Reevaluating “saint” Thomas More, terrorizer of Protestants

The Black Lives Matter protesters are targeting everything (statues, memorials, flags, names, etc.) alleged to be symbolic of Western/European/American/White racism and oppression. State and local governments, private institutions, and businesses are scrambling to align with the “new think.” I don’t agree with violence or the destruction of public or private property, but some of the statues and symbolism were blatant holdovers of other-era racism and bigotry that already should have been changed/removed (e.g., the incorporation of the Confederate flag as part of several southern state flags).

The American Catholic church has been kept busy by the BLM provocateurs. Over the past month we’ve seen protesters targeting memorials to Franciscan friar, Junípero Serra, explorer, Christopher Columbus, and Saint-King Louis IX. We’ve also seen multiple reports of Catholic statues of Jesus and Mary damaged or defaced after BLM leader Shaun King tweeted on June 22 that all images depicting Jesus as a “white European” should be targeted.

Again, I don’t condone mob violence or destruction, but I do think that it is interesting that Catholicism is being pressured to reevaluate some of its revisionist history. Modern popes have previously apologized for some of the most blatant examples of Catholic oppression (the Inquisition, forced baptisms, anti-Semitic pogroms, persecution of Protestants), but some revisionist charades still continue. I know of one such example in my own backyard.

St. Thomas More Catholic church (photo above) is located about three miles from my house. Who was Thomas More? More was Lord High Chancellor (i.e., Prime Minister) of England from 1529 to 1532 during the reign of King Henry VIII. In that role, he authorized the surveillance, arrest, imprisonment, interrogation, torture, and execution of Protestants. At least eleven Protestants were burned at the stake under More’s authority (see here) and thousands more were terrorized and persecuted during his three-year, anti-Protestant crusade. It’s ironic that More himself was beheaded in 1535 after refusing to assent to Henry’s break with the Roman Catholic church. More got caught in his own trap. What’s even more ironic is that More is hailed by American Catholics as a champion of religious liberty! Argh! Talk about revisionist double-speak! More was canonized as a “martyred saint” by pope Pius XI in 1935. In 2000, pope John Paul II even declared murderer More the patron saint of statesmen and politicians.

Some would defend More, as Wojtyla did, by saying that he “reflected the limits of the culture of his time” and that he persecuted and murdered Protestants according to the standards of 16th-Century European society. That type of apologia for tainted heroes is no longer tenable or excusable according to the BLM protesters. As long as the Catholic church is reevaluating its memorials to Serra and Columbus, shouldn’t the Rochester Catholic diocese also reevalute its memorial to the bloody-handed terrorizer of English Protestants?

22 thoughts on “Reevaluating “saint” Thomas More, terrorizer of Protestants

    1. Thanks, sister! More enjoyed a streak of popularity back when I was a child. The 1966 film, “A Man for All Seasons” (Oscar, Best Picture), portrayed More as a highly principled statesman who was willing to be executed rather than approve of Henry VIII’s break from Catholicism. There’s no reference in the film to More’s persecution of Protestants prior to his trouble with the king.

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    1. Thank you, DebbieLynne! More was elevated to a icon status via the movie, “The Man for All Seasons” (1966). Of course, the film failed to mention his anti-Protestant crusade. Yes, I would definitely like to write more posts that critically examine exalted Catholic saints such as More. Thank you for the encouragement!

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  1. I remember hearing that name in Catholic grammar school, but didn’t know anything about him. It is important for us to know church history, especially the martyrs who seem to be very much forgotten these days. Write on!

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    1. Thanks, Cathy! The litmus test used by More and his inquisitors was the Jesus wafer. If suspected Protestants assented to worship the wafer they would go free, if they refused they faced torture and ultimately execution by immolation. I imagine many believers in those circumstances regrettably denied the Lord for their own sake or for the sake of their families. Certainly not all Protestants honored the Lord with their actions during the European religious wars either, but honoring More as a “saint” and champion of religious freedom is historical revisionism run amok.

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  2. Wow a Sunday post! Just got around to responding to you: Sunday went well we had a good prayer meeting and also good service on God’s love in OT; and made a lot of announcements about special online events we will have as a church!

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      1. Long long day yesterday after I commented, had to talk to a lot of people that were getting worked up with different views of church services in the age of Corona virus. Never a dull moment I suppose…

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      2. RE: church services in the age of Corona
        I can see where some people would get very worked up over this issue either way. News sources are reporting the last couple of days that J.Mac is defying California ordinances by refusing to shut down Grace Community Church.

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  3. Wow! Well said Tom.
    I didn’t know the story behind Moore. We have a primary school not far from where I live dedicated to him. If I remember correctly I think my oldest grandson use to attend the school.
    Thank you Tom for the information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Crissy! It’s amazing to me how More is so highly venerated. It’s flagrant revisionism. I would really like to study the English Reformation in depth down the road. So much political chicanery and faux “faith,” but also the presence of the genuine Gospel.

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