July 6 Feast of St Thomas More

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
On this day the Anglican Church celebrates the Lord Chancellor who was executed for annoying Henry VIII. Roman Catholics observe his feast on June 22

Outline script for assembly leader

"It's easy, just say what he wants you to say." Margaret, a young woman in her 20s, looked pleadingly at her father, Sir Thomas More. He had been a writer, a lawyer, an MP and a judge, and now King Henry VIII had made him Lord Chancellor.

Although Henry had a daughter called Mary, he wanted a son who would be king when he died. When doctors said his wife, Catherine, could have no more children, Henry divorced her and married Anne Boleyn.

The Pope (in those days, the head of the Church in England) said this was wrong and so did Sir Thomas. He resigned and refused to go to the coronation where Anne was crowned queen.

Two years later the Pope still said Anne was not truly Henry's wife, so Henry persuaded Parliament to make a law saying that in England he, and not the Pope, was head of the Church, and that Anne was his legal wife. Henry wanted all politicians to swear on the Bible that this was right. Sir Thomas refused to take the oath. As Henry didn't want someone as powerful and popular as Sir Thomas opposing him, he wanted him removed. Margaret tried to get her father to say the oath: "Say anything if it'll save you."

"But it's very wrong to say what's not true is true," her father insisted.

Nothing she could say would convince him to take the oath. Sir Thomas was imprisoned in Tower of London. A year later he was charged with treason, tried, found guilty and beheaded. His head was stuck on a post on London Bridge.

Thomas could have saved himself, but he kept true to his conscience.

Follow-up

* Debate whether Sir Thomas was noble or foolish.

* Discuss which of his professions (writer, lawyer, MP or judge) is most "useful".

* In Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons (see www.imdb.comtitlett0060665), Sir Thomas tries to persuade a would-be politician to remain a teacher, because it would be "a quiet life".

Discuss.

* For more information about Sir Thomas visit www.apostles.comthomasmore.html

* Which modern British men and women deserve to be saints?

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