“Saint” Catherine of Aragon: Defender of Traditional Marriage? Or Blow to Ecumenism?editor
From the Catholic Herald… Katherine of Aragon should be a saint by Laura Perrins
“The voices had ceased now. She was all alone at the top of the tower, with no one to attend her. She had not eaten, but that did not matter, for she was not hungry. She tried to pray, but was too disturbed in her mind, and fearful of what the morrow might bring. There were no rushlights to light the candles, so her rooms were in darkness, and they were freezing. Lacking her maids, she could not unlace her gown and undress for bed, but no matter, it was too cold to disrobe. Removing her hood, her shoes and the pendant she always wore – the cross with the three pearls that Henry had given her long ago – she climbed fully dressed into bed and huddled down under the covers.”
This was the description of the miserable existence Henry VIII had imposed on Katherine of Aragon, his first and only true wife, given by Alison Weir in her first book in the series of books on Henry’s six wives. The subtitle Weir gives for her historical fiction novel, told from Katherine of Aragon’s point of view, is ‘The True Queen’ which is exactly right.
As I read the over five-hundred-page book on Katherine of Aragon I had many questions – the first being why isn’t this woman a Saint of the Catholic Church? Although Katherine of Aragon was not martyred like St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher (the famous English saints from that blood-stained era), her life was certainly a living martyrdom, once Henry had decided to put her aside for the home-wrecker and husband-stealer Anne Boleyn.
Catherine first had to travel from Spain as a very young woman to marry Henry’s younger brother Arthur. She endured losing Arthur when he was young and then some years of uncertainty and wrangling followed over her dowry and whether in fact she would marry the new heir Henry VIII. But marry him she did, as her first marriage had not been consummated and therefore was invalid, and they had a papal dispensation in any case.
What many people forget is that according to the book Henry and Katherine had a very happy marriage – he adored her, and she was utterly devoted to him. Katherine endured seven pregnancies, some ending in miscarriages, others in still births. Only their daughter Mary, named after the Blessed Virgin, survived. There was an heir, a living boy who succumbed to illness in very early infancy, I believe because he was separated from his mother who had to leave her baby at Richmond. Separating mothers and babies was of course what they did back then – an idiotic idea that probably hastened the poor baby boy’s demise. I like to play with history and think how different things would have been if Katherine had practiced attachment parenting with her young son and he had survived.
We all know the story of how Henry longed for a male heir, but he also longed to have Anne Boleyn in his bed so it was necessary to concoct the notion that his first marriage was invalid. Henry argued that as Katherine had been married to his brother before him, the second marriage was in fact invalid.
Katherine refused to agree to this. The marriage to Arthur was never consummated, making it null and void, and there was also the papal dispensation. Henry applied considerable pressure and enticements to force Katherine to abandon the truth. Instead of living a life of comfort and luxury as the “Princess Dowager”, Queen Katherine refused to go along with Henry’s ruse, as she did not dare risk her soul and her salvation. To punish her, Henry stripped her of her many maids and banished her to various miserable and drafty castles that imperilled her health. Nor was Katherine permitted to see her daughter Mary, an unbearable emotional torture she bore with fortitude. Queen Katherine eventually died in January 1536, a year after the executions of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and Sir Thomas More, who had been a great friend of Henry.
We all know how it ended – once the Pope said Henry and Katherine’s marriage was indeed valid and that he should return to her, Henry broke from Rome and England was lost. Henry married Anne anyway, and many of the faithful that refused to acknowledge him as head of his church in England, and refused to accept his marriage to Anne, were executed in a gruesome fashion.
It was Katherine’s courage, modesty and determination to abide by her conscience and loyalty to her marriage vows that we should remember the most. We should bear this in mind when we hear all this weary chatter about the Churches rules on divorce and remarrying being all a bit strict – and that the church should get with the times and go along with adultery and the breaking of marriage vows.
The so-called liberals who push this agenda are anything but compassionate, and we should remember that there is nothing modern about wanting to put away your aging wife for a newer model. It’s been done before and it will be done again. The church rules on marriage can be strict – but they are there to protect the most vulnerable, i.e. women and children.
People have always wanted to have sexual relations that the Church disapproves of, such as with someone who is not their spouse. These rules can be inconvenient for many people, it annoys them that they exist and would like to change them. Then their lustful desires can be given an air of respectability. But there is nothing respectable about wanting to ditch your spouse and marry another. Secular society permits it – but don’t expect the Catholic Church to go along with it too.
A lot of people died defending the indissolubility of marriage. Many religious members were hung, drawn and quartered because they did not believe a husband can have ‘a newer model’.
Catherine of Aragon endured a living hell defending her own marriage. We will never be asked to do the same – but we can at least defend the church’s teachings on marriage in face of modern-day attacks from the media and from many ‘liberals’ inside the church itself. Source
Laura Perrins makes some excellent points in support of her belief that Catherine of Aragon should be canonised. It would certainly be a boost for marriage, unmistakeable evidence that the Church in our times values lifelong fidelity in marriage despite the prevailing permissiveness which has led to the breakdown of family life in the west.
But would such a canonisation also infuriate those intent on replacing the Church’s missionary work of seeking to bring souls into the visible body of Christ’s Church with the much less demanding, socially acceptable ecumenical movement? Your thoughts…
That is an excellent article by Laura Perrins and it would be fantastic to see Catherine (Katherine?) of Aragon canonised.(I’ve never seen her name spelt with a K before- I prefer C) That would be wonderful to have such a saint in defence of lifelong traditional marriage. That really would be one in the eye for Henry VIII! And yes, a blow to the ecumenical movement, but that would be no bad thing.
Maybe those with marriage difficulties could pray to her for a miracle – that would be a good way to get her Cause on the books!
The canonisation of Catherine of Aragon would be a way of correcting the ecumenical error – I totally agree.
Laura Perrins’ article is excellent, I agree, and I also think it is a great idea for couples suffering marriage problems to pray to Catherine of Aragon – a divorce averted and a couple staying together and thriving as a result of that prayer, would be a real miracle.
Praying for a miracle to Catherine of Aragon if you are going through marriage difficulties – that is an excellent idea.
Regarding the “blow to ecumenism”, the canonisation of Catherine of Aragon (I, too, prefer the C!) would force a genuine discussion about the missionary nature of the Church, and Henry’s role in the break-up of Christendom, so that would be, as you say, no bad thing – indeed, it would be a very good thing, in my considered opinion.
Marriage is under sustained attack these days and so it would be wonderful to have a saint, especially one of royal connection (since their marriages have also been among the failures) to remind society of the importance of staying married to one spouse “till death do us part”. It would also remind the dissenters in the Church that the marriage bond cannot be broken just because the husband wants a newer model. It would certainly give a boost to marriage.
There is already a married couple canonised – the parents of St Therese of Lisieux – but they are not given much publicity IMHO, and that is a pity.
Wow. I agree that Catherine of Aragon should be a saint.
Maybe I’m being a bit slow here but what is the connection between ecumenism and the canonisation of Catherine of Aragon?
The Church of England would be the connection IMHO. If the Church canonises Catherine of Aragon, who refused to accept Henry’s attack on Christian marriage, then that puts the C of E in its place, doesn’t it. If Henry had not done what he did, i.e. refuse to accept the Pope’s authority in his marriage argument, then there would never have been any C of E and that would make the canonisation a bit of a damp squib in the ecumenical ideology. That’s how I see it.
I’m not so sure about the ecumenical aspect, but I definitely think the canonisation of Henry VIII’s first and only wife, mistreated as she was, would send a clear signal about the Church’s commitment to preaching traditional marriage.
I also think she should be counted among the martyrs because – as Perrins says – she “endured a living hell defending her own marriage” when she could have lived a life of ease and comfort if she had just gone along with the king’s wishes. It’s not just bodily suffering and death that makes someone a martyr. If anyone gave up their life for the faith it was surely Catherine of Aragon.
Catherine of Aragon is both.
A defender of traditional marriage in the true Catholic Sacramental sense and a blow against the false theology of the Protestant heresy which supports Divorce and re marriage and ultimately rejects the fundamental nature and Sacramentality marriage as God established and confirmed by Our Lord in Sacred Scripture.
It would be a shot in the arm for traditional marriage if Catherine of Aragon were to be canonised, but I can’t see Francis being the pope to do that – it wouldn’t square with the shocking Amoris Laetitia.