Monday, December 10, 2012
Catholic Perspective on the English Reformation: Part IV


On November 28 1554, Cardinal Reginald Pole was introduced to both Houses of Parliament by the Lord Chancellor Stephen Gardiner as having come ‘upon one of the weightiest causes that ever happened in this realme; and which perteineth to the glory of God, and youre universall benefit.’ As the lawful representative successor of Saint Peter, Pole had been despatched to absolve the kingdom of the grave sins of heresy and schism, and to reconcile the Church in England with Rome.

The Cardinal presented his case to the assembled politicians and clergy as would a physician to his colleagues. The root cause of the once happily Catholic kingdom’s problems, he stated, had been King Henry VIII’s concupiscence. The King’s personal rejection of Papal authority and subsequent breach with Rome had plunged England into a state of schism, which had led to heresy and disobedience to the Church which had resulted in scandals, troubles and misfortunes. Pole reassured his audience however, that as the pope and the Apostolic See loved the kingdom, he had come to ameliorate and to palliate. As the kingdom’s ills could only be cured if it once again acknowledged the pope as Supreme Teacher and Pastor of the Church, it was imperative that the lawmakers who had defied the pope and denied him his primacy, repeal each and every anti-Papal statute forthwith.

The following day, a delegation comprising both Houses and led by Bishop Gardiner, presented Philip and Mary with a humble petition in which its members declared their sorrow, repenting at the schism, and their disobedience. They begged they could once again be, be received into the unity of the Church. Finally, they not only promised to repeal the anti-Catholic Acts passed during the previous reign, but they also expressed the fervent hope that their King and Queen would intercede on their behalf to absolve them of their collective sin. Thus, on November 30, the feast day of Saint Andrew, Cardinal Pole formally absolved the two Houses of Parliament from the guilt of schism and heresy.

Silence descended upon the great hall as all three hundred men sank to their knees and listened as the cardinal pronounced the solemn words of the formal absolution in Latin. And then, slowly making the sign of the cross over the assembly, Pole finally restored those present ‘to the communion of the holy church in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.’ Upon being given absolution, the entire hall spontaneously erupted with a resounding Amen! The entire assembly then accompanied the King and Queen to the chapel where they sang the Te Deum, whilst the kingdom’s swiftest horses and strongest riders were despatched to Rome whereupon Pope Julius ordered that public processions be held to rejoice at England’s return to the fold.

Author's Biography: This is a guest post written by Dr. Bella d'Abrera.  Bella Wyborn d’Abrera, who is based in London, is a graduate of Monash University in Melbourne. She completed her Masters degree at the University of St. Andrews, and was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy by the University of Cambridge in 2003. She is also the author of  ‘A King with a Pope in His Belly’ and ‘Papists, Spaniards & Other Strangers.’

2 comment(s):

del_button December 13, 2012 at 6:50 PM
Matthew M said...

It is sad that it didn't last. Question: After Queen Mary I and Cardinal Pole died on the same day and Elizabeth I ascended the throne, how long was it that The Church and All England was excommunicated by the Pope? Which Pope?

del_button December 23, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Matthew said...

St Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth on 27th April 1570 in the Bull Regnans in Excelsis' in which he declared that "...we do out of the fullness of our apostolic power declare the foresaid Elizabeth to be a heretic and favorer of heretics, and her adherents in the matters aforesaid to have incurred the sentence of excommunication and to be cut off from the unity of the body of Christ."

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