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Henry VIII's Conservative Scholar

Bishop John Stokesley and the Divorce, Royal Supremacy and Doctrinal Reform

Andrew A. Chibi

Through a careful reexamination of manuscripts, archival materials, primary documents and other secondary sources, this book traces the central importance of one of Henry VIII's lesser known advisors. Bishop John Stokesley was deeply involved in the King's matrimonial controversies, in the development of royal supremacy theory, in both doctrinal and clerical reform and proved himself a conscientious pastoral shepherd. The result of this research draws attention away from the major figures of the Henrician period forcing the reader to consider the key events of the reign from a new perspective: that of an important conservative scholar and Bishop.

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Chapter 5: The Diocese of London 121

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Chapter 5 The Diocese of London As an important church official and government minister, it was necessary that Stokesley be involved in, and have an opinion on, the major issues of the day. The previous chapters illustrated how he developed a position on the supremacy consistent with basic Catholic doctrine and how useful this had been. While service to the King came first, Stokesley was also a committed pastoral shepherd. In London diocese, he focused his attention on clerical reform, heresy, and on the preservation of Episcopal authority. By examining these issues we see Stokesley emerging once again as a leading role model for loyal Catholics and a staunch defender of his own jurisdiction. As noted, London faced a serious schism of opinion between laity and clergy which Stokesley addressed almost immediately upon his return to England. He focused his attention on the curates, those unbeneficed clergy who acted as deputies to the beneficed. They could be more readily reformed and, with lay grievances against absenteeism mounting, it was a politic place to start. It also made for an impressive beginning: an unprecedented examination of the curates in their learning, in their capacity for further learning, in their morals, and in their abilities as pastoral teachers. I He summoned fifty-eight curates for examination. Of these only fourteen were satisfactory and these were admitted to their postings. Sixteen others were suspended and forbidden from celebrating the mass, one resigned and six (including two MAs and two canons from Walton Abbey) were...

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