Saturday, February 23, 2013

On The Modern Legacy Of Henry VIII

Although his observations on the appearance of the initials 'FD' on British coinage show that Giles Fraser is certainly an intelligent man, his otherwise rather odd commentary on the how the papacy is really just a job leaves scope for many questions.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has resigned. The reason why the term 'resigned' is appropriate to describe his action is that not having been crowned, he cannot be said to be abdicating. He is certainly not 'abdicating' any responsibility; when a Prime Minister resigns, another Prime Minister is appointed through a process of election - the Conservative Party seems to conduct such business in a manner not unlike the College of Cardinals, with the Parliamentary party effectively going into conclave. It may be glib to do so so, but it seems worth pointing out that the Catholic Church's record of electing subsequently capable and effective candidates seems considerably higher than that of the Conservative Party; while such processes in the Catholic Church have resulted in the catastrophically scandalous but thankfully unusual reign of Rodrigo Borgia, when the Conservatives last did it they, and therefore we, ended up with John Major. To my mind, such a diversity of outcomes is only explicable through the acceptance of an article of faith, that the Holy Spirit works through the conclave for the good of the Church and its members, and one can't really add anything to that. 

However, Canon Fraser goes on to heap very heavy criticism upon Henry VIII, a figure upon whom, to my perhaps uncharitable mind, heavy criticism could be poured very often. There have been few sharper critics of his reign than Dickens, who described it as 'a spot of blood and grease upon the pages of English history'. Yet while one can easily accept all of the criticisms that Canon Fraser heaps upon Great Harry, what is quite startling about that reign is the modernity of his terror. 

For example, in his outstanding book 'The King's Reformation' (ibid), G. W. Barnard refers to the outlawing of pilgrimages. Although they certainly serve a devotional purpose, pilgrimages also offer opportunities for people from different places and backgrounds to come together in common cause. The tyrant of a religious people would naturally be disinclined to see pilgrimages flourish, if only because the pilgrims would be likely to talk to each other about conditions in their several parts of the country. 

When reading that, one was struck by the similarities between Henry's attitude to travel and those of the Soviets; one got the impression that if he could have invited the internal passport, he would have done.

One's next thoughts concerned just why rail travel in this country seems to have to be as expensive as it is.

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