Wolf Hall [1st of 4]

"Marsiglio tells us that when Christ came into this world he came not as a ruler or a judge, but as a subject: subject to the state as he found it. He did not seek to rule, nor pass on to his disciples a mission to rule....Since Christ did not induce his followers into earthly power, how can it be maintained that the princes of today derive their power from the Pope?" Hilary Mantel ~ Wolf Hall

Thusly did Thomas Cromwell speak to Henry VIII to encourage him to seize the property of the Catholic Church, to deny the Church's authority over him as King and, of course, to consolidate power in the crown.  To me, this aspect of the story is the most fascinating aspect of this oft told tale.  In the 1960s, Thomas More, who opposed Cromwell and Henry VIII, was represented in A Man For All Seasons as a saintly figure trying both to retain the authority of the Catholic Church and his head.  In Wolf Hall, he is much less saintly, but still striving for both purposes. In the end, he loses on both counts. In Wolf Hall, the faults of the Catholic Church are much more prominently displayed--we hear of the Cardinal's son, his love for fine clothes, the heavy tithes the Church extracts from the peasants; we observe More torturing Tisdale for publishing a Bible in English.  

Contrasted with these failings, Henry VIII's consolidation of power in the crown, the State, looks benign.  It is only in retrospect that we can see that failings of the Church will only be magnified when the power once shared by the State and the Church are consolidated in the State. The Church, for all its failings, was the last great power that was sufficient to check the power of the State. It is no more able to do so.  It now exists at the sufferance of the State.

The moral of the story leads us directly to Bastiat and What is Seen and What is Not Seen: "In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them."


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