The rise of Imperial protestant England and the ping pong match with Catholicism .
Institutional Anti-Catholicism in the United Kingdom has its origins in the English and Irish Reformations under King Henry VIII and the Scottish Reformation led by John Knox.
Within England the Act of Supremacy 1534 declared the English crown to be “the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England” in place of the pope. Any act of allegiance to the latter was considered treasonous because the papacy claimed both spiritual and political power over its followers.
Ireland was brought under direct English control starting in 1536 during the Tudor conquest of Ireland. The Scottish Reformation in 1560 abolished Catholic ecclesiastical structures and rendered Catholic practice illegal in Scotland. Today, anti-Catholicism is common in peripheral areas of the United Kingdom, mainly Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Anti-Catholicism among many of the English was grounded in the fear that the pope sought to reimpose not just religio-spiritual authority over England but also secular power in alliance with arch-enemy France or Spain. In 1570, Pope Pius V sought to depose Queen Elizabeth who ruled England and Ireland with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared her a heretic and purported to dissolve the duty of all Elizabeth’s subjects of their allegiance to her. This rendered Elizabeth’s subjects who persisted in their allegiance to the Catholic Church politically suspect, and made the position of her Catholic subjects largely untenable if they tried to maintain both allegiances at once. The Recusancy Acts, making it a legal obligation to worship in the Anglican faith, date from Elizabeth’s reign. Later, assassination plots in which Catholics were prime movers fueled anti-Catholicism in England. In 1603, James VI of Scotland became also James I of England and Ireland.
The Glorious Revolution of 1689 involved the overthrow of King James II, who converted to Catholicism before he became king and favoured the Catholics, and his replacement by son-in-law William III, a Dutch Protestant. The Act of Settlement 1701, which was passed by the Parliament of England, stated the heir to the throne must not be a “Papist” and that an heir who is a Catholic or who marries one will be excluded from the succession to the throne. This law was extended to Scotland through the Act of Union which formed the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Act was amended in 2013 as regards marriage to a Catholic and the ecumenical movement has contributed to reducing sectarian tensions in the country.
The Act of Supremacy issued by King Henry VIII in 1534 declared the king to be “the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England” in place of the pope. Any act of allegiance to the latter was considered treasonous because the papacy claimed both spiritual and political power over its followers. It was under this act that Thomas More and John Fisher were executed and became martyrs to the Catholic faith.
The Act of Supremacy (which asserted England’s independence from papal authority) was repealed in 1554 by Henry’s devoutly Catholic daughter Queen Mary I when she reinstituted Catholicism as England’s state religion. She executed many Protestants by burning. Her actions were reversed by a new Act of Supremacy passed in 1559 under her successor, Elizabeth I, along with an Act of Uniformity which made worship in Church of England compulsory. Anyone who took office in the English church or government was required to take the Oath of Supremacy; penalties for violating it included hanging and quartering. Attendance at Anglican services became obligatory—those who refused to attend Anglican services, whether Roman Catholics or Protestants (Puritans), were fined and physically punished as recusants.
Elizabethan regime Edit
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs helped shape lasting popular notions of Catholicism in Britain.
In the time of Elizabeth I, the persecution of the adherents of the Reformed religion, both Anglicans and Protestants alike, which had occurred during the reign of her elder half-sister Queen Mary I was used to fuel strong anti-Catholic propaganda in the hugely influential Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Those who had died in Mary’s reign, under the Marian Persecutions, were effectively canonised by this work of hagiography. In 1571, the Convocation of the Church of England ordered that copies of the Book of Martyrs should be kept for public inspection in all cathedrals and in the houses of church dignitaries. The book was also displayed in many Anglican parish churches alongside the Holy Bible
First Act of Supremacy 1534 Edit
The first Act of Supremacy was passed on 3 November 1534 (26 Hen. VIII c. 1) by the Parliament of England. It granted King Henry VIII of England and subsequent monarchs Royal Supremacy, such that he was declared the supreme head of the Church of England. Royal Supremacy is specifically used to describe the legal sovereignty of the civil laws over the laws of the Church in England.
The act declared that the king was “the only supreme head on Earth of the Church of England” and that the English crown shall enjoy “all honours, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity.” The wording of the act made clear that Parliament was not granting the king the title (thereby suggesting that they had the right to withdraw it later); rather, it was acknowledging an established fact. In the Act of Supremacy, Henry abandoned Rome completely. He thereby asserted the independence of the Ecclesia Anglicana. He appointed himself and his successors as the supreme rulers of the English church. Henry had been declared “Defender of the Faith” (Fidei defensor) in 1521 by Pope Leo X for his pamphlet accusing Martin Luther of heresy. Parliament later conferred this title upon Henry in 1544.
The 1534 Act marks the beginning of the English Reformation. There were a number of reasons for this Act, primarily the need for a male heir to the throne. Henry tried for years to obtain an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and had convinced himself that God was punishing him for marrying his brother’s widow.Pope Clement VII refused to grant the annulment because, according to Roman Catholic teaching, a validly contracted marriage is indivisible until death, and thus the pope cannot annul a marriage simply because of a canonical impediment previously dispensed. The Treasons Act was later passed: it provided that to disavow the Act of Supremacy and to deprive the King of his “dignity, title, or name” was to be considered treason. The most famous public figure to resist the Treason Act was Sir Thomas More.
Henry’s Act of Supremacy was repealed in 1554 in the reign of his staunchly Roman Catholic daughter, Queen Mary I. It was reinstated by Mary’s Protestant half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I, when she ascended the throne. Elizabeth declared herself Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and instituted an Oath of Supremacy, requiring anyone taking public or church office to swear allegiance to the monarch as head of the Church and state. Anyone refusing to take the oath could be charged with treason.
The use of the term Supreme Governor as opposed to Supreme Head pacified some Roman Catholics and those Protestants concerned about a female leader of the Church of England. Elizabeth, who was a politique, did not prosecute layman nonconformists, or those who did not follow the established rules of the Church of England unless their actions directly undermined the authority of the English monarch, as was the case in the vestments controversy. Thus, it was through the Second Act of Supremacy that Elizabeth I officially established the now reformed Church of England.
Historian G. R. Elton argues that, “in law and political theory the Elizabethan supremacy was essentially parliamentary, while Henry VIII’s had been essentially personal.” Supremacy was extinguished under Cromwell, but restored in 1660. The Stuart kings used it as a justification for controlling the appointment of bishops. Richard Hooker put it in a nutshell:
There is not any man of the Church of England but the same man is a member of the Commonwealth, nor a member of the Commonwealth which is not also a member of the Church of England.
The Act of Settlement
James II’s flight in 1688 had given Parliament the opportunity to alter the succession to the English throne and to elect a King. Having once used this power to offer the throne to William and Mary, Parliament was not hesitant in exercising its influence over the succession again.
Apart from enacting as statute the rights of the subject, the 1689 Bill of Rights legislated that the succession to the throne would pass first to any children of James II’s two daughters Mary and Anne before going to any children born to William by a second marriage. Furthermore, it stated that Catholics or those married to Catholics could not succeed to the throne.
The Protestant Succession
There was little concern in 1689 that the Protestant Succession was in danger, but there was unease when Queen Mary died in December 1694 without leaving any children.
This turned to great concern when the Duke of Gloucester, the only surviving child of Princess Anne, died aged 11 in July 1700. This left Anne’s half-brother James, the infant whose birth in June 1688 had spurred William of Orange to invade, Anne’s successor.
The Hanover connection
In June 1701 Parliament hoped to resolve this problem by passing the Act of Settlement. It confirmed the provision of the Bill of Rights that no Catholic or person with a Catholic spouse could sit on the throne.
The Act also legislated that, to preserve the Protestant Succession in case neither Anne nor William had any more children, the Crown would pass at Anne’s death to a Protestant relation. This was Sophia, the electress of Hanover in Germany, the granddaughter of James I by his daughter Elizabeth, and first cousin to Charles II and James II.
Sophia’s son George I succeeded to the throne upon Anne’s death in 1714, and his descendants, including the current Queen, have ruled Britain ever since – all because of a decision of Parliament in 1701 to alter the succession and to choose its own monarch.