The Loyal Opposition; Tudor Traditionalist Polemics, 1535-1558
Loades, David, The Catholic Historical Review
The Loyal Opposition; Tudor Traditionalist Polemics, 1535-1558. By Ellen A. Macek. [Studies in Church History,Vol. 7.] (New York: Peter Lang. 1996. Pp. xv, 299. $53.95.)
It has long been recognized that the term 'Catholic' is unsatisfactory when applied to those within the English church who resisted the advance of Protestantism in the mid-sixteenth century. Either 'conservative' or 'traditionalist' is better, but it is very hard to devise a satisfactory category in which to place them. In this study, Ellen Macek's subtitle is unexceptionable, but the use of the word 'opposition' raises serious problems. In what sense were Gardiner and Tunstal opponents of Henry VIII's changes? Moreover, these same men were in power under Mary.The terminology is more difficult than the substance, because what these men were endeavoring to do for most of the time was to keep an English church controlled by the Crown in line with traditional doctrine on such important issues as justification and the sacraments. There can be little doubt that they spoke for the majority of English people, but there was no bottom line to their argument, because they had no alternative theory of ecclesiastical authority. As long as Henry VIII was alive they could sustain a viable position, because their opponents were the "reforming faction" rather than the king himself. The short reign of Edward VI disillusioned them, when the Royal Supremacy which they had hitherto supported was used to destroy what they regarded as the fundamentals of the Christian faith.They embraced Mary's conservative reaction with enormous relief, but many of them were less than enthusiastic about the papacy, merely accepting that the Royal Supremacy had proved to be a broken reed for the protection of what they considered to be essential religious truth.