Monday, August 18, 2008

The Great Divorce

The brutal suppression of the monasteries would soon follow. More than one thousand monasteries and convents were destroyed and monks and nuns turned out into the street to find, in Cromwell’s words, "real work." In destroying them, Henry introduced the modern welfare state. Once, the poor were cared for in dignity and charity by men and women religious. Now they were dependent on the state. Anyone with a passing familiarity with public housing projects can appreciate this bitter fruit of the Protestant rebellion in England.

Indeed, because England was destined for "a unique good fortune in the leadership of the world it is through its effect in England that the Reformation survives today as a world force," (Philip Hughes, A Popular History of the Reformation, 161) and the worst manifestations of it, from Christendom’s first state-sanctioned regicide, to the ugliness of industrialization, to the treatment of indigenous peoples, including American Indians, are this so-called Reformation’s darker legacy. With the exception of literature, English intellectual life declined, and even within English literature, it is the Catholics—Shakespeare, Dryden, Chesterton—who shine. English philosophers are more political theorists, and their ideas sparked the errors of the Enlightenment. The suppression of the Church in England was the dress rehearsal for the French Revolution, the Italian Risorgimento, the Mexican Revolution, and the Spanish Civil War. Henry VIII’s divorce is the reason America is a Protestant country.