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

he sought.

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

his emnity.

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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