While we’re on the subject of Thomas More, I came across this excerpt from an outstanding biography of More by Peter Ackroyd entitled, The Life of Thomas More. Juxtaposing Martin Luther and Thomas More, Ackroyd distills the contrasting view of reality that Catholics have, compared to the relativistic confusion that logically stems from the Protestant proposition.
What is it that Luther wrote? ‘Hic sto. Hic maneo. Hic glorior. Hic triumpho. Here I stand. Here I remain. Here I glory. Here I triumph. It does not matter to me if a thousand Augustines or Cyprians stand against me.’ It is one of the great moments of Protestant affirmation and became a primary text for the ‘individualism’ and ‘subjectivism’ of post-Reformation culture, but to More it was ‘furore‘ or simple madness. Only a lunatic, or a drunkard, could express himself in such a fashion. More invoked, instead, the authority of the apostles and the church fathers, the historical identity and unity of the Catholic Church, as well as the powerful tradition of its teachings guided by the authority of Christ. Where Luther would characteristically write ‘I think thus’, or ‘I believe thus’, More would reply ‘God has revealed thus’ or ‘The Holy Spirit has taught thus’. His was a church of order and ritual in which the precepts of historical authority were enshrined. All this Luther despised and rejected. He possessed the authentic voice of the free and separate conscience and somehow found the power to stand against the world he had inherited. He was attacking the king and the Pope, but more importantly he was dismissing the inherited customs and traditional beliefs of the Church itself, which he condemned as ‘scandala‘. He was assaulting the whole medieval order of which More was a part.
Luther assaulted. More fought back. A brilliant observation by Ackroyd.