The Thinking 

The “Protestant Reformation,” 500 Years

November 5, 2017

FIVE HUNDRED years ago last week the “Protestant Reformation” began, an event to mourn for its ongoing effects. A revolution by oligarchs against the people, it disbanded many of the great charitable institutions of Europe: hospitals, schools, and alms houses run by those who took vows of poverty. Tenant farmers on monastic lands were displaced and many became the homeless poor. The spoils were distributed as political favors. To cite one small example, the buildings of Netley Abbey in southern England, a monastery renowned for its charity to travelers, were given to Sir William Paulet by Henry VIII in 1536 in reward for his loyal service to the king. He created a fashionable mansion.

Netley Abbey

In A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, the Protestant writer William Cobbett (1763-18-35) wrote of the looting:

182. The whole country was, thus, disfigured; it had the appearance of a land recently invaded by the most brutal barbarians: and this appearance, if we look well into it, it has even to this day. Nothing has ever yet come to supply the place of what was then destroyed. This is the view for us to take of the matter, it is not a mere matter of religion; but a matter of rights, liberties, real wealth, happiness and national greatness. If all these have been strengthened, or augmented, by the “REFORMATION,” even. then we must not approve of the horrible means; but, if they have all been weakened, or lessened, by that “Reformation,” what an outrageous abuse of words is it to call the event by that name! And, if I do not prove, that this latter has been the case; if I do not prove, clear as the daylight, that, before the “Reformation,” England was greater, more wealthy, more moral, and more happy, than she has ever been since; if I do not make this appear as clearly as any fact ever was made to appear, I will be content to pass, for the rest of my life, for a vain pretender.

183. If I look at the county of Surrey, in which I myself was born, and behold the devastation of that county, I am filled with indignation against the ruffian devastators. Surrey has very little of natural wealth in it. A very considerable part of it is mere heath-land. Its present comparative opulence is a creature of the fictitious system of funding. Yet this county was, from one end of it to the other, ornamented and benefited by the establishments which grew out of the Catholic Church. At BERMONDSEY there was an Abbey; at St. MARY OVERY there was a Priory, and this convent founded that very St. Thomas’s Hospital which now exists in Southwark. This Hospital also was seized by the ruffians, but the building was afterwards given to the City of London. At NEWINGTON there was an Hospital, and, after its revenues were seized, the master obtained a licence to beg! At MERTON there was a Priory. Then, going across to the Sussex side, there was another Priory at REIGATE, Coming again near the Thames, and more to the West, there was a Priory at SHENE. Still more to the West, there was an Abbey at CHERTSEY. At TANDRIGE there was a Priory. Near GUILDFORD, at SENDE, there was a Priory. And, at the lower end of the county, at WAVERLEY, in the parish of Farnham, was an Abbey. To these belonged cells and chapels at a distance from the convents themselves: so that it would have been a work of some difficulty for a man so to place himself, even in this poor heathy county, at six miles distance from a place where the door of hospitality was always open to the poor, to the aged, the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. Can any man, now, place himself, in that whole county, within any number of miles of any such door? No; nor in any other county. All is wholly changed, and all is changed for the worse. There is now no hospitality in England. Words have changed their meaning. We now give entertainment to those who entertain us in return. We entertain people because we like them personally; and, very seldom, because they stand in need of entertainment. An hospital, in those days, meant a place of free entertainment; and not a place merely for the lame, the sick and the blind; and the very sound of the words “Old English Hospitality,” ought to raise a blush on every Protestant cheek. But, besides this hospitality exercised invariably in the Monasteries, the weight of their example was great with all the opulent classes of the community; and thus, to be generous and kind was the character of the nation at large: a niggardly, a base, a money-loving disposition could not be in fashion, when those institutions to which all men looked with reverence, set an example which condemned such a disposition.

— Comments —

Jane S. writes:

And capitalism was born. The confiscated property of the Church went to the Crown, then passed into the hands of a few powerful families. The enclosure movement began, which destroyed the decentralized system of feudalism. The dispossessed yeoman farmers and guilds became the proletariat, who had only their labor to sell.

At the beginning of the 16th century, wars were fought for the ambitions of kings. At the close of 300 years, wars were fought for the ambitions of capitalists. These went on to finance the Industrial Revolution. Britain became a world empire, which made capitalism the first global economic system.

Capitalism/Protestantism = joined at the hip.

 Laura writes:

And socialism naturally followed from the injustices of individualistic Capitalism.

Jane writes:

And Technocracy–aka, rule by atheists–will turn out to be the stupidest rule of all.

Don Vincenzo writes:

William Cobbett was an itinerant English  journalist, among the first, (his nom de plume was “Peter Porcupine”) who is noted for his description of the “Six Stages of National Decline: Commerce, Opulence, Luxury, Effeminacy, Cowardice and last, but not least, Slavery.”  One could debate where along that timeline the U.S. is currently located.

The other thing to keep in mind was that Cobbett, although not Catholic, favored Catholic Emancipation in Britain, for he was convinced that the Catholic Church did not stifle intellectual activity or scientific discovery. In fact, as the Cobbett demonstrated, those countries who adhered to the Faith of their Fathers demonstrated a much greater overall intelligence and intellect than Protestant Britain.

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