by Sam Fisk
Condensed from BAPTIST BULLETIN, October 1982. When the Pope visited
England in 1982, the media told us the initial separation with Rome was
because Henry VIII, who was pictured in a most unsavory manner, wanted to
divorce his wife.
Did Protestantism in Britain spring from Henry's lust? Cardinal Gibbon
thinks so. He wrote, "The licentious monarch divorced himself from the
Pope." Alfred Young declares, "Protestantism in England was due to the
taking of the law into his own hands by that adulterous and murderous
The wife King Henry wanted to divorce was an ardent Roman Catholic,
Catherine of Aragon. He wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, whose relatives
belonged to the group trying to reform the papal power of the Roman Church.
We are told this was the specific reason why the pope wanted to delay the
matter of Henry's divorce.
The legitimacy of Henry's marriage was questionned from the beginning.
Catherine was contracted to Henry when he was only 12 years old, so that
today Henry would have had no problem getting an annulment, which was what
The Pope had granted a annulments to other monarchs, but held up the
annulment requested by Henry for political reasons. Catherine was the
daughter of the powerful Ferdinand of Spain, and the pope could not risk
The big question is whether a king like Henry VIII, however strong-
willed, could have swung an entire nation away from its religious
commitment. The British Isles was ripe for change. Eerdman's HANDBOOK TO
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY says, "As early as the 13th century a strong
anti-papal and anti-clerical movement developed in Britain." C.S. Isaacson
points out, "A Reformation was inevitable. It was no sudden storm, no freak
of a king; its causes lay deep down in the national life. When Henry VIII
ascended the throne, reform was already in the air."
Some of the most active in establishing the Church of England, like
Cranmer, Ridley and Latimner, were strong for reform and freedom from papal
domination some time before Henry asserted himself. For their pains they
were burned at the stake by "Bloody Mary." But all we hear about is Henry's
divorce. May God give us a balanced picture.
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