All which notwithstanding the jury found him guilty, and incontinent upon the verdict the Lord Chancellor [for that matter chief commissioner] beginning in judgment against him, Sir Thomas More said to him,
“My Lord, when I was towards the law, the manner in such case was to ask the prisoner before judgment, why judgment should not be given against him.”
Whereupon the Lord Chancellor staying his judgment, wherein he had partly proceeded, demanded of him what he was able to say to the contrary. Who then in this sort mildly made answer:
“Forasmuch as, my Lord, this indictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament, directly oppugnant to the laws of God and his holy Church, the supreme government of which, or of any part thereof, may no temporal prince presume by any law to take upon him as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual preeminence by the mouth of our Saviour himself, personally present upon the earth, to St. Peter and his successors, bishops of the same see, by special prerogative, granted, it is therefore in law amongst Christian men insufficient to charge any Christian.”…
Then was it thereunto by the Lord Chancellor answered, that seeing all the bishops, universities, and best learned men of the Realm had to this Act agreed, it was much marvelled that he alone against them all would so stiffly stick and vehemently argue there against. To that Sir Thomas More replied saying,
“If the number of bishops and universities be so material, as your Lordships seemeth to take it, then see I little cause why that thing in my conscience should make any change. For I nothing doubt, but that though not in this Realm, yet in Christendom about they be not the least part, that be of my mind therein. But if I should speak of those that be already dead, of whom many be now saints in heaven, I am very sure it is the far greater part of them, that all the while they lived, thought in this case that way that I think now. And therefore am I not bound to conform my conscience to the council of one realm against the General Council of Christendom.”…
After which ended, the commissioners yet courteously offered him, if he had anything else to allege for his defence to grant him favourable audience, who answered,
“More have I not to say but like as the blessed Apostle St. Paul, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, was present, and consented to the death of St. Stephen, and kept their clothes that stoned him to death, and yet be they now both twain holy saints in heaven, and shall continue there friends for ever, so I verily trust and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your Lordships have now in earth been judges to my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to our everlasting salvation.”
The Life of Sir Thomas More
Our regular feature on the Feast of Saints John Fisher, Bishop, and Thomas More – Martyrs. “Deus, qui beatos Martyres tuos Ioannem et Thomam veræ fidei et Romanæ Ecclesiæ principatus propugnatores inter Anglos suscitasti: eorum meritis ac precibus concede; ut eiusdem fidei professione, unum omnes in Christo efficiamur et simus. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.” Saints John Fisher and Thomas More: through your intercession and in the profession of the same Faith and of the Supremacy of the Holy Roman Church, may all be and remain one in Christ!
Personal recess for several weeks.