Penitence and the English Reformation

Bramhall, Eric
Penitence and the English Reformation. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Change in penitential thinking and practice in England during the sixteenth century had a profound impact on both church and society. There has been no published work on penitence in England across the century. This study meets that gap examining why and how change came about; the way penitential change in England had its own peculiarities and differed from changes on the continent; and the consequences of change. The thesis has a special focus on pastoral ministry to penitents. The six main chapters consider: 1) ministry of the sacrament of penance prior to the Reformation; 2)the importance of penitence in the thinking of both conservative and evangelical humanists; 3)changes in church teaching about the sacrament during the reign of Henry VIII; 4)how the abandoning of the sacrament and obligatory auricular confession effected the role and work of clergy during the reign of Edward VI; ministry to those with 'afflicted consciences' during the Marian persecution; the politicisation of exiles; 5)the importance of the sacrament to church leaders for the restoration o the Marian church; 6)the Elizabethan church compensating for the loss of the sacrament by preaching repentance with the use of catechisms and devotional material; whether there is evidence to argue for a popular reception of the new penitential ideas. The focus on penitence brings out new insights. Henry VIII despite his antipathy to Luther and justification by faith, collaborated with Cranmer in bringing about more changes in penitential thinking and practice than has hitherto been noticed. The Edwardian Reformation was not merely destructive as some historians imply but established within the Church of England a new pattern of pastoral ministry. Attempts to restore papal Catholicism under Mary showed both the importance of penance and how church leaders had differing views of the significance of the sacrament which suggests tensions within the episcopate. Evidence also suggests resistance to return to earlier penitential practice. The Elizabethan church was not only concerned to justify the rejection of the sacrament of confession but many of its leaders were aware of the losses this involved. They looked for ways to compensate for these. Pastors developed experience in 'practical divinity' as a means of helping those with an 'afflicted conscience'. In fact the penitential changes together with the Marian persecution meant that conscience came to the fore as an issue in moral and political decisions. Consideration of the importance of repentance in metrical psalms, religious ballads, plays and broadsheets shows something of the impact penitential changes had on the culture as England moved to become a Protestant nation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2013-12 (completed)
Subjects: ?? DA ??
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2014 09:08
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:41
DOI: 10.17638/00016733
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