Friday, November 21, 2008

God Save the Queen

This week marked the 450th anniversary of the death of Queen Mary I (Mary Tudor), the only legitimate child of King Henry VIII and his his lawful wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. Fr. Nicholas Scofield has an excellent piece on his blog, Roman Miscellany. One cannot help but imagine what would have happened had Henry VIII not separated from Rome and therefore not created the Church of England (Anglican). Had England remained Catholic either by Henry never divorcing Catherine OR if Mary had heirs from her marriage to Philip and thus preventing Elizabeth I from ever sitting on the throne. If England remained Catholic, would the colonies (USA and Canada) been Catholic? Scotland probably would have remained Catholic.
According to Thomas Woods in his book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, the English Reformation threw progress backward by centuries. Prior to Henry's usurping Church property in Britain, the English monks used to gather for their annual and international meetings. There they exchanged ecclesiastical and theological information BUT ALSO scientific, agricultural, economic and other fascinating facts which literally helped create, sustain and enhance Western culture as a CIVILIZATION. Once the monasteries were destroyed, the monks banned and the property confiscated and distributed among the Protestant nobility, the networking ceased and the flow and exchange of ideas halted. An information FREEZE of sorts occurred. The global interpedence of a unified CHRISTENDOM was replaced by a parochial and provincial NATIONALISM whereby each country with its own religion (cuius regio, eius religio ). Had England stayed with the Pope and remained Roman Catholic rather than establish the Anglican Church (Church of England), PROGRESS and technology, according to Woods, would have ushered in the industrial age centuries ahead of when it did finally happen.
Though many ascribe the financial power of the United States to the Protestant work ethic, imagine had the Pilgrims been Catholic or that the colonies were and remained Catholic from their foundation. The same networking which occurred in pre-Reformation England would have been brought to the New World. What if Spain had won the war against England and the Armada had conquered Elizabethan England? A Spanish speaking USA (soon to come?) and a Catholic USA would have replaced an English Protestant America.
Nevertheless, Queen Mary I gets a lot a bad press since her sister succeeded her and resented her staunch Catholicism. Consequently, English history sanitizes the reign of Elizabeth and demonizes the reign of Mary. The persecution of Catholics during and after the so-called glorious Elizabethan era surpassed anything done in the previous reign.


Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts! A Catholic England would, in most aspects, have definitely better for the world. However, an argument could be made for one possible downside, sad as it was.

The cruel persecution of the Irish by Protestant Oliver Cromwell and the harsh Penal Laws against Irish Catholics probably wouldn't have happened. These in turn led to the Great Famine deliberately inflicted on Ireland by England, followed by the massive Irish Diaspora to America and Canada. The end result of the millions of Irish who suffered, died and/or emigrated was a nearly infinite number of benefits to the world by their descendants.

Unknown said...

I agree that God permits evil so that a greater good can come from it, hence, the great contribution of Irish Catholics caused by the diaspora and the same can be said for the tyranny in Eastern Europe which forced millions of Poles and Slovaks, Croats, etc. to emigrate. However, if given the choice, I think both ancestors and descendants alike would still prefer that the root cause never happened and that the exile never have taken place. If England and Scotland remained Catholic along side Ireland, whose to say that the Irish would not have fared much better and of course, Northern Ireland would have been spared the horrible violence she had to endure for so long. All things being equal, whenever we speculate about 'what if's' in history, it is always pure conjecture to be sure. Still, it is fun to imagine and many good novels and movies have been made on this premise of what would have happened IF ... Had there been NO Reformation (say Martin Luther reconciled before being excommunicated) would one have erupted later in Church History? How different would World History be as a consequence? Even minus Luther, there were still John Calvin, Jan Hus, Zwingli, et al.

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