When Anglican standards were traded for indiscriminate ecumenicalism (a long process), the Reformation suffered a tremendous blow. On one side, it allowed Anabaptist and Presbyterian ideas to seep into Anglicana’s Evangelical wing. On the other, Anglo-Papism eventually replaced the historic High Church party. The twentieth century victory of Anglo-Papism prepared the way for today’s Personal Ordinariates, which threatens chewing off some Anglo-Catholics from the conservative rump. Retaining ideas behind Supremacy might counter future invasions like the Ordinariate.
Yet, our problem remains the same, “What is Anglicanism”? Earlier blog entries (here and here) dealt with the King’s relation to His body (his subjects and estates within), but this post shall explore the King’s relation (as England’s chief Warden) to other national churches. Supremacy treated the Pope as a provincial bishop (bishop of rome) while it restored ancient prerogative of the Prince. In the face of Roman absorption, let’s recall the 1553 Supremacy Oath:
“From Henceforth I shall utterly renounce, refuse, relinquish, and forsake the Bishop of Rome, and his authority, power, and jurisdiction. And I shall never consent nor agree, that the Bishop of Rome shall practice, exercise, or have any manner of authority, jurisdiction, or power within this realm, or any other the King has dominion, but shall resist the same at all times, to the uttermost of my power”
Content of Jurisdiction:
Beginning in 1533, Supremacy Oaths kept the jurisdiction of Rome at bay, with few exceptions, banning Rome’s bishops and cardinals from England’s shores. A Roman bishop was not restored until Catholic Emancipation in 1829. Supremacy revitalized England’s ancient custom, whereupon the 1533 Parliament saw no contradiction, “we do not intend to decline or vary from the congregation of Christ’s Church in any things concerning the very articles of the Catholic faith of Christendom, or in any other things declared by Holy Scripture necessary for salvation.” According to the Rev. Patterson,
“Henry was returning in essentials to the custom that had been observed in England during the twelfth century. The form of concurrent appointment to a bishopric by papal bull was an innovation of the later middle ages. But when the king forbade the Archbishop to receive the pall from Rome, he was returning to a custom more ancient than that of the English church; for though the pall was in origin merely complimentary, all Archbishops since St. Augustine had received it as a symbol of their metropolitan authority.” (p. 224, History of England)
Over the course of six parliaments, joined by the Bishops, supremacy was articulated in stages. The first parliament was summoned 3 Nov.1529 and the last prorogued 4 Feb. 1534. This period is known as the “Reformation Parliament”. It declared the King’s Title as well as his Jurisdiction within the English Church. In 1531, after Papal absentees were deprived of rents, the Convocation declared King Henry “Supreme Head”, with proposed qualification, “as far as the law of Christ allows”. In 1534 Parliament finally resolved upon the phrase, “Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England”. This became Henry’s official Dignity in 1535– the malicious slandering of which, either by “ writing or word”, was treasonous (preamunire).
Henry’s jurisdiction supplanted the Papacy, and within it were many ‘vague and undefined’ administrative powers which the Pope had either usurped or otherwise claimed. Jurisdiction was formerly affirmed by Parliament by four important Acts, and these forming the cornerstone of the King’s ecclesial Headship:
- Appellate Restraint: The final court of appeal transferred from Rome to the Archbishop of Canterbury under the Crown, aka. The Court of Arches. All appeals– in cases of marriage, wills, tithes, etc– do not go outside the realm.
- Annates: Forbid the Pope’s importable tithe (i.e, Peter’s pence). Instead, the annates (1/10 of church incomes) are annexed to the King’s Majesty.
- Succession: Clarifying Henry’s divorce from Catherine (of Spain) and remarriage to Anne Boylen and the line of succession thereof. Any who deny the legitimacy of the divorce, deny the Word of God (Lev. 18) and King’s rightful and lawful heir.
- Submission: Henry affirmed right to elect and approve bishops, call convocations, confirm and write canon, visit clergy and otherwise enforce ecclesial discipline. This Act rendered Papal bulls null and void (i.e., no dispensations from Rome), and Romish Palls were henceforth pointless, all clergy swearing lealty to the Crown’s authority, power, and jurisdiction.
In 1534, 16 lay and 16 clerical divines were convoked to revise church canon, abrogating those innovations that conflicted with King’s headship and Law of God. What did not transgress was assumed to carry over. Jurisdiction thus amounted to mostly external matters– Supremacy in court affairs, nomination and election of clergy, convoking the church, and matters enforcing discipline.
A Confessional Statement?
In time, the King’s jurisdiction deepened in scope. By reason of pramaire, all Englishmen were bound to recognize, not deprive, the King of his Title. The Oath of Supremacy initially required only deacons, priests, and Bishops to give public vow. But after the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth, recognizing only the spouse of Mary I– i.e., Spain’s Phillip II– as rightful ruler of England, the Supremacy Oath was generalized to denounce all foreign powers, both secular and ecclesial, leaving the Papacy as one of several enemies. As further threats emerged against England’s “most perfect and reformed” Church, the Oath expanded, denouncing not only Catholic assassins (Jesuits & powder traitors) but also Presbyterian rebels (Presbyterians & Solemn Leaguers). Preventing Jesuit intrigue was a key reason for such Oaths, as a 1779 Protestant Association’s pamphlet explained,
“If the doctrines held by Papists were confined to matters of opinion in religion, and did not include political tenets of the most dangerous tendency, they might expect the same connivance which has generally been extended to other erroneous sects; they might bow down to their images, swallow the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation, and amuse themselves with dreams of purgatory, without interruption; their ignorance and superstition would rather excite compassion than expose them to the consequences of any penal statutes.
“But when Papists thunder excommunication against all who differ from them in opinion, and their religious profession itself breathes the very spirit of persecution and cruelty against those whom they anathematize as heretics,13 — who, if princes, are to be deposed and murdered; if subjects, to be massacred: when they avow such principles as these, what security can be given to any state for their peaceable behaviour? — and what claim can they have to toleration under any Protestant government?
While not all Englishmen were forced to give the Oath (only those holding office, military rank, and in 1563 men in the House of Commons), Supremacy Acts were periodically read in church as required by canon law to follow the sermon at least four times a year. A condescend version of the Oath was also part of the Articles of Religion, and these likewise were read twice a year from the pulpit. As a further witness to the King’s system, the Articles were published as part of the Bishop’s Book, the only lawful vernacular translation of the bible for parish churches, and this was required for public display. Furthermore, all printed (BCP and Authorized Bible) materials, especially ecclesial documents, carried the Monarch’s seal, ending with an epigram, “God Save the King”. The Bishop’s Book, displayed in every parish, said:
“Moreover, touching the bishop of Rome, I do acknowledge and confess, that by the scriptures and word of God he hath no more authority than other bishops have in their provinces and diocese; and therefore the power, which he now challengeth, that is, to be the supreme head of the universal church of Christ, and to be above all emperors, kings, and princes, is an usurped power, contrary to the scriptures and word of God, and contrary to the example of the primitive church, and therefore is for the most just causes taken away and abolished in this realm”
By 1606, the Supremacy Oath was also known as the Act of Allegiance. All churchmen, even those secular, e.g., wardens, schoolmasters, deans, military, etc, (as said above– elected and appointed officials) required the King’s Supremacy. In this respect, the Church of England was indeed a confessional church, partly because Christians made no attempt to separate the political from the religious during the seventeenth-century. Thus, Oaths regarding rightful and ancient jurisdictions in spiritual and temporal estates marked the beginning of what later would be known as ‘Test Acts’. Test Acts would also be a vestige from the colonial period of America.
By the end of James II third-year reign, Supremacy had expanded to incorporate other ‘Protestant’ doctrine, not only denying the dogma of Papacy but also Transubstantiation. Implicit in this are associated doctrines of passive resistance (Jewel’s homily on obedience) and divine right. The Oath was becoming a distinctly ‘Protestant’ confession. Perhaps the expansion of the Allegiance foreshadowed Sir Edward Coke’s 1621 petition against marriage to the Spanish (roman catholic) infantata, wanting marriage and succession to remain specifically Protestant, consummating in the Orange Institution and Settlement Act in 1689 and 1700. The 1691 Oath read:
“I, A.B. do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to their Majesties King William and Queen Mary, So help me God.
(Oath of Abhorrence) I, A.B., do swear, that I do from my heart abhor, detest , and abjure as impious and heretical, that damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the pope or any authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or any other person whatsoever, and I do declare, that no foreign prince, prelate, state, or potentate, hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm.
(Declaration Against Transubstantiation) I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do believe that in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper there is not any transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever, and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other saint, and the sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous.”
The King’s Oath (1691) was thus one of many interlocking statements in Anglicana regarding the Eucharist. It, along with the Black Rubric(s) (1552 v. 1662 versions), the Catechism, Cranmer’s Communion, and the Articles, together give an accurate picture of Anglican sacramentalism . The Declaration against Transubstantiation, of course, is a stark rejection, like the 39 Articles, of the Council of Trent, and other dogmas that later followed from the Papacy (including Rome’s exaggerated Mariology), “as they are now used in the Church of Rome”.
Erosion of Jurisdiction:
The irony regarding Supremacy was the Crown’s inherent conservatism. Elizabeth preserved continuity with Henry’s worship policy– rescuing rails, candles, organs, surplices, copes, choirs, and crucifixes—especially in the Royal Chapels and Cathedrals. The authority given to visitations and injunctions not only help save Catholic past but could provide sources for counter-reformation. Charles I’s wife, the Roman Catholic Queen Henrietta, promoted and protected recusancy.
The Caroline period is often portrayed as Catholic revival, but as with a good part of the later Oxford movement, it was mostly a return to pre-Calvinist ceremonial injunctions/canons. High Churchmen pursued a two-fold strategy– persecution and comprehension– against English Roman Catholics, which Puritans called ‘soft’. But, Pope Urban II, knowing full-well Romanists would be ultimately absorbed, forbade English Roman Catholics both a titular hierarchy and permission to swear Allegiance to the Crown. Roman Catholics, alongside Puritan agitators, remained a danger to Anglicana’s settlement. In the late 1630’s the Crown’s jurisdiction had suffered by the national covenant in Scotland and Romish intrigues in Northwest England plus revolt in Ireland.
Laud passed the 1640 Constitutions and Canons through Synod which suppressed both Romanists and Presbyterians. And while Rome subverted due obedience, heretics in England could not own or inherit property, serve in the military, or hold office by reason of existing outside the Sovereign’s ‘household’. Of course, any toleration of such Christian autonomy-plurality would have deprecated the King’s Jurisdiction as conceived at the outbreak of England’s Reformation. The Oath against Papacy precedes that of Supremacy, highlighting specific problems of Rome’s violence against Kings and abetting feigned oaths.:
“I, AB, Do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify, and declare in my Conscience before God and the World, That our Sovereign Lord King Charles is lawful and rightful King of this Realm, and of all other his Majesties Dominions and Countries: And that the Pope, neither of himself, nor by any Authority of the Church or See of Rome, or by any other means with any other, hath any Power or Authority to depose the King, or to dispose any of his Majesties Kingdoms or Dominions, or to authorize any Foreign Prince to invade or annex him or his Countries, or to discharge any of his Subjects of their Allegiance and Obedience to his Majesty, or to give license or leave up any of them to bear Arms, raise Tumults, or to offer any violence or hurt to his Majesties Royal Person, State of Government, or to any of his Majesties Subjects within his Majesties Dominions.
Also I do swear from my heart, that notwithstanding any Declaration or sentence of Excommunication or Deprivation made or granted, or to be made or granted by the Pope or his Successors, or by any Authority derived or pretended to be derived from him or his See, against the said King, his Heirs or Successors, or any Absolution of the said Subjects from their Obedience; I will bare faith and true Allegiance to his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, and him and them will defend to the uttermost of my power, against all Conspiracies and attempts whatsoever which shall be made against his or their Persons, their Crown and Dignity, by reason or color of any such Sentence or Declaration, or otherwise; and will do my best endeavor to disclose and make known unto his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, all Treasons and Traitorous Conspiracies which I shall know or hear of, to be against him or any of them.
And I do further swear, That I do from my heart abhor, detest, and abjure, as impious and heretical, this damnable Doctrine and Position, that Princes which be excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, may be deposed or murdered by their Subjects, or any other whatsoever.
And I do believe, in Conscience and resolved, That neither the Pope, nor any person whatsoever hath power to absolve one of this Oath, or any part thereof which I acknowledge by good and full Authority to be lawfully administered unto me, and do renounce all Pardons and Dispensations to the contrary. And all these things I do plainly and sincerely acknowledge, and swear according to these express words by me spoken, and according to the plain and common sense and understanding of the same words, without any equivocation or mental evasion, or secret reservation whatsoever: And I do make this Recognition and acknowledgment heartily, willingly and truly, upon the true faith of a Christian. So help me God, etc.
While Roman plots certainly endangered the king’s reformation and peace, the consequences following civil war and the lack of comprehension for Puritans ultimately invoked a range of toleration that Papists eventually exploited. Nor did a century of latitudinarianism help. By the early 19th century radical Jacobinism/socialism seized and levered the Commons against Church & Crown, emancipating Papists by reason of ‘equality’, thus, dealing Supremacy a lethal blow. In 1850 Rome finally restored her Latin hierarchy in England, bringing bishops and cardinals to the realm. Emancipation was given to Romanists earlier in Quebec and other colonial dominions, no less shrinking Anglicana’s ancient headship. Supremacy set both the basis and preserved England’s reformation, but decolonialization and democracy has severed the Monarchy as a penultimate, covenanted expression of a churched people (a- covenant isle, Bret-land).
Today, not only has the prayer book jettisoned Supremacy Oaths, but the Laudian incorporating a secular Romanism to absorb old catholics into the CofE has entirely reversed itself against Anglican empire. Pope Benedict XVI’s Personal Ordinariates would ultimately absorb Anglican clergy in their own land, submitting Anglicans to Roman catholic doctrines and jurisdiction.
Alongside the problem of ‘formulary surrender’ is public memory. While liturgical commemorations of Charles I’s martyrdom underline historical differences between Anglicans and ‘dissenters’, public celebrations like Bonfire Night (Nov. 5) remind the dangers of Rome. However, like Charles I’s martyrdom, King James’ “Thanksgiving” (Bonfire Night) has been removed from Church Kalendars. As forgetfulness ensues, we cannot restore memory without the pain of going back to the many interlocking Anglican documents and apologies.