Sunday, July 27, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXXVIX

Coronation Portrait of
Elizabeth I
One of the first challenges Elizabeth had to meet was what to do with the Church.  She could not keep it in the Catholic communion—as far as the Pope was concerned she was illegitimate and therefore had no legal right to the throne.  Moreover, while far less religious than either her brother Edward (Protestant) or her sister Mary (Catholic), Elizabeth was by far the best educated theologically of the three.  She was also the most open minded and inclined to tolerance.  Elizabeth was both natively intelligent (which her sister and  brother were not) and had the open and critical mind of the serious student.  Her education had been overseen by Archbishop Cranmer and he made sure to indoctrinate her in Protestant thought, but she was no narrow evangelical like her brother. 

Elizabeth proceeded with caution.  She made guarantees that she did not want to trouble the consciences of any of her subjects.  Mary was buried in Westminster Abbey with full Catholic rites on December 14.  Just eleven days later, however, she instructed  Owen Oglethorpe. the Bishop of Carlisle who was offering Christmas Mass in the Chapel Royal at Saint James Palace that he was not to elevate the Host or Chalice at the consecration.  She had yet demanded no other changes in the Latin Mass, but the Elevation of the Host and Chalice, which emphasizes Transubstantiation, was more than the Protestant Elizabeth would suffer even in the short run.  Elizabeth stormed out of the chapel.  Nevertheless, as Oglethorpe was the only bishop who would agree to officiate at her coronation on January 15th following the Queen gave him a second chance.  Again the Queen instructed him not to elevate the Host and Chalice; again he did; again the Queen stormed out—of her own coronation Mass.  Little by little that year of 1559 Elizabeth moved to re-introduce Protestantism.  Oglethorpe and the other Marian bishops were deprived of their sees for their unwillingness to support the Queen’s religious policies.  The monks were evicted from Westminster Abbey and other religious establishments were closed down, becoming “collegiate” churches with a college of canons and a dean.  In April Parliament passed a new Act of Uniformity which abolished the Mass and replaced the Catholic Liturgy with a new Book of Common Prayer. The 1559 Prayer Book was a slightly—but significantly—revised version of Cranmer’s 1552  book.  Clergy who would not implement the rite were removed from their benefices.  Fourteen Bishops in England and Wales were deprived of their sees.  Most were arrested for a period of time but then allowed to retire to house arrest in private life where they privately practiced the Catholic faith without interference.  An exception was Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London who refused the oath of supremacy and was confined to the Marshalsea Prison until this death ten years later.  The Extreme Protestant Party clamored for the execution of Bonner and the other bishops, but Elizabeth was not inclined to make martyrs.  Nicholas Heath, deposed Archbishop of York, also refused both the Act of Uniformity and the Act of Supremacy but assured Elizabeth of his loyalty in matters secular.  He was allowed to retire to his estates in Surrey where Elizabeth visited him several times.  Cuthbert Tunstall, deposed bishop of Durham, was put under the custody of the New Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, at Lambeth Palace.  He died there eleven weeks later.

Just about six weeks after Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, Giovanni Angelo Medici was elected Pope as Pius IV.  The papacy had been vacant from the death of Paul IV four months earlier.  Pius did not want to aggravate the plight of English Catholics and so he was silent in the face of Elizabeth’s return of the Church of England to Protestant doctrine and liturgy.  Pius also was not unlike the present Pope as he eschewed much of the pomp and splendor that had traditionally gone with the Papal Court.  He was characterized by Giorgio Vasari for his “stinginess of living, dullness of dress, and simplicity in so many things.”  In the sixteenth century Pope were not admired for toning down the Renaissance excess.  He also made some serious concessions to preserve the unity of the Church in the face of the Reformation.  He permitted the restoration of the chalice to the faithful in Austria and Bohemia where there had long been agitation for this reform.  There are those historians who admire Pius for his policies; and there are those who do not.  His English strategy worked in so far as there were no Catholic executed in England for their faith until after Pius’s successor, Saint Pius V, excommunicated Elizabeth and declared her subjects both free from her authority and duty-bound to overthrow her reign.  But that is for another time. 

No comments:

Post a Comment