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Zina Brkljaca wrote:

Hi guys,

  • When did England really become Protestant?
  • What are some of the indicators that she did become Protestant and
  • What are the effects of the Reformation on the Catholic Church?

Thanks in advance and thanks for your time.


  { When did England become Protestant and what was the effect of the Reformation on the Church? }

Eric replied:

Hi Zina,

That's a somewhat broad question, but I'll try to answer it somewhat briefly.

The chief indicator that England ceased to be Catholic was when Henry VIII renounced his ties with the Pope and made himself head of the Church of England. This happened in April of 1534 with Parliament passing an act which invalidated Henry's marriage to Catherine (and making Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn's daughter, legitimate and heir to the throne). Refusal to take an oath in support of this constituted high treason, and this was why St. Thomas More was executed. But even one year prior, in April of 1533, parliament passed an act which implicitly repudiated papal primacy by saying that the king was the supreme head of the empire in both the temporal and spiritual spheres. By 1535, the schism was well-established.

Protestantism started to creep in earnest under Edward VI (1547-53). The chief indicator that England became Protestant (which is a different question) were the radical changes made under the leadership of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Prior to Cranmer, the Church of England more or less maintained most of its Catholic heritage; indeed, Henry VIII was named a Defender of the Faith by the Pope. All he wanted was a divorce, not a doctrinal revolution; so in a sense he initiated a schism rather than introducing a heresy. Introducing heresy was Cromwell's job.
In particular, he introduced a Protestant notion of the Priesthood, one that excluded the sense of the priest offering sacrifice to God, a crucial distinction which later would cause the Catholic Church to declare that the priestly orders of the Church of England were "absolutely null and utterly void".  This is because he had fundamentally changed the concept of the priesthood.

This happened with the publication of a new order by Henry for ordaining and consecrating bishops and priests in 1550; it was revised in 1552. The intent behind this new order was to eliminate the concept of the priesthood having a sacrificial character. That prompted more and more protestantizing to be introduced into the Church of England.

As for effects of the Reformation on the Catholic Church, obviously, the Catholic Church will be forever changed by the effects of the Reformation. Probably the most visible effect is that for all its wrong headedness, the Reformation *did* motivate the Catholic Church to reform itself in what we call the Counter-Reformation. There were real abuses that were going on in the Catholic Church, too many, and she had been too lazy to purge herself of the evil. The Reformation provided that motivation, and the purification took form in the Council of Trent (1545-1564).
The Church did more than condemn various errors of Protestantism; she also spent a lot of effort condemning abuses, cleaning up the mess, and issuing decrees that would prevent them from occurring again.

The bigger effect of the Reformation is that it severed the unity of the Church in a major way;
a way that she has obviously yet to recover from.

I hope this helps — let me know if you have any further questions.

Eric Ewanco

Bob replied:

Dear Zina,

The Church of England was formed by Henry VIII, as the result of his denial of an annulment from Rome in 1529. Henry was prompted by two political men, Thomas Cromwell, and Thomas Cranmer, a bishop. They suggested he didn't need Rome's approval; after all, he was "king" and could declare his own annulment.

Later, Catholic properties were seized, monasteries outlawed and a whole host of persecutions ensued. The Church of England formed its own hierarchy, receiving "ordination" from an invalid formula.  New bishops denied the character of the Mass and priesthood (they denied the sacrificial aspect of it.)

  • The denial of fundamental Catholic doctrine
  • re-creation of a new invalid authority structure, and
  • contempt for Catholics, in general

made it a full-faceted Protestant revolt. (Reformation is a euphemistic term).

The long lasting effects include:

  • current misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine by Anglicans worldwide
  • contempt for Catholicism by those who mentioned it and
  • more division in the body of Christ.

Not much good has come from it.


Bob K.

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