Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thomas More, A Lonely Voice Against the Power of the State

By Peter Berglar, 230 pages, Scepter Publishers.

A decent, deeply religious lawyer, Christian, family man, and government servant, Thomas More found himself at the center of a controversy from which he couldn't escape. A humanist scholar and friend of the great Erasmus of Rotterdam, he stayed firmly on the papacy's side when Henry VIII decided to make himself head of the English Church .

While More himself tended to do the right thing, the Church's corruption had led to its eroded position in society and the target of criticism from scholars, churchmen, and the people. Berglar is particularly skilled at portraying the historical roots of the problems, religious and political, faced by More.

The author is also good at portraying the more human side of a saintly man. More could be arrogant, and a people-pleaser who went along with the abuse of power of Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey, who preceded More as Chancellor, the head of government.

More opened the Reformation Parliament of 1529-36, during which time, Berglar writes, "medieval England came to an end, [and] More's career was at its peak." More knew in 1529 that his time was up, and that he would be dismissed, allowed to resign, or murdered by the increasingly tyrannical king.

Throughout A Lonely Voice, the author brings out the biographies of those with whom More dealt. Rather than a cold political history, readers get a sense of the personalities involved, above all More's and the king's.

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