Church History : the English Church, ca. 1500

Like in Germany, in England high church officials such as archbishops, bishops and abbots, had been involved in state administration over centuries, for the same reasons - they were educated and loyal. There were, however, a number of differences. For one, the INVESTITURE CONFLICT was fought over lay investiture in the Empire; in England the monarchy had preserved it's influence over who was elected in high church office. The church of England, therefore, had always been a branch of royal administration. Second, as the English monarchy did not undergo an eclipse such as the Empire did in the later 13th century, the regional lords could not turn their positions into those of semi-sovereign princes.
Yet, it was common practice that positions in the higher church administration were filled with noblemen. Only after the WARS OF THE ROSES, in which various noble factions tried to exert too much power, did the new TUDOR DYNASTY look elsewhere for capable persons to fill such positions. One such person was CARDINAL WOLSEY, the son of a butcher, an ambitious man willing to serve his king, HENRY VIII.
The English church province was plagued by scandals such as priests unable to read the bible, having mistresses, the sale of indulgences etc. Yet, the reformation in England did not start with intellectuals protesting, it was a matter merely politically advantageous.

Biographies of Cardinal Wolsey from Encarta and from Catholic Encyclopedia

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on February 20th 2002

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