Question from Richard - Henry VIII and Catholicism at death
I recently visited an Elizabethan manor house and the guide happened to mention that Henry VIII had a Catholic Mass on his death bed and died a Catholic. Can anyone verify or help with this bomb shell. It is quite unbelievable if he did. Thank you.
My understanding is that Henry was spiritually a Catholic his whole life and the only reason he broke from Rome was because he didn't like the Pope having power over him. I believe he followed Catholic rituals and traditions his whole life and disliked reformed teachings.
I agree with this. Henry VIII would almost certainly have died still considering himself a good Catholic. He disputed only the universal authority of the pope. He disagreed strongly with the teachings of Martin Luther, thus earning, by his writings (for himself and all subsequent monarchs) the title of "Defender of the Faith". I do wonder, though, how he reconciled the dissolution of the monasteries with his conscience.
Certainly Henry's will was conventionally Catholic, including an affirmation of belief in Purgatory: 'he desires the Blessed Virgin and holy company of Heaven to pray for and with him, while he lives and in the time of his passing hence, that he may after this the sooner attain everlasting life.'
From: 'Henry VIII: December 1546, 26-31', Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 21 Part 2: September 1546-January 1547 (1910), pp. 313-348. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=80889 Date accessed: 03 August 2011.
As Mary R pointed out, Henry just wanted to dispense with the Pope and dissolve the monasteries for their wealth. His opposition to the Reformation indicates he did not want to change much other than putting himself at the helm. If not for his desire for divorce, he probably would not have split from the Catholic church. I would be surprised if Anglicanism had developed different rituals for the sacraments by the time of his death only 14 years later; I believe many of them are similar even today.
It is hardly Catholic spirituality to be married to more than one wife & to reject papal authority as Henry did & made himself the defacto/ dejure head of the Church in England. If indeed it is true that he had a catholic funeral then he must have repented of his wickedness & that would be a necessary & an excellent thing
Henry was excommunicated and never repented. He died a protestant. No doubt IF he actually had a Mass it certainly wasn't because the pope felt sorry...and certainly he being the public sinner that he was, the church wasn't about to grant him a true Catholic Mass with the blessings of the church and her spiritual treasures.
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