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Henry VIII And The Modern World

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Published: Wed, 03 May 2017

Henry VIII is famous for the formation of the Anglican Church which is also known as the Church of England. Henry VIII was the king of England from1509 until the time of his death. He was the king of Ireland and a renowned claimant of the kingdom of France. Besides having married for six times, he is still remembered for the major role that he played in the break of the Anglican Church from the Roman Catholic Church. He changed the religious laws, rituals and ceremonies to quench his thirst of having a male heir (Patheos Par 4-5).

Formation of the Anglican Church is also referred to as the Anglican reformation. It was given this title after Henry VIII decided to break away from the Catholic Church. Henry’s break with the Catholic Church is comprehended as the continuity of the pre-reformation of the catholic church of England. This means that Henry was not in the mission of breaking away from the Catholic Church, like what Martin Luther did, or trying to reform it, but he was in the verge of recreating the Catholic Church without the involvement of the pope.

Events and Motivations

The break with the Catholic Church happened during the reign of the “reformation parliament. However, the break was not as a result of the parliament but Henry’s fury with the Catholic pope for refusing to allow him to divorce his wife of 18 years. His real motivation for reformation was his hidden desire for annulling his marriage. The reformation was motivated by a political dispute rather than theological dispute. Before his disagreement with the pope, Henry was among the most loyal kings to the pope. He had previously defended the church from accusations that were made by Martin Luther after which he was awarded the “defender of the faith” title by Pope Leo X. In his defense, Henry claimed that pope’s authority was next to God’s and divorce was against the teachings of the church. He was not after starting a protestant church but he wanted to create an alternate catholic church where he would be the head of the church. Besides divorce, he wanted pope’s power over both the people and the clergy. The fact that the Pope settled matters of royal succession and the fact that the Pope was the only appointing authority for bishops was basically contrary to the developing concept of national autonomy and to Henry’s wish for independence. In addition, the Henry was motivated by the fact that he would be getting all the taxes that were previously going to the pope. He had tactically linked himself with the protestant forces with the aim of creating a church that would both minimize the power of the pope and empower him. Although he managed to break from the Catholic Church in the 1530s he resisted the association of his church and the continental protestant reformation.

Henry’s Marriages: Divorce/Annulment from Catherine

After almost 20 years of marriage, Henry decided to divorce Catherine, his wife, since he wanted a male heir. Previously, Henry had three sons with Catherine who died at young ages. Now that his sons were dead, and his wife could no longer bear children, he thought of divorcing her with the intention having male heirs with someone else. He termed it as his wife’s failure rather than his failure. It was after meeting with Anne Boleyn, that Henry decided to ask for a divorce from the pope so that he could try to have a male heir with someone else. Nonetheless, according to the doctrines of the church divorce was not allowed if there was no reasonable allegations approved by the pope. Previously, Catherine was married to Henry’s brother who died and the pope had sanctified her marriage to Henry. Therefore Henry argued that his marriage should be annulled on the basis that it was not valid and according to the bible it was “unclean”. In addition, Henry claimed that his marriage was cursed by God, because he was married to his late brother’s wife. He termed this as unbiblical according to the teaching in the Leviticus. According to him, the death of his sons was as a result of the curse. The annulment of his marriage could have meant that his marriage together with his children were illegitimate.

The role of the English Parliament in the formation of the Anglican Church

Pope Clement VII denied Henry’s requests for annulment. Henry therefore decided to call the English parliament to court to talk about his annulment. This parliament was referred as the reformation parliament. Nonetheless, the parliament disagreed on what to do. With that regard, Henry charged each Member of Parliament with a crime known as praemunire meaning that they supported the superiority of the pope over the king. He charged them with a fine that no one could afford to pay (Parry & Taylor 23). There was another impasse when they refused to pay. In addition, he wanted the English parliament to accept certain demands which they did not readily accept. First, he wanted the clergy to accept him as the head of Church of England and the king of England. Secondly, he wanted the clergy to acknowledge him as the superior of all spiritual things. This meant no law of the church could supersede his desires. Laws enacted by the English parliament could give him the authority to make decisions that could have been used to form the Church of England from Roman Catholic (Parry and Taylor 23).

After that Henry initiated the process of submission of the clergy which coerced the clergy to renounce their powers to make laws without permission from Henry. The reformation parliament passed many laws which ultimately banned the Catholic Church in England. In the meantime, he married Boleyn after he was given an annulment by his own bishop. Anne conceived a baby who would finally become the king of England. Catherine, his former wife, was downgraded to “Dowager Princess of Wales,” with respect to her previous marriage to the elder brother of Henry. These actions prompted the pope to excommunicate Henry from the church.

Thomas Crammer’s Role

Thomas crammer was the first protestant archbishop in Canterbury. He was an appointee of Henry VII and he served him as his advisor. It was through Thomas Crammer, that Henry was in a position of getting the annulment. Crammer developed a novel liturgy for the Anglican Church, based on the traditional Mass but fundamentally changed by Protestant beliefs and symbolized in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Its editions were between 1549 and 1552. Cranmer’s second significant publication was the Articles of Christianity of 1553, a declaration of the Church’s values that was relatively concise and accordingly varying subjects of interpretations (English Bible History Par. 3).

Nonetheless, the reformation happened with several problems. Several rebellions came from all over England. The greatest one took place in Yorkshire in 1536. They were all suppressed by Henry who sourced for assistance in the political field. Thomas Cromwell, the successor to Wolsey, supported Henry in his effort. Among the problems that Henry experienced were financial problems (Referáty-seminárky Par. 3).

In conclusion, Henry VIII is famously known for the formation of the Anglican Church which was also known as the Church of England. Henry was motivated to break up from the Roman Catholic for a number of reasons. First, he wanted an annulment or divorce. Secondly, he wanted pope’s power over both the people and the clergy. The fact that the Pope settled matters of royal succession was basically contrary to henrys ideas. Henry had to use the parliament and his own appointed bishop to achieve his mission. The annulment took many steps for it was the sole reason as to why Henry separated the English church from the Roman Catholic Church.

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