|Portrait of King Henry VIII|
A Holy Experiment
Today is National Holy Experiment Day in the United States. A Holy Experiment is an experiment that has to do with religious beliefs. I think it is so befitting to talk about King Henry VIII and the Protestant Reformation. No one can doubt that Queen Catherine of Aragon had her troubles with her husband towards the end of their marriage. The birth of Henry FitzRoy did not help her relationship with King Henry VIII. The queen's inability to bear her husband children had a greater affect on English history than if she would have had strong sons. Catherine, the devout Catholic queen, had ensure England's fate towards the Protestant Reformation with the loss of her sons.
The Protestant Reformation began in Germany when the Catholic monk, Martin Luther, nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. Martin Luther's theses rejected many Catholic practices at that time including validity of indulgences (remissions of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven) and the practice of selling them. He argued that forgiveness could not be bought since only God could forgive a person of their sins. He wrote a copy of his thesis the same day he had posted them to the door with comments to Archbishop Albert of Mainz and Magdeburg, who was responsible for the sale of indulgences. Martin Luther had also sent a copy of his thesis to his superior, the bishop of Brandenburg.
The Protestant Reformation began quickly after Martin Luther had nailed his thesis. Within two weeks his work has spread throughout Germany. Two months later, his views had spread throughout Europe. Martin Luther's teachings inspired other reformers, such as John Calvin, to stand up against the Catholic Church as well.
Martin Luther's movement began a year after Queen Catherine of Aragon had given birth to Princess Mary. Three years later, Martin Luther wrote a three part thesis speaking against the Catholic Church. It denounced the Papal system and the doctrine of the sacraments. King Henry VIII read this thesis and was outraged at the German monk's claims against the church. The English king defended the Catholic Church by writing the Assertio Septem Sacramentorum or Defence of the Seven Sacraments. In it he wrote:
Do not listen to the Insults and Detractions against the Vicar of Christ which the Fury of the little Monk spews up against the Pope; nor contaminate Breasts sacred to Christ with impious Heresies, for if one sews these he has no Charity, swells with vain Glory, loses his Reason, and burns with Envy. Finally with what Feelings they would stand together against the Turks, against the Saracens, against anything Infidel anywhere, with the same Feelings they should stand together against this one little Monk weak in Strength, but in Temper more harmful than all Turks, all Saracens, all Infidels anywhere.
Martin Luther countered the king's writing by claiming King Henry VIII could have never written the words and thus no one should take the king's claims seriously. The Catholic Church ,on the other hand, fully supported King Henry VIII's claims and were well pleased with his defense. On October 11th 1521, King Henry VIII was granted the title Fidei Defensor, or Defender of the Faith by Pope Leo X and his cardinals. Five years later, Martin Luther would apologize to King Henry VIII in a letter placing all the blame on Cardinal Woosely for the king's reaction to his thesis. King Henry VIII wrote back to Martin Luther stating he had stronger feelings for his minister the more he (Martin Luther) and other heretics were against him. Martin Luther returned communication with King Henry VIII asking for forgiveness, claiming the king's enemies had prompted him to write against the king's beloved Cardinal. Yet King Henry VIII would not accept Martin Luther's apology and continued to speak out against him. When Martin Luther married the nun, Katharina von Bora, in April of 1523 King Henry VIII had advised him to abandon his wife to a nunnery. Martin Luther believed in the sanctity of marriage and did not comply with the king's advice. When Henry's hour of need came with his "Great Matter" the monk refused to help him stating the king should keep his old wife and take Anne Boleyn as his second wife.