Some Eminent Christians


Two interesting perspectives on Catholic figures from a vehemently anti-Catholic chronicler of the lives of Eminent Christians.

from Lives of Eminent Christians
John Frost, LL.D., 1854

Savonarola, the connecting link between the reformation of John Huss and Martin Luther. . . .

[regarding Sir Thomas More]

In the next parliament he, and his friend Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, were attainted of treason and misprision of treason for listening to the ravings of Elizabeth Barton, considered by the vulgar as the Holy Maid of Kent, and countenancing her treasonable practices.

Our limits will not allow us to detail many particulars of his life while in confinement, marked as it was by firmness, resignation, and cheerfulness, resulting from a conscience however much mistaken, yet void of intentional offence.

Which goes to make my point about non-fiction. Provoked by the strong language of the passage in reference to Elizabeth Barton, I went to the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917, which provided, what I thought was about as fair and reasonable a coverage as could be considering all the facts.

She protested "in the name and by the authority of God" against the king's projected divorce. To further her opposition, besides writing to the pope, she had interviews with Fisher, Wolsey, and the king himself. Owing to her reputation for sanctity, she proved one of the most formidable opponents of the royal divorce, so that in 1533 Cromwell took steps against her and, after examination by Cranmer, she was in November, with Dr. Bocking, her confessor, and others, committed to the Tower. Subsequently, all the prisoners were made to do public penance at St. Paul's and at Canterbury and to publish confessions of deception and fraud.

In January, 1534, a bill of attainder was framed against her and thirteen of her sympathizers, among whom were Fisher and More. Except the latter, whose name was withdrawn, all were condemned under this bill; seven, including Bocking, Masters, Rich, Risby, and Elizabeth herself, being sentenced to death, while Fisher and five others were condemned to imprisonment and forfeiture of goods. Elizabeth and her companions were executed at Tyburn on 20 April, 1534, when she is said to have repeated her confession.

Protestant authors allege that these confessions alone are conclusive of her imposture, but Catholic writers, though they have felt free to hold divergent opinions about the nun, have pointed out the suggestive fact that all that is known as to these confessions emanates from Cromwell or his agents; that all available documents are on his side; that the confession issued as hers is on the face of it not her own composition; that she and her companions were never brought to trial, but were condemned and executed unheard; that there is contemporary evidence that the alleged confession was even then believed to be a forgery. For these reasons, the matter cannot be considered as settled, and unfortunately, the difficulty of arriving at any satisfactory and final decision now seems insuperable.

So it is possible to approach objectivity in one's reporting, and not all is completely obliterated by bias, although even the Catholic Encyclopedia article could be read as "in favor of," though I think that a rather strong reading of the passage.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 31, 2006 9:21 AM.

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