King Henry was very fond of St. Thomas More and this affection was shared by Thomas for his King. But he had no illusions about his King. Now, when Thomas More was appointed Chancellor, he had been busy writing against Protestantism, particularly in rebuttal to Tyndale and his writings. Thomas More’s attitude toward heretics was moderate, hating the heresy but not the heretics. He was very cautious about the laity reading the Bible in the vernacular, as he judged, it could lead to misinterpretation. He strongly advised no such books be read without the Ordinary’s approval.
When King Henry VIII demanded the clergy acknowledge him as “Protector and Supreme Head of the Church of England”, Thomas More immediately wished to resign as Chancellor. But he was persuaded to remain, in order to give his attention to the matter of the King’s annulment to Catherine of Aragon, or as it was called “the King’s divorce”. St. Thomas More upheld the validity of the King’s marriage to Catherine, but requested he be allowed to stand aside from the controversy. When he was asked to present the case to Parliament, he refused to render his opinion. As we all try to do, he was trying to skirt the issues, but he would soon find it to be impossible.
In 1532 the King imposed a decree forbidding the clergy to prosecute heretics, or to hold any assembly without his permission, a clear interference of State and Church, a matter resolved centuries before by the Church that the state could not interfere with the Church and its matters. Then he had a bill passed in Parliament that the first fruits due the Holy See was to be withheld. Now, St Thomas More could not sideswipe this issue. This went way back to the Law of Moses which stated that the first produce of man and animals, and whatsoever was sown in the field was to be given to the Lord. (Ex. 23:16) St. Thomas More openly opposed all these measures, and the King was furious! On May the 16th, after having served only three years, St. Thomas More handed in his resignation as Chancellor, and the King accepted it.
Without his earnings as Chancellor, he and his family were reduced to poverty, with barely enough to eat. But they never lost their joy. St. Thomas More refused to go to the coronation of Anne Boleyn. His enemies, those who had envied him and his former position with the King, took this opportunity to taunt him, accusing him as they did St. John Fisher of all sorts of crimes. Praise God, the Lords insisted on hearing St. Thomas More’s defense themselves, so the King retracted the charges. But the time was now approaching when nothing would help St. Thomas More.
March 30, 1534, a law was passed requiring all subjects of the King to take an oath recognizing the succession to the throne, of the King and Anne Boleyn’s offspring. King Henry added, this was to nullify his union to Catherine of Aragon, that it had never been a true marriage, and that “no foreign authority, prince or potentate had any authority to repudiate this”. To refuse to take this oath or to oppose it in any way was an act of high treason. This came on top of the Pope, the week before, declaring the marriage of King Henry and Catherine to be valid and irrevocable. Many Catholics took the oath with this reservation: “as far as it is not contrary to the law of God.”
April 13th, Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher refused to sign the oath. St. Thomas was remanded to the custody of the Abbot of Westminster. A lord close to the King tried to dissuade him from taking any drastic action against Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher. But he refused to compromise, and the oath was once again tendered to Thomas More and John Fisher. They refused to sign! They were both imprisoned in the Tower. St. Thomas spent the next fifteen months, there, writing loving, faith-filled letters to his family. They begged him to do as the King ordered. But all their pleading fell on deaf ears.
February 1, 1535, the Acts of Supremacy were to go into operation. This gave the King the title of “only supreme head of England”. When, in April, Cromwell came to St. Thomas, asking him his opinion of the bill, he refused to give it.
May 4th, his daughter was allowed to visit him for the first time. They witnessed the first three Carthusian monks and their companions go to their Martyrdom. When Cromwell and others returned and again taunted him to comment on the statute, they made sport of him because he remained silent.
June 19th, the second group of Carthusian Monks was martyred.
June 19th, Bishop John Fisher was beheaded on Tower Hill.
June 28th, Sir Thomas More was indicted and tried in Westminster Hall. By this time, he was too weak to stand, and had to sit during the proceedings. The same witness that had falsely accused St. John Fisher of speaking against the King, falsely testified against St. Thomas More, alleging that he had spoken to him against the Acts of Supremacy. As had St. John Fisher, St. Thomas maintained that he had remained silent and had not shared any opinion with Rich or anyone else. He was found guilty and condemned to death. Now, something you have to understand, this was not legal! So, as the Church is attacked and we lose our religious rights, our other rights will follow!