Monday, January 18, 2010

About the question of Peter

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 16:18,19

The Roman Catholic Church places a great emphasis on Matt. 16:18,19 (seeming to ignore words in 18:18 spoken to all of them). It is true, however, that "upon this rock" is spoken of the one man Peter. It is instructive to notice that the only thing in Scripture that can be called a Petrine charism, or that describes a calling unique to the fisherman, apostle and martyr, is fulfilled in the Book of Acts. The comparison of Acts 1:8, especially the last part of the verse ("...and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth") shows a pattern of how the witness of the Apostles would grow in the earth. To understand what the scriptures say about the keys of the kingdom of Heaven that Christ gave to Peter, we should look at the man's life that he himself lived on earth.

The Book of Acts shows the unfolding of this ministry of the Apostles, and we see Peter exercising a leadership role, and also acting as the doorkeeper in the house of the Lord, the one who unlocked the door and opened the kingdom of Heaven first to Jerusalem and all Judea, then to the Samaritans, then to the uttermost, that is to the Gentiles, those who once had been far off, strangers and foreigners to the covenant (Eph. 3:17f).

In the second chapter of Acts it is Peter, on the day of Pentecost, who unlocked the door for his own people, the Jews. It was his sermon that unlocked the door of the kingdom of God, and opened it to those who heard, Jews and proselytes. In the third chapter another sermon following the miraculous healing of a crippled man unlocked the door again, and the Church was firmly established in Jerusalem, and growing among the Jews.

In chapter eight, it is Phillip who preaches to the people of Samaria, and who baptizes them; but when he needs the Apostles to come and Confirm (as we would say it) the new Christians, the Apostles send Peter and John from among them. It is instructive that Peter, although he was the leader in obvious and visible ways, was not exercising authority over his equals, the other Apostles. For, in being sent he showed that he submitted to the others as a group, rather than telling them that he had decided to act on his own. "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) " (Acts 8:14-16)

The Greek word translated "sent" is ἀποστέλλω (apostellō), and this tells us that Peter was "sent" along with John bearing the authority of the Apostles as a group; that they were apostles of the Apostles. The difference here between leadership and authority is quite obvious. From the text we see that Peter had been acting as a leader by setting the pace and exercising gifts, but, he was acting under the authority of the Apostolic College. Otherwise he would tell them his plans rather than being sent.

Nonetheless, his presence in Samaria, to Confirm the converted and baptized people, places him within the pattern outlined by the Risen Lord Jesus Christ; for after the kingdom of God was unlocked to the Jews, it was unlocked to those next in line, the Samaritans. For this the man who was the Rock was present, fulfilling the special calling that he had. He continued in the work of unlocking the door to the Samaritans, along with John. "And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans." (v.25)

Finally, it was Peter who unlocked the door, and allowed the Gentiles into the kingdom of God. At the house of the Roman Centurion, a "God Fearer" named Cornelius, the amazing story unfolds that begins with an angelic visitation and ends with a repeat of the Sovereign work of God that had happened on Pentecost. "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 10:44,45)

Contrary to a new popular way of twisting the Scripture to create an apologetic for heresies such as Women's Ordination and Same Sex Blessing, there was no long period of confusion or disagreement. As soon as Peter explained to the other Apostles what had happened, they accepted the whole event as a revelation from God. "Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (Acts 11:17,18) At that moment the teaching of the Church was established on the matter, based on revelation.

There was no "period of discernment" that can be used to justify innovations, nor any period of confusion. Later, in the fifteenth chapter, the heresy of those who taught contrary to what Peter and the other Apostles had established so clearly in chapter eleven, was a sudden shocking new teaching that contradicted the teaching the Church had lived by during those years in between. The Jerusalem Council in chapter fifteen was not called to sort out the question of what to do with the Gentiles, but rather how to defend the young Church's Apostolic teaching against heresy. Hence the words of the letter from that Council: "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment...(Acts 15:24)."

The anecdote related by St. Paul when writing to the Galatians (Gal. 2:11f) had nothing to do with the heresy described in Acts chapter fifteen, though it might give a glimpse of a cultural problem that allowed the heresy to arise. Nonetheless, the issue was one of abiding by the teaching of the Church based on revelation as it had been established, and that even Peter himself, being only human, needed help in remembering that.

For our main point of this study, however, it was the presence of Peter in the house of Cornelius unlocking the kingdom of Heaven to the uttermost parts of the earth that matters. Even though Paul (Gal. 2:7) would take over the main work of establishing churches as a witness to Christ "unto the uttermost parts of the earth," it was Christ building His Church on the Rock, Who had appointed Peter to open the door with the keys.

Beyond that, we have nothing in Scripture that gives significance to Peter above the significance it gives to the other Apostles. The focus in the Book of Acts shifts to Paul, because the writer, Luke (who, contrary to popular misinformation, certainly was not some gentile convert later on) was really telling his own story as a quiet witness who "having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first," gave us his testimony of those things he had lived through.

Yes, we know that the Council of Chalcedon was so impressed with Leo's Tome that they said, "Peter has spoken through Leo." But, standing where that quotation is to be found, it gives recognition only to the apostolic teaching he had faithfully transmitted (as every bishop should). I have no reason to doubt the tradition that Peter died a martyr's death in Rome, nor would I care to challenge the report from antiquity that he spent his last years or months there. But, nothing other than eisegesis can fill in the wide gulf between the Scriptures and any connection to men who supposedly are his successors in the see of Rome; nor, even if I grant Rome's assertion simply for argument's sake, could I accept the enormous claims associated with their eisegesis.


BillyHW said...

Beyond that, we have nothing in Scripture that gives significance to Peter above the significance it gives to the other Apostles

Oh Father Hart, have you forgotten about this and this?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Billy HW

Are you saying that the other Apostles were not also sent to feed the Lord's sheep, i.e. to be pastors? The significance of that passage in john 21 about the Lord speaking with Peter has everything to do with the fact that He offers Peter three opportunities to state his love. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful picture the Lord words bring to our minds, the feeding of Lambs and Sheep, understood by the early Father’s of the Church to be you and me, the Christian faithful. Sadly these words, this encounter in the last part of Saint John’s Gospel has been infected by a false interpretation by the Church of Rome, which has led millions upon millions of people astray from the One, Holy, Catholic (Universal), and Apostolic orthodox faith.

The Roman Church would make us believe by this statement in that Gospel reading that the Lord Jesus was giving to Saint Peter some “special authority” by which he and he alone (St. Peter and those who claim to be his direct successors) would rule the entire Catholic, i.e., Universal Christian Church, making Saint Peter and his successors the Vicar of Christ on earth. That is NOT what Our Lord was doing…here is what the Church Father’s tell us.

Those of us who know our faith, know that the Church Fathers have instructed by their life giving teachings that in fact today’s Gospel account only “Restores St. Peter to his place among the Apostles.” St. Peter denied the Lord Jesus three times; in today’s Gospel the Lord asks St. Peter three times, if he, Peter loves Him. Our Lord desired to set St. Peter quite at his ease by leading him to speak upon his love, which had been so seriously placed in question. He enquires, "Do you love Me?" It was not because Jesus did not know Peter's love; but in order that St. Peter might make a new confession, saying, "Yes, Lord; Thou know that I love Thee." The Lord is about to hold a tender controversy with the one who denied Him three times. When Peter said, "Yes Lord; Thou know that I love Thee" we almost can picture Our Lord saying to St. Peter, "Ah, Peter, and I love you"; but He did not say so, and yet He did say so. Perhaps St. Peter did not see His meaning; but we can see it, for our minds are not confused as St. Peter's was on that memorable morning. The Lord Jesus did in effect say, "I love you so that I trust you with that which I purchased with My Precious Blood. The dearest thing I have in all the world is My flock: see, Simon, I have such confidence in you, I so wholly rely on your integrity as being a sincere lover of Me, that I make you again, with the other Apostles a shepherd to My sheep. These are all I have on earth, I gave everything for them, even My life; and now, Simon, son of Jonas, take care of them for Me."

Anonymous said...

Father Yohannes -

Of course, your spin is somewhat different from that of St. Chrysostom in Homily lxxxvii 1:

"That which most of all attracts the Divine love is care and love for our neighbor. Our Lord passing by the rest, addresses this command to Peter: he being the chief of the Apostles, the mouth of the disciples, and head of the college. Our Lord remembers no more his sin in denying Him, or brings that as a charge against him, but commits to him at once the superintendence over his brethren. If you love Me, have rule over your brethren, show forth that love which you have evidenced throughout, and that life which you said you would lay down for Me, lay down for the sheep.

He says to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me? He says to Him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love You. Well does He say to Peter, Love you Me, and Peter answer, Amo Te, and our Lord replies again, Feed My lambs. Whereby, it appears that amor and dilectio are the same thing: especially as our Lord the third time He speaks does not say, Diligis Me, but Amas Me.

He says to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me? A third time our Lord asks Peter whether he loves Him. Three confessions are made to answer to the three denials; that the tongue might show as much love as it had fear, and life gained draw out the voice as much as death threatened.

CHRYS. A third time He asks the same question, and gives the same command; to show of what importance He esteems the superintendence of His own sheep, and how He regards it as the greatest proof of love to Him. "

Sean W. Reed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sean Reed

I think "interpretation" would be a better word to use than "spin." The problem with limiting our perspective to the selection you have quoted from St. John Chrysostom has to do with the word "sent" as I wrote about it above. With all due respect to the Golden Tongue, what we see in the Book of Acts is Peter taking the lead in public ministry, not Peter shepherding and pastoring the other Apostles, and not Peter ruling them either. This is why any concept of a Petrine jurisdiction over the Church Universal does not even make sense in terms of what the man himself was in his own lifetime, much less the idea of alleged "successors" in the See of Rome.

Anonymous said...

Father Hart -

Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t think the issue is as clearly nailed down in your favor as you seem to indicate, unless a really heavy weight is given to what you think and your or others, personal interpretation of scripture. I recognize this is a subject for which you are most passionate.

In Summa Theologica, a source, I recognize you don’t likely accept as authoritative, some good information in the form of quotations is provided Q40, Supp, Art 6
where we read in part:

“...the council of Constantinople: "In accordance with the Scriptures and the statutes and definitions of the canons, we venerate the most holy bishop of ancient Rome the first and greatest of bishops, and after him the bishop of Constantinople."
“Further, the blessed Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, says: "That we may remain members of our apostolic head, the throne of the Roman Pontiffs, of whom it is our duty to seek what we are to believe and what we are to hold, venerating him, beseeching him above others; for his it is to reprove, to correct, to appoint, to loose, and to bind in place of Him Who set up that very throne, and Who gave the fulness of His own to no other, but to him alone, to whom by divine right all bow the head, and the primates of the world are obedient as to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself." Therefore bishops are subject to someone even by divine right...”

In the reply to objection 1 we read:

“Although the power of binding and loosing was given to all the apostles in common, nevertheless in order to indicate some order in this power, it was given first of all to Peter alone, to show that this power must come down from him to the others. For this reason He said to him in the singular: "Confirm thy brethren" (Luke 22:32), and: "Feed My sheep" (John 21:17), i.e. according to Chrysostom: "Be thou the president and head of thy brethren in My stead, that they, putting thee in My place, may preach and confirm thee throughout the world whilst thou sittest on thy throne."
Whilst you may well feel when weighing the evidence that the balance falls a different way that I, and others do, nevertheless, perhaps we can all best profit from the words of St. Augustine, on Matthew 16, and leave it to the reader to make up his mind. Perhaps it is not a slam dunk for either of us?

Anonymous said...

“I have said in a certain place of the Apostle Peter, that it was on him, as on a rock, that the Church was built. But I know that since that I have often explained these words of the Lord, you are Peter, and on this rock will I build my Church, as meaning upon Him whom Peter had confessed in the words, You are Christ, the Son of the living God; and so that Peter, taking his name from this rock, would represent the Church, which is built upon this rock. For it is not said to him, you art the rock, but, you are Peter. But the rock was Christ, whom because Simon thus confessed, as the whole Church confesses Him, he was named Peter. Let the reader choose whether of these two opinions seems to him the more probable.”

Attempting to put forth the notion that your take is the “Classic Anglican” one is somewhat problematic in that it was never a specifically articulated position of Canterbury. Indeed, we have numerous examples easily available to us in the Breviary, of a number of Archbishops of Canterbury, who when faced with a problem, turned to Rome to settle the dispute.

Your arguments for your views being the definitive views of Anglicanism would hold more sway if they were supported by any specifically articulated position from Catnterbury, and certainly more than a tangential reference in the 39 Articles, which some hold so very dear.

While some may celebrate and extoll the absence of having details of theology nailed down in Anglicanism - “we don’t need to define it” - it is a framework of the so-called “big tent” that supposedly allowed all of these differing views to co-exist. That has not worked out too well.

Perhaps the writings of the Church fathers are not a complete slam dunk on my side either, perhaps because they had not faced the need to answer a question that had not been raised yet, but I would certainly welcome being shown any patristic reference that pointed toward a lack of authority of the See of Rome, or that indicated a denial of the Superintendency of the Church by the Successor of Peter.


Sean W. Reed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sean Reed:

You wrote:

Your arguments for your views being the definitive views of Anglicanism...

Perhaps you can quote me on that, since I have no idea what you are talking about. The Anglican view is that the Bishop of Rome had no direct authority over the Church in England, but even that says nothing about theories of Primacy as the ancient Church would have considered a Patriarchate.

Perhaps the writings of the Church fathers are not a complete slam dunk on my side either...

That alone is a major point. The Council of Ephesus, and the next three Ecumenical Councils give the See of Rome a place as "first in honor." There is no reference to a see of Peter (which to them would have meant Antioch equally with Rome); then Constantinople as "the
new Rome" indicates that they were thinking in practical terms having to do with the empire.

Selected reference to the See of Rome in connection with Peter, implying some sort of succession that included his unique place among the Apostles, are balanced out by other factors, and by the fact that the Universal Church never declared any such thing either in Ecumenical Council or in general writings. Even those particular Fathers who spoke of Rome as the See of Peter, and as having Primacy, were committing isogesis by placing meaning, based on the political structures of the Church of their time, back into a text from which it could not be drawn out. It was more desirable to attribute the political structures to something that came from God than merely to attribute them to Caesar, so we may sympathize. But, the only reason for Rome's good reputation for helping to decide matters of doctrine was their established reputation for good teaching and orthodoxy, which predates any mention of a See of Peter. Even in the New testament we see only one Epistle by St. Paul that does not rebuke and correct, his Epistle to the Church in Rome.

But, in 1054 the Universal Church was faced with the Patriarch of Rome trying to rule over the Patriarch of Constantinople. The majority decision was that Rome was out of order. Between that year and the Council of Ephesus we saw one pope branded by the Universal Church as a heretic, and the 5th, 6th and 7th Councils held without any mention ever again of Rome having "the first place."

Bottom line: The Scriptures do not teach the Roman position unless that position is shoved into the text; the Universal Church has never endorsed, in any authoritative way, the teaching of Rome about the papacy as it developed, as they held it in the Medieval period and beyond. And, the events of 1054 show the mind of the Universal Church as rejecting universal jurisdiction.

John A. Hollister said...

Sean Reed wrote:

1. "Attempting to put forth the notion that [Fr. Hart's] take is the 'Classic Anglican' one is somewhat problematic in that it was never a specifically articulated position of Canterbury. Indeed, we have numerous examples easily available to us in the Breviary, of a number of Archbishops of Canterbury, who when faced with a problem, turned to Rome to settle the dispute.

"[Fr. Hart's] arguments for [his] views' being the definitive views of Anglicanism would hold more sway if they were supported by any specifically articulated position from Canterbury...."

This appears to misapprehend the role the See of Canterbury had in Anglicanism in the days of the Lambeth Communion's orthodoxy. No Archbishop of Canterbury was ever recognized as possessing a doctrinal or teaching magisterium over the Church of England, beyond what the whole church has always acknowledged a Metropolitan Archbishop to have in his own Province; thus the Lambeth Communion -- which is like a blimp, in that it has absolutely no structure whatever and is held up solely by internal pressure -- certainly has never recognized any such role for him.

Perhaps Sean is tryiing to apply to the Anglican situation lessons drawn from the late Roman experience, something that statisticians refer to as "extrapolating from a sample of one".

Where Canterbury qua See has no recognized role as a font of doctrine, it would be pointless to search for authoritative doctrinal pronouncements from that source.

2. "I would certainly welcome being shown any patristic reference that pointed toward a lack of authority of the See of Rome, or that indicated a denial of the Superintendency of the Church by the Successor of Peter."

What would be more useful would be to find some patristic reference, accepted by the entire Church East and West, that contravenes or modifies the decisions of the OEcumenical Councils to which Fr. Hart referred, namely, that Rome has only a primacy of honour and not of jurisdiction.

Of course, such private opinions cannot nullify the decisions of such Councils but it is highly instructive that no one whose opinions are generally respected even seems to have attempted to do so.

John A. Hollister+

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

According to Wikipedia, "there are reported to be approximately 38,000 Christian denominations" in the world today. To an outside observer, that number would probably indicate that Christianity is leaderless, and prone to a severe and growing case of factionalism. And if that observer harboured ill will, that number would also reveal a temptingly exploitable opportunity.

That Christian unity without Peter can be achieved, still remains to be demonstrated. The thirty eight thousand Christian denominations don't inspire much confidence in such an endeavour.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I hope it can be achieved without Peter, inasmuch as he was martyred long ago, and is not due to rise again until the Last Day. But, I will say that if not for the Popes who caused division in 1054 and 1520, we might not have this problem you describe.

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

Father Hart wrote:

"But, I will say that if not for the Popes who caused division in 1054 and 1520, we might not have this problem you describe."

Non sequitur. How can the papacy be responsible for all the varieties of, say, Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox, or Baptists, to name just a few? It's just too convenient to shift the blame. Reminds one of Fidel's and Hugo's favorite refrain.

RC Cola said...

the Popes who caused division in 1054

C'mon, Fr. Hart. Don't stoop that level. The Pope the cause of the Schism? I don't even know if there is a reputable Orthodox historian or theologian who would make such a one-sided claim.

Can some one point me to the Feast of St. Michael Cerularius, bishop-confessor, I seem to have missed that in my Ordo.

Fr. John said...

Without the excesses and corruption of the Czarist regime, there would have been no Bolshevik revolution.

"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" is just as true in world history as it is in physics. Certainly exaggerated papal claims to authority were the catalyst that divided the church in both of its major schisms.

Had the Pope agreed that an ecumenical synod has the final word on doctrine then the great schism of1054 would not have occurred.

Had the Pope given Henry his annulment, just as he similarly provided an annulment for the King of Portugal in the same time period, instead of acting like a secular prince, and caving in to political pressure from the Holy Roman Emperor, there would have been no breach between the Church in England and Rome.

When one plays at diplomacy, one has to understand that diplomatic mistakes have consequences.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

Mark VA

If the Papacy had called a Council earlier than Trent to address the problems raised by the Reformers... Then quite possibly, the Continental Reformation may not have happened quite as it did and thus... all the varieties of Protestantism which you write may, perhaps, justly be attributable to the direct failure of "Peter" to maintain the bond of peace within and for the flock entrusted to his care?!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

RC Cola:

Both the Patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople excommunicated each other. But, it was the Pope who who invaded the Ecumenical Patriarch's jurisdiction, trying to assert authority he simply did not have. So, yes. The Great Schism was the Pope's fault primarily, though the Ecumenical Patriarch could have ignored him. In the end he contradicted his own case (inasmuch as neither Patriarch had the authority to excommunicate the other, which was the Greek position).

The issue of the Great Schism was the Pope making an enormous claim, and his claim was rejected by all four of the other Patriarchs. How does that make Rome the seat of unity? It was not Constantinople trying to tell Rome what to do, but the other way around, asserting some hitherto unknown power to rule God's Universal Church.

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

I think it is plain unreasonable to dump all the woes of Christianity on the papacy - what's needed here is a paradigm shift.

To sum up the blame for Christian disunity from the previous posts:

(1) The Pope should have given up his "excessive" claims of authority;
(2) The Pope should have agreed that an ecumenical synod has the final word on doctrine;
(3) The Pope should have given Henry his annulment(s);
(4) The Pope should not have caved in to political pressure;
(5) The Pope should have called the Council of Trent earlier;
(6) The Pope is responsible for the Great Schism;
(7) The Pope is responsible for precipitating the Reformation;

Gentlemen, this is quite a long list of accusations. To follow this line of thinking to its conclusion, one is tempted to see the papacy as the locus of all that ails Christianity.

I invite you to a thought experiment: if the papacy and all of Roman Catholicism vanished from the earth, what would then change for the remaining 29, 999 Christian denominations, with respect to their unity?

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. John referred to "the Pope['s] ... acting like a secular prince, and caving in to political pressure from the Holy Roman Emperor [to deny Henry VIII a decree of nullity of his marriager]".

Well, to be fair to the Pope, while he WAS acting like a secular prince, and trying to preserve the City of Rome, it wasn't just political pressure that he faced but also military threats. For example, there was that army of German Lutheran troops the Emperor had camped outside Rome's gates -- the same army that later signalled the Emperor's devotion to the Papacy by sacking that city....

John A. Hollister+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I don't know; but what a trail of wreckage would be left behind.

To sum up the blame for Christian disunity from the previous posts:

(1) The Pope should have given up his "excessive" claims of authority;
(2) The Pope should have agreed that an ecumenical synod has the final word on doctrine;
(3) The Pope should have given Henry his annulment(s);
(4) The Pope should not have caved in to political pressure;
(5) The Pope should have called the Council of Trent earlier;
(6) The Pope is responsible for the Great Schism;
(7) The Pope is responsible for precipitating the Reformation;

Let' see; did he leave anything out?

John A. Hollister said...

Mark VA wrote, "one is tempted to see the papacy as the locus of all that ails Christianity."

This is way too harsh. The Papacy was only the locus for MOST of what ailed Western Christianity and that primarily between 1054 and 1570 AD, all in all a much more limited indictment.

John A. Hollister+

"Sphareit" -- sounds like some deeply technical noun from German theology....

RC Cola said...

I don't know how to say this nicely, but I'm going to try anyway. I respect your theology and ministry, but your medieval historiography is not good. This is not history, this is anti-Roman propaganda. It is unnecessary to justify being Anglican, if that is your intention. Anglican Christianity, if true--which we believe it is--can stand on its own without these Jack T. Chick style accusations. And if justifying Anglicanism is not your intention, then I wonder what purpose is served by such redonkulous histrionics about the Middle Ages?

You occasionally mention eisegesis in regard to biblical interpretation (e.g. that the Romans read the Petrine Office into the text of Matt 16:18 rather than the Romans reading Matt 16:18 and getting the Petrine Office out of the text). I say that you are doing the very same academic sin of eisegesis when viewing the Middle Ages, and the medieval papacy especially. This is bearing false witness against one's neighbor. Horrible, horrible, horrible historiography lower than The DaVinci Code.

What if I made the claim that the only reason Henry VIII broke away from the RCC was to confiscate land and money? The data is there--after all he did dissolve monasteries, take all their funds and hand land over to his vassels--and yet I would be ashamed to say that the Anglican Schism is 100% Henry's fault. (I'd be ashamed to say it's 100% Rome's fault, too.) Likewise, even though German princes made out like bandits thanks to the Lutheran reformation, yet again I would be ashamed to claim that making money was the only reason they did it.

What galls me is the injustice and double-standard, as if Michael Cerularius was an innocent victim of the Pope. With the Byzantine emperor firmly in his pocket, he was not some powerless ninny.

In the attempt to deny the position of the Papacy, you simultaneously give Rome a vast array of magical powers that it did not have.

Now having said all that, The Teaching Company puts out some nice courses. The professor of their three DVD sets on the Middle Ages is not a RC, and thus not in the business of romanticizing the Middle Ages. But neither does he disparage them. In a word: honest.

Aw, hell, what's the use? Threads like this put me on the border of despair because when I think I've found a decent church, I'm inundated with lies like this thread. If I can't trust you with simple historical facts, how can I trust you with my soul?

RC Cola said...

OK, so despair is too dramatic.

I am disappointed though. We don't need lies. Our mothers told us that we don't need to drag others down to lift ourselves up. It was good advice as kids, and its good advice now.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

RC Cola:

I hate to see you in the dumps, but I really do not know what in the blazes you are talking about. I have not made anti-Roman statements at all, for, frankly, I am not anti-Roman. Perhaps after being brought up Roman Catholic you perceive defense as attack; but, we are the ones who have been attacked. Rome condemns our orders and validity, and all I have been saying, if I may put it in Star Trek terms, is "increase power to the shields."

My undergraduate degree is in history (and the period in which I earned it is now studied as history), and when I invoke the name of history, or go into details, I do so as I was taught; I use Primary Sources and refuse to make any statement that I cannot document.

You have made no specific statement at all, but generalities I cannot pin down, and therefore given me no refutation of fact to answer. You use the word "lies," which is quite damning, but point out no instance of any "lie." And, comparison to a buffoon like Jack Chic is an insult, and furthermore, entirely unjustified. If I were in a bad mood I would have hit the "reject" button, considering such a comparison beyond the pale (which it is).

As for isogesis (or eisegesis; it is the same word with two perfectly proper spellings), you say I have used it. Where? When?

I never use it, not for Scriptural interpretation, and not in my approach to history.

Fr. John said...

RC Cola,

You wrote:

"What if I made the claim that the only reason Henry VIII broke away from the RCC was to confiscate land and money? The data is there--after all he did dissolve monasteries, take all their funds and hand land over to his vassels--and yet I would be ashamed to say that the Anglican Schism is 100% Henry's fault. (I'd be ashamed to say it's 100% Rome's fault, too.) Likewise, even though German princes made out like bandits thanks to the Lutheran reformation, yet again I would be ashamed to claim that making money was the only reason they did it."

You are correct about Henry. He was an immoral tyrant, but he declared that the Pope had "no jurisdiction in this realm" in order to secure an heir to the English throne. He proposed to make his bastard son Richard heir, but was persuaded that would not be acceptable to the nation.

Despoiling the monasteries was an afterthought, and not the motivator for the English Reformation. So I find your simile unconvincing.

Don't for a moment think that any of us on this blog revere Henry VIII, but my statements about the historical development of Christianity in England, the progressively increasing claims and powers of the papacy, the impact of wars on ecclesiastical relationships are based on historical facts. One may draw a different conclusion than I have, but the events themselves are recognized facts by mainstream historians.

In the case of Henry, I am reminded of T.S. Eliot's lines:
"And the last temptation is the greatest treason, to do the right thing for the wrong reason."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...that we don't need to drag others down to lift ourselves up.

My son-in-law was once pulled over by a Maryland cop who had started up his siren after both cars had crossed the West Virginia state line. When asked, "Do you know how fast you were going?" he replied, "Yes. But, do you know where you are?" This is not written in favor of speeding; but, it applies to the problem. Rome claims universal jurisdiction for itself to such a level that every bishop except the Bishop of Rome is a mere suffragan. So, in a sense it is necessary to drag something down; we have to level that claim to the ground simply to defend our own place in God's Church.

Fr. John said...

And let me make this clear, the Pope's actions (in being the proxy of the Holy Roman Emperor) left Henry no other alternatives to being able to procure a legitimate heir to the English throne.

His bastard son Richard was not acceptable to the lords or peasants.

His wife Katherine seemed unable to produce a male heir.

The Pope would not grant him an annulment as he had the King of Portugal.

How else was he to get a legitimate son?

We know from history that the Pope wanted to grant the annulment, and stalled as long as possible announcing a decision.

While waiting Henry had the great universities of Europe examine his case, and they recommended in his favor.

The Pope's hand was finally forced by Karl V, a close relative of Catherine of Aragon. In was in Catherine's and Karl's political interest to maintain the diplomatic tie the marriage represented between Spain and England.

You know, this is really elementary stuff. I'm writing here supposing a lot of background knowledge on the part of other posters. Feel free to challenge any assertions I make, but it defeats the purpose of this blog to have to teach the history of Western Civilization.

RSC+ said...

I don't mean to stir up trouble, but it's perfectly understandable why the Roman See reached its heights. Such a trajectory begins not with the Great Schism, but probably with Leo the Great (c. 440-461).

After the fall of the Western Empire, you might characterize W. Europe as a bunch of Roman patricians holding on to their estates, a bunch of barbarian lordlings, and the Pope in Rome. He negotiated with Atila to turn away because, frankly, there wasn't anyone else. So, that See becomes important as stability evaporates in Western Europe.

It becomes even more important as Islam winds through N. Africa and into Spain, knocking out the other Western sees of Carthage, Hippo Regius, Thagaste, &c. (Arguably, that dates back to Vandal invasions, but I don't know enough about the Byzantine conquest under Justinian.)

Speaking of Justinian, his forces swept through Italy, wiping out most of the aforementioned barbarian Lordlings. As their Empire retreated back out of Italy, the Papacy (again) was the only source of stability in the region.

It also doesn't help, particularly, that the See became associated with the annointing of Emperors. With the Great Schism, you have Rome in the West as the only Patriarchate and everybody else in the East.

I wouldn't dare say this justifies Rome's ascendancy, but merely that it's hardly surprising, given the peculiar circumstances in which it rose to prominence.

William Tighe said...

I do not know anything about the case of the King of Portugal and his annulment. I do, however, know that various kings (e.g., Louis XII of France, the Wikipedia entry concerning whom provides adequately accurate details) were able to exploit technicalities, and perhaps even lie outright, to obtain annulments of their marriages from the papacy.

But I think that Henry VIII would never have been able to obtain an annulment, even had the papacy not been constrained by the political circumstances of the time. The grounds for Henry's request for an annulment, and the only basis on which he would allow his advocates to present his case, was that marriage to a deceased brother's widow, was "against the Law of God" (cf. Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21) and that it was beyond the competence of the papacy to grant dispensations for marriages in such circumstances.

This was never going to fly. In the first instance, the papacy had been granting such dispensations for centuries, and Henry 's argument flew in the face of canonical and historical precedent, and in the second, Catherine of Aragon's defenders could cast back Deuteronomy 25: 5-10 in defense of such marriages' not being absolutely "against the Law of God" and so within the competence of the papal "dispensing power." Henry was asking, indeed demanding, that it accept his and his advocates' view of these matters as authoritative, when in fact it was very much a minority view and went against the precedents of centuries.

Why he insisted on this presentation of the argument is hard to say. I think it was due to his high self-conceit as an autodidact theologian (a conceit that emerged again later in his arguments with Cranmer over Justification and clerical marriage) -- but whatever the reason, it destroyed any chances that his annulment petition might be granted.

How great these chances were to begin with is an arguable matter. Cardinal Wolsey wanted to pursue a different argument altogether. He wanted to argue that the wrong kind of dispensation had been granted in 1503, and hence that the marriage was invalid on purely technical grounds. Catherine asserted, and Henry never denied -- he went out of his way to avoid giving an answer under oath to the question -- that she was a virgin when she married Henry, and that her marriage with Prince Arthur had never been consummated (Henry's advocates were able to produce old retainers and servants of Prince Arthur who were willing to testify that they had heard the Prince boast on the morrow of his marriage that he had been "in Spain" during the preceeding night). In such a case of non -consummation, the dispensation to be sought was one that dispensed from the "impediment of public honesty," i.e, a dispensation from the appearance of a marriage between Arthur and Catherine, even though, since it had not been followed by sexual intercourse between the couple, it had not, in fact, been a "completed" marriage -- but Ferdinand of Aragon (Catherine's father) and Henry VII (Henry VIII's father) has sought and received in 1503 from the impediment of affinity, the impediment of "brother/sister-in-law-hood" that was created by a true, that is, consummated, marriage.

Wolsey wanted to argue the case on the basis of the "wrong dispensation," and the best and most comprehensive modern biographer of Henry VIII (J. J. Scarisbrick, whose *Henry VIII* appeared in 1968) thinks that such an argument stood at least a chance of success, especially given Clement VII's desire to appease Henry and keep his friendship.

(to be con't'd)

William Tighe said...


However, the Benedictine monk, canonist and historian Henry (Dom Ansgar) Kelly, in his study *The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII* (1976) which is an exhaustive study of the canonical basis of all four of Henry's marriage annulments (from Catherine of Aragon [1533], Anne Boleyn [1536], Anne of Cleves [1540] and Catherine Howard [1542, posthumously]) concludes that Wolsey's notion would have had little prospect of success, either, since Roman canonists and judges had long before the 16th Century adopted the view that a dispensation from a grave impediment, such as that of affinity, automatically obviated all lesser impediments, such as that of "public honesty," even if the lesser impediments were not specifically mentioned in the dispensation. He thus concludes that Henry stood small chance of obtaining an annulment under any circumstances, and none at all on the basis on which he chose to argue his case.

As I wrote previously, I tend to give Henry "credit" for believing, perhaps rather willfully, the case he required his advocated to argue. On the other hand, one has to note that at the very same time he was seeking a papal annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he sought and obtained a papal dispensation to allow him to marry, in the event he became free to marry, any women with whose sister he had had carnal relations -- an obvious reference to Anne Boleyn, whose sister Mary had been Henry's mistress from about 1522 to 1526 -- and had begun to explore the possibility of obtaining a dispensation that would allow his sole legitimate child, his daughter Mary (1516-1558) to marry his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy (1519-1536) -- not "Richard" -- whom he had created Duke of Richmond in 1525. He had also engaged in a furiously critical correspondence in 1525-7 with his older sister, Margaret Tudor (1489-1541), the widow of James IV (d. 1513) of Scotland, who in 1514 had married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, over her attempt to secure an annulment of her marriage to Angus (which she obtained from the papacy in March 1527). So it remains possible that Henry was all along engaging in an argument in whose particulars he did not believe -- but he would have to have been a man of unbelievable stupidity (which he was not) or of overweening self-conceit (which seems to have been the case) for him to have expected to have his marriage annulled on that basis.

Fr. John said...

As Dr. Tighe notes, such annulments were not uncommon, the case of King Louis XII of France is a particularly heinous one. Canon law aside for a moment, the political matters associated with the marriage were more compelling. Catherine was the aunt of Karl V, who had Pope Clement VII politically and militarily boxed in. Catherine demanded that her nephew do something to save her honor.

Clement stalled, and his legates even suggested to Henry, that instead of openly rejecting his wife, he secretly take a second one. As already noted this was no solution, as Henry needed a publicly acceptable heir.

Enter now Thomas Cranmer, not yet Archbishop of Canterbury, who suggested that the preeminent Catholic Universities be consulted. Paris, Orleans, Toulouse, Oxford, Cambridge, and even those in Italy, declared that Henry’s marriage to Catherine was not valid.

No matter how one parses the issue, it is clear that the Pope denied Henry his annulment under duress by Karl V, and entirely for political reasons, hence acting as a secular prince and an unwilling proxy of the Holy Roman Emperor.

For a succinct summary of this political situation, which the Roman Church would have us believe was a one of morality; I turn to Frank E. Wilson, D.D., STD, and his book, The Divine Commission, A Sketch of Church History. “It is not uncommon to hear the whole question neatly dismissed by the broad statement that Henry was a dissolute king, fighting an evil battle against the principles of Christian morality as personified in the two popes who opposed him. It sounds well, but the facts will scarcely bear it out. It is quite true that Henry was a dissolute king, but is also true that Clement VII was an illegitimate son of the Medici family, and that Paul III was the father of illegitimate children (See Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. IV, p.24 and vol. XI, pg. 579). Such a combination shouts the query—where can any moral issue possibly fit in? There was none. It was a case of politics, pure and simple. The wonder of it is that Henry, passionate and headstrong as he was, ever restrained himself for a period of seven years.”

Fr. John said...

Also, five historians who agree that Pope Clement VII would have given Henry his annulment but for the Holy Roman Emperor Karl V.

Owen Chadwick, The Reformation

Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity

J.R.H. Moorman, A History of the Church in England

Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church

Frank E. Wilson, The Divine Commission, A Sketch of Church History

William Tighe said...

Do any of these five historians whom you cite display any real inkling of the canon law issues underlying Henry VIII's annulment petition? I have read Owen Chadwick's account -- and I account him the best historian among them -- and he certainly doesn't. The rest of them are in no sense specialists in Reformation-era history, or in Canon Law ideas and procedures (as Kelly is), and with the exception of Chadwick and Gonzalez they all wrote decades ago, long before the works of Scarisbrick and Kelly whom I have referenced.

So as far as I am concerned your "by the numbers" response is no reply at all.

William Tighe said...

Let me add that nobody realized the full extent of the "radicalism" of the arguments and demands that Henry VIII was presenting to the papacy as "justifications" for the annulment of his marriage until the American doctoral student of the late Sir Geoffrey Elton of Clare College, Cambridge, V. M. Murphy, spent years working through, distinguishing between and translating from Latin the vast collection of books, manuscripts and "position papers" by Henry VIII's own "team" (many of them annotated in Henry's hand) preserved at the Public Record Office in London -- and consequently how unlikely-to-the-point-of-impossible it is that he would ever have received a papal annulment of his marriage.

All of the historians whom you name, even the great Owen Chadwick, whose book was published in 1973, with the possible exception of Gonzalez, whose very general book appeared in 1984, would simply have been unaware of these facts, and even Scarisbrick was not fully aware of it. Kelly's expertise in the history and practice of Canon Law would have given him expertise that all the others lacked, but I can well remember Dr. Murphy telling me on numerous occasions as she was completing her work how much of the detailed substance of the arguments of Henry's advocates, and of the responses of so many of Catherine's advocates, who focused in many cases on the novelty and absurdity of Henry's argument, and on the manner in which they were a direct, if understated, assault on papal authority.

In some respects, History is indeed a cumulative discipline, and as detailed knowledge grows, the arguments of past historians become to a large extent superseded and untenable. This is certainly the case with Moorman, Wilson and Walker, and probably also with Chadwick as well, unless he revised later editions of his book to take them into account. Additionally, there is a credulity of scepticism as well as of belief, in this case well represented by those who assert, without any detailed knowledge of the facts, that "of course it was all political; Clement VII would have granted Henry's petition had he been able to do so." In this case, however, those who make such assertions betray little more than their own ignorance and credulity.

RSC+ said...

The parallel I look at for Henry VIII's expecting a marriage isn't Louis XII, but Louis XII.

There were no male issues, but a few daughters. Louis was granted an annulment on the basis of consanguinuity (read: incest); she married Henry II and promptly had five boys, two of whom were of no particular importance: Richard I and and John I.

Catherine of Aragon was Henry VII's third cousin through a common ancestor, and if I have my family tree calculus done right, Arthur and Henry VIII's 3rd cousin once removed. Could you make a case, then, that Henry VIII was more closely related to Catherine of Aragon than Louis VII was to Eleanor of Aquitaine?

The curious part, it seems to me, is four archbishops handled the annulment of Louis and Eleanor with the approval of Pope Eugenius. So, it wasn't as though the Pope himself had to do it, so much as sign off on it.

Complicated political stuff!

RSC+ said...

Hm. I misspoke earlier; family trees are a tangled mess. Louis VII & Eleanor and Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon were both pairs of third cousins once removed.

In any event, there's your clear precedent for an annulment granted where there was no male issue on the basis of consanguinuity. The children were even considered legitimate and awarded to Louis VII's custody.

Fr. John said...

Dear Dr. Tighe,

I appreciate you aggressive response, but it amounts to a smoke screen. If your cited "doctoral student" Ms.(V.M.)Murphy is your expert source based on:

"the vast collection of books, manuscripts and "position papers" by Henry VIII's own "team" (many of them annotated in Henry's hand) preserved at the Public Record Office in London -- and consequently how unlikely-to-the-point-of-impossible it is that he would ever have received a papal annulment of his marriage."

Then she should have also reviewed the findings of the great European Catholic universities who came to a different conclusion from her. They were there at the time, and active participants in the process. What Henry's "team," actually his lawyers, wrote and Henry himself wrote are the internal staff studies, and the speculations that spanned over seven years of effort to wrest from the Pope a simple annulment, that should have been, by the standards of the time, a no brainer. This was Henry's legal team and if they drew the conclusion that Henry would not get his annulment based on canon law, then what does that say about the great universities who agreed with Henry's position? Were they ignorant of the canon law of their time? Too bad Ms. Murphy was not there to educate them.

By the way, I have stopped assuming that every one on this blog knows all the details of this historic episode. Pope Clement VII was a prisoner of war, held by Karl V.

Fr. John said...

Something else I just thought of, If Ms. V.M. Murphy is correct in her reading of Henry's personal papers, that is if Henry's canon lawyers could foresee that under canon law Henry would not receive an annulment. and the canon lawyers of the great Christian universities of Europe reached the opposite conclusion, that means that Henry had better canon lawyers than the the universities.

Score another point for Anglicanism!

Of course, Ms. Murphy has reached an erroneous conclusion, so take that point off the board.

Fr. John said...

Vidy this:

King's laywers: Your Majesty we have examined your case in detail, and find that based on the law of the Church, you have no hope whatsoever of obtaining an annulment from that awful Spanish woman.

King Henry: This is what we get for our money? We don't care a farthing for your interpretation of canon law, we want a second opinion. Get legal opinions from all of the universities, even the ones in Italy. We, ourselves, are a published theologian, and we believe you have incorrectly interpreted the law.

King's lawyers: Majesty, we anticipated such a request on your part for we have consulted the best legal minds in Christendom at all of the major universities.

King Henry: And they agree with you?

King's lawyers: No, they agree with you, but alas they are inferior lawyers to us, so they are wrong in their findings, as you are also Majesty.

Unbelievable? It is absolutely unbelievable.

William Tighe said...


What you write is true, that is, that there would have been a case for an annulment on those considerations, had not Julius II's bull of 1504 dispensed from them, and from all other impediments. Henry VIII's advocates never argued for an annulment on that basis, however, no doubt on the realization that in the face of a papal dispensation to allow such a marriage such arguments would have gone nowhere in Rome.

Fr. John,

I do not see the point of your latest comments. "The great universities were divided in their response," with a majority supporting Henry and a minority opposed, and in a few cases one faculty of a university supporting Henry and another opposing him. There was not a unanimous response, and in fact it was not those universities that could grant or withhold annulments (or dispensations), but the papacy, which was wholly free of any obligation to defer to or even consult university faculties.

Nor do my views rest entirely on Dr. Murphy's research; I did, after all, mention the works of Scarisbrick and Kelly, of which you seem content to remain ignorant, prefering to rely instead on the work of earlier historians. In fact, Dr. Murphy did indeed devote part of her thesis to the responses of the various European universities that weighed in on the issue. My recollection is not only that they were divided in their responses, but that in reaching their conclusions both those that supported Henry and those that opposed him frequently reached their conclusions on opposed and incompatible grounds.

I might add that an aspect of Dr. Murphy's research saw publication as "The Literature and Propaganda of Henry VIII's First Divorce" in *The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy and Piety* ed. Diarmaid MacCulloch,* Macmillan Press Ltd., 1995, pp. 135-158.

Fr. John said...

Dr. Tighe,

Thanks for your reference to Scarisbrick.

You want us to believe that your friend, while working on a doctoral thesis, uncovered through examination of seven years worth of documents and correspondence between Henry and his legal counsel, information that makes all works published before 1995 obsolete. Well let me just through my library in the trash!

Even if she was correct, and I do not believe it for a minute, that still does not refute the assertion that the historians I have cited drew from the events of that time.

Here's one more for you to chew on, from your own references.

" Bullied and at some moments apparently broken, yet in reality never mastered. Clement had been pulled hither and thither by his need for Henry, his fear of Charles (Karl) and a certain residual sense of justice which would not permit him entirely to ignore Catherine's cause. Such was the skill of the man that it was difficult to know exactly how much he had now conceded. Three bulls had been sealed: the first a new dispensation for Henry to marry Anne; the second a general commission to Wolsey, with Warham or any other English bishop as assistant: the third sealed but not dispatched for some time, a general commission to Wolsey, with another legate from Rome, empowering them summarily to investigate the validity of Henry's marriage to Catherine and pass sentence upon it. Should they judge it void, Henry and Catherine were to be separated and might contract marriage anew. What was more, no appeal would be allowed against the legates' sentence. This was seemingly a decisive document, but in truth there were fatal loopholes in it. Rome had not given the statement of law which would make Wolsey's work simple and sure, the vital matter of papal confirmation had not been established and the commissioner's broad powers and immunity to challenge did not protect them against appeal on the ground of partiality. However, in conversation with Fox and Gardiner. Clement had said that he might yet agree to confirm the delegates' sentence and promise not to revoke or inhibit their progress." Henry VIII, by J.J. Scarisbrick

In fact Scarisbrick goes on to relate how Henry eagerly seized on it.

By one of your own references, of which I am not willfully ignorant since I own this volume, Henry had every reason to believe he would be successful in getting that annulment. I fail to see how any documents discovered in Henry's state or private papers would give anyone second thoughts about events that transpired in far away Rome.

Please do enlighten us as to these marvelous discoveries. Couldn't you share just one or two gems that she uncovered with us?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am following this conversation with interest. But, I want to remind observers to it that Anglicanism has no need to justify Henry. The men who were responsible for the cure of souls in his day, and later in the reign of Elizabeth, did what bishops, priests and other religious teachers always do; they acted responsibly within the reality of their own generation and its particular political and economic circumstances.

RSC+ said...

Dr. Tighe,

I've been digging around for the Papal Bull of Julius II (and can't help but be reminded of Erasmus' hilarious Julius Exclusus). Just about every source I've found states that the Bull allowed Henry to marry his brother Arthur's widow over the question of affinity. That is, by consummating their marriage (if they did), Catherine's relatives became Arthur's relatives (and thus Henry's relatives).

The trouble is, they already were. Did the Bull specifically allow all cases of consanguinuity to pass, or just this one case of affinity because of her prior marriage to Arthur? (I'm not trying to be belligerent here -- merely seeking a better understanding of a point of history.)

As a bit of a side note, I lately notice that most schisms occur because of a pattern of basic issues.

1) Someone in a position of pastoral and theological authority does something which upsets a particular party.

2) For whatever reason, the two parties cannot be reconciled, and the offended party concludes, "To Hell with this," and they form their own sect. (See, for example, the Donatists, or my favorite, Hope Baptist Church, New Hope Baptist Church, True Hope Baptist Church. . .)

We're in a curious position these days because most of Henry's problems, political in nature, would no longer be an issue in today's church, but the problems Anglicanism in general has with Rome, theological in nature, largely persist.

Fr. John said...

"The past is prologue."

Fr. John said...

Mark VA wrote:

"That Christian unity without Peter can be achieved, still remains to be demonstrated."

This is very true.

But, we may say, with equal veracity,

"that Christian unity with Peter can be achieved, still remains to be demonstrated."

Good luck with that Apostolic Constitution.

Am I wrong, or are the primary commentators advocating the acceptance by Anglicans of the A.C. on this thread Anglican-Use Roman Catholics?

Two sayings occur to me;

"Come on in, the waters not that cold."


"Misery loves company."

"They may get me eventually, but as long as I can I will live the old way, and do the old things."

Sitting Bull

Fr. John said...

To wrap this up, Henry VIII personally worked hard and long over a seven year period, and spent a great deal of national treasure and talent as well, to try and obtain an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. To assert that he never had any hope, or even gave up hope early on of getting that annulment is absurd on the face of it. No one puts in an expensive seven year effort without at least hoping for a favorable outcome.

This political situation was the proximate cause and catalyst for the English Reformation. Because Henry preempted, and thus gained leadership of the reforming movement in England he seriously blunted any tendencies towards Calvinism or Lutheranism. That he did what he did for personal reasons, i.e. to get a new wife who could bear him a male heir, is beyond question. Being a staunch Catholic (he was a published papal award winning author of a theological work against Luther) he had no intention of changing anything in the Church in England.

Which is why I say that he did the right thing, for all the wrong reasons, as he restored the status of the relationship with Rome to that of the time before the coming of the William the Conqueror, for political and not religious motives.

God works in mysterious ways to bring His will into being without infringing our own free will.