How to respond to scandal in the Church

St John Fisher was born in 1469. St Thomas More was born in 1478. Both, as you may know, died in 1535.

In 1492, when John Fisher was in his early 20s and Thomas More was in his teens, the new pope elected was Alexander VI (Borgia) who reigned for a little over 11 years during the formative years of both their lives. His papacy was marred by scandalous living, nepotism and venality. After the few weeks of Pius III's brief reign, Pope Julius II was elected. As a Cardinal, he had fathered three daughters. Because of his violence, he was known as Il Terribile. He was succeeded in 1513 by Pope Leo X, a wordly, nepotistic pope whose luxury distracted him from dealing effectively with Luther and the beginnings of the Protestant reformation. After the brief papacy of Hadrian VI, Clement VII was elected. He was, at least, free from reproach in his private life but an irresolute and ineffective leader. Pope Paul III was the last Pope in the lifetime of the two saints. As Cardinal Farnese, he had been known as "Cardinal Petticoat" because his sister Giulia was the mistress of Pope Alexander VI. Cardinal Farnese himself had a mistress by whom he had three daughters and a son. When he became Pope, he reformed his life and is known to history for convoking the Council of Trent.

Surely all that would be enough to make anyone leave the Church? The honest devotional life of St John Fisher and St Thomas More meant that they campaigned by word and example for the reform of the Church, certainly. But their clear sightedness is shown by their martyrdom. They died for the authority of the Pope in the matter of the King's marriage. They were able to see the distinction between the man and his office so clearly that they went to the block at Tower Hill on 22 June 1535 in defence of the authority of the Holy See.

Saint John Fisher. Pray for us.
St Thomas More. Pray for us.

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