The Lost Defender
“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.” (Assertio septem sacramentorum; or, Defence of the seven sacraments, page 89)
‘Tis curious to note how emphatic this final paragraph sums the whole of a theological treatise, written close on six centuries ago, by a man who was known not for his good works, but by the evil he became. The path he had entered upon in the beginning was decidedly the better journey to the end, yet when as human nature dictates wants instead of what is needed or required, God’s law as set in accordance by the Catholic Church, the deviation copies the one who began the renunciation.
Such was Henry VIII’s great fall from grace over a decade from his staunch defense of the Seven Sacraments against Luther’s view of sola scriptura and salvation through faith not deeds. Both of which are against Church doctrine, and Henry with a temper filled defense wrote an eloquent testis in response. His voice in the matter was the voice of England being a Catholic country and the fracturing which began in 1517 would not come to English shores.
In 1521, on Henry’s completion of Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, a gilded copy was first sent to Pope Leo X who he also dedicated it to, and numerous copies were printed thereafter. The Holy Father created and conferred upon Henry a new title: Defender of the Faith.
The irony stands as testament to Henry’s own actions, as the title was revoked thirteen years later. Much of what he denounced from Luther and the subsequent rapid rise of Protestantism became his own rallying cry. For in his fall, he carried nothing remarkable, merely trotting down the same worn-out beaten path many before and many after; who, allowing deadly sins to light the way, clung to as if they bore the omnipotence of human salvation on earth in the throes of death and no life beyond the present.
The allure and capture of power unto themselves as the all-knowing without brooking any dissent bound their souls to Satan. This absolute credence given to the temporal as Henry lusted on complete control yet the gains, is capture in the slow insidious whisperings convincing many who embrace the mantle of monarchy, leader or president is unaware the tempter has found the weakness and makes capital on those who with ease willing follow.
In Henry’s case, the descent from defender to denunciator took about thirteen years to complete. From loyal son to murderer of those he swore to protect marked his faith not by good, but by the evil he gradually espoused as good. The causes were vile, yet unremarkable, for when one begins with adultery, which marries deceit and deception, other mortal sins become a matter of course when one such as he, or any holding great authority over others, the distinction between what is right and wrong no longer exist for the moral code.
Once a great who had the choice to remain so, but his decision to overthrow the teachings of the Catholic Church lost what he valiantly strove to guard and defend. One wonders as the last moments of his life were passing: did Henry VIII have a chance to see what he had wrought in gaining the world?