Was the Anglican schism brought about because Church officials told Henry VIII to have an affair when he requested an annulment?


Full Question

An Anglican priest told me two reasons for the Anglican schism were that (1) when Henry VIII requested an annulment, he was told by Church officials to have an affair, and (2) Rome was overtaxing Europe and Henry couldn't pay the taxes demanded.

Answer

In response to the claim that Church officials ordered Henry to have an affair, it is reasonable to ask that credible documentation be provided to substantiate the claim. Lack of evidence not withstanding, Henry VIII was already having affairs by the time he became involved with Anne Boleyn. It is known, for example, that Henry had already had an affair with Anne’s sister Mary before turning his attention to Anne. Anne refused to have an affair with him. She was not interested in doing the right thing; she simply wanted Henry to marry her. (Had she been inclined to act rightly, she would have refused any involvement with a married man.) Even if it could be proven that Church officials told Henry to have an affair, that would have been a personal failing of theirs. It would not have justified Henry having an affair or going into schism when his request for an annulment was denied.

Although it is also the priest’s responsibility to prove his claim of unjust taxation, the question is also a non sequitur. Unjust taxation is not an excuse for schism from the Church founded by Jesus Christ. (But, as an aside, it is also noteworthy that Henry VIII was as notoriously lavish with money as his father, Henry VII, was frugal. In his lifetime he managed to work through the enormous treasury his father had hoarded.)

What all this boils down to is that the priest is resting his personal defense of the Anglican schism on the personal failings of fallible human beings. He should instead be asking himself which church is the Church that Christ founded. Perhaps he might find insight into that by reading the biography of Sir Thomas More, a contemporary of Henry VIII. Despite the personal failures of contemporary churchmen, More was willing to lay down his life for the Church rather than follow Henry VIII into schism.


Catholic Answers Staff