Sir Thomas More

I think it’s a relatively recent development for us to see saints as less than perfect, to see them instead as humans who had character flaws, occasionally made mistakes, and were products of their time. In previous centuries, it seems saints were always presented as “practically perfect in every way” unless it was a case of a saint with a very obvious bad past (Augustine for example) who had reformed.

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This makes sense to me.

This makes sense to me also. Even if ST Thomas More erred in his actions before, he did pay the ultimate price for Christ as did many other saints like St Paul. And all the apostles.


I have read of saints who said they very much wanted to be martyrs as they believed they were so sinful, martyrdom was the only way they would get into heaven.

I’m not sure if St. Thomas More considered himself that sinful, but he did do a lot of penance. I believe his hairshirt that he wore for penance is preserved somewhere.

I just wanted to clarify this statement as it sounded (imo) like Crusaders were looking for heretics to kill, when actually, they were fighting against military forces which were attacking Christians, ie, the Crusaders did not kill people because they were heretics but because they were attacking people.

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This happened sometimes in the 16th century (and other centuries) because openly preaching against established religious doctrines was perceived as analogous to treason and disruption of public order, because the church and state were very heavily entwined. When there were people preaching against religious doctrines held by the bishops and by the king, it usually coincided with actual physical rebellion and warfare. It was nothing like a modern, heterogeneous, globalized society. So yeah, in more extreme cases, the state sometimes responded with capital punishment.

And yes, the Church condemns this today.

That’s debatable, but this isn’t a thread on the Crusaders, you’re off topic, and I’m not interested in debating the morality of the Crusades, so I’ll refrain from further response.

Muting the thread now.

I like the word “entwined”.


Whether hindsight proves them right or wrong, in the experience of many of that time–and of preceding centuries–heresy seemed sufficient threat to the common good to warrant death as an appropriate punishment to defend society. The effects of the heresies during More’s times seemed to only validate that analysis (the disintegration of religious unity led to all sorts of chaos, bloodshed, and displacement of peoples.) Obviously today, our experience in our own circumstances is much different.

St. Thomas More himself explained in his Dialogue Concerning Heresies

If the heretics had never started with the violence, then even if they had used all the ways they had ways they could to lure the people by preaching, even if they had thereby done what Luther does now and Mohammed did before – bring into vogue opinions pleasing to the people, giving them licence for licentiousness – yet if they had left violence alone, good Christian people would perhaps all the way up to this day have used less violence towards them than they do now. And yet heresy well deserves to be punished as severely as any other sin, since there is no sin that more offends God. However, as long as they refrained from violence, there was little violence done to them. And certainly though God is able against all persecution to preserve and increase his faith among the people, as he did in the beginning, for all the persecution inflicted by the pagans and the Jews, that is still no reason to expect Christian princes to allow the Catholic Christian people to be oppressed by Turks or by heretics worse than Turks.

We read that in the time of Saint Augustine, the great theologian of the Church, the heretics in Africa called the Donatists resorted to force and violence, robbing, beating, torturing and killing those whom they seized from the true Christian flock, as the Lutherans have done in Germany. For putting a stop to which , that holy man St Augustine, who had for a long time with great patience borne and endured their malice, only writing and preaching in refutation of their errors, and not only had done them no temporal harm but also had hindered and opposed others would have done it, did yet at last, for the peace of good people, both permit and exhort Count Boniface and others to supress them with force and threaten them with corporeal punishment.

… For here you shall understand that it is not the clergy who endeavour to have them punished by death. It may well be, since we are all human beings and not angels, that some of them may sometimes have too hot a head, or an injudicious zeal, or perhaps, an irascible and cruel heart, by which they may offend God in the very same deed by which they would otherwise gain great merit. But certainly what the Church law on this calls for is good, reasonable, compassionate, and charitable, and in no way desirous of the death of anyone. …

It’s somewhat silly to make the comparison, but if you look around at comments sections in poorly moderated areas like Youtube or other areas of the internet, it isn’t uncommon for people to have some of the grossest flame wars imaginable over religion and politics, including making death threats.

It wasn’t any different in the past, except instead of flame wars on the internet, people would sometimes literally riot and start revolts and kill people over disagreements. Openly preaching new religious doctrines and/or radical new ideas in politics was commonly seen as inciting rebellion.

I’m not justifying the response to killing heretics in the distant past, I’m just attempting to make it more explainable, or human.


It’s not bad, as far as words go.

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We err when we view history - religious or secular, through 2019 glasses. Hundreds or even thousands of years ago, societies, cultures, legal systems, common customs were all vastly different than they are now. Indeed, heresy was held to be responsible for the loss of human souls - more valuable than bodies, which would be resurrected - either to eternal glory, or eternal damnation.

Those in the past would be utterly shocked at how passive and accommodating we have become in our age. Want to see blood on Christian hands? Look at what the reformers did to the Anabaptists in northern Germany and Holland.

All hands have blood on them.

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I sometimes use “intertwine” in this context.

How about ‘Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch’?

That goes pretty far.

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Usually shortened to ‘LlanfairPG’

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