Saturday, December 29, 2007

St Thomas a Becket

The great Archbishop of Canterbury who was slain by King Henry's men is celebrated today. No, Henry VIII was not the first English King to oppose the Church. Fortunately, in the days of Henry II, there was such popular piety that it was impossible for him to get away with what he did.
In order, however, to avenge the monarchy, King Henry VIII's men tried Thomas posthumously for treason. His relics were burnt and otherwise desecrated.
Both Henry's wrongfully wished to gain supremacy in England, even over the Church. Both will go down in History as men whose lust for power separated them from the Church of God. We can only pray that they were reconciled before they died.
Sadly, Thomas Becket's successor, Thomas Cranmer was nearly his opposite. Rather than protect the rights of the Church against the King, this penultimate Archbishop of Canterbury abandoned his post and led his flock into the jaws of the wolf. His reign as Archbishop would bring about changes in the Church in England that would lead to the end of Apostolic Succession and Holy Orders in that Ecclesial Communion.
Under His reign, from 1547 - 1553, the ordination rites were not performed correctly. This was repeated from 1558, the death of the last Archbishop of Canterbury (Reginald Cardinal Pole) until 1633. By the time the error was corrected by the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, it was too late... There was no one left with Holy Orders to pass them on. Nemo dat quod non habet.

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