Rorate Caeli

"An Act of Parliament, directly oppugnant
to the laws of God and his holy Church..."

All which notwithstanding the jury found him guilty, and incontinent upon the verdict the Lord Chancellor [for that matter chief commissioner] beginning in judgment against him, Sir Thomas More said to him,
"My Lord, when I was towards the law, the manner in such case was to ask the prisoner before judgment, why judgment should not be given against him."
Whereupon the Lord Chancellor staying his judgment, wherein he had partly proceeded, demanded of him what he was able to say to the contrary. Who then in this sort mildly made answer:
"Forasmuch as, my Lord, this indictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament, directly oppugnant to the laws of God and his holy Church, the supreme government of which, or of any part thereof, may no temporal prince presume by any law to take upon him as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual preeminence by the mouth of our Saviour himself, personally present upon the earth, to St. Peter and his successors, bishops of the same see, by special prerogative, granted, it is therefore in law amongst Christian men insufficient to charge any Christian."...
Then was it thereunto by the Lord Chancellor answered, that seeing all the bishops, universities, and best learned men of the Realm had to this Act agreed, it was much marvelled that he alone against them all would so stiffly stick and vehemently argue there against. To that Sir Thomas More replied saying,
"If the number of bishops and universities be so material, as your Lordships seemeth to take it, then see I little cause why that thing in my conscience should make any change. For I nothing doubt, but that though not in this Realm, yet in Christendom about they be not the least part, that be of my mind therein. But if I should speak of those that be already dead, of whom many be now saints in heaven, I am very sure it is the far greater part of them, that all the while they lived, thought in this case that way that I think now. And therefore am I not bound to conform my conscience to the council of one realm against the General Council of Christendom."...
After which ended, the commissioners yet courteously offered him, if he had anything else to allege for his defence to grant him favourable audience, who answered,
"More have I not to say but like as the blessed Apostle St. Paul, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, was present, and consented to the death of St. Stephen, and kept their clothes that stoned him to death, and yet be they now both twain holy saints in heaven, and shall continue there friends for ever, so I verily trust and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your Lordships have now in earth been judges to my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to our everlasting salvation."
William Roper
The Life of Sir Thomas More
Our regular feature on the Feast of Saints John Fisher, Bishop, and Thomas More - Martyrs. "Deus, qui beatos Martyres tuos Ioannem et Thomam veræ fidei et Romanæ Ecclesiæ principatus propugnatores inter Anglos suscitasti: eorum meritis ac precibus concede; ut eiusdem fidei professione, unum omnes in Christo efficiamur et simus. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen."


  1. The best of Shakespeare moveth not so much as this. That this learned and eruidite man, who's argument was so plainly in the right, could so succinctly express his unwavering convictions, even to his perdition, in succinct and undeniable terms which left his judges virtually speechless, and could yet wish of full charitable heart that he might soon meet them merrily together in heaven unto their everlasting salvation, is why he is a shining saint among the firmament of the celestial court. That he did so in an age which was able to record it, and in our own language, is an inspiration and a grace to all of us.

    St. Thomas More, intercede for us and for our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. Our Lady of Victories, intercede for him.

  2. Iakovos3:38 AM

    "The best of Shakespeare... ". Really? Sounds too legalistic and rhetorical -- no flare and spice and sudden turn of beauty as one finds in the Bard. Taking nothing from the Saint in his holiness -- a prose master if you like Renaissance high style based on the Greek and Roman models -- but a Shakespeare, More ain't.

  3. Iakovos, the comparison was not to Shakespeare's style, artistry, or talent, but to the effect that the best of Shakespeare has on a man. Hebdomadary clearly is NOT saying St. Thomas was a Shakespeare.

  4. Forgive me, Son Lavakos, but considering that Shakespeare is mere play-acting, but that this was a man - a Saint - with his life in his mouth, whose wits couldn't have been more eloquently or coherently expressed, make this poetry on a level that Shakespeare could never write, because it's not playacting, it's real life and death...and love. You may take it from a professional, thou know'st not that whereof thou speakst.

  5. Touché! Good riposte, Hebdomadary!

  6. I am very glad that you have dwawn attention to St Thomas More on a site that is read worldwide.

    Here in England, we are honoured to have so many martyrs, and yet they tend to be downplayed. It is part of the spirit of ecunemism as widely practiced today not to mention the martyrs, at least in public. Very regrettable

  7. St. Thomas Moore acted against the government of England but not against The Holy Mother Church or the Holy See.

  8. Anonymous2:26 PM

    I second the motion!:

    "Touché! Good riposte, Hebdomadary!"

    Br. Alexis Bugnolo

  9. That is a fascinating selection from Roper. Any American lawyer would recognize More's plea immediately: his conviction is unconstitutional. King and parliament are without authority to make such a law.

    Even more interesting: the Lord Chancellor appears to know it since he dodges the issue. Whether all the "best people" agreed to the act is hardly relevant. You can almost picture him squirming on his bench as he tries to find something reasonable to say that won't also get him beheaded.

    Yet More even has an answer for that, immaterial humbug though it be. A good lawyer to the last.

    Wonderful stuff. Thanks for putting it up.




Comment boxes are debate forums for readers and contributors of RORATE CÆLI.

Please, DO NOT assume that RORATE CÆLI contributors or moderators necessarily agree with or otherwise endorse any particular comment just because they let it stand.


(1) This is our living room, in a deeply Catholic house, and you are our guest. Please, behave accordingly. Any comment may be blocked or deleted, at any time, whenever we perceive anything that is not up to our standards, not conducive to a healthy conversation or a healthy Catholic environment, or simply not to our liking.

(2) By clicking on the "publish your comment" button, please remain aware that you are choosing to make your comment public - that is, the comment box is not to be used for private and confidential correspondence with contributors and moderators.

(3) Any name/ pseudonym/ denomination may be freely used simply by choosing the third option, "Name/URL" (the URL box may be left empty), when posting your comment - therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to simply post as "Anonymous", making debate unnecessarily harder to follow. Any comment signed simply as "Anonymous" will be blocked.

Thank you!