CANNONISED BY POPE PIUS XI IN 1935, THE ENGLISH HUMANIST THOMAS MORE, AUTHOR OF “UTOPIA” IS MADE SAINT OF POLITICIANS

It seemed as if none of the Saints wanted to take up the cause of the world’s hard-working political class but finally one has been found. Thomas More was nominated by the Vatican on 31st October. 3,000 politicians from around the world went to Rome to celebrate the event in style, of course. More was executed in London on 6th July, 1535 for upholding his beliefs and refusing to bow to Henry VIII’s insistence that More accept his King as the Head of the Church in England. Putting his conscience above his own life, he knew he would be executed if he maintained his position and although Henry VIII almost pleaded with him to change his mind, More held firm until the end. Born in London in 1478, Thomas More studied at Oxford and London before becoming a lawyer, gravitating towards the humanist movement. Erasmus himself dedicated his “Elogy of Madness” to More in 1511 and in 1516, Thomas More published the hugely popular “Utopia” in which he dreamt of an island where there was no private property, where the power of the Monks was reduced to zero and where princes and nobles did not exist. Power was held by the people and society lived in a constant state of evolution, well-being, goodwill and true democracy. For his time, these ideas were remarkable. They were, in short, the ideals of proto-socialism. However, More continued firmly linked to Rome and did not follow his King in his quarrels with the Pope. In 1529, More was nominated Chancellor of the country, a sort of Prime Minister of the time, proving Henry VIII’s high regard for him. Henry needed money for his dynastic wars against France and he also needed to produce a male heir to the throne to secure his dynasty. Only by divorcing his wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon, and marrying another woman (Anne Boleyn in this case) could he try to produce a legitimate male heir. The Pope refused to grant annulment of his marriage, forcing Henry to split with Rome, at the same time freeing the money which had been channelled to Rome in the form of the tithe, a kind of church tax, which paid 30% of Henry’s revenue to Rome, for Henry’s dynastic wars against France. The fact that his own Chancellor refused to give permission to these ideals involved a conflict of interests. In the event, More chose his conscience against his life. It is in this light that he is nominated the Patron Saint of Politicians, with the aim of providing a superior light, a wholesome precedent and an honest example proving real human integrity for these to follow. So, politicians of the world, the next time your conscience is divided between doing what you were elected to do and receiving that fat envelope stuffed full of crisp, clean 100-dollar notes…do the right thing and think of Thomas More (and take the envelope)!!

Tim Bancroft-Hinchey Lisbon