII-Edward VI-Elizabeth Protestantized church of England, and there are many such sects, including the P.E.C. sect, should have the audacity to take issue in matters of faith and morals with the Catholic Church, the one and the only existing Spiritual Society that has the biblical and historical credentials to prove that she is Christ-instituted, and therefore functions with the authority of Christ.
The present church of England is Protestant, and so proclaims herself to be, as does the Protestant Episcopal church in name and principle. Yet the Wollaston P.E.C. Minister declared to this columnist that he is a "Catholic," a religious designation of Catholic Church origin, that only rightly applies to members of the Church that is under the universal direction of the occupant of the Chair of Peter. To be a Catholic one must belong to a Church that is of "one mind and one spirit" (Eph. 4:4), of "one mind and one mouth" (Rom. 15:6), as St. Paul said. This the Catholic Church is, and the Protestant Episcopal church is not. Dean Inge, of St. Paul's Anglican church, appreciating the absurdity of some Anglicans, whose church seceded from the Catholic Church, calling themselves "Catholics," said what applies to the P.E.C. daughter of the Anglican church, in which the Wollaston Anti-Catholic officiates:---A Western European who rejects the authority of the Pope can no more be a Catholic in the institutional sense of the word than President Wilson can be an Englishman. It is surely for the Great Church and not for seceders from its rule to decide who are rebels, and the decision has been against us" ("Catholic and Roman," H. E. KALL, p. 5). 'Nuf said for the present.