When calling a Wafer a Wafer was a Capital Offence in England

Pope Benedict XVI holding the Eucharist

Written and Collected by Zia H Shah MD from Wikipedia

The Eucharist /ˈjuːkərɪst/, also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord’s Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance. It is reenacted in accordance with the alleged Jesus‘ instruction at the Last Supper, as recorded in several books of the New Testament, that his followers do in remembrance of him as when he gave his disciples bread, saying, “This is my body”, and gave them wine saying, “This is my blood.”[2][3]

So, according to this the ‘sacred’ bread or wafer becomes the body of Jesus.

In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation is the doctrine that, in the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and the wine used in the sacrament is literally, not merely as by a sign or a figure, but in actual reality as well,[1][2] changed into the substance of the Body and the Blood of Jesus,[3] while all that is accessible to the senses (the physical appearances – species[4][5][6] in Latin) remains unchanged.[7][8]

King Henry VIII retained these teachings of the Catholic Church for his Church of England, at the time of his creating of six articles of faith for the new Church.

Six Articles (1539) Reproduced from Wikipedia

One of the final drafts of the Six articles (1539), amended in King Henry VIII’s own hand writing

In 1538 three German theologians – Francis Burkhardt, vice-chancellor of Saxony; George von Boyneburg, doctor of law; and Friedrich Myconiussuperintendent of the church of Gotha – were sent to London and held conferences with the Anglican bishops and clergy in the archbishop’s palace at Lambeth for several months.[5] The Germans presented, as a basis of agreement, a number of Articles based on the Lutheran Confession of Augsburg. Bishops TunstallStokesley and others were not won over by these Protestant arguments and did everything they could to avoid agreement. They were willing to separate from Rome, but their plan was to unite with the Greek Church and not with the evangelical Protestants on the continent.[6] The bishops also refused to eliminate what the Germans called the “Abuses” (e.g. private Masses, celibacy of the clergy, invocation of saints) allowed by the Anglican Church.[7] Stokesley considered these customs to be essential because the Greek Church practiced them.[6] In opposition, Cranmer favored a union with German Protestants. The king, unwilling to break with Catholic practices, dissolved the conference.[7]

Henry had felt uneasy about the appearance of the Lutheran doctors and their theology within his kingdom. On 28 April 1539 Parliament met for the first time in three years. On 5 May, the House of Lords created a committee with the customary religious balance to examine and determine doctrine. Eleven days later, the Duke of Norfolk noted that the committee had not agreed on anything and proposed that the Lords examine six doctrinal questions which eventually became the basis of the Six Articles. The articles reaffirmed traditional Catholic doctrine on key issues:

  1. transubstantiation,
  2. the reasonableness of withholding of the cup from the laity during communion,
  3. clerical celibacy,
  4. observance of vows of chastity,
  5. permission for private masses,
  6. the importance of auricular confession.[8]

Penalties under the Act, “the whip with six strings,” ranged from imprisonment and fine to death. However, its severity was reduced by an act of 1540, which retained the death penalty only for denial of transubstantiation, or calling a wafer a wafer, and a further act limited its arbitrariness.

The Act passed Parliament at the end of June; subsequently bishops Latimer and Nicholas Shaxton, outspoken opponents of the measure, resigned their dioceses.[9] After King Henry’s death the articles were repealed by his son, King Edward VI.

So calling the bread or the wafer of Eucharist, a wafer and denying it to be body of Christ was a capital offence in England, between 1539 and 1547.

Additional Reading

Religion and science: Eucharist

Categories: CHRISTIANITY, Europe, UK

2 replies

  1. The above article should easily convince the non-Christians and most sensible Christians about pressing need of separation of Church and State.

    When similar examples are cited from the acts and teachings of Taliban and the Mullahs, separation of Mosque and State should also be a no brainer for the wise.

  2. When the polytheists of Makkah were in much trouble due to peaceful preaching of the prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s. they came to him and said, “We are ready to accept you as a king of Arabia.”

    The prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s. said, “I do not want to be a king.” That clearly shows the religion is spiritual and non-political.

    The Muslim brotherhood of Egypt and Jama’at islami of Maudoodi sahib in sub-continent have been trying to capture power. By that means they feel they can spread more good. Having banks and railway and TV in their control, they can do more good. But these people are not wiser than the prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s. He rejected power as an instrument of goodness.

    Ibraheem a.s. had much trouble with the king of that time. Eventually he had to migrate from Iraq. Even in Egypt he had some fear of the king Pharoah of that time. Isa a.s. was caught by the help of Roman soldiers. He was put on the cross by order of the governor Pilates. Isa had to suffer much on the cross, so much that he fainted there.
    Hussain a.s. was killed by the political power of yazeed.

    Under divine plan hazrat Ibraheem a.s. settled his son Ismael (a.s.) in the wilderness of Arabia, far away from the influence of any king. That helped our dear prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s to continue his preaching with patience under local persecution. There was nobody to arrest him.

    The maulvis should be thankful that they have freedom to practice their faith and freedom to preach peacefully. Otherwise, heads of states do not even permit peaceful preaching. So, why are the maulvis so much interested in political religion?

    Maudoodi sahib and other maulvis spent much part of their life trying to gain political power for the sake of helping Islam. They gained nothing. Rather everything is lost now. Had they spent that much time on the moral and spiritual uplift of the Muslim masses, they would have something good by now.

    But the problem is, they have to return to God care of the guided Imam of the time and they are not ready to do that.

    Allah says in Quran, “Say, my Lord has forbidden (as Haraam) the lewd conduct which may be clearly visible or hidden, and He has forbidden the sin and unjustified rebellion and that you people associate with Allah, anything for which He has not issued any command (certificate). And also (is forbidden) that you say about Allah, something which you do not know.” Verse 34 of chapter 7.

    Please read the above and note things which Allah has forbidden. There is no mention of Khatam e Nabuwwat any where. Why to give top priority to Khatam e Nabuwwat? Unity (tauheed) is for Allah. It is not for the prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s. In fact all Muslims are required to copy and practice the way of the prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s. and to try to be like him, as much as they can.

    We have a good example of helplessness of the church. The church, with the religious political power at its hand, used to interfere in the matters of daily life. That was bad use of politics in the religion. Now we see that they have learnt a good lesson. The padres keep away from politics.

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