10 August 2011

The conflict between Caesar and conscience

Saint Thomas More has often been called the most significant personage of the sixteenth century and of our century.

Writing for The Catholic Thing, Fr. James Schall, S.J. reflects on what he calls the "conflict between Caesar and conscience":
When he was Chancellor of England, More, at morning Mass, “would don the garb of an acolyte and reverently serve the altar.” This service led to the famous quip of the Duke of Norfolk that, as a “parish altar-boy,” he demeaned both the King and his own Office. More saw farther than the Duke. “It cannot,” he replied, “be displeasing to my Lord the King, that I pay homage to the King’s Lord.
Such words, recalled in 1935 on the day of More’s canonization, call our attention to the fact that this “ancient conflict” remains in our very midst. We see politicians casting their lots with Henry successors, with those who see nothing higher than the state that is now able and capable of enforcing issues of human worth far more aberrant than those with which More had to deal.

It is not just the head of the Chancellor that is being literally lopped off in our time. We hardly notice. We have politicians, Catholic ones, who implicitly side with Henry. The bishops? Let’s hope, we have more than one John Fisher. But Walsh was right; the issue is the same once we reduce it to principle.

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