The Canon Law of the Henry VIII Divorce Case

The Canon Law of the Henry VIII Divorce Case

By Phillip Campbell

Senior Thesis, Madonna University,  2009

Abstract: This project is an attempt to take an objective look into the legal arguments put forward by King Henry VIII of England in his celebrated divorce case from Catharine of Aragon (1527-1533) in effort to determine whether or not they had any legal merit according to the canonical norms in force at the time. Henry’s arguments from Sacred Scripture are looked at in light of corresponding verses from throughout the Bible as well as patristic and canonical precedent, as are Henry’s arguments against the authority of the popes to regulate canonical norms regarding marriage. After following various arguments through many differing threads of thought, including some points that were not even brought up at the time of the trial, the essay concludes that Henry VIII’s arguments for his divorce were indeed groundless, as Pope Clement VII deemed them to be in 1533 after Henry’s break from the Roman Catholic Church.

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