17th Dec. 1538: Henry VIII’s excommunication

henry_and_clement

17th December 1538, Pope Paul III announced that Henry VIII had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church:

“BULL AGAINST HEN. VIII., RENEWING THE EXECUTION OF THE BULL OF 30 AUG. 1535, WHICH HAD BEEN SUSPENDED IN HOPE OF HIS AMENDMENT, AS HE HAS SINCE GONE TO STILL FURTHER EXCESSES, HAVING DUG UP AND BURNED THE BONES OF ST, THOMAS OF CANTERBURY AND SCATTERED THE ASHES TO THE WINDS… AND SPOILED HIS SHRINE. HE HAS ALSO SPOILED ST. AUGUSTINE’S MONASTERY IN THE SAME CITY, DRIVEN OUT THE MONKS AND PUT IN DEER IN THEIR PLACE….  “

In 1521 king  Henry VIII had been conferred the title of   “Defender of the Faith”  by Pope Leo X, in recognition of his  book  “Defense of the Seven Sacraments” where he had defended the sacramental nature of marriage and the supremacy of the Pope.

In 1527. he had managed to convince  himself that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon his brother’s wife was an act. contrary to the Holy Bible.  He had appealed to the Pope for an annulment but the Pope had refused .

After his resolution to break with Rome in 1530 and establish himself as head of the Church of England  he  started to be threatened with excommunication

In 1533 he decided  to abandon his  now 40-year-old wife,  and have his marriage declared null and void, and then marry Anne. Boleyn

The Pope still did not issue the bull of excommunication, in the hope of an eventual solution to the problem

But Henry did not resume his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.  and , in 1534,  an “Act of Supremacy” recognized  that the king was the only supreme head of the Church of England. All his subjects were forced to sign the Oath of Supremacy and  those who didn’t accept, like Thomas More and Bishop Fisher, were executed for treason in 1535.

The new Pope, Paul III, born Alessandro Farnese, issued a sentence of excommunication against the King of England on 30th August 1535, but  the declaration was suspended , since Rome was still convinced that the king would return to Catherine and stop the religious reforms in England.

Yet, his further “misbehaviour” led to the final excommunication on 17th December 1538, after Anne Boleyn’s death. (She had given birth to a daughter, Elizabeth in 1533, had had  two further pregnancies ended in miscarriages,  and in 1536 had been  arrested on  false charges of adultery and publicly beheaded at the Tower of London)

 

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