Volume > Issue > False Theologians, Then & Now

False Theologians, Then & Now


By Anne Barbeau Gardiner | June 2007
Anne Barbeau Gardiner, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is Professor Emerita of English at John Jay College of the City University of New York. She has published on Dryden, Milton, and Swift, as well as on Catholics of the 17th century.

In 1529 Catholic theologians teaching at major universities in France, Italy, and England gave King Henry VIII the theological fig leaf he needed to get a divorce from Queen Catherine, his wife of 20 years. These theologians took large sums of gold from the English King and set themselves up as a rival magisterium. They went so far as to falsify passages from the ancient Church Fathers, medieval Doctors, and Church councils to give King Henry what he paid for.

Today too there are plenty of false theologians at Catholic universities. Among them is Daniel Maguire, a professor in the Department of Moral Theology at Marquette, who has received grants from the Ford and Packard Foundations to produce a video-documentary and two books that falsify Catholic teaching on abortion. He brazenly contends that the Church has long approved the killing of unborn babies and falsely claims that abortion is a sacred choice and a sacred right in every major world religion. Forbidding abortion anywhere, he argues, amounts to “religious persecution.” Maguire is President of The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics (TRC), whose website links to Planned Parenthood, Catholics for Free Choice, and other pro-abortion groups’ websites. Among the participants in TRC are seven religious instructors affiliated with Catholic universities: Loyola University of Chicago, University of Detroit Mercy, Xavier University, Marquette University, Manhattan College, Catholic University of America, and St. John’s University. Two of these are elderly priests — Gerard Sloyan and Paul Surlis. And so, despite the promulgation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, all these instructors are confident they can publicly support the merchants of death and at the same time proudly cite their Catholic affiliations. They are confident they can set themselves up as a rival magisterium to the Pope with total impunity. Just as seven Catholic universities colluded with Henry VIII and paved the way to the English Reformation, so dissenters such as these at seven Catholic universities collude with Planned Parenthood and pave the way, so far as it is within their power, to the triumph of the Culture of Death. That Henry VIII bribed a cohort of Catholic theologians to justify his divorce is little known today, though St. John Fisher wrote a whole book about it in 1530, titled De causa matrimonii, a work carefully abridged in the first part of Dr. Nicholas Harpsfield’s Treatise on the Pretended Divorce Between Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon, a 16th-century Catholic account of the English Reformation that was not printed until the late 19th century. Harpsfield, the last Catholic archdeacon of Canterbury and an expert in canon law, spent the last 24 years of his life in prison for his religion, dying there in 1583.

In 1528 Henry VIII suddenly claimed that he was “tormented in conscience” about his 20-year marriage to Queen Catherine and, according to Dr. Harpsfield, believed “he had lived all this while in detestable and abominable adultery.” He wanted a speedy divorce, so as to marry Anne Boleyn, but the Queen appealed to Pope Clement, causing delay. At this point, Henry turned to the European universities, hoping to use them against the Pope. In turn, the Queen asked Bishop John Fisher — the only bishop in England brave enough to stand up to Henry — to be her advocate. Fisher spent two years in investigation and came to the conclusion that Henry would never have sought a divorce, “if lechery had not embraced the attempt” and “if covetousness of the goods and lands of the church” had not “furthered the said attempt.” The charge of greed also applies to the prostitute-theologians who took pay to justify Henry’s divorce.

In the fall of 1529 Henry sent his agents loaded with gold across Europe “to procure the private censures and judgments of diverse learned men, as also the public judgment of certain universities, for the disproving and disallowing of his first marriage.” Once he got their paid-for judgments in writing, he would send Sir Thomas Boleyn with them to pressure Pope Clement into granting his divorce. Mule-loads of “English angels” (gold coins) at the time “flew far and wide among the learned men of France and Italy,” according to Pedro Fernandez Sardinha, the first Bishop of Bahia, San Salvador, who witnessed “the bribery then wrought in Henry’s name” in Paris. He wrote, “Certain theologians, debasing the Word of God and seeking the favour of men, corrupted by gifts and largesses of angelets — a coin well known among the English — fell into the toils of Satan, and helped the king’s faction, contrary to their own convictions. And I am not afraid to speak so plainly, for I have seen it with my own eyes.” Likewise, Peter Blomevenna of Leyden, prior of the Carthusians in Cologne, testified to the attempted bribery at the University of Cologne, where “a certain king, mighty and powerful, hoped by heavy sums of money to purchase the opinion he wished to obtain.”

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