Sir Thomas More and holy orders : More's views of the English clergy, both secular and regular
The purpose of this thesis is to present Sir Thomas More's views on the sacrament of Holy Orders with particular reference to the English clergy using as evidence More's own writings and relevant manuscript material as well as various other contemporary sources. The discussion of More's activity as ecclesiastical patron, based on manuscript sources, will illuminate this previously undocumented aspect of his involvement in clerical affairs. It will indicate how far his views on the English clergy are corroborated by those priests he presented to benefices in addition to providing us with a detailed look at the problems associated with early 16th Century patronage. More's activity as a royal councillor, seen through his own eyes and revealed in his writings and other sources, will be discussed as it touches on the English spirituality. Particular attention will be paid to the development of More's criticisms of the clergy and his emerging understanding of the sacrament of Orders as it took shape in his polemical career. His duties as Lord Chancellor, particularly his campaign against heretics in England and heretical writings abroad, will be presented as well as his opposition to secular statutory reforms of the clerical estate. More's activity as secular judge of clerical litigants in the courts of Star Chamber and Chancery will be analysed on the basis of manuscript evidence of those courts and his own comments found in his published and private writings. Finally, More's concluding remarks on both controversial doctrinal issues and the part played by the English clergy in the Henrician Reformation (to 1535) will be discussed as it is found in the works written from the Tower.