Saturday, December 7, 2013

... against Melvyn Bragg's calumnies of the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages

1) ... on English Reformation against Melvyn Bragg , 2)... against Melvyn Bragg's calumnies of the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages

If you know Melvyn Bragg from part 4 of his History of the English language - he is otherwise a delightful language historian but not always a sound linguist, it will not surprise you he made a documentary on "the most dangerous man of Tudor England", a BBC documentary claimed by the video uploader to be fully factual, and I somehow hoped he meant St Thomas More, but I feared he meant Tyndale, and I was right in that fear. I will go to comments to early minutes, up to few seconds after six minutes.

Below are a few comments I made during those minutes. The documentary started off rather biassed than factual. Here follow six corrections of his propositions.

"His crime was translating the Bible into English",no, since Vilvoorde was not under English Inquisition, where possession of Pater and Commandements in English translation could stamp you as a Lollard, but under Spanish one, Netherlands being then totally a possession of Charles V or Philip II. And the Spanish one did burn Heretic translations into Dutch, but not for the act of translating.

Have you considered these Inquisitors had to learn English in order to determine whether his translation into same language was Orthodox or Heterodox/Heretical?

That is why his process took such time.
Further correction:

"The Biblical ideas that he released into the English tongue fired the English Reformation", but in reality an idea firing the Reformation can not have been fully Biblical, even though it can have seemed to have support from a Biblical quote in this or that mind of the XVIth C, and what he did release into the English tongue was above all Biblical text.

If Belloc was right English even had a translation which was not by Wycliffe but supplanted his, and this is the one that has survived in so many manuscripts as "Wycliffe's translation" in the eyes of modern scholars, but hardly so marked on the manuscripts. Of course, in Tyndall's time its English was old fashioned. And according to accounts of Coventry Martyrs possessing even Creed, Decalogue and Lord's Prayer in English made you suspect of Lollardry. But the English Inquisition was special, very much less Roman than later the Spanish became.
"It was useful that the commons did not understand, it gave them control as élite language always does" - not quite. An élite language respected gives the élite prestige for having it, but not necessarily control over those not having it.

In Ancient Egypt or Babylon, being a scribe indeed gave you control, but mainly because it was also a place in the bureaucracy.

In the Middle Ages you could know Latin and yet not be a clerk endowed with a clerical income. You could for instance have quit university before getting anywhere close to orders or you could have been kicked out of them.

And people not knowing Latin were very much less unfree than today the non-élite are. They were not forced to schools, they were not told to abort "because yu must finish school before you can be married or even a single mother", they were not risking to have their children taken away by Child Welfare Services, they were not risking to get locked up in psychiatry for thinking the wrong things. On the Continent they could be locked up for pretty long in Inquisition, but there it was Catholic Dogma (a source accessible beforehand or made accessible to any accused by Inquisitors - let us not confuse them with the torturers during a three day torture session, which was the limit outside the English King's realm) that decided what thoughts were right and wrong. In England it seems the Episcopal Inquisition of at least some Bishops made the torture sessions longer (remember how they momentarily broke St Joan of Arc, who was tried under the English system by the Bishop of Beauvais) but any stay after admission to such and such a doctrine not agreeable to the Church considerably shortened on its way to recantation or the stake. In all these respects the non-élite classes are less free today. Add thereto that non-élite were back then likelier to be self-employed or employed by a relative or a relative's friend and colleague, and much less likely to be employed by total strangers living in the other end of the same city and hiring oneself as just one very replaceable little cog among pretty many cogwheels.
"Many of the key concepts were not in the Bible ..."

... Purgatory

II Maccabees [quoting from memory]: it is therefore a sane and holy thought to offer up a sacrifice for the dead so that they may be released of their sins.

... Penance

St John's words to the crowds [item]: Turn around and do penance.

... Confession ... even the Hierarchy itself

John 20:[19] Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. [20] And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. [21] He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. [22] When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. [23] Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. [24] Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

In order to know whom to release from his sins and whom to retain in his sins, they need an accusation of those sins, which is done in confession.

And the next verse means that this power of forgiving sins was a hierarchic power, given to "the twelve" (Judas definitely had missed it, St Thomas had as yet to wait for it, and so was also the case with St Matthias who was not chosen to replace Judas till after Ascension), who, with their chief Cephas were the very top of the Hierarchy among the disciples Our Lord had Himself established, chosing first the Seventy from among the rest, and then the Twelve. And then Cephas/Peter among the Twelve.
"They were the rulings of Popes through the Centuries, Canon Law it was called" ... OK, but the thing is Canon Law and Papal Rulings are regularly based on precisely the Bible.
"And unless the people could get past the Latin, they could not gather the evidence to challenge these concepts" - But was it the people or very élite Reformers who did the "challenging"?
VII, self correction:
Apart from the fact there was not the evidence to challenge these concepts, the real Biblical evidence - as shown - was for the other side. Which commoners being dupes to Wycliffe and such were not able to look up, because they had no real experience of reading and therefore depended very much on the "new clergy" of the Reform as much as it had previously depended on the real Catholic clergy.

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