The first centuries of the Church's history saw her sons and daughters persecuted fiercely by Jews and pagans. The scions of the Roman Empire engaged in a relentless campaign of vicious attacks upon Catholics, including popes and bishops and priests, between 67 A.D. and the issuance of the Edict of Milan by Emperor Constantine in 313 A.D. Saint Alphonsus de Liguori estimated that around eleven million Catholics were killed during this initial era of martyrdom. Catholic missionaries, such as Saint Boniface in 755 A.D., continued to suffered at the hands of barbarians during the rest of the First Millennium. The rise of the false, violent religion known as Mohammedanism resulted in yet further attacks, as yet ongoing, on Catholics throughout the known world.
The emergence of Christendom over the course of the First Millennium and into the first part of the Second Millennium produced great exemplars of the Social Reign of Christ the King amongst the ranks of temporal rules. Men such as Saint Henry, Saint Stephen of Hungary, and Saint Edward the Confessor, Saint Canute, King of Denmark, Saint Ferdinand III, King of Leon and Castile, Gabriel Garcia Moreno of Ecudaor, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, among many others, saw it as their solemn duty to support the missionary work of the Church and to help to foster those conditions in civil society that would be most conducive to the sanctification and salvation of the souls of their subjects.
These rulers, as well as others who would follow their example, such as Saint Louis IX, King of France, knew that there were limits that existed in the Divine positive law and the natural law which they were bound to observe in the exercise of their temporal powers of the civil State. They respected the fact that Holy Mother Church could, as a last resort following the use of Indirect Power of teaching and preaching and exhortation, interpose herself in situations where the good of souls demanded her intervention against the unjust exercise of their own powers. And, quite importantly, these holy exemplars of the Social Reign of Christ the King respected the liberties of Holy Mother Church.
Saint Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in his own cathedral in 1170, had to fight for the liberties of the Church against King Henry II, who was very intent on making the Church serve his own purposes, a foreshadowing of the evils of another King Henry some four hundred sixty years later. Saint Thomas a Becket, although a friend of King Henry Plantagenet, would not let human respect stand in the way of defending the absolute right of the Catholic Church to be free in matters of her internal governance from any interference by temporal officials. The king of a country had to be subordinate to the King of Kings Who was born for us in poverty and in anonymity in Bethlehem so as to be crucified as Our King of Love on Calvary. No amount of blandishments from even a close friend, whom he had served for a time as the Chancellor of the Realm, and no amount of punishments imposed on his own relatives could persuade Saint Thomas a Becket to disown the King of Kings in order to curry favor with a mere mortal whose own kingship was transitory and circumscribed in the exercise of its legitimate powers by the Deposit of Faith entrusted to the Catholic Church.
Saint Thomas a Becket was a humble man. He prayed day and night. He served the poor with selfless abandon. He preached the Gospel fearlessly in the midst of all of the threats that were being made against him and his relatives. He wore a hair-shirt to mortify his flesh. Nevertheless, he did not hesitate as Archbishop of Canterbury to resist his friend, King Henry II, in order to reclaim lands that belonged rightly to the Church and to oppose with great courage the imposition of unjust taxes upon her by the civil state. Moreover, Saint Thomas asserted the right of the Church to try clerics charged with civil crimes in ecclesiastical courts as opposed to their being tried in civil courts.
Unlike the "bishops" of the counterfeit church of conciliarism in the United States of America who have sought to shield priests guilty of perverted behavior from all real punishments, whether ecclesiastical or civil, Saint Thomas a Becket meant to deal severely with clerics adjudged guilty of having committed crimes. He was simply asserting the right of the Church and not the civil state to do so, recognizing that the civil state might abuse its prosecutorial power to trump up totally bogus charges against priests so as to extort silence from them in the pulpit about matters of civil governance contrary to the demands of objective justice and thus the good of souls. It was in no way the intention of Saint Thomas a Becket to do what Bernard "Cardinal" Law and Roger "Cardinal" Mahony and countless other conciliar "bishops" have done, that is, to protect perverted priests by transferring them to other assignments without either punishing them for their perversity or seeking their spiritual reform for having the predilection to engage in unnatural acts indicative of grave mental disorders. Saint Thomas a Becket was willing to be charged with a bogus charge of "contempt of court" rather than yield for one instant to King Henry II's demands to bring the Church in England to heel under his power.
For the good of the Church, however, and for the sake of civil peace Saint Thomas was willing to absent himself from Canterbury for a time in order to calm King Henry's anger and to foster the Church's liberties. It was the prayerful hope of Saint Thomas while he was in exile in France, chiefly under the protection of King Louis VII of France, that the rights of the Church to be free from any and all threats imposed by the civil state would be respected anew. Alas, he had to pay with his life for his defense of the liberties of Holy Mother Church against the unjust exercise of civil authority by a fellow Catholic, falling under the blows imposed upon his body during vespers on December 29, 1170, becoming a new kind of martyr: one killed by fellow Catholics who viewed an archbishop's loyalty to Christ the King as disloyalty to the civil state. Coming as it did during the Octave of Christmas eight hundred forty-sven years ago, the martyrdom of Saint Thomas a Becket reminds us that there will be those from the household of the Faith itself--and not just from the world-at-large--who will tempt us even during the solemnities of the Church's liturgical year to surrender to the exigencies of the moment rather than to remain steadfast at all times and in all places to the fullness of the Catholic Faith without one moment's hesitation.
Here is the account of our Saint's life as found in the readings for Matins in today's Divine Office:
Thomas was born in London, in the year of our Lord 1117, and succeeded Theobald in the Archbishopric of Canterbury (in 1162). He had previously filled with great distinction the office of Lord Chancellor, and showed an indomitable firmness in his duty as Primate. When Henry II., King of England, in an assembly of the Bishops and great men of his realm, endeavoured to pass laws detrimental to the advantage and dignity of the Church, he opposed himself so steadily to the king's wishes, that, neither promises, nor threats availing to shake him, he was about to be cast into prison, had he not made good his escape in time. The whole of his kinsfolk without regard to age or sex, his friends, and his advisers, were then banished the kingdom, and those who were able, were bound by an oath to make their way to the presence of Thomas, in the hope that though careless of his own sufferings, he might yield at the sight of their misery. But neither flesh and blood, nor the pleadings of natural affection could make him swerve from the line of his pastoral duty.
Lie betook himself to Pope Alexander III., by whom he was graciously received, and who committed him to the care of the Cistercians at Pontigni. As soon as this came to the knowledge of King Henry, he sent threatening letters to the monks, in order to drive Thomas from this shelter. The saint was unwilling that the Cistercian Order should suffer on his account, and therefore voluntarily withdrew from Pontigni, and accepted the invitation of Lewis VII., King of France, to go to his court. He remained here, until his banishment was recalled at the intercession of the Pope and of the King of France, and he returned to England amid great public joy. He was quietly continuing the work of a faithful shepherd of souls, when certain calumniators denounced him to the king as a plotter against the crown and the public peace. Henry, deceived by these libels, cried out that it was hard that one priest should never let him have quiet in his kingdom.
Come wicked servants of the king, hearing his words, and thinking to do him pleasure, betook themselves to Canterbury to rid him of the Archbishop. They entered the cathedral in the evening as Thomas was proceeding to assist at Evensong. The clergy in attendance on him, conscious of the attempt about to be made, wished to bolt the doors. But the saint caused them to be again opened, saying, The Church of God is not to be made a castle of, and for the cause of God's Church I am willing to die. He then said to his murderers, I charge you in the name of the Almighty God to hurt none of my people. With these words he fell on his knees, and commended himself to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to St Denis, and to the other holy Patrons of the Church of Canterbury. He presently offered his sacred head for the stroke of death, and received it from the swords of those wicked men with the same constancy with which he had withstood the commands of the unrighteous king. The murderers pulled out his brains and strewed them all about the floor of the Church. He testified on the 29th day of December, in the (53rd) year of (his own age and of) our Lord 11 70, and, being afterwards honoured with many miracles, was canonised by Pope Alexander IIL (in 1173). (Matins, The Divine Office, Feast of Saint Thomas a Becket.)
Saint Thomas a Becket's witness to the rights of God and His Holy Church against the unjust exercise of civil authority by a Catholic potentate was one of the first instances of Catholic Cains shedding the blood of Catholic Abels, following by ninety-one years the murder of Saint Stanislaus by King Boleslaus in Poland in the year 1079 A.D., and following within that same ninety years or so the plots of Emperor Henry IV against the rights of the Church during the reign of Pope Saint Gregory VII. Catholics were doing the bidding of the adversary by spilling the blood of their brother Catholics to advance the goals of the civil state over moral reform and the rights of God and His Holy Church.
The adversary, who prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls and to do as much damage to the Church Militant on earth as possible before Our Lord's Second Coming in glory at the end of time on the Last Day, had done likewise with many of the Prophets of the Old Testament, men who had dared to challenge the kings of Israel and Judah to reform their own lives and to govern according to God's laws rather than the dictates of their own disordered wills. It was to be expected, therefore, that some Catholic kings would lose sight of Whose Kingship they were meant to imitate. If King David, of whose royal house Our Lord was born, could arrange the murder of Urias, the husband of his paramour, then it should not be too terribly surprising that men such as Saint Stanislaus and Saint Thomas a Becket would suffer at the hands of their own co-religionists, friends, and relatives for the sake of remaining steadfast to the Gospel of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the rights of Holy Mother Church.
King Henry II was forced to do public penance for the role he played in uttering the words that led to the murder of his friend-turned-adversary, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Thomas a Becket. Although prompted in large part by the overwhelming public outrage over the murder of the beloved Archbishop, a friend to the poor and the downtrodden in the kingdom, King Henry did submit in 1174 to the Papal decree that he be scourged at the tomb of Saint Thomas to make reparation for his stubborn insistence on his own rights rather than those of God and His Church. King Henry II walked barefoot from London to Canterbury in order to be scourged! Largely as a result of the outcry engendered by the murder of Saint Thomas a Becket, King Henry's son, John I, was forced forty-one years later, in the year 1215, to recognize that there are indeed limits that exist in the nature of things upon the exercise of civil power. The Church's own rights were guaranteed at the very beginning and at the end of the Magna Carta:
In the first place we have conceded to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs for ever that the English church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we wish that it be thus observed. This is apparent from the fact that we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English church, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III., before the quarrel arose between us and our barons. This freedom we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs for ever. . . .
Thus, we wish and we firmly ordain that the English church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these previously determined liberties, rights, and concessions, well and in peace, freely and quietly, in their fullness and integrity, for themselves and their heirs, from us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever, as is previously described here. (The Magna Carta.)
As Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., noted in The Liturgical Year:
But in what does this sacred liberty consist? It consists in the Church's absolute independence of every secular power in the ministry of the Word of God, which she is bound to preach in season and out of season, as St. Paul says, to all mankind, without distinction of nation or race or age or sex: in the administration of the Sacraments, to which she must invite all men without exception, in order to the world's salvation: in the practice, free from all human control, of the Counsels, as well as the Precepts, of the Gospel: in the unobstructed intercommunication of the several degrees of her sacred hierarchy: in the publication and application of her decrees and ordinances in matters of discipline: in the maintenance and development of the Institutions she has founded: in holding and governing her temporal patrimony: and lastly in the defence of those privileges which have been adjudged to her by the civil authority itself, in order that her ministry of peace and charity might be unembarrassed and respected.
Such is the Liberty of the Church. It is the bulwark of the Sanctuary. Every breach there imperils the Hierarchy, and even the very Faith. A Bishop may not flee, as the hireling, nor hold his peace, like those dumb dogs of which the Prophet Isaias speaks, and which are not able to bark. He is the Watchman of Israel: he is a traitor if he first lets the enemy enter the citadel, and then, but only then, gives the alarm and risks his person and his life. The obligation of laying down his life for his flock begins to be in force at the enemy's first attack upon the very outmost of the City, which is only safe when they are strongly guarded. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year.)
These stirring words of Dom Gueranger, reminiscent of Pope Saint Gregory the Great's Pastoral Guide, have not lost their bite since they were written in the Nineteenth Century. Indeed, they are even more relevant today, especially in light of the fact Jorge Mario Bergoglio himself praises pro-abortion, pro-perversity civil leaders as Barack Hussein Obama/Barry Soetoro and the late Mario Matthew Cuomo, whom the false "pontiff" told his son, Andrew Mark Cuomo, was a "great man," while of most of his "bishops" refuse to confront the evils done by civil rulers today, partly out of fear of losing some "privilege" bestowed upon them by the State, such as the counterfeit church of conciliarism's tax-exempt status, and partly because they do not see the promotion of baby-killing under cover of law and the promotion of the agenda of perversity in every aspect of our culture as requiring them to raise their voices in protest whatsoever.
Quite to the contrary, these dumb dogs who have abandoned the role of Watchman of Christ's true flock prefer to get the fleas of their civil masters, showing up at their inaugurations, administering what purports to be Holy Communion to them, never once seeking to discipline them with the plenipotentiary powers at their disposal, always choosing to stress their slavish adherence to whatever fashionable trends that are said to be part of the Left's agenda for "social justice." The failure of the "Pope Francis" and his conciliar "bishops" to condemn the powerful of this world who consign the innocent unborn to death and to denounce those who are "tolerant" of perversity stands in very sharp contrast to the heroic witness given to Our Lord and His Holy Church by today's saint and martyr, Saint Thomas a Becket.
Indeed, Jorge Mario Bergoglio and his conciliar "bishops" today are carrying on the very sad legacy of accommodationism that was evident among some of the hierarchy even in the days of Saint Thomas a Becket. There have been in the past nine hundred years or so bishops who were all too willing to play the role of slobbering courtiers at the feet of civil potentates.
All but one of the English bishops knuckled under to the threatenings of King Henry VIII when he took England out of the Catholic Church in 1534. Only Saint John Fisher remained steadfast in his loyalty to the true Church, being one of nearly 72,000 Catholics who remained faithful to Rome who were executed on orders from one of the worst monsters of the Second Millennium, Henry Tudor, between 1534 and the time of his death in 1547. Another thirty or so bishops remained faithful to the Catholic Church when Elizabeth I took England out of the Church for good thirty years later, meaning that most of the bishops were as willing under Elizabeth to abandon Christ's true Church as they were under her relentlessly cruel father. And a bevy of bishops served as the sycophants to King Louis XIV, indemnifying him as he refused to consecrate the whole of France to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus as Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque had said that Our Lord had specifically requested. Oh, yes, what we are experiencing at present has become an all-too-familiar pattern of betrayal on the part of those who have the responsibility to stand up for Our Lord and the rights of His Church at all times, not curry favor with the powerful and with public opinion.
Although it is certainly true that the "opening up to the world" ushered in by Angelo Roncalli/John XXIII and the "Second" Vatican Council has helped to institutionalize treachery and accommodationism to the State on the part of the false bishops, there were plenty of examples of such treachery and accommodationism to the exigencies of the modern State in the years leading up to the council.
Then Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy's embrace in 1960 of the Judeo-Masonic notion of the "separation of Church and State" was heralded by most of the American bishops. The support of the American bishops for John Kennedy's support of a proposition condemned quite specifically by Pope Saint Pius X as one of the chief goals of Modernism came thirty-two years after the first Catholic nominated by a major political party for the American Presidency, then New York Governor Alfred E. Smith, rejected the binding nature of binding nature of Pope Pius XI's Quas Primas. It is said that the Rhine flowed into the Tiber to helped produce the problems at the "Second" Vatican Council. Yes, this is true. No doubt. It is also true that the Potomac flowed into the Tiber. The ethos of Americanism--and the accommodationism of many of the American bishops over the years to the anti-Incarnational errors of the American founding--played a very large role in such documents as Gaudium et Spes and Dignitatis Humanae.
The result of the failure of most of the true bishops before the "Second" Vatican Council and the false ones "consecrated" since then to confront the unjust exercise of civil power has been to embolden Catholics in public life to make war upon the Church as they seek to enshrine under civil law one evil after another. We have gone from the theoretical embrace by John Kennedy of the Judeo-Masonic ethos of the separation of Church and State to the arrogant promotion of evil by the likes of one Catholic politician after another, both Democrat and Republican, without hardly a word against them being raised by our bishops. The late Mario Matthew Cuomo, who was Governor of the State of New York between 1983 and 1995, was not only content to support evil with his eloquent and passionately-delivered rhetoric. This man had the temerity to telephone Catholic priests who had the courage to denounce his support of baby-killing under cover of law. One priest, the late Monsignor Edward Donnelly, who was the pastor of Holy Family Church in Hicksville, New York, at the time, hung up on Cuomo in the mid-1980s after the governor had gotten wind of a sermon the priest had preached.
The names are really insignificant. Their names are Legion.
These traitors to their Catholic Faith--and each and every person who has ever voted for them despite their support of baby-killing under cover of law and other evils--are following the ignominious traditions of Boleslaus II, Henry II, Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer, Richard Topcliffe, John Calvin, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, Maximilian Robespierre, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Otto von Bismarck, all of the Russians czars and their Bolshevik successors (V. I. Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Nikita "The Butcher of Catholic Ukraine" Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev, Wladyslaw Gomulka, Walter Ulbrecht, Edward Giereck, Mao Tse Tung, Deng Xioaping, Ho Chi Minh et. al.), Adolf Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, and countless others who have sought either to eradicate the Catholic Church from the face of the earth or to make her subject to their own temporal hegemony. No one can claim to love Our Lord while supporting political potentates who seek to wound Him in the members of His Mystical Body and who seek to circumscribe the ability of the true Church even to denounce evils for what they are in the sight of God. Moreover, the conciliar "bishops" have not only indemnified Catholic politicians and their supporters in this country who support various evils; they have served as apologists for regimes that persecute Catholics, such as Red China and Castro's Cuba and Nicaragua under the Sandinistas.
Saint Thomas Becket withstood the unjust exercise of political power by a Catholic ruler. He was willing to lay down his life to be faithful to the Apostolic Mandate he had received when he was consecrated a bishop to serve as a successor of Saint Augustine of Canterbury. He is a model for all bishops at all times. If another saint name Thomas, who suffered martyrdom under another king named Henry, is the "man for all seasons," then truly it can be said that Saint Thomas a Becket is the bishop for all seasons. He understood quite clearly the following exhortation made by Pope Leo XIII in Sapientiae Christianae seven hundred twenty years after his murder to all Catholics, whether in the clerical or the lay states, to stand up boldly to the wicked so as to thwart their schemes:
But in this same matter, touching Christian faith, there are other duties whose exact and religious observance, necessary at all times in the interests of eternal salvation, become more especially so in these our days. Amid such reckless and widespread folly of opinion, it is, as We have said, the office of the Church to undertake the defense of truth and uproot errors from the mind, and this charge has to be at all times sacredly observed by her, seeing that the honor of God and the salvation of men are confided to her keeping. But, when necessity compels, not those only who are invested with power of rule are bound to safeguard the integrity of faith, but, as St. Thomas maintains: "Each one is under obligation to show forth his faith, either to instruct and encourage others of the faithful, or to repel the attacks of unbelievers.''] To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe. In both cases such mode of behaving is base and is insulting to God, and both are incompatible with the salvation of mankind. This kind of conduct is profitable only to the enemies of the faith, for nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good. Moreover, want of vigor on the part of Christians is so much the more blameworthy, as not seldom little would be needed on their part to bring to naught false charges and refute erroneous opinions, and by always exerting themselves more strenuously they might reckon upon being successful. After all, no one can be prevented from putting forth that strength of soul which is the characteristic of true Christians, and very frequently by such display of courage our enemies lose heart and their designs are thwarted. Christians are, moreover, born for combat, whereof the greater the vehemence, the more assured, God aiding, the triumph: "Have confidence; I have overcome the world." Nor is there any ground for alleging that Jesus Christ, the Guardian and Champion of the Church, needs not in any manner the help of men. Power certainly is not wanting to Him, but in His loving kindness He would assign to us a share in obtaining and applying the fruits of salvation procured through His grace.
The chief elements of this duty consist in professing openly and unflinchingly the Catholic doctrine, and in propagating it to the utmost of our power. For, as is often said, with the greatest truth, there is nothing so hurtful to Christian wisdom as that it should not be known, since it possesses, when loyally received, inherent power to drive away error. So soon as Catholic truth is apprehended by a simple and unprejudiced soul, reason yields assent. (Pope Leo XIII, Sapientiae Christianae, January 10, 1890.)
With love for the newborn Babe of Bethlehem and trusting in the maternal intercession of His Blessed Mother and the patronage of His foster-father, Saint Joseph, may we turn with confidence to Saint Thomas a Becket, Saint Thomas of Canterbury, so that we will defend and help to make known the immutable doctrine of the Social Reign of Christ the King during this time of apostasy within the ranks of the conciliar church and of rebellion from nominal Catholics who hold the levers of civil power, making sure to remember the restoration of Christendom in the Rosaries that we pray every day.
We pray that the Triumph of Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart will make the names of the petty potentates listed above fade into oblivion and to make common once again the likes of Saint Henry, Saint Edward the Confessor, Saint Stephen of Hungary, and Saint Louis IX, working in concert with bishops such as Saint Thomas a Becket.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint John the Beloved, pray for us.
Saint Thomas a Becket, pray for us.
Saint Stephen the Protomartyr, pray for us.
All the Holy Innocents, pray for us.
Saint Alban, pray for us.
Saint George, pray for us.
Saint Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us.
Saint Stanislaus, pray for us.
Saint Thomas More, pray for us.
Saint John Fisher, pray for us.
Pope Saint Gregory VII, pray for us.
Blessed John Jones (aka John Griffith) and all of the English Martyrs, pray for us.
Blessed Henry Morse, pray for us.
Blessed Margaret Clitherow, pray for us.
Blessed James Ball, pray for us.
Blessed Oliver Plunkett, pray for us.
Blessed Edmund Campion, pray for us.
Saint Edward the Confessor, pray for us.