This thesis analyzes a variety of sources such as printed books, diplomatic correspondence, letters, and notes, from which a description of Tudor ideas in relation to proposals to hold a general council can be derived. This Tudor Conciliar Theory has a definite beginning.
Henry VIII developed a flexible foreign policy to deal with continental suggestions to hold a general council of the church. The position which he took was that the English nation was not opposed to such a gathering, but on every occasion, matters of detail were used to block English participation. While these procedural details kept Henry from participating, a second "wall" of defense was raised: Henrician propagandists insisted that the princes of Christendom, not the pope, should be instrumental in calling a council into session. The authority to call a council into being implied, of course, the power to control its proceedings, which was a crucial point in Henry's campaign to vindicate his decision to divorce Catherine of Aragon.
Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, was in agreement with these Henrician ideas. He, in turn, planted the essence of Henrician conciliar thought into article twenty-two of the 42 Articles of Edward VI. Under the reign of Elizabeth, this article became number twenty-one of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the basis of the Anglican settlement.
Later apologists, defending Elizabeth's refusal to participate in the concluding sessions of the council of Trent used arguments similar to those advanced by her father's propagandists. Such men as John Bale, John Jewel, Thomas Cartwright, John Foxe, William Whitaker, and John Whitgift followed the system of ideas that was developed in the 1530's.
English translations of European writers, (which provide sure evidence of someone in England having read them) disclose no indebtedness to any continental school of thought. Some of the best protestant arguments against the proposals to hold a general council, by Calvin and Luther, were never translated. Thus, aside from the influence of fourteenth and fifteenth century conciliar writers, there was a distinctive English conciliar theory, apart from continental thought.
The aim of this English conciliar theory was to allow the princes of Christendom a measure of power over the general council. It enlarged the arena wherein the king held dominion over the church and diminished the territory over which the general council had jurisdiction. Petty objections to procedural details revealed a hostility to the general council itself, revealed the aversion of these Englishmen to the idea of allowing this foreign institution to limit the power of the king.
Paul J. Landa
Walter C. Mackett
Godfrey T. Anderson
Master of Arts (MA)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Council of Trent (1545-1563); Conciliar theory
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Mitchel, Daniel E., "Tudor Conciliar Theorists" (1975). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 1074.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives