That Old-Time Religion: Why Does Sir Thomas More – Torturer, Killer, Saint – Have So Many Churches Named After Him?

“Do you know where the Thomas More Church is?”

Ask that question anyplace where Catholicism is a mainstream faith, and the answer is likely “yes.” I’d wager that no other Catholic saint has so many churches named after him as Sir Thomas, the 16th-century religious firebrand and statesman. He crops up like kudzu, including in yesterday’s post about the loud bell of the Thomas More Church in Narragansett, Rhode Island, that is driving a neighbor batty.

Catholics revere More as a martyr because he was beheaded for refusing to say that the authority of King Henry VIII superseded that of the Pope. Even in secular and humanist circles, More is often given a measure of respect, partly for his collaboration with the Dutch Humanist Desiderius Erasmus, and partly because of how More is famously portrayed in the 1966 Oscar-winning movie A Man For All Seasons.

What neither group ever seems keen to acknowledge is that Sir Thomas was also a man who so abhorred Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation that he burned Lutherans at the stake with great relish. One of More’s motives for hating the Protestant heretics was that they dared to read the New Testament in English rather than Latin, which was against the law in England at the time.

The historian and religious scholar James Wood reminds us that Thomas More, far from being the consummate “man of conscience,” was

… the heretic hunter of the mid-1520s, who personally broke into Lutherans’ homes and sent men to the stake,… [and who] would punish religious dissent not only with “displeasant” words but with state violence.

Hyperbole? Hardly. The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd, one of the more positive More biographies, recounts that when Sir Thomas learned that John Tewkesbury, a London leather-seller, secretly possessed banned books, he had the man burned alive. After the execution, More expressed his satisfaction: “[He] burned as there was neuer wretche I wene better worthy.” More cherished the image of Tewkesbury burning not just on earth, but in hell, “an hote fyrebronde burnynge at hys bakke, that all the water in the worlde wyll neuer be able to quenche.”

Richard Marius, an American scholar of the Reformation and the author of Thomas More: A Biographyconcludes that More, notwithstanding his earlier wanderings through Humanism, was eager to exterminate Protestants,

and while he was in office he did everything in his power to bring that extermination to pass. That he did not succeed in becoming England’s Torquemada was a consequence of the king’s quarrel with the pope and not a result of any quality of mercy that stirred through More’s own heart.

Per James Wood, here is some of More’s handiwork:

With the help of John Stokesley, the Bishop of London, More personally broke into the houses of suspected heretics, arresting them on the spot and sometimes interrogating them in his own home. He imprisoned one man in the porter’s lodge of his house, and had him put in the stocks. He raided the home of a businessman called John Petyt, who was suspected of financing [protestant Bible translator William] Tyndale; Petyt died in the Tower. Six rebellious Oxford students were kept for months in a fish cellar; three of them died in prison. More was now a spiritual detective, a policeman in a hair shirt, engaged in “what would now be called surveillance and entrapment among the leather-sellers, tailors, fishmongers and drapers of London.” Six protesters were burned under More’s chancellorship, and perhaps forty were imprisoned.

Next time you hear the adjective “catholic” (small c) used in the sense of “shifty,” “evasive,” “disingenuous,” think of Thomas More, and think of this mind-crushing passage from Wood’s essay:

More attempted to answer the charge of the reformers that it was not Christian for the church to burn heretics. The church did not burn people, replied More; the state burned them. This was strictly true, because the ecclesiastical courts tried heretics and the state courts sentenced them. But More’s language is disingenuous. The church, he writes, would never want to kill anyone. “It is not the clergy that laboreth to have them punished to death.” The “spiritual law” is “good, reasonable, piteous, and charitable, and nothing desiring the death of any therein.” The church asks the heretic to repent; if he does not, the church excommunicates him, at which point “the clergy giveth knowledge to the temporalty, not exhorting the prince, or any man else, either, to kill him or to punish him.” The church does not urge anyone to punish the heretic; it “leaveth him to the secular hand, and forsaketh him.”

To Wood, More was

cruel in punishment, evasive in argument, lusty for power, and repressive in politics. He betrayed Christianity when he led it so violently into court politics, and he betrayed politics when he surrendered it so meekly to the defense of Catholicism.

The British historical biographer Jasper Ridley was even less charitable in his final assessment of Sir Thomas, calling him “a particularly nasty sadomasochistic pervert.”

The Catholic world had four or five centuries to come to its senses about More, but never did. In 1929, the Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton fawned over him in The Fame of Blessed Thomas Moore:

Blessed Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, even perhaps the great moment of his dying; but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years’ time.

The Vatican agreed that More was a man worthy of our highest adulation. In May of 1935, Pope Pius XI officially declared Sir Thomas a saint.

In October of 2000, Pope John Paul II did his part in trying to make Chesterton’s prediction come true. The pontiff wrote in an apostolic letter that More had “served not power but the supreme ideal of justice,” and lauded him for “unfailing moral integrity.”

Pope John Paul then officially declared  Sir Thomas the patron saint of Catholic statesmen and politicians; and as it concerns one thoroughly disreputable group, that is one honor on which His Holiness and I can agree.

(This is Part 1 in a series about the tyrants, hysterics, wackjobs, and conmen who populate the history of religion. Adapted from my earlier post at Moral Compass. Top image via wikimedia; bottom image by Simon_K via flickr)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Better question, can you name a saint that wasn’t a sadomasochistic pervert who relish in the pain of the disbelievers, or isn’t used to glorify pain and suffering?

    • Tainda

      Winner

    • Guest

      St. Francis of Assisi?

      • Rain

        Stigmata… which glorifies pain and suffering. It also proves he was a giant phony, albeit a very kind one supposedly.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      St. Brigid, who is the goddess Bridget of Ireland?

      • Michael W Busch

        I thought the St. Brigid story was a syncretic blend of the Celtic Brigid myths with stories about a Catholic nun, rather than being strictly one or the other?

        And wasn’t there a story about how she was supposed to have destroyed her own eye?

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          I really don’t know. I just know of pagans who’re trying to reclaim Bridget from St. Brigid, but I’ve not done any research at all into St. Brigid.

          • Michael W Busch

            It’s been a long time since I was in Catholic grade school, so I don’t remember the details.

            Checking Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Brigid_of_Kildare ), it seems that story was more gruesome than I had remembered. The story goes that a man objected to Brigid’s desire for a life of celibacy and threatened to force “her beautiful eye” into marriage. So Brigid dug out one of her own eyes. And then she supernaturally made both of the man’s eyes explode.

            There are a lot of bad morals from that story.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Ewww. Yes, yes there are. Okay, more icky glorifying of suffering and pain, as well as the Catholic fetishization of female virginity.

    • islandbrewer

      St. Urho

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Urho

      Yes, yes, entirely fictional … weird local Minnesotan invention … blah, blah, blah ….. so what?

    • Emmet

      While disagreeing with your description of any saint as a pervert – projection much? – and of how they could be said to glorify pain and suffering, here’s a list of saints about whom I would like to see you comment: Mary Magdelene. Maximilian Kolbe. Barnabas. Therese of Lisieux. Joseph. Monica. Charles Lwanga. Dominic. John XXIII. Vincent de Paul. Nicholas. Damien of Molokai. Mary of the Cross Mackillop. Pier Giorgio Frassati. John Bosco. Louis and Zelia Martin. John Henry Newman.

      I could go on.

      • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

        “While disagreeing with your description of any saint as a pervert – projection much?”

        Read the article. Saint Thomas enjoyed burning heretics. That makes him a pervert, maybe not a sexual pervert, but a pervert none the less. Also how about Agnes Blannbekin, who became obsessed with with the foreskin of Jesus. That’s got to be some where on the sexual pervert list.

        Mary Magdelene – Magdelene Laundries. She is constantly used as a symbol of fallen women. And thus use to justify their ill treatment.

        Maximilian Kolbe – He is a saint because he was chose to be executed in place of a stranger. I’m not saying that wasn’t a good deed, but that is almost by definition glorifying pain and suffering. And adds to the Catholic culture of making suffering a virtue.

        Barnabas – Again a myrtyr. Another example of glorifying suffering for religion, and trying to make suffering a virtue.

        Therese of Lisieux – Last words – ” I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me.”

        Joseph – Fictional.

        Saint Monica – again she is the patron saint of those suffering an unhappy marriage. Again, glorifying suffering to conform the teaching of the catholic church.

        I suppose if I had more time, I could deconstruct the rest of our list. But I’ll make it simple. So out of the hundreds of saints, most are myrtyrs (glorifying suffering for the sake of the church), or church officials (a good number are fit the Saint Thomas More mold). An exceptional few appear to be generally descent people.

        • Emmet

          Magdalen – I had a good chuckle when I read that your argument that irst-century Mary Magdalen is a sadomasochistic pervert and that she glorifies pain and suffering is basically: Because Irish convent laundries. Hoot.

          Kolbe – How does giving up your life so another person can live glorify pain and suffering? What an absurd statement. Doesn’t it instead glorify selflessness and charity? What is your worldview that you see generosity as bad?

          Barnabas – I don’t think you understand how the Church sees suffering. And interesting that you think Joseph is fictional but Barnabas isn’t. Whatever.

          Monica – what’s this patron saint stuff? What does that mean, in your understanding? Rather, isn’t Monica an example of love and perseverance? Isn’t that what she’s remembered for? You’re grasping at straws. I suppose if you had more time you could actually do some research and then construct an argument.

          Which saints, in your opinion, are “generally decent people”? You must have some in mind.

      • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

        While disagreeing with your description of any saint as a pervert – projection much?

        I will say, that despite the fact that I am typing this while wearing a full latex body suit covered in honey, while riding a pair of servant midgets, while cummly-women in Elvis masks throw pickles at me, I will never be as perverted and as messed up Yahweh. I mean torturing and sacrificing your own son to appease your own anger and then blaming it on others because they don’t love you enough, is the gold standard in perversions, and that doesn’t even touch his foreskin fetish.

        • Emmet

          What are you on about?

          • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

            Ok, you subtle hinted that I was a pervert. It was a passive-aggressive dick move on your part. But what I was implying that what ever sick and inhuman perversions I might harbor, it is nothing compared to the central tenet of your faith. So, it was a dick move on my part.

            • Emmet

              I think I was having a go at the sort of comment that says “Christians who talk against homosexual acts are often/usually closeted homosexuals” – a comment often seen on blogs like this, rather than actually implying you were a pervert. Didn’t really come across well.

    • Emmet

      this comment deleted

  • peicurmudgeon

    More and more, I read statements that the church did not torture or kill heretics, witches, or anyone else, that it was the state. The catholic church’s own history site describes things this way, and it is a constant refrain by Dinesh D’Souza. i am not enough of a historian to refute them, so it’s great to get some references.

    • the moother

      Because no Christian EVER lied to protect the reputation of the church.

    • Lmaris

      Considering Kings were excommunicated for denying the supremacy if the Roman Catholic Church, and hence their subservience to it, the state acted with the tacit, if not explicit approval of the church. The only condemnation of torture and execution was when it happened to Catholics.

    • trj

      Back then the Inquisition used the motto “Ecclesia non novit sanguinem” (roughly: “The Church does not have blood on its hands”). The Church rarely executed sinners but left it instead to state or local authorities (the verdict was of course a foregone conclusion – you can probably guess what happened to any official who refused to do the Inquisition’s dirty work). The Church was fully culpable, but pretended not to be, on a technicality (which appears to be used by Catholic apologists to this day).

      Additionally, the Inquisition was explicitly allowed to use torture by papal decree (decreed in a papal bull from the hand of the ironically named Pope Innocent IV).

    • Emmet

      The Church has a “history site”?

      • peicurmudgeon

        http://catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0029.html among others. All act to sanitize the past and blame things on the anti-Catholic Protestants and heretics.

        • Emmet

          Sure. And this is “the Church’s own history site”?

          It’s not – it’s run by a Catholic group, but that doesn’t at all make it “the Church’s own site”.

          You say this site among others – so the Church has several history sites? Wouldn’t that be a bit confusing? Why not have just one?

          Take home point – be sure of your facts before you make your arguments against the Church.

          • peicurmudgeon

            i guess I wasn’t clear. I have read in numerous places where the Catholic Church claims that the deaths and tortures in the various inquisitions were mostly due to secular governments. That site, among others, including the writing of D’Sousa, make these claims.

            Are you saying I am wrong and they don’t make those claims?

            • Emmet

              I was pointing out the unfortunate tendency of atheists to jump to conclusions – one of the funniest I’ve seen is PZ Myers citing New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopoedia as official Catholic teaching to prove a point. It isn’t, and atheists, atheist bloggers and academics, especially, and blog-commenters as well, should be sure they know what they’re talking about when they pipe up, “Da eeevil Catlick Church says XYZ”.

              Further:
              Does “the Catholic Church” make those claims or do Catholic commentators make those claims? Either way, your evidence that those claims are wrong is what?

              • peicurmudgeon

                I think all of us, not just atheists, are known to jump to conclusions. One think I do know is that trying to find an official stance of the RC Church on many things is difficult. Where would you recommend I look? There are many sites that seem to be taking some sort of official stance.

                In this particular case, what are you saying – the Church committed the described atrocities, or they passed the buck to the state? Or did these things never happen?

            • Joey Tranchina

              The question is not who was turning the screw
              but who was driving the bus.

              In a world where almost all the nobles and most priests were illiterate, society was guided and directed by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

        • Joey Tranchina

          I began my formal study of history at a jesuit university; but things didn not add up. It wasn’t till much later that I was exposed to unperverted sources where virtually everything looked much different and made sense to me.

          It’s like the differences between studying America’s Civil War at Boston College or at the Citadel.

    • Joey Tranchina

      There are some great history courses on line via iTunes University
      especially the ones from Yale John Merriman who lives not far from me teaches one of them. They really are first rate & free.

  • Tainda

    I loved The Tudors but one thing that bugged me about it was the portrayal of More as better than he was and pretty damned saintly.

  • Sean Clark

    The irony is that the M.O. of the Church letting the secular authorities do its bidding precisely follows the NT paradigm of the Pharisees lacking the moral courage to kill Christ on their own, and having the Roman authorities do it for them (according to the story anyway).

    How is this real life accounting of More any different than the NT fairy tale?

    • Greg G.

      The Romans were into blood sports and public executions but even they were appalled by the OT punishments for picking up sticks on the wrong day or stoning backtalking children. The church learned to deflect blame from that lesson.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    My impression has been that every Catholic saint is sainted for doing something that was actually horrible, but even I didn’t expect something this bad. Great article.

    • Joey Tranchina

      Actually, that’s not always true, but the big poof is what “sainthood” actually means.

      To be canonized is to be certified by the Catholic Church to be in “heaven.”

      I think that’s a real estate swindler’s dream. To make his own fake up-scale neighborhood, then to sell non-existent choir-front condos in it.
      What more could a con-artist want?

      Or as my late buddy, the fine poet, Bob Kaufmann wrote:
      “Heaven is a place for rich psychopaths who think they can fly.”

  • C Peterson

    He killed heretics. Why wouldn’t he have churches named after him?

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    Out of context, a different time, you should read this in the original Hebrew and Greek, look a unicorn!

    • The Other Weirdo

      I was going to, but… ooh, shiny!

  • Bitter Lizard

    The standard religious defense of characters like Thomas More is basically this:

    “But you have to consider that Thomas More was from a different time, where people had different values and there were different social norms when it came to doing things that would be considered evil by our modern standards.

    It doesn’t mean we should dismiss religion, which gives us a clear moral code with which to distinguish right and wrong.”

    (Note: “Thomas More” can be replaced with most religious leaders, movements and texts throughout history.)

    • Miss_Beara

      I don’t think people actually understand what they are saying when they use that excuse. They are saying that it was completely fine and dandy to break into peoples homes, arrest them for heresy and then burn them at the stake back then. That is just what people did! It does not matter what century it was, it was never ok to torture and burn people, nor was it ever considered a positive value to society.

      Or maybe they do and they just do not care… who knows.

      • Bitter Lizard

        The biggest problem with religious apologists is not that they unthinkingly parrot inane nonsense just because they heard someone else say it. It’s that even when you point out how inane it all is, they tend to retreat even further into bullshit instead of revising their perspectives. Most theists seem to have any part of their brains that theism touches shut down.

      • CottonBlimp

        Yes, they say that moral standards change depending on time and culture, and then accuse atheists of moral relativism.

        We can’t let these types claim they have objective morality. The only difference between them and cultural relativists is that they think the world’s morals should be decided by THEIR culture and no one else’s.

    • islandbrewer

      Lutherans, as well as others engaged in the Protestant Reformation at the time, you see, were just sooooo much more flammable way back then. With the decrease in the partial pressure of atmospheric oxygen, and the increase in CO and CO2, Lutherans just don’t catch fire like they used to.

      It all has to be considered in its historical context.

    • Sean Clark

      That defense is just so silly…as if there is ever a valid defense for lighting people on fire for Jesus.

  • JET

    He was just emulating his supreme sky daddy. Why would the Catholic church have a problem with that?

  • DKeane123

    I love these types of blog posts. Always learning.

    • allein

      Seconded. Keep ‘em coming :)

  • advancedatheist

    I’ve wondered why many progressives admire Che Guevara, a sociopathic torturer and murderer. I saw Che’s image in those Occupy derelict camps in 2011. According to one biography I read, Che aspired to become a Latin American version of Stalin. Some role model, huh?

    Yet these same progressives think they can discredit Ayn Rand by pointing out that she had a youthful infatuation with a famous child murderer in the 1920′s. That sort of dysfunctional female behavior doesn’t seem so rare now, given how many young women around the world have sent unsolicited love letters to famous murderers and terrorists like Joran van der Sloot, Anders Breivik and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      To whom is this comment adressed?

    • baal

      Your obsession with female sexual behaviour makes you look like a nut job. And your endless potshots, at best, make you look generically grumpy. Your comments often have little bearing on the OP. Have you considered getting a psych evaluation?

      • Michael W Busch

        Please don’t use “go see a psychologist” and “you look like a nut job” as insults. That contributes to stigmatization of mental illness / mental disorders.

        “advancedatheist” is being sexist, classist, and spamming irrelevancies. Those are plenty bad enough.

        • Kevin R. Cross

          Actually, advancedatheist is putting forward a point of reference to help explain one aspect of the piece. He’s pointing out the fact that a revered figure’s flaws can often be dropped by the wayside by the reverers, leading to an undeserved positive reputation. Which is not the least bit irrelevant.

          • Michael W Busch

            No, that is not what advancedathiest is doing. If it were, he could have just said that (as David’s comment further down does).

            He’s pulling the “people I don’t like are just as bad as [insert bad behavior of other person here*]” bait-and-switch and going into sexist and classist slurs.

            Do not attempt to defend bigoted speech. And, to avoid continuing this derailment, I am done.

            *Edit: In this case, the bad behavior is uncritical adoration of people as heroes while ignoring the bad things those people have done – which is a problem no matter who does it. But, again, that does exactly nothing to excuse advancedatheist’s bigotry.

    • Michael W Busch

      None of that has any relevance to this article.

      And cut out the sexism and classism.

    • Jim Jones

      > I’ve wondered why many progressives admire Che Guevara

      They don’t. They just know he pisses off assholes like you. And Ayn Rand was batshit crazy.

      • Joey Tranchina

        Maybe in America that’s true but it is not true in Europe — certainly not in Italy or in France.

        There are very active communist parties here and Che is widely admired. There’s even a brand of cigarettes here with that Iconic image of him on it. Just for a fact check.

        And yes “Ayn Rand was batshit crazy.” but thanks to the level of literacy, her bad books have very limited appeal here.

    • ShoeUnited

      Outside of an education setting: I’ve met no progressives who ever remembered that Che was an opportunist who wished to be a dictator. All they seem to remember is that he helped start revolutions. I’ve never met anyone who remembers anything about Rand other than that she was a Russian whose vagina splooshed over Capitalism and Railroads.

      At most, people remember that Che is that guy on those “commie shirts” with the beret, and Rand (which a good chunk don’t even know are female) was the gal who wrote Atlas Shrugged that Republicans love so much (and most conservatives don’t even like/are even aware while reading Rand’s philosophy).

      Now, all that bullshit after Rand is a non sequitur. What does Rand’s unique love affair have anything to do with anything else? You jump midship of a somewhat clear thought about not trusting famous figures and go into this weird world of Letters to the Prisoners. Which in and of itself isn’t bad. Different stripes etc.

      You keep harping on this topic of women. And while some are arguing about whether or not you need help; I can’t help but feel that you have some issues there to work out. It’s not that I think you’re crazy because your views are bigoted. Even bigots have a right to be a bigot even I don’t agree with it. And for the future down voters who don’t like that last statement: You don’t like that opinion? Tough. Thought crimes are what Christians do.

      What I do think is you’re obsessed to the point that you have to bring it up even in topics where it doesn’t apply. You make these half hearted excuses to segue into this topic. That is worrying. You should talk to someone who can help you work out your obsession. I don’t necessarily believe you’ll be cured. But maybe if you work it out you won’t be as obsessed.

    • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

      …and now you’ve hit that awkward point when you’re so much of a misogynist that you try to shoehorn your reactionary garbage into a topic unrelated to women’s rights.

    • Joey Tranchina

      I’m not a big fan of communism, since I’d probably be among the first put up against the wall, but the people of Cuba have had 50 years of medical care and access to education that the Cubanos ricos — the scum who now infest Miami — would have kept from them.

      Once the Castro brother’s boot is finally lifted from the necks of the people and the inhumane American sanctions removed, Cuba will blossom.

      Yea, and I’m not going to get into the rest of that…

  • daryl carpenter

    I feel very conflicted when I read about these types of people. They were obviously very important, in many ways brilliant, but in the end they were just fanatics. It’s exactly the same with people like Luther and Calvin. Incredibly gifted, even brave, considering what they were going up against, but one was the most vilest antisemite imaginable and the other had someone burnt to death for disagreeing with him (and for creating Calvinism, of course, surely one of the worst idea’s anyone’s had in the history of anything). Those things simply can’t be whitewashed, even though apologists over the centuries have tried their best to do so.

    • geru

      Our state church is Evangelical-Lutheran, so it’s especially rich when some Conservative Christian once called atheism a driving force for the horrible things Hitler did. When in fact the very person that their sect is named after, wrote books that were one of the actual sources of inspiration for the exact ideologies that Hitler had.

  • Miss_Beara

    I am really looking forward to this series. :)

  • David

    Dude this happens with many people in history. We like to forget the evil shit they did, Ghandi (slept with his underage nieces), Che Guevara (killed hundreds of innocent people, especially hated gays), Lincoln (suspended habeas corpus, without congress’s consent, for POW’s), Thomas Edison (invented pretty much nothing, usually undercut people patents), etc.

    • Itarion

      Ew.
      Revolutions get violent. I’m not defending, no one is right when the bullets start flying.
      To be fair, so did Jefferson Davies, and it was a rather extraordinary time.
      You’re right, Nikola Tesla was way better. But we can’t be idolizing immigrants in ‘Murica, the country founded by immigrants.

      Really, though, you are right. Not one of the idols that we humans like to hold up to each other as the pinnacle of goodness is absolutely good. They are something to strive for, and to strive to be better than.

    • Intelligent Donkey

      The problem with these “heroes” is that we deify them, we ignore that they’re just fallible humans. We’re so horny for hero-worship that we put anyone on a pedestal, right up there next to Jesus. This is so ingrained in the human psyche that atheists do it just as much as the religious. We don’t need gods, and we don’t need heroes.

      My problem with Gandhi isn’t that he slept with his nieces (supposedly only slept next to, but never had sex with). My problem with Gandhi is that he was a bigoted racial purist. He despised blacks and would never mix with the “lower” castes.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/irene-monroe/the-gandhi-none-of-us-kne_b_842941.html

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/oct/17/southafrica.india

  • sam

    “He betrayed Christianity when he led it so violently into court politics”

    REV 2:26-27 “To him who overcomes & does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations–He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to
    pieces like pottery.”
    Nope. Thomas More was quite loyal to Christianity.

  • trj

    The papacy doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with the awful lack of morals of many of its saints (or its own popes for that matter).

    Sainthood is a political tool. It is morality by papal decree, a purely political decision to elevate people as moral examples despite sometimes blatant moral shortcomings. It doesn’t really matter how a saint behaved in real life, their morality is defined by proclamation. In much the same way that God is automatically declared to be good, no matter how fucked up he behaves or how immoral his commands are.

  • Jim Jones

    You show me a saint or the like. I’l show you a nasty piece of work you’d hate as a neighbor, let alone as a boss.

  • maybourne

    I’ve never heard catholic defined in that way before! It is usually used to mean wide-ranging or broad-minded.

  • Without Malice

    The fact that one of the more honorable saints was in actuality a murderous, sociopathic bastard says all you need to know about the Catholic church, which is, and always has been, one of the most corrupt and violent institutions on the face of the earth.

  • RedGreenInBlue

    This article really made me look at my Catholic upbringing in a new light. Although I grew up in a observant Catholic family, and attended Catholic schools from nursery group to sixth form, I remember only very rarely having discussions with family or friends about Catholic doctrine and its merits – as if everyone including me was “going through the motions”, and trying to avoid the awkward impasses that occurred the few times we did explore such topics outside the controlled environment of the classroom. Yet I do remember Thomas More being a prominent figure: we was well known for his “principled stand”, and his life was covered in history, religion and even English lit. classes (Boult’s play “A man for all seasons”) Clearly he was (and is) a revered figure amongst Catholics.

    To the best of my recollection, no-one at all mentioned this darker side of More, beyond the general statement that he “defended the Catholic faith”. And yet I find it hard to believe that neither my parish priest nor the any of the lay brothers and priests at my school knew about it (it is, after all, accepted historical fact). Were they so brainwashed themselves, or did they simply whitewash More for their flock’s benefit? Either way, this does their image as educators no good at all.

    • Pofarmer

      “Were they so brainwashed themselves,”

      A lot of times, it’s amazing what people DON’T know. Most Catholics, even those educated in Catholic schools, know very little about the history of the Church, and much of the time, what they do learn is superstitious nonsense about it. I don’t think the Church is particularly eager for folks to know the truth.

  • Derrik Pates

    We don’t have a Catholic church named for him here, but we *do* have a Catholic school. Which, once I recently found out about this (admittedly prior to this article, but), seems like a particular fuck-you to the predominant Lutheran population. The More You Know™.

  • Joey Tranchina

    What Thomas More said of the Church not torturing or killing with its own clean hands is essentially true of the entire Inquisition, where the torture and murder was outsourced to civil authorities, after an ecclesiastical trial, based on Canon Law, which is based largely and not inappropriately on what are called “Papal Bulls.”

    Thomas More was typical of the religious fanatics of his Church and his time, actually a rather light-weight Torquemada, which is nothing when compared to what was done to thousands of innocents here in the south of France.

    The Cathedral in Bezier, less than half an hour from where I am right now, was where the last residents of the city sought safety — they burned it to the ground. A plaque on the rebuilt version still has the gall to call the slaughter of 15-22,000 utterly innocent men, women and children a defense of the Church against the “Albigensian heresy” and not what it was a conspiracy between a corrupt pope and greedy northern nobles to pull off the largest land grab in European history — by any means necessary.

    Religion is what a man does who has no conscience after he has already pimped out his sister then, when he has nothing left to hustle, he sells nothing.
    Pimping religion is the second oldest profession.


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