Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Thomas Cranmer...

Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, one of the Oxford Martyrs, who was burned at the stake for treason and heresy under our late Sovereign Queen Mary I. Cranmer was a masterful man and an eminent scholar, whose enduring legacy is the Prayer Book of the Church of England, although it is unclear how much of the same was his own composition. It is established that he was influenced in the structure of Mattins and Evensong by the QuiƱones breviary (which was, thank God, abolished in 1568), the Holy Communion by the Sarum Missal, Luther's Deutsche Messe and Litany, etc. In all fairness, we can't really say much for Cranmer's moral character, having married secretly whilst in Orders, all those recantations made out of fear, not to mention his unfair treatment of the reformer John Frith in 1533, etc, but it would be a great disservice to the great man to say, as so many Romish biographers have, that he was an opportunist and a sycophant, without principle or conviction. His heroic stand at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on 18th March was commendable, where he said: ''And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine!'' Pure Patrimony! Therewith he was dragged from the pulpit and imprisoned, to be put to death a few days later. He died, his right hand, with which he had written his recantations, outstretched to receive the flames.

Cranmer did much to extend and unify the English language in the realm, a feat comparable to the influence of Dante on Mediaeval Italian. The 1549 Prayer Book Rebellion was due in part to the fact that Cranmerian English was little understood in the West Country, and a translation of the Prayer Book into Cornish was never made (this can actually be cited in favour of the liturgical use of Latin, at least as a unifying principle). At any rate, the subsequent Demands of the Western Rebels shews how much the minds of men were still under the yoke of superstition. An example of Cranmer's masterful, beauteous English can be taken from the Eucharistic Prayer of the 1549 Prayer Book:

And, here we do give unto thee most high praise and hearty thanks, for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all thy Saints from the beginning of the world: And chiefly in the glorious and most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of thy Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and God, and in the holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs, whose examples and steadfastness in thy faith, and keeping thy holy commandments, grant us to follow.

Does anyone know if Cranmer has a place in the Ordinariate kalendar of saints days?! To have created and influenced so great a part of the Anglican Patrimony for four hundred years, I would have thought he would merit something - a proper Collect, Epistle and Gospel, at least?


  1. Patrick,
    for God's sake! Cranmer was a thorough heretic. His most lasting - and devastating - achievement was to turn England calvinist, and forever. Cranmer was the cause of the devastation of catholicism in England, and the remtoe cause of puritanism and the Civil War. He was the forerunner of the godless murderer Oliver Cromwell, hated till this very day in the North of England, where my mother comes from. Cranmer in some of his writings admits, that he seeks the eventual scrapping of not only the Mass but of all sacraments and services. HIs ideal is a didactical service centred around preaching. His views became ever more radical and more calvinsitic, even zwinglian. Please do not mock us by proclaiming him a Saint! Oremus pro invicem.

  2. (a) Cranmer was no Zwinglian.

    (b) The Romish view of Cranmer demonstrates just what they think of so-called 'Anglican Patrimony': they hate it.

    (c) The Book of Common Prayer contains finer liturgies of a nobler character and more catholic sentiment than anything that comes out of Rome.

  3. Granted, Cranmer rendered into the vulgar tongue broadly accurate and certainly eloquent translations of the Catholic liturgy anciently derived from Rome than has ever been accomplished by her. But he was a heretic.

  4. Here is your proper epistle for the feast of the Combustion of Thomas Cranmer, heretic.

    Lectio libri Judicum.
    But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon [was] a very fat man. And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present. But he himself turned again from the quarries that [were] by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him. And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of [his] seat. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out. R. Deo gratias.

  5. Perhaps the Vox Clara people should have adopted Abp. Cranmer as patron for their translation effort. If they had perhaps the finished product might have some semblance to English?

  6. Well, well, my readers do come from the length and breadth of Christendom! From fanatical Papist to Evangelical Anglican!

    Perhaps my intention in publishing this post has been misunderstood. Whether or not Thomas Cranmer was a heretic is irrelevant. He forms a significant part of the Anglican Patrimony, which Rome has claimed to admire (like her own tradition!) and promises to safeguard in the formation of the Personal Ordinariates. Would Anglo-Catholics destined for the Ordinariate be expected to anathematize Thomas Cranmer because Rome considers him a heretic? Why stop with him? Why not repudiate all his works? If this is the case, how much ''patrimony'' is acceptable to Rome, with all her false dogma?

    Liam, well quite. The Prayer Book services are far more catholic than the 1962 services.

    Alex, is this a joke?

    Rubricarius, ha ha ha! I was going to add why not name Cranmer as patron of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, but I daresay neither he nor the Romanizing Anglicans would consider that appropriate.

  7. [I console myself in the certain knowledge that I could never be accused of being a "fanatical Papist" nor an "Anglican Evangelical"] Ah... "Cranmer = Anglican Patrimony"? I wondered what it was...

  8. I wonder if an inability to translate well is a fifth mark of the Universal Church? See: "omnipotentem" for "pantokratora", etc.

  9. Rome is cool with paraphrasing something that might have been an anaphora composed by the antipope Hippolytus and calling it Eucharistic Prayer II, so rehabilitating Cranmer is not impossible (see also that God-awful "folk" Litany of the Saints which lists Origen--condemed at an Ecumenical Council). Of course, the real problem here is that the use of Cranmerian liturgy seems good only in comparison to the depths to which the Roman Missal has fallen.

    More constructively though, I think that Lancelot Andrewes rather than Cranmer might be the way to go if the Ordinariate wants to commemorate figures of the English Reformation. Andrewes' contributions to the Authorised Version of the Bible show him to be quite as influential to the Anglican patrimony as Cranmer, and Andrewes' Private Devotions certainly show him to be more Catholic.

  10. "... how much ''patrimony'' is acceptable to Rome ...?"
    Not much.
    "Andrewes' contributions to the Authorised Version of the Bible show him to be quite as influential to the Anglican patrimony ..."
    And guess what, the AV is not allowed in the Ordinariate.