How St Thomas More lost his reputation
The Iona Institute published a talk it recently hosted, by Richard Rex, Professor of Reformation History at Cambridge University. Rex noted that St Thomas More’s reputation had suffered a steep decline – mostly thanks to Hilary Mantel’s bestselling Wolf Hall, adapted into a BBC television series.
Reviewers had made much of what one commentator called the book’s “unimpeachable accuracy”. But, Rex said, the book seriously misrepresents More.
For instance, he is presented as a hypocrite: the novel’s narrator, Thomas Cromwell, says it’s “well known” that “More wears a jerkin of horsehair”. But “the evidence we have is that More’s hairshirt was a closely guarded secret, known only to his confessor, his wife, and his daughters.” (And “jerkin” would be the wrong word for a hairshirt.)
Again, More was “known as the wittiest and funniest man in London”, but he is presented as unable to take a joke against himself.
Mantel also repeats a “ludicrous” conspiracy theory about More’s time in prison – one that was floated by a journalist in 2002, and for which there is “not one single, solitary shred of evidence”. Meanwhile, “His own printed refutation of such allegations is not so much as hinted at.”
Why this character assassination? Rex offered a “mystical” answer: “It is all to do with Thomas More’s unquestionable place as a martyr for the Catholic Church and the swelling tide of resentment in the last 30 years against the Christian and in particular the Catholic past, which created and sustained Europe over the last 1,500 years.”
The Cromwell-More battle symbolised “the spiritual struggle of our times”, Rex said.
Tribute to an inspirational father
Cebu Daily News reported on a daughter’s Facebook tribute to her father on his 50th birthday. Richard Castillo has Down’s syndrome, and his daughter Richie Anne admitted that in school, she had been a “coward”, fearing she would be “bullied because they said you were different”. But now she told him he was: “the bravest human being I know … I’m inspired at how much you love the Lord.”
Richie Anne’s post went viral. She told CDN: “I want to tell the people who are going through the same thing to give out as much love and support but also allow them to grow on their own.”
Did the Vatican give Salvini his opening?
In the New York Times, Italian journalist Mattia Ferraresi asked whether the Vatican had accidentally helped Italy’s populist deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini. Vatican officials have denounced Salvini and his claim to represent Catholic politics. But “The Vatican is now sending ambiguous messages on issues that were considered crucial only a few years ago. Many Catholic voters complain the Church is not vocal enough in condemning abortion and LGBT rights, and upholding Italy’s Christian identity, while it emphasises immigration, social justice and environmental issues.” Salvini’s “message has been effective among Catholics because he has occupied a space that the Church left unguarded.”
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